Blackberries have a natural affinity with apple and all game birds, particularly partridge.
For me, hedgerow blackberries have the edge over shop-bought or cultivated varieties. They may not look as pretty, but their tart mustiness means they deliver on flavour.
It is worth trying to remember which of your local hedgerows produce the best-tasting fruit, as there are hundreds of different strains, all with their own distinctive flavour. Blackberries have a natural affinity with apple and all game birds, particularly partridge.’
Roast partridge with blackberry sauce and colcannon (serves 4)
4 shallots, halved
4 partridge, cleaned and gutted (suggested hanging time is 3-4 days)
A splash of olive oil and a knob of butter for frying
2 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
900g potatoes, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces
400g kale, chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbspn plain flour
200ml red wine
15g wholegrain mustard
30g redcurrant jelly
300ml hot chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Place the shallots into the cavities of the partridge and liberally season the birds all over. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan and cook the partridge on all sides until golden brown. Place them in a roasting tin and scatter with rosemary and thyme. Roast the birds in the oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked through and the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted to the leg.
Put the potatoes into a saucepan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook until tender. Meanwhile, place the chopped kale into a saucepan with a little boiling water and cook until soft. Strain the potatoes, remove from the heat and add the butter and milk. Mash with a potato masher and then stir through the cooked kale, spring onions and seasoning. This can be covered with foil and kept warm in a low oven until ready to serve.
When the partridge are cooked, remove them from the oven and put them on a separate board to rest, covered with foil. Place the roasting tin over a medium heat on the stove and sprinkle the flour over the pan juices, using a metal whisk to mix it in, scraping the bottom of the roasting tin as you do so, for about 2 minutes. Pour the red wine over it and continue mixing. At this point, you should have a good rolling simmer so that the wine reduces and the alcohol burns off. Add the mustard and redcurrant jelly, again mixing in well for a further few minutes, and then pour in the hot chicken stock. Add the blackberries, breaking half of them up with the whisk, but leaving the others whole. Continue on a rolling simmer until the sauce has reduced by half to a gravy consistency, then season to taste. Serve the partridge drizzled with blackberry sauce, with the colcannon on the side.
More ways with blackberries
Stewed blackberries and apples
Add to a saucepan a glass of white wine, 1 tbspn orange peel, 4 star anise, a pinch of cinnamon, 3 tbspn honey, 3 apples (peeled and sliced), and, after 15 minutes of simmering, add 100g blackberries. Once cooked, spoon Greek yoghurt into four individual glasses and top with the stewed fruit and a sprig of mint.
Blackberry and white chocolate muffins
Place 175g butter and 175g caster sugar into a bowl and mix until fluffy. Add a teaspoon of vanillabean paste and mix again. Stir in 3 beaten eggs followed by 175g self-raising flour. Gently stir 100g white chocolate broken into small pieces and 100g blackberries through the mixture. Pour it into muffin cases and bake in a moderate oven for about 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Dust with icing sugar and serve for afternoon tea.