It’s sloe gin time. There’s no point in pretending any more. Autumn is well into its stride and winter lies just ahead. While the last warm bursts of sunshine still make an occasional appearance, it’s only a brief tease before the grey clouds and drizzle take over. However we believe in the brighter side of life. So, despite the colder weather, we’ll be making the most of this season and taking advantage of all the things we love about this time of year. The leaves are falling, leaving a satisfying crunch under our feet and a dazzling display of fall colour for our eyes. Here in Barcelona, the sweet potato sellers are out. You can see them huddling around their little stoves selling piping hot yams and bags of roasted chestnuts to keep us warm as the days grow colder.
Christmas is in the air
Across the world, the Christmas lights are starting to appear in all their festive splendour. They’re strung elegantly across our streets like twinkling diamonds in the night sky. The sounds of Christmas are all around. Seasonal carols echo down the streets and blast out of our shops and restaurants. The terraces are less popular these days and outdoor sipping is best done with a scarf wrapped casually around your neck. Serious eating and drinking has moved indoors where the vibe is cozy, warm and comforting. The sights and sounds of the coming festivities are starting to build some proper momentum to give us hope and cheer for the colder weather ahead. We suspect a version of this is happening all around the world as everybody prepares for the cozy days ahead.
Cozy, warm and comforting
So, while we’re on the subject of cozy, warm and comforting, we thought we’d share with you a recipe that will make you feel all of those emotions in one go. Last year, we introduced you to the delights of the apple and blackberry sloe gin crumble. This year, we’re going to discover the world of the sloe gin Bramble pie. This is a gorgeous, heart-warming, stomach-filling dessert that’s perfect for this time of year and it features a delicious dose of sloe gin, our favourite winter warmer. This is the kind of dessert you want baking in the oven after a long walk in the countryside. It’s full of fresh, natural ingredients and we think it works really well with a dollop of double cream or a drizzle of hot custard.
Take it sloe…
And, as you sit back in your comfy chair, soaking up all the heat from that roaring fire, pour yourself a glass of sloe gin. Home made is best. But if that’s a step too far, we highly recommend a glass of Elephant sloe gin from Germany. Hand made in small batches by artisan gin-makers, this deliciously rich spirit is based on Elephant’s original London Dry gin, but it has been transformed with fresh apples and rare African botanicals. Hand picked sloe berries that have been macerated in the gin have been added to release all their fruity autumn flavours. And at 35% ABV, you’ll only need a little bit. After having some Bramble pie and a glass of sloe, I think a pre-Christmas nap might be in order…
Save the elephants
Don’t forget that 15% of all the funds from the sales of Elephant gin go to foundations fighting the illegal ivory trade. Another reason to raise a glass of sloe.
Sloe gin bramble pie recipe
- 2kg blackberries
- 75 ml sloe gin
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 6 tbsp cornflour
- 1 medium free-range egg yolk, beaten (to glaze)
- Seve with hot custard or double cream
For the pastry
- 200g unsalted butter (room temperature) cubed (plus extra for greasing)
- 400g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 50g golden caster sugar
- A decent sized pinch of salt
- 1 medium egg
- Put the blackberries in a pan with the sloe gin and golden caster sugar. Set over a low-medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes until you have about 1 litre juice. Drain the blackberries, reserving the juices, then leave to cool completely. Return the juices to the pan and reduce to a thick syrup (see tips). Once the blackberries have cooled, mix them with the cornflour. For the pastry, briefly whizz the butter with the flour, 50g sugar and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly pulse in the egg, then 2 tbsp cold water, until the dough just comes together. Tip onto a floured surface, split into two (roughly two thirds and one third), then roll each into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap each disc in cling film, then chill for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 210°C/fan190°C/gas 6½ and put in a baking sheet to heat up. Take the larger disc of pastry out of the fridge. Roll it out to 0.5cm thick on a lightly floured surface and use to line the base and sides of a 5cm deep ceramic or metal flan/pie dish measuring about 18cm across the bottom and 23cm across the top. Once you’ve lined the dish with the pastry, spoon in the cooled blackberries. Put the blackberry-filled base in the fridge.
- Roll out the second piece of pastry to a 23cm circle. Remove the dish from the fridge and lightly wet the edges of the pastry base. Top with the second layer of pastry and crimp, using your thumb and forefinger, to seal. With a sharp knife, make a few slits and a hole in the top and, if you like, use any pastry trimmings to decorate (re-roll, cut into shapes and affix with a little water). Brush the top with the beaten egg yolk to glaze it. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then glaze again.
- Bake on the hot baking sheet for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp – cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the dish for 2-3 hours so the filling can thicken. Serve the pie in slices straight from the dish, with lashings of cream.
Please note: You won’t need the syrup from the blackberries in this recipe, but it’s great as a base for a gin and tonic. Or drizzle it over sorbets and ice creams (you may need to sweeten it a little). If you’d like a sugary glaze for the pie, sprinkle the pastry with a little demerara sugar before baking. To make sure the filling is heated throughout, push a metal skewer into the centre, then carefully hold it to the back of your wrist. It should feel very hot.
Make the filling and pastry separately up to 2 days in advance, then assemble and bake at the last minute.
Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)
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