My favourite berry in the backyard, the thornless blackberry, is ripe and ready to pick. They are, by far, the most prolific berry in the garden, with three vines producing 5 to 6 kilograms of berries each season. Most are frozen for adding to baking and crumbles through the cooler months.
The plants are easy to maintain with a quick prune in autumn to trim the fruited stems to the ground. I then train the new growth (that will fruit next season) along a wire frame and tuck them in with a bed of cardboard covered with autumn leaves. There they rest until next season when the white blossoms appear in spring, to the bees’ delight, and the cycle continues.
Homemade: Fresh Ricotta
This is the simplest of homemade cheese. A fun activity to prepare with children observing the magical separation of the curds and whey once the lemon juice or vinegar is added to the hot milk.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes about 300g
1 litre whole milk
½ cup cream
3 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan. Heat over a moderate heat until the milk begins to froth on the surface. Add the lemon juice or vinegar, and stir gently to combine. Bring to a gentle boil – watch it doesn’t boil over, then remove from the heat. Set aside for five minutes for the curds and whey to separate.
Line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean tea towel and set this over a large bowl to collect the whey. Once the curds settle carefully pour off some of the liquid whey. Then use a slotted spoon to scoop the fluffy curds into the cloth and carefully pour over the remaining whey. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes for the whey to drain. The drained whey can be used in breadmaking or to cook grains. Store the fresh ricotta in a sealed container in the fridge and use within three days.
Blackberry & Ricotta Torta
- 4 eggs
- 100 g soft butter
- 4 tablespoons honey or 1/3 cup sugar
- Zest of one lemon
- Pinch of salt
- 300 g ricotta – see directions above
- 1 cup almond meal flour or standard white flour
- 1 cup blackberries or other berries plus extra for serving
- A handful of sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line and grease a 22cm spring-form cake tin.
Separate two of the eggs, place the whites into a mixing bowl and set aside. Add the two egg yolks and remaining two eggs to a food processor along with the butter, honey/sugar, lemon zest and salt. Blitz to combine. Add the ricotta and blend until creamy. Add the almond meal or flour and pulse until just combined.
Whisk the two egg whites until stiff peaks form. Pour half of the cake batter into the mixing bowl and fold several times to partially incorporate the egg white. Add the remaining batter along with the blackberries, and continue to fold gently until just combined. The key is not to over-mix – bold swooping folds is all that is required.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and scatter with sliced almonds. Bake for 30-35 minutes until an inserted skewer comes away clean. Cool in the tin sitting on a cake rack. Serve decorated with fresh blackberries. The cake can be kept, chilled, for several days.
*Recipe first published 13th February 2019 on Stuff.co.nz.