Did you know that brambly, blackberry bushes grow wild all over Ireland? In the springtime their lovely snow-white flowers dot the countryside, the long rambling stems climbing over stone walls and hedgerows, making friends with flocks of wooly sheep and unending fields of vibrant Irish Bluebells. They line narrow ribbons of peaceful country lanes and appear, as if from nowhere, in the clefts of barren rocks making up the magnificent soaring cliffs that cascade dramatically to rugged, Emerald Isle shorelines.
In early autumn the berries make their grand entrance, just as Irish children are heading back to school, making delightful snacks for carefree walks home. Of course the crimson stains covering their tongues, lips and fingertips give silent witness to their clandestine epicurean adventures. They’re quite oblivious to the fact that the deliciously sweet blackberries they’re sneaking are one of the healthiest snacks on the planet, with amazingly high levels of antioxidants.
Because of their vast abundance, blackberries are served in myriads of ways all over Ireland – from tiny thatched roofed bungalows and quaint vine-covered country pubs, to grand gourmet restaurants and fine, fancy hotels. They are creatively transformed into tarts, jams, jellies, chutneys, sauces, crumbles, compotes, cobblers and SOUPS!
Soups? Yes, dessert soups. If you’ve never tried this delicious way to serve a sweet treat, you’ve been missing out on something very special, unique and fun. Irish Pubs Cooking is a favorite cookbook I love to pull out in March to herald the celebration of St. Patricks Day. It’s full of delicious, savory appetizers, salads and main entries, but the desserts …………… oh my, they’re simply stunning! I’ve been staring at this Blackberry Soup w/ Buttermilk Custard for several years now, and since I’ve been finding plump, sweet-as-sugar blackberries at my market lately, I decided it just couldn’t wait any longer.
I’m so happy I tried this lovely soup. It’s not only very visually appealing, it’s so delicious that I’ve placed it on my top ten favorite desserts list! The sweet, tart, silky sauce pairs quite magically with the tangy, creamy custard. And though it’s a wonderful way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I have a feeling that I’ll be celebrating lots of other special occasions with this fabulous dessert!
- For the Buttermilk Custard:
- 1 package unflavored gelatin
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For the Blackberry Soup:
- 1 pound blackberries about 3 half pint size boxes
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice from one large, juicy orange
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice from l lemon
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons blackberry or raspberry liqueur
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
- For the Buttermilk Custard, put the unflavored gelatin in a medium microwave safe bowl, add the cold water and stir to combine. Place bowl in microwave and cook for 20 seconds or until gelatin is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the buttermilk and heavy cream together in another medium microwave safe bowl. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Cook on high for 2 minutes and stir well.
- Add gelatin to the hot buttermilk mixture and stir until completely dissolved. Pour through a fine strainer and fill four to eight small, individual molds*. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for several hours until set.
- For the Blackberry Soup, put the blackberries, zest, orange and lemon juices in a large pot on the stove. Add the sugar and stir. Simmer very gently for 5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Once the mixture has cooled, transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer, stir in the liqueur. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, run a thin, sharp knife around edges of custard containers. Place custards, one at a time into a shallow bowl containing about 1 inch of hot water. Allow container to sit in hot water for 10-15 seconds, then invert onto a shallow serving bowl. Holding container firmly in place, give it a vigorous up and down shake to loosen custard. Repeat several times if needed till custard is released onto plate. Spoon the Blackberry Soup all around and garnish with a single blackberry and a mint leave, if desired.
*Serves 4-8, depending on the size of the custard molds. I used about 1/2 cup per mold and got 6 servings