Zacry’s, Watergate Bay

 

Wind back to the late 1970s, and I remember Watergate Bay in autumns and winters as this extraordinary and enormous, empty stretch of flat firm sand and ever roaring surf.  The wind would whip through my duffel coat toggles and I’d have to force the lapels together with mitten-clad hands. I remember groups of camper vans parked overlooking the beach and cold, shivering men peeling off wetsuits.  A gathering of mates drawn from the sedate south Cornish coast for their thrill fix had become rugged guys with an assumed air of ‘cool’, and me, that an awkward teenage girl, more self-conscious by a family walk, would surreptitiously gawk at.

The only building near the sea was the hotel, imposing but of a bygone age, seemingly locked until the summer season returned.

How things have changed, except the beach that it. Surfing is de rigueur at The Extreme Academy Watergate, along with learning to kitesurf, waveski and paddlesurf. So that tramping in with wet sandy feet into what is now a splendid hotel for all seasons is perfectly acceptable.

An autumn night and the Other Half and I were recently invited to dine at Zacry’s, the Watergate Hotel’s new restaurant. Zacry’s is a somewhat metropolitan looking brassiere of zig-zag angles. It was a sliding doors moment (indeed even the doors slide from terrace) to step from a blustery dark night and the sea’s roar and into the calm and the light.

063-zacrys-restaurant-3146983387-O 027-zacrys-restaurant-3146979982-OYes, it’s true we felt middle-aged but determined to still get with it and I was pleased with myself for not over-dressing. For though this is ‘posh food’ for local standards, the ambience is relaxed and people-friendly. Bring your children, eat with just your fork, it won’t lessen the absolutely exemplary standard of attentive service you’ll be treated to and the maître d’ isn’t going to make you feel awkward if both elbows rest on the table. Continue reading

Three men in a boat, a picnic hamper and a dark tale involving suitcases….

Going to the theatre is a bit like catching buses. You don’t go for ages and then multiple opportunities to climb on board come along in quick succession.

Well, I know it’s not everyone’s analogy. But that’s how it is for me.

One trip to the theatre is special. Two in the same week is downright indulgent. A rare cornucopia of theatrical delights after an ceaselessly LONG dramatic pause. And, please believe me, Victorian comedy with exaggerated acting and modernised jokes on Tuesday followed by the early 18th century’s  Beggar’s Opera twisted, reformed and spat screaming into the 21st Century on Friday, left me feeling a bit dazed like a rabbit caught in the spotlight.

As stories go, the first was light and comic, it involved three chaps buffooning wonderfully and a female pianist who we always thought was on the point of breaking into words, but never did. Her expressions did her talking.photo 1 photo 3

The Hall for Cornwall offered me two tickets to see Three Men in a Boat , a complimentary pre-theatre ‘hamper’ worth £15, of local cheeses, olives, fresh bread and a selection salamis, I would guess by the quality were from of Deli Farm Charcuterie, to enjoy before the show and washed down with generous glasses of wine.  It was a totally unexpected invitation, and as with things unexpected, I had  absolutely no idea what to expect. It seems most others are equally clueless, as every time I mentioned “I went to see three men in a boat…” the quick reply would come back with a questions: “What?  Dara Ó Briain, Rory McGrath and Griff Rhys Jones  in person?” It  goes to prove the  TV series has overshadowed the original Jerome K Jerome’s classic tale of boating misadventure on which this production was based.

As the first people to sample the Hall for Cornwall’s hamper,  this ‘new’ initiative, we felt a little self-conscious, but once we’d taken our seats at the front of the theatre, felt bereft of ‘picnic’ hamper that by that time we’d demolished and left in the bar. The scene set and a hilarious tale from the river told,  it was just the thing that should really have been taken with us and eaten on this imaginary river bank…..

Produced by The Original Theatre Company and The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds the performance drew on the quintessential example of the charm and wit of Victorian England. Attempting to escape the stresses of city life, three friends, Harris, George and J – accompanied by their faithful canine companion – decide to take to the river in order to relax and rejuvenate.

