IMG_7333I’ll be honest.  While I love good food, and love to cook, I don’t necessarily want to spend all day in the kitchen in pursuit of a great meal.  Or a great dessert for that matter.  Cookbooks by serious chefs terrify me… especially when recipes go on for three pages or more.  This translates to hours of work and far too many opportunities for things to go very, very wrong along the way. And there’s a big world to explore out there… best to keep the cooking simple.

I served moussaka last night to some of our closest friends, and though the recipe was contained to one page (barely), I knew that would take a while to assemble (we’ll talk about that in the next post).  I went on a quest through my cookbooks to find a fabulous dessert that could be assembled in a snap.

And so I came across Blackberries and Cherries in Red Wine in Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day.  Seven perfect ingredients that could be thrown together in under 15 minutes.  Now that’s the sort of recipe I was looking for… and I have quite a weakness for blackberries, you see.


Blackberries take me back to memories of Country Walks in England…quite a wonderful thing to do.  When we lived in London, we would often assemble friends and head to the country on Saturdays or Sundays. From Paddington or Charing Cross, we’d take a train out to a little village, walk through the country for three miles or so to a pub, have a lovely pub lunch and a pint, then walk several more miles back to another village, where we’d catch a train home.

There are hundred of these walks across England, and they are mapped in a variety of books (part of the fun is deciphering the instructions — “turn left at the third fence post past the open field”).  The routes take advantage of a law from World War II that is still on the books, requiring landowners to give right of passage through their property (to include requiring them to provide a way over or through a fence!) so that folks could make their way to train stations more easily because there was little gasoline for cars.


So, the routes took us through people’s yards, past their barns, and sometimes even through their horse pastures. We would also find ourselves walking along winding rivers, snaking through dark forests, and even walking past 1,000-year old castles. The kids thought this was great fun.  So did we!  And if we got lucky, we found wild blackberries along the route…


But I digress.  Back to the compote.  It was a breathtakingly simple endeavor.  Soak the dried cherries and blackberries in a bit of cognac, make a quick spicy wine reduction, pour it over the fruit, let it cool, then ladle the drunken fruit over vanilla ice cream.  I promise that your guests will love it.


It’s so easy you’ll have plenty of time to go on a wander during the day…


Blackberries and Cherries in Red Wine

Adapted from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster

Serves 6-8

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 cups dried cherries
  • 2 Tablespoons cognac
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 5 to 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick


1. Put the dried cherries in a medium bowl and pour the cognac over them.  Set aside

2. Combine the sugar, wine, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to about 1 cup.

3. Pour the wine mixture over the cherries and blackberries (use a strainer if you’d like to catch the peppercorns) Cool to room temperature before serving.  This compote will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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2 Responses to "Blackberries and Cherries in Red Wine … and Country Walks"
  1. Stephanie H says:

    Oh my goodness, MB – I think I gain a pound every time I read your blog! Dangerous! (But keep it coming 😉 ) – Stephanie

  2. Thanks for the lovely comment, but I’m sure you’re walking so much in Japan that it wouldn’t be possible to gain a pound! When do you head back to the States?

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