A Taste of Two Islands: Blackberry Jam and Lilikoi Custard

I was born in the land where palm trees sway, where the ocean feels like bath water, and the Goddess Laka set the thermostat to 27°C.  Anything hotter or colder would make the flowers unhappy.

Hawaii is the ultimate melting pot. Perhaps this is why its cuisine is so delicious or what the locals call ono. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people from all over the world sailed to Hawaii’s sandy shores, each of them bringing the flavours of home.

Labourers were needed to work the sugarcane fields and pineapple plantations. Many came from Portugal, Puerto Rico, China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.  My paternal great-grandparents were among them.  My maternal family from Iowa came for different reasons.  Like the Blues brothers, they were on a mission from God.  Quite literally as my grandparents were Southern Baptist missionaries.

When my aunt and uncle lived in Hawaii Kai, they always had two things in their backyard–a stray ginger cat called Gus and an abundance of lilikoi. Lilikoi is what Hawaiians call passion fruit. They are red or yellow; the latter tend to be sharper and more acidic. You can add them to cream based desserts for a distinctly tropical note like I’ve done in this recipe here. 

Though I have long known that I enjoy eating lilikoi custard, it wasn’t until I moved to London that I realised how much I like it on buttermilk biscuits with blackberry jam. Bramble season in the UK is August through September. This is why I like to stock my freezer full of berries, so I can use them the whole year through.

Below are my recipes for lilikoi custard and a quick blackberry jam. Though the distance between Honolulu and London is 7,223 miles, I can bring their flavours closer together on a plate.

Ingredients for lilikoi custard:

300ml milk

100ml double cream

½ tsp vanilla bean paste

4 egg yolks

75 to 100g of caster sugar (depending on how sweet you like it and how tart your fruit is)

1 tbsp corn flour

3 to 4 lilikoi (3 fl oz. of juice and 2 tsp of processed seeds/pulp)

 

Method for the lilikoi custard:

First, put the lilkoi in a food processor and pulse. Strain the juice from the seeds. I like to do this with cheesecloth, but of course a fine mesh sieve will work.

In a saucepan, combine the cream and milk over a low heat. When small bubbles appear on the sides, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until it looks like a fluffy paste.  Then incorporate the corn flour.  Whisk this mixture into the cream.  Add the passion fruit juice and 2 tsp of the seeds/pulp.

Place the saucepan back on a medium-low heat and continue whisking. When the custard thickens, remove it from the heat and set it aside. Once it has cooled a bit, cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure to press the clingfilm right against the custard, otherwise a skin will form. Put it in the refrigerator to chill completely. 

Lilikoi custard

Ingredients for quick blackberry jam:

300 g frozen blackberries

the juice of half a lemon and one small orange

120 g granulated sugar

 

Method for quick blackberry jam:

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Warm them on low and stir until the sugar is all dissolved. When you can no longer feel any grains of sugar, turn up the heat. Bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to simmer until reduced by half. You don’t want it too thick, just set enough that it won’t slide off your biscuit. When it is ready, pot the jam in a jar and allow it to cool to room temperature. Keep it in the refrigerator and use it within two weeks.

Quick blackberry jam

Sticky Summer Cobbler

The smell of wild British blackberries in August is my favorite.  I love how after picking them their sweet dark scent lingers on my fingers and in the palms of my blue-black stained hands.  No wonder the perfumers at Jo Malone have tried to capture this scent.  It’s the sweetest, most luscious fragrance of high summer.

Which is why I feel lucky to have a garden full of rampant bramble bushes.

garden

 

Today was the first day of the season that I took Helena out to pick blackberries.  It’s still early so most of them have yet to reach their peak, but I couldn’t wait.  I had to gather those that were ready.  Their perfume, especially in the sunshine, was too strong to be ignored.  All I could think of when gathering the fruit was Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Blackberry Picking.”

Greedy Guts Helena ate a third of our berries before we got back inside.  So I decided to use some of the raspberries her grandparents picked at Peterley Manor last weekend in my cobbler as well.

Last year, I posted a blackberry cobbler recipe that was assembled like a lasagne by layering pastry cut outs between layers of fruit.  The recipe below is not like that.  Instead it’s made with a batter and I love how soft and sticky it is.  My husband said it reminded him of an old English pudding.  I hope you like it.

Ingredients:

2 cups blackberries

1 cup raspberries

zest of half a lemon

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

approximately half a stick of butter

3/4 cups flour

1/4 cup cormnmeal

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas 4/350ºF/180ºC.

Rinse and drain your berries.

raspberries up close raspberries sieve of brambles

Put the butter in your baking dish.

butter

Melt the butter for a few minutes in the oven as you prepare the fruit mixture.

Tip your berries into a medium mixing bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the zest of half a lemon, and 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla.  Gently mash the fruit but be careful not to turn it into pulp.  All you want to do is release some of the juices.  Once this is done, set the bowl aside.

mashed berries

 

In another bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal (this gives the cobbler its sticky chewiness), salt, baking powder, 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, milk, and yogurt.  Add the melted butter and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into your baking dish.  Then spoon your fruit mixture on top of it.

 

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Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve with your favorite creamy topping.  Mine for this is bourbon vanilla ice cream.

serving

The Fluffy Pancake Files

On Sunday, and quite by accident, I made the fluffiest pancakes ever.  I think the reason for this serendipity was because a) I was out of regular flour so I had to use self-rising and b) I added slightly whiffy cream to the recipe.  When some women feel experimental they drastically change their appearance, career, hometown or even add just one of 50 Shades of Grey to their bedroom.   When I feel experimental I add spoiled dairy to my pancake batter.  I’m crazy.  I know.  Well here I am to prosthelytize because the addition of that slightly whiffy cream was one of the best decisions I ever made in the kitchen.  The result was amazing(even better than my buttermilk pancakes).  Especially with my orange blackberry syrup.  If you fancy yourself a connoisseur of tasty, I recommend you make both.

Henry and Helena

Greedy Guts 1 and 2

don't talk with your mouth full

don’t talk with your mouth full

even caterpillar liked it

even caterpillar liked it

Ingredients:

for the pancakes:

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup cream that’s gone slightly off

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups self-raising flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

for the syrup:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup fresh blackberries (or defrosted frozen ones and their juice)

the zest of 1/3 of an orange as well as the juice squeezed from that 1/3

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

for the pancakes:

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  Now, in a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, butter, and vanilla.  Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ones into it.  Whisk to combine but don’t over whisk.  Let the mixture sit a spell.  At least half an hour.  I left mine overnight but that’s because I tend to prepare things well in advance knowing that when my toddler awakes she wants breakfast NOW.  Heat some vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat for a few minutes.  Let it get really hot but not so it’s smoking.  Pour some batter into the skillet.  Wait until it starts to bubble then flip.  Continue cooking another minute then remove.  Transfer the pancake to a serving platter and butter.  Repeat until the batter is gone.

pancakes with orange blackberry syrup

pancakes with orange blackberry syrup

for the syrup:

Heat a small saucepan over low heat.  Add the butter, berries, zest, juice, sugar, and vanilla.  Simmer but do not boil.  The sauce will thicken.  When desired viscosity has been achieved, remove the syrup from the stove.  Pour it into a warmed ceramic jug.  Now get ready for some pancakes and a nap!

Orange blackberry syrup

Orange blackberry syrup

Noilly Prat and Bacon Fat and Apple-Berry Crumble for Boys Who Are Humble

Oscar is my neighbor.  He is twelve and despite the ten and a half year age gap, Helena adores him.  Frankly, so do I.  More Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden than Glen Bishop from Mad Men, he has a sweetness about him (a quality I think he inherited from his mother) and an interest in me, the lonely foreign outsider, that’s really endearing.

When Helena and I are out back picking berries he comes to the balcony to chat.  Today, like last weekend, he came down with thick gloves and a pair of secateurs to help.  For an hour and a half he and I collected blackberries while Helena sat on a gently sloping hill eating them and trying to fish out her Thomas the Tank Engine as well as her wooden clown toy she had stuffed down a fox hole.

