This week has seen our household knocked down by colds. Nothing actually serious, but instead that dreary, endless low-level poorliness that struggles to justify time off or desertion of duties. We have armed ourselves with lemsip and positive mental attitudes, as if we can think ourselves well. My desk is a graveyard of balsam tissues and vitamin blister packs. But there is only one thing that has made me really feel a bit better: porridge.
A couple of weeks ago I made blackberry vinegar, and since then I’ve been looking for just about any excuse to use it.
This is the perfect vehicle for that condiment. It would, I should say, be a glorious dish, even without the vinegar. It’s dark and moody and autumnal, but light enough to eat whilst the weather still occasionally throws an uncomfortably humid day at us. But it is brought to life by the blackberry vinegar: the combination of the crunchy, salty duck skin with the sweetsour, fruity vinegar is perfect.
Until last Sunday, I had never been blackberry picking. It was inevitable, then, perhaps that I managed to get caught on brambles no fewer than four times during our excursion. But I emerged physically and figuratively victorious, with stained fingers, and overflowing tupperware. After two large boxes, crammed tight with blackberries were wedged into the freezer, for dark crumble-filled days, there was still a surplus of berries. So I made this vinegar.
When we were little, there was one pudding that my non-pudding-making mother would occasionally make: pavlova. We would watch it being made, placed carefully into a low oven. We were barely allowed to watch it whilst it cooked, so keen was the fear of cracking. When it came out, little fingers weren’t permitted to pry or poke. Then it was crowned with cream and accoutrements, and placed in the back porch – desperately tempting, and absolutely forbidden. I thought it was the most impossibly glamorous pudding.
This is my ultimate everything-will-be-ok supper. Something I make when I’m feeling sad or scared or just a bit hopeless. It revives, it reassures. It’s aromatic, and sweet and sour from the tamarind, and it is comforting without being heavy and stodgy. It’s everything you need on a dreary almost-summer Tuesday evening.