Blueberries, Christina Hollis author, The Count's Challenge

Blueberry Bounty

Blueberries are delicious, and home grown ones taste even better than those from the shops. They’re also really easy to grow. They are originally bog plants that like an acid soil, so we grow them here in containers that stand in trays kept permanently topped up with  rainwater. A magnificent harvest was promised from our eight bushes earlier this year. I covered them with a bird-proof net early on in the season, but sadly the local squirrels discovered a taste for them – green! They tore through the nets, leaving holes that blackbirds were quick to take advantage. Much pegging and pinning later, I think the remaining berries are safe. We’ve been picking the odd handful to go on cereals for a week or two, but now the bulk of remaining berries are ripe and ready. I picked over three pounds yesterday, and made the first blueberry tart of the season. Here’s the recipe:

For The Pastry:
250g flour
175g butter
20g caster sugar
1 egg
half tablespoon cold water.

Rub the butter into the flour and stir in the sugar, or blitz in a food processor. Add the egg and water combining it all into a soft dough. Chill in a fridge for 40 mins.
Butter and flour a 25cm loose-based flan tin. Roll out the pastry to more than fit the tin – you don’t want to have to stretch the pastry. Hint: rolling it out between two sheets of greaseproof paper makes a tricky job slightly easier and cleaner! Chill the unbaked pastry case for another 20 minutes.

For the Filling:
500g blueberries, washed and dried.
2 eggs
125g caster sugar + extra for dusting
175ml cream
25g flour
1 desertspoonful of creme de cassis

Put the berries into the pastry case. Mix together the eggs, sugar, cream. flour and cassis well and pour over the fruit. Sprinkle over a little more caster sugar and bake at 200 degrees c/gas mark 6 for about 35 minutes. This is best served chilled.

Once I’ve picked all the berries, I cut out one or two of the oldest branches then give them a good top dressing of home made compost. Blueberries also put on a brilliant show of fiery autumn colours. Then next year their pretty white flowers are a magnet for our bees. All we have to do is keep them constantly moist and the blueberries do the rest. Taken all round, they’re  really good value plants.

Christina Hollis author, The Count's Challenge

Bees At Work!

This is a lovely time of year – if only I had managed to keep on top of the gardening! Instead, I’ve been so busy writing a new Modern Romance for Harlequin  Mills and Boon the time has flown by and I’m looking out at a scene of self-sown poppies and wild white clover. Luckily, my bees love both these flowers so they are extra busy. One of our hives is packed to the rafters with honey, but that colony is so large I shall have to be careful and leave them plenty of those stores to keep them well fed through the winter.  Some beekeepers take off all the honey and then feed their bees with sugar and water, but I’d rather let them have natural food. If white sugar is bad for us, it can’t be much better for the bees!
July sees the US publication of my romance set in the South of France, The Count’s Challenge. Nip over to my website, to read an extract, and for a chance to enter my great new Summer Competition based on the book!