An August dawn and the summer morn sun is beaming misty rays into the early shady corners of my own unkempt wilderness. A sneaky and soundless, evasive and shadowy figure is poking through brambles and thorns.
As my family lie morning slumbered they won’t see me stooping, twisting, manipulating and contorting my body in search of a delectable delicacy. Among the jungle I call a garden I carefully pluck and pick a deep blackish purple hued, raven prize from elusive branches of a thousand barbs.
No time to waste, I pop into my mouth the sweet, juicy marble sized fruit of the honest and humble blackberry. And as I roll the flavour around my mouth and between the ample gap in my teeth, amidst the dew and vapours of the day I feel all is heavenly. The flavours magically transport me back in time to my childhood and of days spent scrumping fruit in orchards. This time, brought to mind, are tricky times past.
I can long time remember my younger brother and I covertly trespassing in a large sprawling equally untidy Victorian garden. We were interloping boys from the wrong side of the street and were suddenly surprised by the owners and the their Labrador. Unseen for precious seconds my brother fled the field but I late to the game could only bury myself in the depth of the embrace of a carpet of Autumnal ochre tinted leaves. I lay motionless there, swallowed my breathing, heard the thump of my heart in my ears and waited.
I listened and perceived a conversation of an oldish couple, whom I presumed to be the owners, chatting in an English with a chiselled cut glass manner about roses and dahlias. They brought their pre-ample closer and nearer and I could not figure out why I didn’t hear the envitable ” You boy! What do you think you are doing? They came close, so close the yellow cardigan clad ex military looking gent (one could imagine everyone called him coronal) almost trod on me!
I was daring then and I felt a mighty pride and security of motionlessness and invisibility that seemed to have cloaked me. Their voices dimmed and I lost them from sight, dissipated and disappearing they melted into tall grass. This was my chance to run fast and furious for the fence. But before my sinews were unleashed a green, sticky, spit laden rubber ball dropped and bobbled an inch in front of my head. I slowly twisted my neck round to see a platinum gold, brown eyed Labrador looking deep within me. With my face still pressed firmly against the leaves the dog stood over me and then stuck an icy nose into my ear and his clawed paw dug into my head causing a hefty scratch.
We gazed in silence and stillness for a decade. What should I do? If I break and make a sudden escape he was going to run me down. I was fast and fleet then but I fancied not my chances of keeping my arse intact.
Intuitively my hand wrapped around the wetted glistening ball. And then I saw the light of truth dance deep in the Labradors eyes. His beautiful marine blue pupils shot wide and he could not hide his sinews becoming tense and ready. Immediately I threw the glistening sphere and pinball like it ricocheted tantalisingly among the spruce trees. I sprang up and ran with rockets for legs until my inertia elevated to such a level as to launch me over the ancient rickety fence bleached grey by endless summers.
Now all these years later I am standing on an equally rickety set of steps gleaning the most appropriate berries for my use. I must admit I do not feel the excitement of the chase now as all the fruit to be half inched is mine.
Blackberries are just an example of one of the array of fruit to feast on in the incredible micro climate found on the Silver Coast in Portugal. I cast my eye around and convince myself anything can grow here. I see Rocha pears, apples, figs, lemon trees, a peach tree and tucked away in seclusion, hidden at the end of the strip of land I call a garden, I have quinces.
What brings me to spill my blood and test may patience this morning? In truth, it is not so much the blackberries, it’s more what I can do with them. I am no Jamie Oliver, but I can do a few useful culinary stunts with the fruit and one of my finest is my Wilderness Porridge! This is a natty combination of garden grown honeyed and cinnamon sprinkled apples. And today I combine them with the blackest and sweetest of blackberries. I like fruit with porridge and most of all blackberries and apples. So I thought I would do a little recipe for you if you sought the flavours of the Silver coast and memories of long gone childhood.
Wilderness Porridge (serves 4)
2 medium apples
About 100 gms. of blackberries
1 and a half mugs of porridge oatmeal
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of honey
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
50 gms. of butter
Splash of olive oil
Dice and cut the apples into medium chunks. Add olive oil to a medium sauce pan on low heat and then add the butter followed by the apples. Stir and wait until golden. Sprinkle cinnamon, add salt and honey and wait for the apples to caramelise.
Add enough milk and boiling water in equal measure to cover the base of the pan and apples. Stir in the porridge and then add more milk and boiling water in equal measure sufficient to cover most of the porridge. Cook for about 40 mins. Keep adding milk and water when the porridge mix becomes too sticky or dry. Keep continually stirring and working the mix around the pan to avoid the porridge catching on the bottom of the pan. Add sugar to taste.
Before serving, add most of the blackberries keeping some back for garnish.
Add a splash of milk in the bowl before serving to keep the porridge moist.
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