Sunday, 22 September 2013

Gathering the last of the berries

Blueberry & Raspberrry Mascarpone Pot

On this day of the autumnal equinox the temperature is hovering around 20 degrees C throughout most of the UK.  Plums, apples and pears have made a welcome appearance but English blueberries are still in the shops and I can't be the only person to be still happily harvesting Autumn Bliss raspberries.  These two berries go together so well and need only the lightest sprinkling of sugar to marry the sweet of the raspberry with the slight tartness of British blueberries.

I have absolutely no idea where the recipe at the end of this post comes from.  It's one I've been making for years and, try as I might, I cannot discover its origin.  Having spent a happy hour searching through my favourite go-to books for inspiration on fruits does, however, give me the excuse to share a peek at the work of Patricia Curtan.  I have a bit of a thing about food illustrations and, if only I had the talent, I'd probably abandon photographing - and maybe even talking about - food, swapping it for the illustrative life.  One of my favourite artists is Patricia Curtan who's best known for her beautiful colour relief prints which illustrate many of Alice Waters' Chez Panisse books.  The two below appear in Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters.  You can luxuriate in more of Patricia Curtan's work by going here 

Photo of Raspberries Illustration by Patricia Curtan
Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters

Raspberries are not just for summer and they really are the easiest of fruits to grow.  The trickiest thing about raspberry canes is curtailing their ambitions - they love to spread their roots and produce new canes if you let them.  Planting an 'autumn' fruiting variety can extend the season right up to the end of September or even early October.  'Autumn Bliss' is a great choice, producing large flavoursome berries.  The canes start fruiting before 'summer' raspberries are quite over.

Photo of Blueberries Illustration by Patricia Curtan
Chez Panisse Fruit by Alice Waters

Blueberries are a fruit I've toyed with growing but they need light, free-draining, acidic ground to grow well. London clay won't do and I'm not a great fan of trying to change the pH balance of soil.  An alternative is to grow the plants in pots filled with ericaceous compost and apply a high potash feed.  There's still the problem that birds love them even more than raspberries.  Hmm, maybe one day I'll grow them but for now I'll leave it to the experts.

Here's the recipe.  It's got to be the easiest in my repertoire and perfect for when you have to knock up a quick dessert.  If anyone does recognise where it comes from, do let me know as I'd love to be able to attribute it.  If you have by now moved on from soft fruit, I think some stone fruit would work for this dish - a barely-sweetened compote of plums for instance.  The grill warms the fruits beneath the molten mascarpone just enough to bring out their fragrance.

Blueberry & Raspberry mascarpone pots
(Serves 4)

A 50/50 mix of blueberries and raspberries (quantity depends on the size of your ramekins)
250g mascarpone
50g demerara sugar

Wash the blueberries and mix with an equal quantity of raspberries.
Fill 4 ramekins to just below the top.
Spoon mascarpone over the fruit 
Sprinkle with demerara sugar.
Place ramekins under a hot grill until the topping starts to caramelise.

Serve with a crisp biscuit, if you like - an almond one will go well.