I love summer. The days last longer, it’s less gloomy (and therefore I’m less lazy), I get to wear floaty summery dresses… and best of all – the abundance of berries. Growing up in Malaysia meant that I rarely ate anything other than strawberries (strawberries are actually grown in Cameron Highlands, which is a holiday spot famous for their tea, strawberries, vegetables and flowers).
So, can you imagine my excitement when I came here and found that there were other berries in existence? Blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries… Ahhhh.
Now, I’d heard a lot about pick your own farms in the last few years. Somehow though, I’d never paid one a visit. I can’t really say why, because now that I’ve been I’m kicking myself for missing out on the experience in previous years! I visited Garsons Farm in Esher, Surrey which is apparently one of the largest pick your own farms in England. And when I got there, I could see why. It was massive. MASSIVE.
In fact, it was so big that I had trouble deciding where I should head for first. In the corner of my eye I spied some raspberry bushes, and the lovely red dots between all the green drew me right over. I admit that I morphed into a 5 year old child, and was in a state of utter excitement. Might have done some silly jumps in the air, but let us not dwell on that. The original plan was only to pick half a box of raspberries, but unsurprisingly I got carried away, and we ended up with a whole boxful. One can never have too many raspberries though, so all was good.
The “before” and “after” of raspberry picking. (Those white ‘stalks’ are why raspberries have that cone shaped ‘hole’ down their middles!)
Gooseberries. Time for an admission: I’d never eaten a fresh gooseberry prior to this. I’d only ever eaten dried gooseberries in cereal, and I did not like it. At all. Which is why on the rare occasion that I saw gooseberries being sold in Waitrose or Marks and Spencer, I would overlook them and reach for something else instead. But you know what? Fresh gooseberries are amazing. The skin is slightly sour, but beneath that sour outer layer is beautifully sweet flesh. I am now officially a gooseberry convert, and I only wish they were available for more months of the year!
Redcurrants. I’m a huge fan of redcurrants and blackcurrants – their dainty size has always been an attraction factor, and I couldn’t resist picking some. Just because I could, you know.
And then there were the strawberries. Being an ignorant person with absolutely no knowledge of plants, I was very surprised to find that the strawberry plants were so low. Somehow I’d always imagined them to be bigger and taller. The height of the plants did mean that there was a lot of squatting and rummaging through leaves (and bits of soil at times) to get to the strawberries – but it was all worth it. Not only did we end up with a huge mound of strawberries (again, I got slightly carried away), but it was also a very good form of exercise. My thigh muscles actually hurt the next day, much to my amusement.
Blackberries. These were planted in a beautiful way – not only in bushes, but also in vines (see the first photo of this post). This was by far, my favourite plant/bush. Simply because it was pretty, mind you. The blackberries are not as easy to pick as raspberries, as they are more stubbornly connected to their stalks. You have to apply the right amount of pressure to gently remove it of its stalk: too little pressure and it refuses to come off, too much pressure and you squish it. Not that it stopped me from picking a boxful of them though…
And it wasn’t just about the fruits/berries. There was also a wide range of vegetables to pick. There was spinach, which I must say looked different from the ones I normally buy. The leaves were much bigger – a different variety of spinach perhaps?
Beetroot. The beetroot patch was unfortunately quite barren as almost everything had been pulled out of the ground, but we still managed to get a good bunch to take home. Word of caution: your hands will get dirty! (And there were no taps around. We washed our hands with the water I’d brought along.)
This was the first time I pulled carrots out of the ground. And my, did it feel good. I kept on picturing Rabbit (from Winnie the Pooh) when I was doing this, for some strange reason. I’m silly that way.
Marrows. I didn’t get any as the berries were more enticing, and I had to be realistic R had to stop me from picking everything I saw.
A cauliflower, nesting beautifully within all those leaves.
Garden peas! And yes I did pick some, and used them for dinner the next day.
