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.


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!”


Sherry, Three Corner Leek and Cornish Blue Cheese Linguine


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)


  • 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


  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.

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


Telephone: 01872 580893


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


Falafel, Flatbread and Tatziki


George Pascoe making the gnocchi shapes


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



Philleigh Way Flowers






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 🙂


Tempura of Cornish fish with saffron aioli and fennel


Terrine of confit duck with orange, balsamic and toasted brioche


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


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


Kea plum parfait with Cornish rhubarb and honey madeleines


Muscavado panna cotta with Cornish strawberries, ginger and biscotti


Devouring the art of Nicky Grant, Patisssiere and Chocolatier

Untitled One sniff of a taster session to Nicky Grant’s (and husband Tom’s) new chocolate making courses,  and I was right on it. I was prepared to ditch my no sugar, no fat, no carbohydrate diet for it. Chocolate is too distracting and there’s not much chance I can be good.  

While the rest of the group was paying close attention to mastering chocolate tempering, I was keeping close eye in any bowls or spoons that might become available to lick…

Nicky Grant  is some kind of seductress and I am absolutely smitten by her talent as a brilliant chocolatier.

It started with my  first bite of her ‘Great Taste’ gold award-winning Cornish seasalt caramel truffles

It might have been the quick snap sensation of the dark chocolate shell breaking apart under my teeth, followed by the oozing creamy-rich, sweet caramel centre on my tongue?  Chocolate this good transports a feeling of rapture straight from my head to my toes. Or possibly it’s the guilty memento of sin touched with smudges of cocoa powder left on my fingertips to lick? However, what sets these caramels apart, and my taste buds spiralling into bliss, was the barely discernible flavour of sea salt. Don’t ask me why or how, but salt appears to add something quite remarkable.  It turns a nod of approval into the tenderest proposal: ‘my heart is putty. I adore you’

I met Nicky first at the Cornwall Food & Drink festival two or three years ago. Temptation brought me to her stand. She proffered a bowl of mouth-watering caramels in my general direction and I was irresistibly drawn in like a proverbial ‘carrot to the donkey’. Since then, like a ‘chocoholic’ possessed, I’ve not been able to get them out of my mind. In her home kitchen a few months later, Tom Grant had me tasting some of the most divine chocolates I have ever eaten. With coffee and conversation (meanwhile salivating over, sampling, ruminating and cogitating on half a dozen exquisite samples of Nicky’s beautiful chocolates) it took me literally hours to learn what it is to be a Chocolatier… and, believe me, to rush these things is to do them a terrible injustice!

It would be difficult to pick my favourite from the ones I tried. So many of them were like having a Heston Blumenthal experience.  ‘Chilli and Lime’, for example, is pure culinary alchemy. First you get the taste of deep, rich, velvety dark chocolate and as that melts in the mouth it is followed by the sweetness of fresh lime. Then just when you think the pleasantness is over along comes a gentle warming sensation from the chilli as a postscript. It’s exciting in the way a lover’s kiss to the throat is thrilling rather than a pleasure-pain kick sensation delivered from some other chilli chocolate. But if you had to push me, I’d still linger indecisively over ‘Fennel and Ginger’ – it sounds wrong but is so right; ‘Earl Grey Tea’ – with an intoxicating aroma of bergamot; or ‘Raspberry Liqueur’ which is so unmistakably ‘raspberry’ I could have been picking them straight from their canes.

However key main ingredient in all this inspired alchemy is the highest quality chocolate. “Tom and I are sent many different chocolates to sample from around the world so we are spoilt for choice,” Nicky explains, “Courveture chocolate, which we use for wedding cakes, is a very high quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter. This combined with proper tempering gives the chocolate more sheen, firmer ‘snap’ when broken and a creamy mellow flavour. The chocolate that we use in 90% of our chocolate products is grown in small-secluded coastal valley plantations in Venezuela. The chocolate we use is rare, prized and coveted. Like a fine wine made from carefully selected grapes or a gourmet olive oil made from the finest olives, the chocolates are produced using the world’s most flavourful and aromatic regional types of cacao beans.”

