DAVID WOODS: A delicious excuse to go blackberry picking

Blackberry pear and chocolate torte
Blackberry pear and chocolate torte

David Woods, executive head chef of Sofitel London Gatwick Hotel, raids the hedgerows to create a stunning seasonal dessert.

Has anyone noticed how huge the blackberries are this year? I think it must be one of the best years yet and I have already picked loads…and eaten my first blackberry and apple crumble.

David Woods, executive head chef of the Sofitel London Gatwick Hotel

David Woods, executive head chef of the Sofitel London Gatwick Hotel

Now is one of the best times to enjoy seasonal food as there is plenty of choice.

Here at the Sofitel, La Brasserie restaurant is undergoing a makeover and I have created a new menu for when it re-opens in September. The starting point for deciding what goes on that menu has been seasonal produce. I have virtually changed every dish – starters, mains and desserts – although I have had to keep a few favourites. There would be riot if I didn’t have my signature slow cooked pork belly on there.

One of the new desserts will be this blackberry, pear and chocolate torte. It can be made in advance, in large quantities, perfect for dinner parties or celebrations. We serve it with homemade blackberry liqueur sorbet, but it will go equally well with lemon sorbet or vanilla ice cream. It’s a good excuse to go bramble picking.

La Brasserie, Sofitel’s 2 AA rosette restaurant, reopens early September with a new look and a new menu.

To book a table call 01293 567070 or email SLG@sofitelgatwick.com.

Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or share your blackberry recipes with us on Instagram by tagging @SofitelLondonGA.

Blackberry, Pear and Chocolate Torte

Serves 8

For the chocolate sponge:

110g softened butter or margarine

110g caster sugar

2 medium eggs

70g self-raising flour, sieved

40g cocoa powder, sieved

Stock syrup:

100 ml water

80g sugar

For the pear mousse:

4 ripe Williams pears, peeled, cored and diced

100g sugar

Seeds from one vanilla pod

4 leaves of gelatine

500ml whipping cream

For the bramble jelly:

125g blackberries

125ml water

50g caster sugar

Blackberries for decoration

Method

First, make the chocolate sponge: put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a hand blender. Pour into a greased and floured rectangular Swiss roll tin and bake at 180c for 20 minutes. Leave to cool.

To make the stock syrup, bring the sugar and water to the boil until the sugar has dissolved. Cut the sponge to fit into a deep square or round tin and sprinkle over the stock syrup.

To make the mousse, put the pears into a saucepan with the vanilla seeds, a sprinkling of water and 50g sugar. Cook until softened.

Blitz in a blender and put back into the saucepan to keep warm.

Soak the four gelatine leaves in cold water, squeeze out and stir into the warm pears until dissolved. Leave to cool slightly.

Whip the cream and 50g sugar until it forms floppy peaks. Fold into the pear mixture, one third at a time. Pour onto the chocolate sponge.

Leave to set for at least four hours or overnight.

To make the jelly, put the blackberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until soft. Blitz in a blender.

Soak the one leaf of gelatine, squeeze out, and stir into the warm blackberry puree until dissolved. Leave to cool but not set and then pour over the top of the mousse. Leave to set again for at least 4 hours.

To serve, cut into rectangles and decorate with blackberries.

Chef’s tip

You can speed things up by buying a ready-made chocolate sponge. Cut it into thin layers before lining the base of your dish.

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