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Michaelmas Blackberries

By Lea Harris

Am I the only one who gets perverse delight when a traditional religious event is based on some form of paganism? Take, for instance, Michaelmas; it falls on the 29th September, close to the autumn equinox and is the feast day of St Michael and all the angels. It is also the last day for picking and eating blackberries. Religious rumour has it that the devil got kicked out of the heavens, landed on the humble bramble while cursing and spitting on it! Personally, I think it's because the prickly fruit are past their best, all maggoty and woody.

Celebratory food would have been goose, fed on stubble at the end of harvest and Sruthan Mhìcheil (St Michael's or Michaelmas bannock) i.e bread made from equal parts of barley, oats, and rye. As for the blackberries, they were turned into a pie. This month's recipe is not mine but from a friend in Wales, fruit dumplings – now who doesn't like a good dumpling? I'm a sucker for this sort of pud with lashings of cream! Thanks, Karen x

Michaelmas Dumplings by Karen Burns-Booth at Lavender & Lovage

8ozs/225g freshly picked blackberries

1 medium-sized cooking apple, Bramley apples are best

4ozs/115g self-raising flour

Pinch salt

1oz/25g butter or margarine

White granulated sugar

Cold milk

½pint/300ml water


· Wash the blackberries. Peel, core and quarter the cooking apple.

· Place flour and salt in a mixing bowl then rub in the butter with your fingertips

· Stir in 3 level teaspoons of sugar, mix to a soft dough with about 4 tablespoons of cold milk.

· Divide the dough into 4 pieces on a floured board, mould a piece around each quarter of an apple, making sure it's completely covered.

· Dissolve about 1 tablespoon of sugar in the water in a medium-sized saucepan and add the blackberries.

· Bring to a gentle boil, then place the apple dumplings on top of the blackberries, cover the pan and simmer for 25 minutes, do NOT take the lid off for the first 15 minutes.

· Serve one apple dumpling per person with some of the blackberries spooned on top.

Fresh cream or custard makes an excellent accompaniment.

What else is in my basket?

Autumn lamb, common snipe, grouse, partridge, venison, wild duck, woodcock; grey mullet, herring, langoustine, mackerel, mussels, oysters, scallops, sea bass, spoots, squid; apples, brambles, crab apples, damsons, elderberries, figs, pears, plums, raspberries, rosehips, rowan berries, sloes, strawberries, tomatoes, beetroot, cauliflower, celeriac, ceps, chanterelles, chicory, cobnuts, courgettes, dulse, globe artichokes, green broccoli, kale, pumpkin, runner beans, spinach, sweetcorn, truffles.

Lea writes and is @BakersBunny on Twitter and Instagram

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