The holiday, however, quickly unravels and descends into chaos… and my friend and I, on the other hand, soon found ourselves sitting amid people roaring with laughter. We looked at each other, and laughed like the last people to catch on with the joke.

 

The later end of the week, “Dead Dog in a suitcase (and other love songs)” A new Beggar’s Opera, from the ever inventive Kneehigh Theatre, was laced with dark humour and a grim tale of bribery, corruption, immorality and greed brought right up to date.

It was meant as a family outing for a birthday treat. It was only at the end I read not suitable for under 14’s. Well, my youngest, may have a been a little traumatized by the bawdy brothel scenes, but he is only a few months off his 14th and he’ll get over it.

I’ve grown up with the Kneehigh, I’ve been on an adolescent journey with them since I was sixteen, and frankly, there’s nothing quite like a Kneehigh performance for sheer inventiveness, puppetry, pyrotechnics and performance.

Mayor Goodman has been assassinated. Contract killer Macheath has just married Pretty Polly Peachum and Mr and Mrs Peachum aren’t happy. Not one bit.

Based on the Beggar’s Opera, John Gay’s classic musical satire, Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) is busting with wit, wonder and weirdness. An extraordinary Kneehigh cast of actor musicians shoot, hoot and shimmy their way through this twisted morality tale of our times…by turns SHOCKING, HILARIOUS, HEARTFELT and ABSURD!

The gorgeous and powerful live score combines trip hop and folk, Renaissance polyphony and psychedelia, and ska, grime and dubstep. … echoing Gay’s original by plundering the sounds of our times.

What the HELL is the world coming to?

This is now, this is it

The world is poor and man’s a shit

The game is rigged, nothing’s truer

Death’s a joke and life a sewer!

As drama it couldn’t  have been more much more different – barring the energy of both performances, that both were brilliant and a somewhat ‘stiff’ dog in each play – I didn’t know whether to end my week laughing, howling or just to end it.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/100090170″>STORY</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/wearekneehigh”>WeAreKneehigh</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

 

 

My Shop Local Dilemma

Rodda’s, and I’ve no shame in saying it, is my favourite ‘local brand’.

This was last Christmas’ surprise  present from Rodda’s. It was as if they knew!

My Christmas pudding would have choices; local butter for the brandy butter, clotted cream which is in my opinion the perfect complement to its  sweet, rich stickyness or, Rodda’s newest product, custard.

photo[4] Rodda’s is not my favourite brand just because it is local (because its Cornish)  it’s my favourite because it is sooooo good!

I go out of my way to only buy Rodda’s milk – a by-product of their cream – which is premium because to make premium clotted cream Rodda’s choose their West Cornwall farms carefully. Right down to the quality of soil, the amount of rainfall, the richness of pasture, the husbandry of cows….

However, my favourite product is their crème fraîche.  I use it in much of cooking and prefer it to cream on many desserts. Or, I confess, I often have a  sneaky spoonful just on it own. If I get fat on it, well so be it, because I’ll get fat happy.

But in all the waxing happy about milk and cream and Cornishness there is on thing that makes me angrier than a wasp caught in a glass….

Every time I see the infuriating, and let’s face it,  fairly patronising message to “Shop Local, Support Local” I see red.

It hints at superiority and it insults the shopper who been valiantly trying to do those very things…

It’s an empty command, just like, “Have a Nice Day” with no real instruction. I’ve no idea how to go about a nice day especially when I’m frustrated by how  to “Shop Local”.

Would I be wrong if I thought it means buying things that have been produced locally, cutting down my food miles and supporting the local economy by buying from and supporting local businesses?

The Choose Cornish campaign was an excellent and really pro-active drive to Shop Local because it explains how it could be done and the difference it would make to the Cornish Economy.   Ruth Huxley, of Cornwall Food & Drink, and her husband’s Supermarket-free challenge was inspiring and I’d like nothing more that to be able to do there same…

However…..and this is like the big BUT that makes me furious…where I live it’s a vacuum of most things that are good and enrich the local area. For heaven’s sake, we live in area which is probably more abundant than any other park of the UK for the diversity and quality of fresh local food but in my town there is precious little local choice.

