I remember when Hans and Kirstie used to go blackberry picking. We were still living in our old house, and not far from us there were several, large blackberry bushes. When late August rolled around, it seemed as though the whole neighborhood was taking advantage of this seasonal free-for-all.
I would sometimes look out my window and see groups of people walking by carrying baskets, buckets or bags. Anything to get in on the action! We were also able to take advantage of this seasonal gift, and after their picking trips, Hans and Kirstie would come back with bowls of fresh, plump fruit. We had a lot of blackberries for desserts, jams and cakes. Unfortunately, when we moved, we had to leave the blackberry bush behind. I don’t know what I found sadder, that or also having to leave the huge hazelnut tree we had in the garden, which, mind you, we only discovered the year before we moved! Not kidding you!
As much as I love markets, nothing compares to harvesting your own produce. Whether it grows in the wild or right in your own garden. I sometimes wish I knew a little more about mushrooms and lived somewhere in Italy or France where I could head into the forest to score a basketful of wild mushrooms. Until that day arrives, I try to grow as many fruits, vegetables and herbs as I possibly can in my own small garden. For now, besides a few fruit trees, most of what I grow is in large pots. Not long ago, however, Hans and I were discussing whether we should get rid of some old lavender and thyme bushes in a small plot of our garden. They’ve seen their best years, and we could use that space to grow more vegetables. I really like the idea and am now letting it play around in my head. Pondering the possibilities.
But when gardens don’t yield enough, markets are really the place to be. Unfortunately, my own city’s market has a very limited selection, so most of my market trips take place during the weekend. I really like the markets in Naarden and Hilversum on Saturdays and the Noordermarkt in Amsterdam (also on Saturday).
Recently, I was lucky enough to find a stall selling a wonderful selection of mushrooms. Ceps, chanterelles, portobellos, shiitakes! I treated myself to a small bag of ceps and cooked them in what I think is the most perfect way — a simple, buttery omelette topped with fresh parsley.
The cake you see here is inspired by the most beautiful blackberries I once saw at the market. Almost as pretty as the ones that grew by our house. They were quite dark, almost black, juicy and tasted sweet as honey. I stood there debating how to use them and was suddenly inspired to make a simple cake to serve with our afternoon tea. Sweet blackberries and tart apples make such a wonderful combination. The recipe couldn’t be easier and the taste couldn’t be more seasonal. You’ll especially love the crunchy topping courtesy of the light sprinkle of raw cane sugar. The best things in life are so simple, aren’t they?
Blackberry & Apple Cake
- 50g fresh blackberries
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and chopped
- 100g soft butter
- 130g raw cane sugar, plus 2 tbsps for sprinkling
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 100ml full fat yogurt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 180g all-purpose flour
Butter and flour a square 20x20cm cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
Cream the butter and sugar with a standing or hand-held mixer until pale and creamy. Add in the vanilla and the eggs one by one while continuing to beat. Fold in the yogurt using a wooden spoon. In a bowl, combine the baking powder with the flour. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Put the apples and blackberries into the prepared cake tin and pour the batter on top of the fruit. Gently combine everything in the tin and sprinkle with he two tablespoons of sugar. Pop into the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into 9 squares.