Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Blackberry Compote and Blackberry Diet Panna Cotta

Yes, it's that time of year again - or rather, given the amount of rain we've been having, it was that time of year again two weeks ago.  The blackberry season is over - tomorrow will be September, and according to the old wives, the Devil will be out pissing on them all making them shrivelled and sour tonight.  Not to mention the usual amount of pee at dog level.

It was moving into the boyfriend's mother's house which kept me away, and so when I finally got back to the railway 'towpath' at Wimbledon there were only enough berries for a single pudding.  Less than half a tub.  Pathetic.  I didn't even bother to weigh them.  I did however bother to eat them.  You could simply wash a meagre crop and make into a crumble or pie; I went for the slightly posher Blackberry Compost and Blackberry Diet Pannacotta.

Blackberry Compost
(Ok, 'compote' but it's supposed to have a circumflex on the O and that means 'missing S' and it's so much more amusing.)
You Will Need: Blackberries, caster sugar, small pan, wooden spoon, sieve, measuring jug, container.

1) Wash the berries thoroughly, and discard any ants or spiders.  Add to the pan and half-cover with cold water.
2) Bring to a simmer.  Dredge the berries with sugar - this is a generous drizzle which covers the entire surface in a layer 1mm-ish thick.  Stir.  Bring to the boil, and gently boil, stirring all the time, for 10 minutes.
3) When the berries have all turned red and the liquid is a lovely deep purple, strain the liquid using the sieve into the measuring jug.
4) You have some choices about what to do with the remains; they would add a little flavour to some pie or  vodka, but not much; I chucked mine.  Likewise, the liquid can be saved for decorating/saucing/tarting up gamey meats and desserts in a container, or used straightaway in...

Blackberry Diet Panacotta
You Will Need: Blackberry compote, equal amount of semi-skimmed milk, small saucepan, caster sugar, packet of leaf gelatine, wooden spoon, small bowl of cold water, smooth bowl or individual moulds, eggs, small bowl and whisk

1) Measure how much blackberry compote you have made.  I made 200ml of it, so you can use my proportions to scale up to how much of everything else you will need.
2) If 200ml of compost: Soak 3 leaves of gelatine in the bowl of cold water for five minutes.  Meanwhile,
3) Beat one egg in a small bowl.  Heat 200ml semi-skimmed milk to hot bath temperature and whisk into the egg.  Return to the pan and heat very gently indeed.
4) Add the compost to the milk and whisk to a smooth colour.  If you like, add another tablespoonful of sugar at this point for a sweeter dessert.  Allow this to dissolve.
5) Fish the gelatine out of the water and add to the compost mixture.  Stir over a low heat until dissolved completely, about 2 minutes.
6) Take the mixture off the heat to cool a while, and prepare your moulds.  I used a smooth, laquered tin pie dish for my little experiment but it struck me that the silicone muffin cases you can get nowadays (in Lakeland, yay!) would be ideal for cute individual puddings.  Pour an equal amount of mix into the moulds and leave to chill in the fridge for approximately four hours.
7) Turn the pannacotti out onto little plates, garnish with a few blackberries if you have any good ones left and a dribble of red wine Creme d'Mures.  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

The preceding dessert is a little liver-coloured which is why garnish is so important, but tastes deliciously cool and fruity.  Because the milk is semi-skimmed and there's so little sugar in it, it's relatively suitable for those watching their figures.  Unless you dump in the optional extra sugar.  Or use single cream instead.  Both of which I will be trying as soon as I'm not in a dieting household...

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