I want to be able to buy fresh fish caught in St. Austell Bay (St Austell mussels are fat, succulent and worthy of a mention) but I’m offered Iceland and 99p store instead :_( or make a special trip to Fowey or Mevagissey for a fishmonger.

I used to dream of opening a ‘local food’ shop as the ‘Farm Shop in town’ that would supply fresh locally produced and locally sourced. It works in Truro, it works in other towns and surely, since it can work in places that are way off the main routes, such as Padstow Farm Shop or  Trevaskis Farm Shop, near Hayle, because they become ‘destinations’ it could work in my town too?

But first there has to be sincerity to back those kind of ideas.  I doubt that St. Austell residents are any less keen to ‘Shop Locally’ in this town than they are to shop locally anywhere else.   There’s an appetite for it but no culture of enthusiasm to make it happen in the town centre.

In the meantime, thank goodness for the online shopping from Cornish Food Market and Cornish Food Box. I can sort of  ‘shop local’.  Just not how I want to be able to do it. Face to face with a shop keepers where I can select for myself the cut of local beef I like, where I can be told its breed and the farm it came from such as  the butchers, Philip Warren in Launceston.

But don’t get me wrong, St. Austell still has three pasty shops (I think there were seven not that long ago), we’ve an OK butcher and the two green grocers now long gone have been replaced by just one veg stall… It’s disappointingly little to draw me in to shop and support all the other shops  in a town centre that is meant to serve the biggest population in the whole of Cornwall!

We once had a Tesco in town, and although it was competition at the same time  it supported the independent shops by growing the footfall and flow around the town, but now if I want to buy the Cornish basics:  Rodda’s milk  or Davidstow Cheese,  I have to drive to Tesco, two miles from the Town Centre where I live.

There’s absolutely nothing more I’d rather do that shop in and support the place and the people where I live.

Nothing feels better than the money I spend going back into the local economy.

I’ve sat since Christmas with this post in my drafts file while I deliberated for a long time if it was right to post. Just because I feel very strongly about shopping locally doesn’t give me the right to shove it down people’s throats. In the end, shopper’s make their own choices and like to be incentivized to ‘choose’ not ‘preached to’ into feeling bad.

Please, don’t tell me to shop locally, I already do what I can, but if the ‘Local offer is not provided’ through local food shops, cafes and restaurants or it’s like being told to drink fresh spring water, because it’s good for you, in a pub.

Once there are local shops to visit regularly  for my daily needs, I’ll naturally start using the other local traders too for those less frequent purchases.

I just happen to think that facilitating that effort should not be placed on the shoulders of the customer. Shops have to provide the ‘local’ that ‘locals’ want to buy.

ChooseCornish from Cornwall Food & Drink on Vimeo.

 

The Rattler Run

Cornish endurance event launched by Healeys Cyder

From Barefoot MediaA-range-of-Rattler-bottles The-Cornish-Bite-on-the-beach I occasionally get these ‘nudges’. “Off-road endurance runners can test their mettle in a new Cornish mud run and music festival this summer.”

Yes, Jessica, food and drink cannot be the only motivation in life, sometimes a kick in the pants to run off some of those Cornish applied calories is also something to aim for!

The Healeys story began in 1980 when David and Kay Healey made their first cyder (“cyder” is the Cornish way of spelling “cider”). In 1986 they bought a 150-year old Penhallow Farm  and began to resurrect the largely forgotten art of cyder-making in Cornwall.

Today, the family-owned business near Truro is the longest-standing cyder maker in Cornwall, producing award-winning cyders and juices every year – including the popular Rattler Cyder created by Healeys second generation, Sam and Joe.

Healeys Cyder Farm is one of Cornwall’s most popular visitor attractions with over 400,000 visitors a year. Visitors can see apples being pressed, sample cyders, jams and juices in the farm shop, and take a guided tour by tractor through the orchards.

The site also includes Cornwall’s only distillery, handcrafting superb vintage brandies, and a limited edition Hicks & Healey Cornish Single Malt 8 Year-old Whiskey which was named European Whisky of the Year 2013 by Jim Murray.

