Five ingredients—blackberries, lemon juice, sugar, water and fresh thyme—cook quickly into a compote that can be used to top homemade or store-bought desserts beautifully. Recipe below.
I was surprised when I bit into some fresh blackberries last week. Okay, partly because they weren’t just good, but really wonderful (I guess even the ever bountiful California has its seasonal differences). But the big surprise was that I immediately thought of dessert.
Dessert doesn’t see a lot of action at our house. I mean, we always keep something sweet in the house—dark chocolate bars, rice pudding, the occasional package of cookies. But after dinner, we don’t usually think of dessert as a course, as something that needs preparing. More often, it’s “I could use a little something sweet.” And that need is frequently met with a couple of squares of chocolate or even a piece of bread with some apricot jam (we are never without apricot jam).
In fact, when we’re putting together a small dinner party, we sometimes have to remind ourselves to plan a dessert for it. So that those juicy, sweet blackberries made me think of dessert surprised me.
What probably won’t surprise you is the simplicity of this compote. As much as I like to think of my cooking as subtle, surprising and maybe complex at times, things like this seem to be what I do best—or at least most often. A handful of ingredients (five in this case, if you count the water) simply prepared. This blackberry thyme compote is simple even by my standards, hardly a recipe at all. And it’s not a dessert on its own, but a topping to be served warm over waffles or pancakes or, simplifying things further, store-bought vanilla ice cream or pound cake, as I’ve done here.
As simple as it is, the compote elevates whatever you choose to accompany it. The sweet/tart blackberries soften during brief cooking, releasing their juice to create a thin, flavorful syrup that soaks into pound cake particularly nicely. And the thyme adds an element of the garden and summer, with its fresh, slightly minty taste.
Blackberry Thyme Compote
Makes about 2 cups
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Note: The most time-consuming part of this recipe is plucking the thyme leaves from the stems. But do this rather than chopping the thyme; you’ll avoid biting into little bits of stem later.
Bring the water and sugar just to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until sugar completely dissolves, just a minute or two. Stir in the blackberries and lemon juice and cook, stirring frequently, until berries release their juices and begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; you want the berries to retain their form and not collapse into a runny, lumpy jam. remove from heat and stir in thyme leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature over ice cream, pound cake, waffles, pancakes or whatever.