Wild blackberries are just waiting to be plucked from the region’s hedgerows – and turned into this delicious dish of the month
Venture out from Birmingham city centre this time of year and in no time at all you’re into country lanes with hedgerows heavy with wild blackberries. What better way to enjoy great local ‘produce’ that’s absolutely free! Ryan Swift, head chef at Peel’s Restaurant, picks wild blackberries grown in the walled garden at Hampton Manor for his own dishes – and here he shares one with us that sounds really yummy! Duck, Blackberries and Caramelised Fennel The blackberries are prepared three ways for this dish – raw, pickled and a fluid gel.
Duck, Blackberries and Caramelised Fennel
TO MAKE THE PICKLE:
First make a blackberry flavoured vinegar by placing some blackberries in a bowl and cover with a little white wine vinegar. Cover the bowl with cling film and place over a pan of simmering water for two hours to draw the juice, flavour and colour from the berries into the vinegar. When the time is up, line a bowl with muslin cloth and pour the mixture into the cloth. Hang the cloth over the bowl overnight in the fridge so all the liquor drains through, leaving the pulp behind. Discard the pulp and place the vinegar into a bottle or air-tight container. TO MAKE THE FLUID GEL: Follow the same procedure as for the vinegar but replace the vinegar with a little caster sugar. When this has been hung overnight, set it with a gelling agent called agar agar. When set, blend it and pass it through a chinos to give you a gel-like puree.
TO MAKE THE CARAMELISED FENNEL:
Make a caramel flavoured with star anise, fennel seeds and soy sauce and place the quartered fennel and caramel into a vacuum-sealed bag. Poach in a water bath at 85 degrees C for about 40 minutes.
TO SERVE THE DISH:
Roast a duck breast until medium rare and the skin is crispy. Caramelise the fennel in a hot pan on one side, dress some of the raw blackberries with the vinegar. Ryan also serves the dish with a pressing of the duck legs and a spinach emulsion. He said: “For this recipe I like to use Challans duck which I get from the famous Rungis Market just outside Paris. They are raised for their especially lean and tender flesh.”