I have a little tree in my backyard.
It’s the pretty kind with a skinny trunk that flops over at the top like Rapunzel’s hair, spilling its leaves to the ground.
Someone else planted it a long time ago, long enough for it to be completely encased in twisted wisteria and giant spirea branches. After a lot of heaving, pulling and cutting, there it was, this lovely little tree.
It’s an ornamental Mulberry. But I didn’t know that then, not until I found its berries.
One day in mid July I was under the mulberry pulling gout weed from the soil (something I do, all the time. I call it artisinal gardening.) Between the weeds were fat berries, much like a blackberry but longer, almost conical. I stopped the podcast I was listening to long enough to google the situation with my dirty fingers. Mulberries! safe to eat! Great in cobblers, jams, cordials and jellies! So I collected and ate. The next week I collected again. A few weeks passed, then a few more, and that cute little tree is still fruiting, just enough to sprinkle into something with all the peaches and nectarines that are so good right now.
This is where Marie comes in, my Instagram friend from Australia. Her feed tells me she’s a baker, a preserver and a lover of stories. And she’s a listener to The Food Podcast. So of course I like her.
Last week when I posted a Julia Turshen inspired peach cobbler image, in honour of Julia being on the next episode of The Food Podcast, Marie reached out with THE BEST recipe for me to try: an upside-down version of a stone fruit cobbler – an Australian version shall we say – opposite to this place, upside down, or right side up, but still delicious, still understandable, still familiar. It’s called Sadie’s Apricot Cobbler. But now it’s Marie’s. That’s how it goes.
The recipe begins by placing butter directly into the pan the cobbler will be made in, and sliding the pan into a preheating oven to melt the butter. I like it immediately; efficient steps make me happy. In a small bowl I whisk together flour, a little sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt. I stir in milk until the mixture is just smooth. I am essentially making a pancake batter, (you’ll know from episode three of The Food Podcast that I LOVE pancakes) without having to fuss with melted butter. That was already melting in the pan in the oven! The directions then tell me to take the pan out of the oven, pour the batter over the butter and DO NOT STIR. The now browned butter licks up the edge of the pan, cradling the batter in nutty deliciousness. Then I nestle sliced nectarines into the batter, scatter those little mulberries around and finish it all off with a sprinkling of sugar.
I watch as the Australian cobbler bakes. (My new oven has a light and the door is so clean, I can barely believe the view). The batter rises like a Dutch baby, one of those oven pancakes baked in cast iron that fluff up like a soufflé then fall at little at the table. I love those things. I couldn’t believe it – a pancake and a fruit cobbler with a crusty, sweet muffin-top surface, all rolled into one.
Marie’s Dutch Baby Stone Fruit Upside Down Australian Cobbler with a sprinkling of Mulberries
50g (4 tablespoons) butter
100g (2/3 cup) all purpose flour
100g (1/2 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch sea salt
170 ml (2/3 cup) milk
450g (1 lb) stone fruit, halved and stones removed ( I used 4 nectarines)
Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Recipe calls for a 2 litre (8 cup) casserole dish. I used my oval copper pot – who’s kidding who – just for show. Add butter to the pan and pop it into the preheating oven to melt the butter.
Mix flour, half the sugar, baking powder and sea salt in bowl. Add the milk and beat just until smooth. Take the pan out of the oven and pour batter over the melted butter. Lay the halved fruit over the batter and finish with the remaining sugar (and a scattering of mulberries, or any berries, if you’d like). Place the dish in the centre of the oven, turn the temperature down to 350F (180C) and bake for 1 hour.
The recipes says ‘the edges should start to caramelize and the fruit will sink into the swelling batter.’
It’s all true.
Eat it warm from the oven, with kids or friends, neighbours, or anyone who appreciates the fruits of your labour and your mulberry tree.