Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a juicy glossy clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate the first one and the flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam pots,
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

This extract from 'Blackberry Picking' by the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, for me sums up the last weeks in August with every single word. Whether laden with empty bowls waiting to be filled, heading out on a "can't-come-home-until-we-fill-to-the-top" mission, or stopping at every bush, slowing the power walking down, resulting in bored and frustrated dogs.

There are endless opportunities for this bountiful berry. Jam. Pie. Crumble. Fool. Compote. Sprinkled on Yogurt. Summer pudding. But there is one new discovery for me that tops it off and hits the spot: a recipe found in the August 2009 edition of Waitrose Food Illustrated, slightly altered and loved loved loved by my niece and nephew.

The original recipe by Mark Price uses ripe plums, at their best at this time of year. Thanks to our garden, we had these too - and used them for a tangy alternative to the sweet blackberries.

Blackberry and Yogurt muffins.

Makes 30 mini muffins or 15 large ones
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

115g Unsalted butter
300g Self-raising flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp Salt
250g Caster sugar
250ml Natural Yogurt
2 Eggs
200g freshly picked Blackberries
(for plum recipe:
300g chopped plums
3/4 Ground ginger
2 stem ginger balls, finely chopped)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. If you are making mini muffins, use the non stick plastic cases, laid out on a baking tray, which work brilliantly. If making large, line a baking tray with muffin cases, or for a beautiful rustic look, adopt Waitrose's idea of using squares of baking paper (tying them round the middle with string at the end - it looks fantastic).

In a saucepan, gently melt the butter; set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, (ground ginger) and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, mix thoroughly and make a well in the centre.

Add the yogurt, eggs (and ginger) to the pan of butter and whisk together.

Pour half the mixture into the dry ingredients: combine quickly using a wooden spoon. before mixing in the rest, add 150g blackberries. Don't over mix - any lumps will keep the muffins light.
Spoon into the muffin cases and top with the remaining blackberries.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and risen. cool in the tins/ cases for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.



Extract from 'Blackberry Picking' by poet, Seamus Heaney. The whole poem can be found in Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996

Original 'Spiced plum and yogurt muffins' recipe by Mark Price, taken from Waitrose Food Illustrated, Page 74. August issue 2009

There are now 88 species of bramble growing on the Isle of Wight.

Thank goodness for that!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Just a quick one...

A very good cuppa was kindly handed to me today - thank you - and I was asked how I took my tea. I replied, 'Oh, just a dash of milk, please'. It was only when I was, in return, asked a simple question that tea drinking became more of a thinker than it ever had been before...

When does a
dash become a splash??

For me, this comes into that agonising category of 'Is the glass half full, or half empty?'. I usually reply, idiotically, 'well, it all depends if the contents of the glass are above or below the half way line'. This is no way to respond...
But what about this one?
In my humble opinion, I'd say a dash was less than a splash. A dash shouldn't splash, otherwise it's too much and it becomes...a splash?
To satisfy my insanity, I typed in 'dash of milk' into Google images and this is one of the pictures it gave me. Either they are confused or I am about to go mad.

Perhaps, I need to stop drinking as much tea, start thinking less about dashes and splashes, and get on with real life...
More intelligent suggestions start here please: