It's mulberry season and if you look closely in your favourite suburb you may just find a mulberry tree laden with plump purple fruit! Spend a bit of time picking the fruit and before long you could be like us, with 800g of freshly plucked mulberries. So what's the best thing to do with mulberries? Why make mulberry pie with a pinot noir syrup and vanilla ice cream of course!
People tend to have wonderful memories of mulberry picking. Childhood hands, mouths and teeth stained purple, mulberries are similar in flavour to a mixture of blackberries and blackcurrants and are a forager's dream. Mulberry trees can grow to very large so if they do grow in someone's backyard, chances are some of the tree will encroach on a public area bestowing hungry neighbours with their spoils.
Botanically not a berry (more a collective fruit), mulberries are said to be too delicate for commercial sale. Indeed the best are the ones that fall off the tree, heavy with sweet syrup and too soft for picking. They say that if you are lucky enough to have a mulberry tree, lay a tarp down under the tree to collect the ripe fruit that has dropped each day.
We didn't have the luxury of this. We actually came across a mulberry tree while we were walking to a cafe in Bondi Junction. Mr NQN, who always tends to spot fruit trees promised to come back with me after lunch to pick some mulberries. We didn't want to pick up any on the ground because they fell on a public thoroughfare and many on the lower branches had already been foraged. But then his height helped out. Being a good foot taller than me at 6 foot 2 Mr NQN was able to get a lot more fruit than me and before we knew it, we had 800grams of mulberries!
To pick mulberries, lift them up and by the berry and the tiny green stem should disengage. Also go for the ripe fruit as eating unripe mulberries can cause an upset stomach, hallucinations and it can also stimulate the nervous system The best way to wash these delicate berries is to gently submerge them in a bowl of cold water. And use scissors to clip off the tiny green stem.
I was in heaven when I was picking these. I knew that I wanted to make a mulberry pie with a lattice top. I did want to do a slight riff on it (because hello, it's me) and that was to pair it with pinot noir but I couldn't add it to the pie filling so I decided to serve it with a vanilla ice cream and make a pinot noir sauce to pour over afterwards. Pinot noir is often compared to berries so all I did was add a little vanilla and sugar to a pinot and it was a gorgeously dark purple sauce that shone like a diamond.
That afternoon after photographing the pie I was getting my nails done and I came across another woman who was in state of ecstasy all of her own. At first she was irritated by the music that they had playing in the background. She was squirming in her seat and huffing with displeasure at the tune (honestly, she must have been a Lhasa apso, I could barely hear it and couldn't even tell what song it was). She was sitting next to me and they were giving her a hand massage as part of her manicure.
Then she let out a loud groan of pleasure, followed by more and more increasing in volume ending with a "Yes don't stop!". The woman administering her hand massage looked upon her client with wide eyed alarm and spoke something to her colleague that I couldn't understand but I got from the tone was something like, "What on earth is this crazy woman doing? She's scaring me," and she quickly finished the hand massage. At least it distracted her enough to stop complaining about the music.
Anyway, back to pleasures of the food, sometimes the best things in life are free and no more than in the case of this foraged mulberry pie. I know it might be tough to convince you to make a syrup out of your favourite pinot noir and I'd say don't use your most expensive drop. I used a bottle that I was given at a hotel and the syrup was delicious. Save this beauty for your favourite people and serve them a slice warm, with ice cream and pinot noir syrup for a dessert to remember, or at least one to moan over.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you verbally appreciate a massage or food? Have you ever picked mulberries? Do you know of a mulberry tree near your suburb?
Mulberry & Pinot Noir Pie
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 60 minutes plus 2 hours resting and cooling time (for the pie and you ;))
Cooking time: 50 minutes
- 3 cups plain all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon caster or superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 170g/6ozs. butter, cold, cubed
- 2 tablespoons lard
Mulberry Pie filling:
- 4.5 cups mulberries
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons cornflour mixed with cold water
Pinot Noir Syrup:
- 375ml/13flozs. pinot noir wine
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons cream or egg wash (egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water)
- 3 tablespoons raw sugar
- Vanilla ice cream to serve
Step 1 - Make the pastry. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Then add the butter and lard and process. Then add water by the tablespoon and pulse until it just comes together. I needed around 7 tablespoons of cold water but it depends on the flour. Divide the dough into two rounds (one 2/3 and the other 1/3 of the dough) and wrap in cling film and allow to rest for 2 hours or overnight (place in the fridge if it is warm or hot).
Step 2 - Meanwhile make the filling and syrup. Add the mulberries and sugar to a saucepan and cook on medium to high heat for 5-6 minutes until the mulberries release their juices and then reduce this a little (you can also pour a little out if it is too liquidy and serve it chilled with soda water). They'll actually release quite a bit of juice. Reduce the heat to low and then stir the cornflour together to mix up any that settles in the bottom of the bowl and then add the cornflour to the mulberries and thicken the sauce. Cool.
Step 3 - In another saucepan simmer the wine and sugar until you get a thicker syrupy texture. Add vanilla.
Step 4 - Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Roll out one of the rounds to fit a large pie tin. Dock the pastry with a fork, cover and then place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Line with parchment and baking beads or dried beans/uncooked rice and bake for 15 minutes (you can also use a pie rim cover to cover the pastry on the rim). Remove the parchment and bake for another 5 minutes or until cooked. Cool.
Step 5 - While it baking roll out the other round of pastry and cut into thin strips and place in fridge until needed (it is much easier to work with when cold). Place the cooled filling into the pie base and then line up half of the strips facing one way. The way to make a lattice pattern is to interweave the pastry-lift up every second strip of vertical pastry and add a horizontal row and then lift up alternating strips. Press a fork to the sides and then cut off excess pastry. Brush with cream and sprinkle with raw sugar and then bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Serve with vanilla ice cream and pinot noir syrup.