If you go down the woods today…..
Or, indeed walk up a large hill, then you may well be in for a surprise. No bears having picnics (I hope) but bushes of these delicious little bursts of purpley goodness. My lovely friend and I try to take a walk each week. It’s always a great walk whatever the weather. We put the world to rights in an hour and a half. At the top of the hill you are always rewarded with a wonderful 360° view, whether that is cloud shrouded fields, or crops withering under a heat haze. But at this time of the year you are also rewarded with winberry bushes. There is a mass of them, covered in these tiny berries. They are time-consuming to pick and this is made slightly more difficult, but also more hilarious, by my friend’s dog cavorting through the bushes, stopping to hoover some of the berries up with his front teeth. You don’t get many in fifteen minutes of picking (unless you are a dog), but you get enough for a couple of batches of these muffins. So, well worth the purple stained fingers.
The winberry is a cousin of the blueberry but much smaller. It is known by lots of other names – bilberry, whortleberry, blaeberry, windberry, whinberry etc etc. They grow on nutrient poor acidic soil and my friend and I were discussing how amazing it is that on this windswept hill, which spends a fair amount of time under low slung cloud and takes the worst of the winter weather these little bushes thrive and produce these delicious fruits.
Please remember that if the land on which the winberry grows has an owner then you should ask their permission before foraging. Take only a few, leaving plenty for the birds and mammals which rely on them. Most importantly, make sure you know for certain that it is a winberry bush and not something poisonous.
Makes 12 mini muffins (fairy cake size) or 6 muffins.
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
25g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
80-100g winberries (or less if you haven’t managed to pick that many)
When making muffins, lightness is key, so sift the flour and baking powder and don’t overmix.
Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar gently. Make a well in the centre.
Melt the butter and add to the beaten egg, the milk and the vanilla extract in a jug.
Pour the liquid into the flour and mix very briefly. Add the winberries and mix just enough to distribute them.You should still have some lumps of flour.
Spoon into muffin cases in a patty tin. I used cupcake sized cases to make mini muffins and made 12 rather than 6 large ones.
Place in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 for 15-20 minutes. I took them out of the oven five minutes before they were ready and sprinkled demerara sugar on their tops and continued to cook until the muffins were golden brown. This gives them a slightly crunchy top.