Local and seasonal fruits are my absolute favorites. I love the pears we get here, beautifully golden red, crisp, sweet and juicy. Poach them with some spices or relish them as is, they are delicious. The oranges are my all time favorites, and since its in markets all over now, we get them by kilos every week. We bring berries occasionally, because they are tart and mostly suitable to bake desserts or make smoothies than relish them as is. But since its spring time, the markets are full of berries in vivid colors and its too hard to resist this temptation to pick them when you see them all around.
Considering the tropical climate Southern India has, the vegetation does not support the growth of berries such as strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Getting these berries fresh are rare and even if we do, they are exorbitant and pricey for regular use. The closest local berries I have seen are mulberries, but again they are rare and pricey. Over the years, strawberries have gained popularity in India, but we refrain from buying them often since they are heavily loaded with pesticides to save the deep pink berries from pest infections. Although it's quite common now to get imported canned berries or their preserves, they cannot replace the joy of devouring a real fruit. So while I am here, some of these fresh berries will become a part of my shopping list.
I have a penchant for blueberries in particular. It must be their distinct blue color, so unusual of a fruit that I rave about. They make amazing desserts while adding glamour and flavor. I have baked with them in the past, like this crumble or cupcakes, made fro-yos and tea cakes and love every bit of their flavor. As they bake, they spread their lovely velvety indigo hues. I find them best to leave them whole in the batter. If you mash or pound them, they make the batter ugly. Instead let them play on their own. As they burst in the heat, they seep out their juices, colors and flavors beautifully. Don't forget a dash of good vanilla extract. They bring out deep flavors of the berries. Additionally they give satisfaction that you've sneaked some fruits in there and know you get a bit of nutrition while adding calories!
Blueberry Pound Cake
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour divided
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-2 tbsp. milk
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and dust flour on a rectangular 7" x 11" cake pan.
Firstly, bring all your ingredients to the room temperature, i.e. eggs and butter. Cream the butter and sugar till it is light and pale. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until light and fluffy. Add a tablespoonful of milk and the vanilla extract. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together into the creamed mixture and beat. Add another tbsp of milk if the batter is too thick. Gently fold 1/2 the berries into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Drop the remaining berries into the batter from the top. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a fork / toothpick comes out clean.