Goat's cheese and blackberry salad with blackberry vinaigrette

Goat's cheese and blackberry salad with blackberry vinaigrette
I live a simpler life these days. Part of it is a case of cutting my coat according to my cloth. Part is wanting to live a more sustainable life. I suppose my priorities have changed and these days I just don't feel a sense of envy for the things I don't have (mainly my lack of designer shoes!).

"But Rachel" I hear you say, "you're sounding just a little bit holier-than-thou". I apologise. "Come on Rache; drop the saintly act right now!" I hear you insist. "There must be something that you covet?" you probe further.

This is the point where I start to look a bit shifty, furtive even. "Well, perhaps there is something I want," I say quietly, making sure no-one else is listening. "It's funny you should mention it, because there is one thing that has been driving me nuts for weeks. It's been driving me crazy for ages. I've been waking up in the middle of the night in a blind panic in case it has all gone".

"Blimey, Rache," I imagine you saying. "What on earth could wake you from your usual leaden sleep?"

"Brambles," I confess.

"Eh?" I can imagine your confusion. "You covet brambles?"

I live not a twenty minute walk from the blackberry wilds of Hampstead Heath. I am not talking about those brambles. My brambles are special brambles and they've been greatly on my mind over the past month or so. There is a rather splendid patch of brambles in the lane by my house, a stone's throw from my front gate. We didn't have any brambles last year as an idiot builder renovating a house nearby decided to put weed killer down and destroyed all the brambles, nasturtiums, michaelmas daisies and hollyhocks that had self-seeded along the lane.

the wilds of north London!
There was a reason why we'd let the lane grow wild; it was because otherwise it just looks decrepit and reminds us that some garden walls and fences probably need a bit of a spruce; that the lane actually needs tarmacking. But the weeds hide the cracks, making the lane a little wild, unplanned, a bit rustic. Some of us (well me) can forget for a moment that we live in the hustle of a bustling city.

What has been keeping me awake at night is the fear that one of my neighbours might get in first, that all the brambles are all gone. And should I get in first, would it be rude not to leave some for the birds, or in fact my neighbours? And what is the best time to pick? 5am (before everyone is up) or midnight (when everyone seems to have bedded down for the night). And if I don't ask, will they guess it is me? Will they even care?

blackberry vinaigrette
You seem my dilemma? It's a small patch of wild fruit that is ripening in stages. I took a small batch to make a salad recently, virtuously leaving enough for birds and humans. The following day I found an elderly gentleman helping himself to an enormous bowlful. Oi! I wanted to say. Clear off my lane. Suddenly I felt proprietorial. I wanted him to take his bowl and sling his hook. Instead I found myself quietly saying with a smile "oh great minds think alike" at which point he stopped. (Ah yes, the passive aggressive approach works every time. Annoying but probably better than resorting to violence). He gave me what I thought was a rather funny look, and tottered away.

What can I say? I am lazy and I particularly like the idea of foraging in London on my own doorstep.

  goat's cheese and blackberry salad with blackberry vinaigrette
The sweet and spicy flavour of the blackberries works beautifully with creamy, tangy goat's cheese. They are the perfect marriage in a simple salad.

Serves 3
Skill level: Easy

blackberry purée
250g blackberries
juice of 1 lemon
100ml water
1-3 tbsp golden caster sugar
blackberry vinaigrette:
3-4 tbsp blackberry purée
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g rocket leaves
1 goat's cheese log (about 180g), sliced 1cm thick
50g blackberries
toasted nuts, roughly chopped (I used pistachios but hazelnuts or walnuts would be nice too)


  1. Tip the blackberries into a small saucepan with lemon juice and about 100ml of water. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 5 minutes until the fruit is soft. Set aside to cool a little.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and whizz until smoothish. Strain through a sieve, rubbing with a metal spoon or ladle to get all the juice and pulp, but none of the pips.
  3. Return to a clean saucepan. Add the sugar (from 1 to 3 tbsps, depending on how sweet you want it). Bring to the boil and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Stores well in the fridge for about 1 week.
  4. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Season to taste.
  5. Scatter the rocket over 3 plates.
  6. Add a few blackberries to each plate.
  7. Add 3 slices of goat's cheese per plate. (I kept one slice whole, in the centre. The other slices were chopped and scattered around the plate.)
  8. Scatter over chopped nuts.
  9. Drizzle with blackberry vinaigrette.

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