So yes. Pick your own farms are great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and all the other people who were visiting that same day looked like they were having a blast too. It’s a great activity for families, there were many children there getting all excited about picking their own strawberries etc! (Which I can totally relate to, of course.) The pick your own season is from June to September/October, so there’s still time to go this year. I’m already planning to revisit Garson’s before this season ends, and am hoping to get my hands on some apples, plums and squash!
But you might ask, what does one do with so much fruit? Well, you can eat them fresh. Or… you go on a baking frenzy.
As I had returned from Garsons with what seemed like a million boxes of fruit, I started to trawl through my bookmarks folder to see what I could make with them. I decided on this raspberry lemon frangipane slice, which I saw on Julia’s blog (Mélanger :: to mix) a while back. I love Julia’s blog, and always look forward to reading her posts. If you don’t already know about her blog, do check it out.
This particular recipe called out to me the moment I laid eyes on it, as she used a sweet bread dough for the base of the slice (as opposed to the normal tart dough or biscuit base). She said that it made the slice very light, and I had been waiting for a chance to try out her recipe.
And my oh my did I enjoy these. The bread dough base added a very nice touch to the tart (I’m calling it a tart as I baked them in individual tart trays as opposed to a huge tray), and I enjoyed how it wasn’t overly sweet. The flavours of almond, raspberry and lemon also complemented each other beautifully. All it really needed was a nice sprinkling of icing sugar, and it was ready to be devoured. Thinking back, I should have served it with some ice cream on the side….
Basic sweet dough recipe
Based on this recipe by Julia @ Mélanger
Please note that although this recipe seems complicated, it isn’t. It just involves a lot of waiting time. If you don’t have the time to do it all in one day, do what I did and put the dough mixture into the fridge in between step 7 and 8. This allows the dough to slowly rise in the fridge, and you can take it out the next day and continue from step 9.
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup warm water (45°C)
- 3.5g dried yeast
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups of plain, all purpose flour
- 115g butter, melted
1. Warm the milk in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge. (I used the microwave because I didn’t want to wash an extra saucepan). Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 45°C.
2. In the meantime, add the sugar to the warm water (in a large bowl/bowl of your stand mixer), and dissolve the yeast in this sugared water mixture. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the milk, salt, beaten eggs, and 1 cup of the flour. Beat the mixture until smooth. (I used the dough hook attachment of my mixer, at low speed)
4. Add 2 more cups of flour and continue to mix until the dough is glossy.
5. Add the melted butter and mix until just incorporated into the dough mixture.
6. Add a further 1 ½ cups of flour and continue to mix well. Stir in the remaining ½ cup of flour bit by bit until the dough is stiff – you may not need to add it all.
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
8. Once the dough is rested, knead the dough lightly until it is smooth and glossy. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, lightly spraying the top of the dough with oil to prevent drying. Allow to double in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.
9. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and let rise again until almost doubled, about 1 hour. (I only left it to rise for about half an hour)
10. Turn out onto a floured surface. You should have roughly have between 1.2kg of dough in total. The quantity of dough should be sufficient for three small loaves.
11. Once you have shaped your final dough, let rise for 20-30 minutes.
12. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush lightly with egg and then bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on size. The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Note: I did not bake them as loaves. I used half of the dough for the tart, and the rest I saved for some bun making.
Raspberry & lemon frangipane tart
Based on this recipe by Julia @ Mélanger
- 1/2 batch of sweet bread dough (see above)
- 90g almond meal
- 90g butter, softened
- 60g sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 1 egg
1. After the third rise, roll out the sweet bread dough to fit a lightly greased baking sheet. Allow-to proof for 20 minutes. *
2. Meanwhile, make the frangipane. Mix the butter, sugar and almond meal in a large bowl.
3. Add the lemon zest and the egg. Mix well until combined.
4. Spread the frangipane across the proofed dough. Sprinkle across raspberries (or berries of your choice).
5. Bake in a 180°C oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
* I made these into tarts rather than slices, as you have probably gathered from the photos.