Last week, I got to visit New Covent Garden Market for the first time. It is MASSIVE! But, hiding in the maze of vans, pallets and fruit and veg is a smart little meeting venue called The Orangery...
Following a flurry of activity on Twitter about the developments in Blackberries (the fruit, not the smartphone) Hargreaves Plants (Berry Buddies) and Carol Ford of Growing Direct decided to arrange a get together titled "Understanding Blackberries." Now, you might think that a whole load of people getting together to talk about blackberries would be stretching attention spans a little, but with careful planning and a great list of speakers, it was fascinating!
The evening included an entertaining cookery demonstration from guest of honour, Chef José Souto, Master C.G.C. and Chef Lecturer in Culinary Arts at Westminster Kingsway College, London. José cooked several treats for us, including this delicious Roast Loin of Muntjac with our Blackberry Vinegar.The vinegar brought a beautiful Autumnal fruitiness to the meat and made it so tender. José really got the best out of both the Muntjac and the vinegar in this well crafted recipe...
Roast loin of Muntjac glazed with
Womersley Blackberry vinegar syrup
and served with a Blackberry infused jus
1 Muntjac loin
500ml Venison stock
150g game trimmings (cut small dice venison is best to use but other game or a mix of game will do) cut into small dice
½ small Onion
½ stick Celery
½ Garlic clove
1 tea spoon Tomato puree
1 glass Red Wine
Sprig of fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper, to taste
A good dash of Womersley Blackberry vinegar
1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
- Fry off Game trimmings with a little oil to give a good colour: do a bit at a time. Remove from pan and keep to one side.
- Fry off veg that has been diced small in same pan with a little more oil again to give good colour.
- Once veg has fried, add Trimmings to veg and add tomato puree. Fry off for 2 to 3 min.
- Add wine, thyme and allow to reduce by half.
- Add stock, season and reduce by a third.
- Strain through a fine strainer and if you would like a thicker consistency reduce some more.
- Keep 2 or 3 blackberries back for garnish. Put the rest in a pan with a dash of water and cover.
- Once the blackberries have stewed for a minute or 2, remove the pan from the heat and, using a hand blender, liquidise them.
- Strain the blackberry puree and fold into the jus. If need be, reduce the jus until it is like double cream.
- Season and fry the Muntjac loin in oil sealing it on all sides then remove from pan.
- To the pan add the Womersley Blackberry vinegar, allow to reduce to a thick syrup.
- Place the loins back into pan and roll them in the syrup so they have a good covering of the glaze.
- Place Muntjac into oven at 180°C for 5 min then remove and allow to stand for 10 min uncovered in a warm area of the kitchen.
- Deglaze the pan with the jus just to take off the flavours of the syrup.
- Cut the venison, serve with the Blackberry jus and whole fresh Blackberries.
Afterwards, José was joined by Vickie from Humbers Homemade as they demonstrated how to make a flavoursome Blackberry jam.
We were also treated to an insight into recent and future developments in the fruit with particular attention to the varieties Ouichita (pronounced Which-it-ah), Apache (yes, the same name as the chilli we use!) Reuben, Navaho and Chester (the variety we use in our Blackberry Vinegar).
Professor John Clark from Arkansas University was particularly entertaining as he described the breeding, selection and developments of new cultivars. There is a lot more on this in an excellent blog article on the Berry Buddies site.
We also enjoyed an informative talk from the soft fruit buyer of ASDA, Andy Jackson. He bravely predicted that these new varieties will see a healthy increase in sales of blackberries over the next 3-5 years which, at £30M, only account for about 4% of the soft fruit sales in the UK today. This could be very valuable since soft fruits is the highest value sector in supermarket groceries. R&D Manager of Hargreaves, Jane Fairlie, showed the different levels of flavour volatility and this showed that our favoured variety, Chester, has a relatively low flavour volatility. However, Jane was amazed at the intesnsity of flavour of our Blackberry vinegar which just goes to show that there is a blackberry variety out there for everyone!
Notes: Thanks to all who arranged "Understanding Blackberries" and congratulations particularly to Carol Ford for organising such a good turn out and in such a short time! Thanks, too, to Jonathan Brown of Hargreaves Plants and to Liz O'Keefe of FPJ for the photographs.