How does one give thanks properly (and sincerely) for gifts; especially those that unexpectedly go on giving?
A last minute invite from Philleigh Way, a relatively new cookery school located deep in south Cornwall’s beautiful Roseland, en route to the King Harry Ferry crossing, recently turned my hum-drum life on its head.
I can’t tell if it’s the tediousness of middle-aged tiredness, the relentless repetition of family meals or that I’ve simply become distracted by other things and different projects, but lately I’ve lost my mojo for ‘food’, ‘cookery’ and ‘blog writing’.
So, my first apprehension came from the fear that I wouldn’t be able to choose words to deliver the flavour. Plus, a whole day’s course ‘cooking with vegetables’ might…well… It really worried me what I might be letting myself in for.
I love vegetables (don’t get me wrong) but carrots, and the like, get their uninspired place alongside the meat and potatoes for the benefit of the ungracious teenagers, chemically at odds with their ‘greens’, I feed at home. The thought of unwelcome repetitions of oniony burps, cabbage farts, and unanticipated beetroot pink pee took the edge of my characteristic acceptance of this particular offer with normal spontaneity and glee.
In essence, I’ve become grumpy, but I forced myself to accept because it would have been ungracious and cowardly not to.
I’m really glad to say that I learnt many good lessons that day.
As a self-taught cook, because I wouldn’t take on board what my mother had tried to teach me, I’d never understood the basic ‘half fat to flour’ in making pastry. Chef George Pascoe, fifth generation of his family at Court Farm in Philleigh, had us using butter for a vegetable tarte tartin recipe. He talked about the alternatives quoting his Cornish granny while he demonstrated. She’d always used lard and margarine as the fat for making pastry for pasties, “Because I’m not made of money, Georgie Boy!”
The first dish of the day was a Beetroot Tarte Tartin. I can tolerate beetroot’s earthy flavour in tiny quantities as crisps, baked in cakes or within chocolate brownies, otherwise it’s a vegetable I steer a wide berth of. So my heart sank, “What other vegetable might work?” I asked. George was upbeat and encouraging and suggested a fennel bulb as an idea because, if you don’t like what the recipe says, use a bit of imagination and make it something else. Others in the group who tried it afterwards, thought is tastier than the beetroot version.
Fennel Bulb Tarte Tartin (Serves 1 as a main)
- 1 Fennel Bulb (sliced)
- 20g butter
- 20g brown sugar
- 30ml white wine vinegar
For the Pastry
- 100g strong flour
- 50g cold butter (diced)
- Enough cold water to bind
- Put the butter with the flour and mix until the butter is completely covered to make a rough flakey style pastry.
- Add the salt then enough water to form a dough. Knead until smooth. Roll and fold back on itself 5 times then rest the pastry in the fridge.
- Place the butter, wine vinegar and sugar in a small 15cm pan and bring to the boil.
- Add the fennel slices, making sure the whole of the pan is filled and simmer for a couple of minutes
- Roll out the pastry to roughly the thickness of a pound coin and 15cm in diameter
- Place on top of the fennel and bake at 200 degrees centigrade for about 20 minutes.
Making fresh pasta is quick, fun and easy (if you have a machine to roll it) and it certainly makes a difference in taste to anything you can buy in the shops. It’s actually something good to get kids involved in. Ultimately, although I was too full by that time to eat it all, the Sherry, three corner leek and Cornish Blue cheese linguine was may favourite dish of the day.
Forage and eat fresh. Each dish was liberally flavoured with fresh herbs picked from just outside the kitchen. Three corner leeks were readily available from the hedgerow opposite and the spicy pesto we made for our gnocchi came from watercress growing on the farm we collected during the lunch break. Picked on a bright day in the Spring sunshine, the pungency of flavours in new growth is worth having. Food without it seems bland.
A cooking course is, at the very least, a pleasant distraction from normal life. Or it can be good tonic for the soul and make you love cooking just a bit more. At it’s very best it will shift old habits and might completely change and attitude to food and the way you cook.
Vegetables have started to take pride of place on my plate as main course dishes in their own right. Meat is frequently relegated to ‘garnish’ and I’m more interested in cooking again. Bizarrely, the family hasn’t complained, their plates are clean and the smells are always fragrant.
This has been, for certain, a cooking experience with very welcome repetitions.
Philleigh Way’s Farmhouse Cookery style is inspired both by George Pascoe’s experience gained from working in some of the top kitchens in Cornwall and around the globe and from the family recipes handed down by the Pascoe generations.
The cookery school, sourcing fantastic local produce, borders the river Fal with the ocean a few miles away. It’s a balanced landscape of arable fields, pasture and ancient oak woodland making it an inspirational place to learn about food and its provenance.
For more information about other Philleigh Way Cookery Courses
Telephone: 01872 580893
Philleigh Way Cookery School
Court Farm, Philleigh, Truro, Cornwall TR2 5NB