Autumn walks

When the weather is a little dull outside but you don’t want to stay indoors all day, a country walk can be great for clearing the head and relaxing the mind. At this time of year, there’s an abundance of wild produce waiting to be picked… from blackberries and damsons to horseradish and hedge garlic. If you’re in the mood for foraging, just head off the beaten track into the countryside and you’ll be amazed at what you can find.

Here are a few recipes to help use what you forage on your next autumnal country walk.

Blackberry cake

Perfect for an autumnal day with a cup of tea

  • 275g blackberries, unwashed
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 150g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 125ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 23-cm springform cake tin lined with baking parchment
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Brush off any dirt from your blackberries (don’t wash them as the water will add to the weight of the mix) and put to one side.
  2. Melt the butter, and set aside to use later.
  3. Using an electric mixer or whisk, whisk the eggs, sugars and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until pale and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and mix until incorporated. Pour the melted butter and milk into the mix, and whisk again.
  5. Sprinkle a handful of the blackberries into the bottom of your prepared baking tin. Pour about half of the cake mix over the the blackberries. Sprinkle half of the remaining blackberries over the cake mix, then add the remaining cake mix. Finally, sprinkle the remaining blackberries over the top and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake in a preheated oven for about an hour.

Wild plum gin

The perfect Christmas present

  • 500g wild plums or damsons
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 1 litre bottle of gin
  1. Rinse and wipe over the plums/damsons to remove any leaves and stalks and pat dry.
  2. Freeze overnight in a freezer bag. The next day, bash the bag of damsons a couple of times with a rolling pin and then tip the lot into a 2-litre Kilner jar
  3. Pour in the sugar and gin, and put the lid on. Shake well.
  4. Each day for a week, give the jar a good shake until all the sugar has dissolved, then put it in a cool, dark place and leave for 2-3 months.
  5. Line a plastic sieve with a piece of muslin or coffee filter and strain the damson gin through it. Decant into clean, dry bottles, seal and label.

The gin is now ready to enjoy, but will improve and mature over time.

Blackberry vinegar

A delicious salad dressing to replace balsamic

  • Blackberries
  • Sugar
  • Cider or wine vinegar
  1. Place equal amounts of blackberries and vinegar into a large container and allow the mixture to steep for 7-10 days.
  2. Add the mixture to a pan with 450g of sugar (per 700ml of liquid) and bring to the boil. Boil for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer to sterilised bottles, label and enjoy!
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