While in the communal garden Oscar refilled his bird feeders and introduced us to his friend, Mr. Greedy, a chirpy robin red breast he’s been feeding for years.  We talked flowers and fauna and woodland creatures and pest control–a trade he’s learning from his dad.  But they never kill the animals he wanted me to know.  They only trap them then release them into the wild.  Well, maybe except for rats.

After some time Helena was much too stained and sticky and grumpy to remain outdoors.  So we took her and her wooden toy inside.  Thomas, it seems, has gone missing.

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As a thank you for all his fruit picking help, I told Oscar and his mother that Helena and I would bring him a crumble of his own.  But first, I’d have to cook Kleine Maus some lunch.  So here is what we had–chicken legs cooked in bacon fat and Noilly Prat.  Below is the recipe.  And below that is the recipe for the apple-berry crumbles I baked.  I hope you enjoy them both.

Bacon Fat and Noilly Prat Chicken Legs:

Knowing that I had chicken legs for lunch, I purposefully left this morning’s bacon grease in a pan.  I reheated it over a medium-high flame then added the chicken pieces that I had rubbed down with Maldon salt and freshly cracked pepper.  I sautéed them and constantly shook them around, so as to avoid sticking, for about 10 minutes.  Then I added a quarter cup of Noilly Prat and allowed everything to sizzle.  I waited until the liquid evaporated and the chicken skin was crispy again.  The result was sweet, salty and aromatic.  It was also stupidly delicious and probably too good for a toddler.  But what can I say?  I love her.  I put truffle oil on her scrambled eggs and cook her nice things.

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Apple-Berry Crumble Ingredients:

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C/Gas5

For the fruit mixture:

blackberries (I used about 6 cups worth)

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced  (not too thin!  otherwise, they dissolve)

the zest of 1 lemon + half a teaspoon of its juice

1 3/4 cup sugar (a mix of Demerara and caster)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract

about a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

Combine all ingredients except for the berries.  Those you gently stir in once everything else is mixed.  Take care not to bash them otherwise you’ll have soup.

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For the crumble topping:

1/4 cup flour

1 cup sugar (I use a combination of soft brown and Demerara)

1/2 cup dried coconut

3/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons of cold cubed butter

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and use only your fingertips to combine it until it looks like fine meal.  Sprinkle liberally atop your crumble.

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Now bake for about 50 minutes or until the topping is crisp and golden brown and the fruit is viscous and bubbling.  Serve with Greek yogurt, whipped cream, or a nice vanilla bean ice cream.

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Blackberry Cobbler

We all know the idiom “When life gives you lemons. . .”  That said, this summer has given us an abundance of blackberries.  Which is why I’m making cobbler.  Well that and because my friend, Miss Danielle Bell of de Porres, told me I should.  When I told her of the surfeit we had and asked whether I should make preserves or pies, she answered with a resounding “COBBLER!”  As her sentiment was strongly supported and echoed on my Facebook wall, I thought I better listen.  Below is the recipe I used this evening based on her instructions.  Let me tell you she is a lady whose word is to be heeded.

Ingredients:

1/2 recipe of Only the Best Brisée Ever

4 cups of blackberries

the zest of 2 small lemons and part of your knuckles if you’re not careful like me (Here’s my public service announcement:  Do not drink and zest.)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

1/2 cup Demerara sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

freshly grated nutmeg (I only went the length of the grater 4 times.  Just enough for a little exotic dust.)

egg wash

Method:

Preheat your oven to 450F/230C/Gas 8.

In a large bowl, mix all your ingredients together except for the berries.  Those you will gently stir in and coat once everything else has combined.  Otherwise, you’ll beat your berries to a pulp.  You don’t want that.

nutmeg

berry mixture

Set the bowl aside.

Divide your dough into three sections.  Two of equal size and small one for rolling cut outs you’ll put on top.

Roll the first piece so it’s large enough to line the bottom of your dish.

1st layer

Spoon a layer of fruit on top of that.

2nd layer

Now do another layer of dough followed by another layer of fruit.  After that, place your cut outs on top and brush with the egg wash.

cut outs with egg wash

Bake for 20 minutes then turn down the heat to 375F/190C/Gas 5.  Continue baking for another 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

finished cobbler

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or Greek yogurt.