The Rattler Run , organised by Healeys, and  in partnership with Fully Sussed, the will take place over the August bank holiday weekend (Friday 22 to Monday 25) at Tregoninny Farm, near Truro.
Joe Healey, Commercial Director at Healeys, is a keen endurance athlete and has helped design the natural course through trees, tracks and rivers.

Joe said: “The Rattler Run is designed to test your physical and mental strength. The course is approximately 8km and includes plenty of hills. We’ve used the natural environment and terrain to create a series of obstacles. Competitors can enter solo or in teams completing five laps of the course, which is the equivalent distance to a marathon.

“I’m really excited to be taking part and have been looking for a new challenge to train for. What better place to push yourself to the max before relaxing with a few well-earned Rattlers than on our beautiful farm at Tregoninny.”

The Healey family bought 193 acre Tregoninny Farm at the beginning of 2013 with plans to plant 8,000 apple trees. This will see them triple their apple production.

Sam Healey, Operations Director at Healeys, said: “We like to be innovative and creative in our approach, and this was how our Rattler range was born, and more recently Cornish Bite, our apple based energy drink.

“The Rattler Run is a great way of combining some of the things we love – endurance events, the Cornish countryside and our delicious Rattler cyder.”

Alongside the main event, there will be an after-party with live music and a bar serving the full range of Rattler cyder. On Sunday 24 August a series of shorter running races including a Cani-x with dogs, and a children’s under 12 race will also take place.

Early bird tickets are currently on sale, with entry for a team of five costing £150 including three days camping, music and the marathon mud run. Children under 12 are free and there are various options for those looking to camp and attend the music or simply to enter races.

For more details or to enter the Rattler Run visit: thecornishcyderfarm.co.uk/rattler-run.

Philleigh Way repeating

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.

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Asparagus, Blue Cheese and Spinach Tart

Lesson 1:

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!”

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Sherry, Three Corner Leek and Cornish Blue Cheese Linguine

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Beetroot Tarte Tartin

Lesson 2:

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)

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. Put the butter with the flour and mix until the butter is completely covered to make a rough flakey style pastry.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the butter, wine vinegar and sugar in a small 15cm pan and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the fennel slices, making sure the whole of the pan is filled and simmer for a couple of minutes
  5. Roll out the pastry to roughly the thickness of a pound coin and 15cm in diameter
  6. Place on top of the fennel and bake at 200 degrees centigrade for about 20 minutes.
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Fennel Tart Tatin (a variation on the Beetroot)

Lesson 3:
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.

Lesson 4:
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.

Lesson 5:
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

Contact: 

Telephone: 01872 580893

Email: info@philleighway.co.uk

Philleigh Way Cookery School
Court Farm, Philleigh, Truro, Cornwall TR2 5NB

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Falafel, Flatbread and Tatziki

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George Pascoe making the gnocchi shapes

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Gnocchi, Roast Tomato Sauce, Watercress Pesto, Parmesan and Herbs.

 

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Philleigh Way Flowers

 

 

 

 

Very Underprepared in the Feeling Festive

Christmas has barely touched me yet. Except for two preparations:

Sloe Schnapps (don’t let the Cork Dry Gin bottles fool you)  and the Christmas Cake.

This is how they currently look.  Tomorrow, I must write the Christmas letter 😦

Come back every few days to see if, and how, my Chrimbo preparations  have progresses….photo photo[1]

Moving on a little. Still no inspiration for the Christmas letter but the cake is developing slowly. The plan, in my head, is to make the cake look like a wrapped Christmas present with a bow…

…Hmm, let’s hope it works.photo 1
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Extreme Food (Fifteen Cornwall)

Cornwall has extremes. Often so beautiful, on clement days and in sunshine, that she steals all words that might adequately describe her as a welcoming marvel, leaving the spectator speechless and in awe.

