That old black magic: Skye Gyngell's bewitching blackberry desserts

Growing in abundance in the hedgerows outside Petersham Nurseries, hidden within spiky and unforgiving bushes just by the River Thames, are these beautiful little tart, soft berries, black like ink, plump and heavy.

Blackberries can be found almost everywhere, in back-gardens and fields all over the country. Loved by birds as much as by us, it is often a race to see who gets there first – although happily for us the birds seem drawn to the slightly less ripe fruit still firmly attached to the branches. The blackberries to look for are the softest, heaviest ones just hanging on to the branches – though the fruit that has fallen to the ground is the sweetest of all. Commercial varieties can be found in shops everywhere and can be equally delicious; and for the juiciest berries, go for the ones where the colour is even.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com

Blackberry crumble

Serves 6

500g/1lb blackberries
The zest and juice of one orange
120g/4oz plain flour
2 tbsp muscovado sugar
120/4oz unsalted butter, cold

Heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Put the blackberries, orange zest and juice into a bowl and toss together gently using your fingers. Spoon into an ovenproof dish. In a separate bowl, sieve the flour and add the sugar; stir together to combine. Cut the butter into little cubes, add to the flour-sugar mixture and crumble between your finger until you have the texture of sand. If you have a few lumps, all the better. Sprinkle the mix over the blackberries and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the berries are bursting around the sides and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and serve.

Nectarine sorbet with crushed blackberries

This sorbet is quick and simple. The crushed blackberries on the top lend a tart finish that is most satisfying.

Makes 1 pint of sorbet

6 ripe nectarines
200g/7oz caster sugar
The juice of half a lemon

For the blackberries

200g/7oz blackberries
2 tbsp icing sugar
The zest of one orange

Slice the nectarines in half, remove the stone and chop into one-inch pieces. Place in a blender with the sugar and lemon juice. Purée until smooth; it will have little specks of skin throughout, which is very pretty. Place in an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

If you don't own an ice-cream maker, freeze the mix in a low-sided container for two hours. Then remove and drag it with a fork, working from the outside in. Replace in the freezer. Repeat this every half hour three or four times, until all the mixture is formed of ice crystals. This makes a granita; its texture is slightly chewy, but it is just as delicious as any ice-cream.

Place the blackberries in a bowl with the icing sugar. Using the back of a fork, crush roughly; it should have a slightly coarse consistency. Stir in the orange zest and chill. To serve, spoon into chilled glasses and top with the blackberries.

Blackberry, honey and polenta cake

One of my favourite blackberry recipes – soft, slightly sweet and not in the least dry.

Serves 8

4 tbsp honey
200g/7oz blackberries

For the cake mixture

275g/9oz softened, unsalted butter
250g/8oz sugar
200g/7oz plain flour
A pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
200g/7oz yellow polenta
3 organic eggs, lightly beaten
100ml/31/2fl oz milk

Place the honey into a small saucepan and gently warm through. When just warm, remove from the stove and pour over the blackberries. Set aside while you make the cake mixture.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Lightly grease and flour a 28cm cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then mix in the flour, salt, baking powder and polenta. Add the eggs and milk and stir gently to form a soft dough – the mixture should easily drop from a spoon. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and gently stud the blackberries into the top. Pour over whatever honey is left in the pan and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for an hour and a quarter.

To test whether the cake is cooked, insert a skewer into the centre; it should come out clean. Leave to cool and serve.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference