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Black clouds overhead

How the sweetness of blackberries can lift the mood!

Firstly I would like to say thank you to everyone for your wonderful messages of support for my first blog about my symptoms with M.E. As a reminder, my weekly blogs also include a recipe I have baked. By using baking, I can show metaphorically how I feel the symptoms affected me at the time and how I feel about them now.

I think writing the blog last week really stirred something in me, as I found myself crying last Monday evening. The tears though were very cathartic, cleansing me of the thoughts hidden deep within the memories of my mind. In fact, those tears lead me onto this week's M.E. symptom - that of depression. It is something I suffered a lot during my time with the condition - although I didn't realise I was depressed at the time. I guess I was protecting myself from what was actually happening and, by admitting I was depressed, I thought I would appear weak. I had been so strong up to then - but looking back I realise that I hadn't cried for years. I had held all my emotion in and, in a paradoxical way, M.E. actually saved me by releasing me from my own control. I recall my life coach at the time saying to me "if you don't stop, your body will stop you" She was right.

Back to those tears I shed last Monday evening and the ones I didn't shed for years. Crying is actually good for us. It cleanses us. Tears shed from crying contain proteins which help with the natural pain release in the body and with the stimulation of endorphins (the brain's natural opiates). There is also a study which states that people with stress-related illnesses, like M.E. and CFS, tend to cry less than other people. Although this is the case, I do remember feeling as though I wanted to cry, but couldn't and as though my head was about to burst. That was why having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and psychotherapy once I had started my recovery was important (although I didn't understand it at the time). It allowed me to feel safe enough to cry again - it took many sessions and a great understanding by my psychologist, but we got there in the end. I must say there was enormous relief for both of us when I finally cried - and it helped me to start to move forward and start to relieve my state of depression.

Although I was on medication, the depression stayed with me for some time, but as my psychiatrist said when I interviewed him for my book some years later, "you just weren't ready for it to leave yet". No I wasn't and when I was, it happened. So, I now have a greater knowledge of depression, knowing that anyone suffering with it needs understanding from others, needs to receive help when required and for people to be there for them. They will know when they feel safe enough to start their own process of recovery.

Thinking about the black clouds of depression moved me onto thinking about the colour black. Black doesn't have to be a dark and sad colour. Black can also be a beautiful colour, filled with sweetness and life. A blackbird's song can brighten anyone's day, as my husband reminds me the New Zealand All Blacks are an incredibly talented rugby team, in fact are currently the best in the world, and early autumnal blackberries can provide that welcome sweetness in the shape of tarts, syrups and little pies. I therefore decided this week to share my recipe for little blackberry pies, with a Cream Pastry.

It may sound strange to add double cream to a pastry recipe, but if you think about it, butter is basically the solids left from double cream when whipped until stiff. Therefore this quick recipe gives the texture and taste of a puff pastry without all the hours of folding and the adding of extra butter! Any seasonal fresh fruit can be used to fill these tarts and they are also delicious when filled with lemon curd or mincemeat at Christmas (just bake as below until the pastry becomes golden brown around the top).

Blackberry tarts

Ingredients

Equal amounts of:

Cold Double cream

Plain flour

Cold Unsalted butter

A couple of punnets of fresh blackberries (or other fresh fruit)

Granulated sugar (for sprinkling on fruit)

Instructions

Weigh the double cream on a scales and put to one side. Whatever the weight of the cream, weigh the same amount of plain flour and cold unsalted butter.

Put the flour and butter into a food processor and whizz until the appearance of breadcrumbs (it is good to have a few larger bits of butter too).

With the motor running, add the double cream and mix until the mixture comes together. When finished, tip the contents (which will be messy and sticky) onto a sheet of cling film, wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour (can be left overnight or frozen).

Once it has had its time in the fridge, remove and, on a well-floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of £1 coin. Using a pastry cutter, cut the pastry into rounds a little bigger than the slots in your baking tin and place in each slot. Take the fresh blackberries and fill up each tart with them, making sure they are within each case properly. Sprinkle the fruit in each tart with granulated sugar and then bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes (or until the pastry is lightly browned).

When baked, remove each tart from the tin and place on a baking rack to cool a little. Serve sprinkled with icing sugar and, if you wish, add creme fraiche, double cream or ice cream. The tarts are beautifully sweet and the pastry is lovely and crunchy. A great way of using up a glut of blackberries, and look, no soggy bottoms either!

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