Happy #REDWALLAUGUST, everyone! Here is my contribution to the month-long celebration focusing on the lovely foods from and inspired by Brian Jacques' epic Redwall series. You can find the #RedwallAugust announcement post here and, more importantly, the feast link list here.
The first Redwall book I ever read was the prequel Mossflower, after finding it all on its own in a tiny independent bookstore. I was in that bookstore because my awesome elementary school librarian took me there as a surprise after treating me to the lunch out I won for placing first in a short story contest (my story was about time travel, sadly, that's all I can remember). She let me pick out one book, I picked out Mossflower, and she bought it for me like a boss–nay, like a Madam–a literacy championing Madam. (Subsequently, it's the copy you can see in these photos).
I loved stories with animals, perhaps because I grew up on a farm, perhaps because animals were more interesting and less tiresome than people, maybe because I felt safer associating with animals, making them more appealing and approachable, even in story. Whatever the reason, I devoured Mossflower, treating it as almost sacred for the duration of the read (which, proudly for my 9-year-old self, took only a few days) by being very careful to not drop it (which I guess was a problem of mine? if I had to make a rule about it and all...). It's a strange thing to remember; the way I held that book and took care of it (not that you could tell from its present condition, but my young self trying to protect and mend it with tape was a sign of reverence) and savored it. It was one of those books that I fell into and that stayed clinging to me after I clamored back out. I discovered there was a series and got what I could, being the start of the 90s though there certainly wasn't the collection of books that there is now.
(Felt mouse ears I made for a recent Redwall picnic. Instructions can be found on my Instagram.)
As years and interests passed I remember growing away from the books, feeling that they were a bit repetitive, but the imagery of the food stayed with me, and though I was no longer ready to pounce on the next publication, I was all in for a cookbook. Alas, there was none-such at the time. It wasn't until years and years later, after starting a book blog (in 2011) and writing about Mr. Jacques' passing the same day (which occurred a month prior), that I discovered that several years earlier (in 2005), a cookbook had indeed been published. Already awash in nostalgia from remembering the impact Jacques' books had on my youth, the existence of the cookbook (written by Jacques and illustrated by Christopher Denise) felt like a wish belatedly granted.
I own it now, of course (of course), and have made many of the recipes therein. You can find my mini spring feast here and my mini summer picnic here. This blackberry and apple cake recipe is from the Summer section, but can be made at anytime of year.
Roogul pointed a chubby paw at a big cake. "Mayn't uz troi ee gurt big un' o'er thurr, if et please ee?"Hugo nodded his approval. "An excellent choice. I wonder who made it?"Jess Squirrel, the mother of Noisy Sam, began slicing the cake for them as she explained. "This is my own Squirrelmum's Blackberry and Apple Cake. It's my Sam's favorite, but I'll serve you first."Jess almost jumped at the sound of her son shouting."What ho, mum! Slice me off a big piece, too!"She smiled fondly at Sam. "His appetite's as big as his voice, bless him. Now, two small slices for Burrel and Roogul, and a slightly larger one for you, Friar. Is there anything else I can get you?"Hugo paused with a piece halfway to his mouth. "Just the recipe please, marm."–Brian Jacques, The Redwall Cookbook
Note: I followed the directions and ingredients from The Redwall Cookbook, but as blackberries are heavy on the little seeds, for my personal preference, I think I'll use blueberries next time.
Squirrelmum's Blackberry & Apple Cake
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Almond Flour
6 Tbsp. Butter, softened (+ more for the cake pan)
6 Tbsp. Sugar
6 Tbsp. Apple Juice, room temperature
2 Eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
Vanilla Extract, a few drops
1 Granny Smith Apple, cored, peeled, & chopped small
1 Cup Fresh Blackberries (frozen is all right, too)
1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF & lightly grease an 8" round cake pan (springform if you have it). Cut a circle from parchment paper & lay it in the bottom of the pan (I also cut strips of parchment for the sides of the pan just to make cake removal that much easier).
2. Beat all of the ingredients from flour to vanilla together in a large bowl until evenly combined & then gently fold in the fruit until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the cake pan & sprinkle the top generously with the raw sugar (or regular sugar if you don't have raw).
3. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes & then flip the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Gently peel away the parchment & cool until ready to serve (it's very nice warm!). Garnish with fresh blackberries & mint leaves (I also sprinkled powdered sugar on top).
* This cake would be wonderful served with meadow cream, which is a homemade whipped cream "flavoured with the honey and sweet herbs of the meadow" (so says Brian Jacques!) mentioned in the Redwall books. Simply whip a cup of heavy cream in a chilled bowl (electric mixer is easiest) & add honey to taste to sweeten (start with a teaspoon), along with a bit of chopped fresh or dried sweet herbs, until the cream holds stiff peaks but is still smooth & soft.
* For more Redwall recipes try my Mini Springtide Sunfeast