Read our latest recipe in Sherborne Times pages 45-47
The sun is still warm during the day but as soon as the evening draws in the nights are chilly and there is a nip in the early morning air. I love September. In the kitchen we have the best of both worlds. Armfuls of late summer garden produce and cut flowers for the house but the autumn bounty is coming gently into season.
It is a time of change. The leaves are glistening and beginning to turn golden brown. At home there is the excitement of a new school year and in the fields, the ploughing has begun, as a new growing season unfolds.
At the end of the month there is Michaelmas, which was traditionally celebrated with a goose that had grown fat from the gleanings of harvest. We cook ours slowly in the AGA and stuff the neck with mashed potatoes and a puree of Bramley apple which deliciously mops up the juices.
It seems that my time is spent equally gathering from the hedgerow, orchard and then returning to the kitchen. There are plums and apples, cookers and eaters to gather and a few pears from a tree that is so old it produces less than a handful of fruit. I should replace it but, I do not have the heart to fell it.
The blackberries are plentiful and so are the elderberries which we just snip, a cluster at a time from the branches. Then sit at the table, (or bribe someone else) and take a dining fork in hand, gently pushing the jewel like berries from each frond. These tiny berries are made into jelly but the brambles are quickly frozen for crumbles and cakes during the winter.
In the cutting garden we have a fruit patch and on the never ending ‘list of jobs’ is to build a cage to protect the crop being generously shared with the pigeons. The autumn raspberries are now in their prime and perfect to serve with Bircher muesli and a generous dollop of yoghurt to be enjoyed at any time of the day.
Our butcher and game dealer will soon be offering hare and rabbit idea, for a slow cook or pie topped with butter-rich pastry and there will also be roast duck and a seasonal treat of partridge for Sunday lunch. Followed by warm Dorset apple and blackberry cake for a memorable family gathering – but don’t anticipate there will be any leftovers.
Dorset Apple and Blackberry Cake
175 g (6oz) Butter – softened
250g (9oz) Self Raising Flour
175g (6oz) Caster Sugar
350g (12oz) Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced
350g (12oz) Blackberries, washed well
3 Free range eggs – lightly whisked together
20cm or 8″ round greased tin and lined with baking parchment
Make sure that your cold shelf is ready for use in a 2-oven AGA with the grid shelf on the floor. If baking in a 4-oven AGA we recommend that you set the shelf on the first setting from the floor of the oven. If baking in a conventional oven set the temperature to 160 C or Gas Mark 3
Prepare your baking tin.
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
Add the whisked eggs and half of the flour, mix carefully together. Add the remaining flour and mix to combine.
Add the apples to the mixture and mix together.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until a golden colour and firm to the touch. Remember to insert the cold shelf into a 2-oven AGA before you slide your tin onto the grid shelf.
Test the cake with a skewer to make sure it is fully cooked and then leave in the tin to cool, then transfer to a cooling rack to get completely cold.
If the cake is not eaten on the same day, cover and store in the fridge and allow to reach room temperature before serving.