Blackberry and Bramley apple tart

Autumn is here!  My favourite season of them all. So it was with great glee that I managed to pick enough blackberries on a walk a few weekends ago to bake the king of all British, autumnal fare: the blackberry and apple tart.

It’s a rare moment when all of these ingredients crowd together and demand to be baked into a rough-hewn pie, bubbling purple from beneath a golden pastry lattice. The blackberries have to be wild — picked from hedgerows and piled into baskets, or scattered into the bottom of plastic carrier bags. Their cost is bramble scratches, nettle stings and fingertips stained purple, but they are a million times sweeter and tarter than the strangely tasteless shop-bought variety.  And the apples have to be Bramley, ‘cooking apples’, with their intensely tart quality which renders them edible only when tamed with sugar and heat. You can’t use normal apples here, sorry.

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Ingredients

For the sweet pastry
  • 900g butter, softened
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 200g flour
For the filling
  • 600g bramley apples, peeling and sliced
  • 200g blackberries, washed and gently patted dry
  • 100g caster sugar
  • A pinch of cinammon
  • 1 egg, beaten with two tablespoons of milk

Directions

– Heat oven to 190c / 170c fan oven / gas mark 5.

– Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until well combined and then beat in the egg yolks one at a time until fully mixed in.

– Mix in the flour until the mixture comes together as a ball of dough.

– Tip the mix out onto a floured worktop and knead briefly until smooth.

– Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

– Once it’s chilled, roll 2/3 of the pastry out on a floured surface, before using it to line the bottom of your favourite tart dish (about 23cm is ideal). Leave a slight overhang – the pastry will shrink when you bake it so you don’t want to trim it right down at this stage. (GBBO knowledge right there.)

– Save any pastry scraps, and return the tart to the fridge for 10 minutes. Prick the base lightly with a fork, then line with baking paper and baking beans or a suitable alternative (I used rice).

– Place in the oven on a baking tray for 20 minutes, remove the beans and paper, then bake for 10 mins more until sandy brown and almost biscuity.

– Tip the apples into a large bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes to soften.  Toss in the berries, sugar, cinammon and 2 tbsp flour with a pinch of salt and mix well before piling into the case, saving 14 berries for later to go in the gaps of the lattice.

– Roll the remaining pastry and trimmings together into a square. Divide into eight strips of pastry.

– Weave the strips of pastry evenly over the fruit to create the lattice, and push the ends into the edge of the tart. Trim the overhang of pastry, brush the lattice heavily with the egg / milk mixture then scatter generously with more sugar.

– Push the remaining berries into the gaps, then bake for about an hour until brown and bubbling.

– Leave to cool for about half an hour, then serve with cream or ice cream.  Leftovers survive pretty well covered in cling film for a few days, and are also yummy cold.

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Tip: If you like, use leftover pastry to decorate your lattice. Take a small, sharp knife and cut out suitably autumnal shapes. Leaves are always a safe choice.

Listening to Sort of by Ingrid Michaelson, Brave by Sara Bareilles and Sister Rosetta goes before us by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.

This recipe is an amalgamation of two from BBC Good Food, which you can find here and here. I made a few changes, namely reducing the amount of filling. Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Regency Cafe, Pimlico

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Regency Cafe

I found Regency Cafe during a post-interview wander, which left me floating around Pimlico in search of a late breakfast. I was instantly intrigued by how retro this place looked; white block lettering against a black-tiled exterior, with red and white checked curtains at the windows. Correctly guessing that this kind of place would not take cards, I walked past initially, found a cash point, then went back. Inside, it really was like a time warp. Faded photographs and movie posters in frames lined the cream- tiled walls, and the tables were like the kind you’d associate with a canteen. Linoleum. The menu was spelled out in white letters on those black boards that used to display cinema times: slightly wonky and with some of the letters handmade where they’ve been lost or damaged. The food on offer instantly reminded me of home: the North of England has managed to keep far more of these ‘greasy spoons’ open, and so the fried liver on offer was reminiscent of the tiny cafe where I waitressed growing up. In London, though, there are very few of these places left. The ones that do exist tend to have a manufactured kind of feel, like they’ve been created to look like this kind of cafe, rather than actually being the real thing.

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Specials Board (+ builders’ tea; bottom left)

In my pencil skirt and blazer (remember, post-interview), I was suddenly conscious of looking very out of place: the cafe was mainly filled with working men taking their mid- morning break; all steel-capped boots, dusty overalls and fluorescent jackets. The service was rough and ready, but that only added to the warmth of the place — you order at the counter and then, when your food’s ready, they call out the order and you go up to collect it yourself. The man behind the counter had the kind of infectious friendliness that afflicts all of the best cafe owners; he seemed to know most of the people who came in and out, and by the time you left he bid you farewell like a long-lost friend.

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Condiments in technicolour

Builders’ tea; strong, milky and sloshed into plain white mugs, sat on most of the tables, accompanied by the full English breakfasts that you’d expect. Some people were tucking into large plates of rice and curry, despite the early hour: a chalkboard and the industrial-sized vat of mango chutney beside the till made it clear that this was the lunchtime special: Wednesday is curry day, apparently. The food was what you would expect: it was fresh, tasty and cheap. Definitely no frills, but this is the kind of place that shuns anything resembling frills at first glance. Standing at the counter and glancing at the menu, a man made a quip about Heston Blumenthal, that British gourmet chef famous for his weird, wonderful and very frilly creations (think, snail porridge) which I couldn’t quite hear. The owner replied jovially; ‘Oh yeah, Heston bloomin’ hell!’ It had been a long time since I’d heard anybody say ‘blooming’, and it reminded me instantly of my Dad, who is a fan of that particular exclamation of incredulity or annoyance. I’ve come to think of it as quite an old-fashioned phrase, and it made me realise that this cafe was filled with the invisible London which I hadn’t really experienced before.

Coming to London as an Oxford graduate, I’ve experienced a very particular face of the city. The posh bars and cafes, the professionals I meet when I go for interviews, and the other graduates who I spend most of my time with. But this cafe, and the people saying ‘blooming’, are more like the community I came from originally; using slang, and drinking tea from plain white mugs in cafes that only have two choices of bread (white or brown) and aren’t interested in any kind of smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I love rye bread and passion fruit smoothies, but I also miss the simplicity of the small, rural place where I grew up.

When I went to Oxford, I was surrounded by people that mainly (not everybody!) spoke very stereotypically ‘British’ English; they were ‘posh’, I supposed you’d say, for want of a better word. Most people spoke very similarly, and I was instantly mocked for my deepened vowels, and the way that I said certain words, like ‘butter’ or ‘grass’. And even though most of it was just friendly teasing, it made me feel like I stood out. So without really realising I started to disguise my Northern accent; I didn’t let my vowels get too deep, and I rarely relaxed into the richness of slang and sayings that I’d grown up with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the way the people in this cafe spoke reminded me inescapably of home, and that was really very nice.

Well, that turned into something of a tangent, but it comes down to the fact that if you’re looking for two eggs, chips and a Diet Coke for £4, then this place is ideal. And its friendliness is only enhanced by how rough it is around the edges.

Listening to: Warpath by Ingrid Michaelson, I Will Never Let You Down by Rita Ora, Strong and Wrong by Joni Mitchell.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.