In contrast, this southwestern extremity, with craggy toe posturing towards the Atlantic, can turn overnight into a salty wet, ill-tempered, moody bitch especially on exposed coasts. Bleak and blustering, she screams at low-grown thorny trees who bend cowering under the banshee’s onslaught. Grabbing loose hair, she tosses it into bird’s nest mangles, whips up a foam of green-grey scum off the ocean and throws buckets of sea mixed with rain relentlessly upon us. There is not much to do. Either dress for it and face the weather and be exhilarated by it,  or stay indoors, batten down the hatches, and comfort eat.IMG_1292

Pondering both options, wet or dry, there’s few better locations, than a mid-week lunch on Watergate Bay at Fifteen Cornwall, to enjoy both. I chose comfort over thrill, but with a great ringside view to see the kite-surfers zip up and down the shoreline, sometimes taken airborne above the waves, most of my food bites were accompanied by gasps of wonder.

Personally, I find it impossible not to love the food at Fifteen Cornwall, and a three course mid-week lunch for £21 makes the off-season experience well worth while. Currently running Monday to Friday until 20th December, this makes it a local’s special treat and,  the Autumn into Winter menus feature richer, earthier food that’s full of flavour.IMG_0776

Not every plate of food is as pretty or refined as each other, but it doesn’t matter one jot unless you only measure taste through your eyes! The thick Tuscan soup – resembling something I might have concocted from everything I found in my cupboard in fridge in my University days – was actually a flavour marvel. Rich, warming and spicy. Perfect comfort food on the cold, windswept November day I chose it. Mullet with its fine flavour and flakey texture, I have to declare is now my favourite fish.

Where my partner chose the opposite dishes, starting light and building towards his Sticky toffee apple pudding; I worked in reverse and finished with a light creamy panna cotta with spicy plums. Delicious!

I only have one teeny-weeny gripe, that on that day the service was slow and we were itching for a beach blast that would give our  dog a good  run before the tide came in. On the upside, slow is a good if you want to stay unhurried, watch the surf action and savour every Fifteen moment warm in doors.

Try the delicious Lemongrass and Ginger or Fifteen’s home-made Cola for a non-alcoholic treat.

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Mozzarella di bufala, dressed beets and almonds

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Ribollita (a thick Tuscan soup)

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Crispy fillet of mullet with herby potatoes, cavolo nero and aioli

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Pappardelle of slow cooked balsamic pork ragu and crispy herbs

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Sticky toffee apple pudding and clotted cream

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Panna cotta, spiced plums and shortbread

Foraging with ‘Fat Hen’

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Laver and Gutweed – Ulva intestinalis (edible seedweeds)

My first foray into foraging was as a child on a pony. Perfect height for picking overhead apples. As we got bolder we started planning our horseback scrump-and-run rides.  We’d stuff pockets with plastic supermarket bags, plan routes via favourite cottage garden trees where the branches hung over roadside walls and took kids and apple-rustling to a new level, both in advantageous height and galloping get-away speeds. It was a fairly innocent crime. We liberated the fruit that would have eventually fallen on the road and spoiled.

Anyone who picks blackberries on an early Autumn sunny day; collects fallen chestnuts and hazelnuts or elderflower heads to make a delicious and simple cordial is simply foraging. We don’t need to do it to survive, but we love the occasion of it especially with our families. Plus there’s something irresistible about the thought of free food, flavours that haven’t been commercialised and the illusion that we could survive on what we can pick and gather on any local walk.

My freezer is full of sloes when I couldn’t resist over-picking in a particularly abundant season past but at least I have sloe schnapps on the go for Christmas. I can recognise, three-cornered leeks, rock samphire and sea beet as good to eat and frequently, when I see them, I pick these to include in regular meals. Some of the most delicious and memorable ‘wild’ foods I’ve had has been in the form of dandelion root flavoured creme brûlée with elderflower sorbet, shortbread biscuits with wild carrot seeds and yarg cheeses wrapped in nettles or wild garlic leaves.

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Son leaping the stream on Watergate beach

The longing to know more and find other unique and delicious flavours and experimental recipes means I can’t resist opportunities to be guided by those with knowledge. Caroline Davey aka Fat Hen led me and my 12-year-old son on a short walk, the weekend before last, around Watergate Bay.

In just a few yards between car parks,  we’d learnt how good nettles were as plentiful and nutritious food. Even how to eat them raw without stinging ourselves. We’d been introduced to Alexanders  – a relative of celery and parsley and once commonly eaten until Celery was introduced into our kitchen gardens in the 17th century, and since the plant which grows vigorously in Spring was mostly dying back, bit the black peppery seeds while Caroline gave a run down on the best recipes for the stems and leaves. There were others….I bought my child along as he’d be better at committing the names to memory, and just before we got carried away with excitement that almost every plant is edible, even if their mostly strong and rather bitter flavour is too much for our modern palettes that crave sweet tastes, Caroline bought us two innocuous looking leaves from the stream and asked us to guess which one was edible. The one most like a giant parsley, was Hemlock Water Dropwort . Not tasty at all…she wouldn’t let us even smell it… This was the one to avoid as the most poisonous of all British plants.

On the beach there were seaweeds galore. Two were gut weed (it needs overnight soaking to clean the tubes of sand) and laver (as in the Welsh laver bread) were recommended for roasting.

I won’t rush to eat sea rocket or scurvy-grass that sailors consumed for being rich in vitamin C. The Hottentot fig from South Africa that has naturalised on Cornish cliffs I might use as  aloe vera  for skin rashes and lesions.

Caroline does cooking courses too.  It makes sense to follow through after identifying and collecting wild foods to learn how to prepare and cook them too. She described “Rock Samphire Fritters” where you dip pieces of rock samphire into a bowl of buttermilk immediately followed by dipping into some seasoned gram flour. Then gently dropped into hot oil and cooked until golden. I was curious and salivating and just as keen to give this one a go as I am to find out more about Fat Hen gourmet courses.

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Stinging Nettles – Urtica dioica

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Hottentot Fig – Carpobrotus edulis

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Sea Beet – Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima

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Common Scurvy-grass – Cochlearia officinalis

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Sea Rocket – Cakile maritima

Boscundle Manor – Restaurant Review

If I said that Boscundle was an entirely new discovery wouldn’t be the truth. Locals have quietly considered this small, chic hotel – possibly too quietly – as having one of the best restaurants within St. Austell. However, best-kept secrets can sometime be skewed.

I’d not though about eating at Boscundle for years. I like my food experience to stimulate my imagination and not just my taste buds and my assumption was, based on its country manor location, that the offering would be very formal, conventional and a tad expensive. But I love those terrific moments of epiphany when you can happily say, ‘I was wrong. I’ve now seen the light’.photo[4]

The experience for me has just blown my tongue’s nerve endings out of hibernation. I love food experiences when they are so good that you go on dining on the memory of it for weeks, maybe even years, afterwards and this was most definitely one of those. The other half and I will still be asking each other ‘what magic had been performed in a seemingly simple yet velvety smooth Pea veloute to make it taste better and fresher than fresh peas straight from the pod?’ for years to come.  This is not toe-curling over-enthusiasm being expressed here. I’m too British for that. Quite simply this was a beautiful introduction to six amazing courses of a superb tasting menu at an amazingly reasonable price of £49 per head. Added to which we were treated to a glass of Prosecco and a plate of delicious canapés while we read the menu.  It will now go down as one of the best stand out meals I’ve possible ever had.

My mother once worked as a cook and she effortlessly produced thousands of family meals all through her lifetime. I too, cook meals from scratch almost everyday. It means that a meal that’s been cooked for me is always a treat. I like to think I’m not a boring cook but I am a bored cook and I most want eat food that’s genuinely delicious. Luckily in Cornwall, we’re completely spoiled for fresh produce, and have a swelling gastronomic reputation enhanced by celebrity restaurants and a healthy collection of Michelin stars. I can rattle off the names of a good dozen male chefs who have very notable reputations, but only knew of two women in Cornwall who ran restaurants worth making a beeline for. How does that imbalance occur? Scores of women like my mother and I, effortlessly bang out good meals all their lives and we remain ordinary. It’s as if men are in possession of some superior ‘chef gene’ that transcends decent cooking into culinary brilliance. This thought had surfaced in my brain and grew with certainty with each exquisite course. It shames me that I assumed that just because the food was so carefully constructed it could only be man-made.

photoThe smooth pea soup served in a witty black, with white spots, coffee cup had three whole peas to be discovered like sweet bursts of summer in my childhood’s kitchen garden.

photo[5]The second course that followed was a flavourful and densely meaty ham hock terrine with celeriac, a hint of mustard and apple and caramel dots.

photo[3]The third course caught me by surprise. Incredulous that the placing of a mackerel fillet on spidery fennel and orange segments with a cider and caper dressing should work was extraordinary. Not to be deconstructed and examined but best taken as a mouthful of all the flavours combined. Naturally it seemed wrong to have fish with orange and yet together it tasted… bizarre… but right.

photoThe only course that seemed more ordinary, but no less delicious, was the main: Breast of Cornish duck, confit leg, fondant potato, cherry sauce. Saying that just proves how much I was being spoilt.

Finally, in rapturous awe, although we did our best to slow our dining experience to snail’s pace, we drew into the pudding zone.

photo[2]I wonder have you ever had a chocolate crème brulée? A piece of heaven that I can’t help wondering why something so obvious isn’t everywhere. My husband has a thing about chocolate and one tiny spoonful and he was summoning the waitress. “The thing is,” he says, “this is too good to have now. Would you mind taking it away now and bringing it back so I can enjoy it with my coffee?” I gave an apologetic smile on his behalf but she was very obliging and perfectly happy to humour him. Perhaps she should have mentioned that there was to be petite fours with the coffee and spared his later blushes.

photoPudding didn’t end there; the final delight was out of this world: Strawberry and champagne jelly, honeycomb and elderflower sorbet. Not only a thing of beauty that held an assortment of delicious blue and red berries in suspended flotation, but full of surprising sparkling tingles on the tongue. It was fresh, light and a perfect end that I did my best to finish slowly.  Clever, clever chef I thought, turning food into divine. Boscundle’s head chef and hidden talent is one to watch. Remember the name: Jenny Reed, a girl, hurrah!

Boscundle, St Austell, PL25 3RL UK

01726 813557, e-mail, reservations@boscundlemanor.co.uk

www.boscundlemanor.co.uk

This review featured in Cornwall Today Magazine September 2013

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The Scarlet Restaurant

Last week the sun was out. The surf was up and the wind blew the spray on breaking waves into high peaks of glistening white horses.  My OH and I, chatting a little, but mostly quietly staring out of the Scarlet Restaurant, were in a zen-like heaven, mesmerised by this long animated view of sand and sea and Cornwall.

I had – lucky me – been invited to try the new Scarlet  ‘Eat-a-Little or Eat-a-Lot Lunch Menu’ and while we ate and sampled each other’s plates of food we truly enjoyed a few hours peaceful escapism and much-needed togetherness. The Scarlet really is the ‘adult-only’ zen-like tranquility they say it is. 

But what a difference a week makes?  My husband’s leave is over and now he’s back is Denmark. Today, with no other comfort but toast… and stuck peering out in the grey gloom of  a rain-soaked cloud… I find myself  contemplating seduction.

Maybe if I show you what we enjoyed together you won’t blame me.

Scarlet chef Tom Hunter’s new lunch menu – as much or as little gorgeous food as you desire, served in a beautiful chilled out setting accompanied by an amazing best sea view.

Choose some of  best new dishes as either a starter or a main course or as a three-course lunch for just £22.50.

Even though I’ve said that I can’t personally photograph food and make it look good… my phone is pretty damn good at it 🙂

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Tempura of Cornish fish with saffron aioli and fennel

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Terrine of confit duck with orange, balsamic and toasted brioche

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Roast cod with herb potato gnocchi, beetroots, confit tomatoes, leeks and tomato salsa

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Sirloin of Cornish beef with duck fat chips, grill garnish and béarnaise sauce

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Kea plum parfait with Cornish rhubarb and honey madeleines

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Muscavado panna cotta with Cornish strawberries, ginger and biscotti

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