Chocolate making is a world away from Nicky’s previous life. Until 2001 she was a Corporate Identity Manager for BAA, a blue chip company in London, where her most of her life was spent in airports designing public spaces. Moving from corporate life to a farmhouse in west Cornwall might seem like a far cry from the sublime to the ordinary. Her husband Tom admitted, “I was a little nervous how she might react on meeting my large and almost overwhelming Cornish family.” However, for Nicky, it gave her the perfect opportunity to fine-tune a passion for another artistic design form completely.

Her design background and a Master’s degree as an artist gave her an instinctive appreciation of the need for originality, superior craftsmanship and attention to detail. Combining all of this with a life-long love of baking, she possessed all of the right skill ingredients to enable her to follow her true desire. Creating a business as a patissiere, chocolatier and superior wedding cake designer.

Of course she has self-invested in her art. She’s attended chocolate and patisserie training courses to perfect her natural skill as a consummate cake baker, gifted in sugar craft, and a mistress of chocolate and all things beautiful and sweet. She also, in the midst of this creativity, bore two children to add to the tricky tempering process of blending business and family life together.

Since 2003 Nicky Grant has been tirelessly creating spectacular wedding cakes and fresh chocolates and truffles, made without preservatives and additives, in small batches in a kitchen converted from a garage. It’s a elegant combination of skill with some of the best local ingredients including local butter and eggs, Rodda’s Cornish cream, wildflower honey from the Lizard Peninsula, and fresh fruit. The astounding results turn out as some of the most sought after cakes and chocolates in the country.

In summer time, she turns an expert hand and a deft eye to the creation of up to five or more truly beautiful and completely unique iced or chocolate sculptured wedding cakes a week that are hand delivered from Lands End to London. As a spin-off she also makes chocolate wedding favours such as handmade chocolate place settings, chocolate flower lollies or individual truffles in their own box. “We work long hours,” they both say. Frequently baking wedding cakes (she has also taught Tom to bake to her standard) starting at four or five in the morning. “We don’t have much of a social life as a result.”

Nicky’s wedding cakes have an enormous wow factor. They can be coated in fine couverture white, milk or dark chocolate in ruffles, as roses or in panels to hold fresh fruit and flowers. “Paste or baking chocolate has no comparison to the taste, finish and smell of the chocolate I use,” says Nicky. “Or I do marzipan and sugar paste for a more traditional finish. I can then add individually designed hand-made decorations, fresh flowers, intricate lace piping or hand-painting to the cake.” The outside of the cake is certainly stunning and it would be easy to overlook the quality of the cake inside but Nicky puts as much into that as well. Her most requested cake is a rich and moist chocolate cake layered with a fresh Cornish cream and chocolate ganache and unsurprisingly is delicious.

Alas, I am no longer in marriage market, so I’ll have to be content with her fresh hand-made chocolate range. The effect of her subtle flavour blends, textures and the ‘mouth feel’ of her chocolates, delight and surprise for sure. With the consummate skill and time taken to create these masterpieces they don’t come cheap, but as an ultimate lover’s gift – with all the ardour that chocolate implied – they’re worth every penny.

For Further information:

Higher Drym House, Leedstown, Hayle, Cornwall TR27 6BW

Tel: 01736 850145


Padstow Christmas Festival (Friday 7 – Sunday 9 December)

I interviewed Jack Stein recently.

One of the things we talked about was the Padstow Christmas Festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival brings together locals and visitors alike with a mixture of music, arts, food, drink, live cookery demonstrations and entertainment

However,  with an impressive  line up of chefs like this I’ll be hot footing it along to be sure….

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Read all about it in the latest press release from Barefoot Media:

Organisers of Padstow Christmas Festival have unveiled new additions to this year’s event with a second series of food forums and more celebrity chefs on stage.

Food hero Rick Stein, award-winning chef Brian Turner CBE, TV chef Phil Vickery, Michelin starred Angela Hartnett and restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix join a host of other culinary stars in the most impressive lineup yet at the three day event (Friday 7 – Sunday 9 December).

Set around the picturesque harbour of this North Cornish fishing town, the Padstow Christmas Festival attracts thousands of visitors who delight in the unique blend of family-friendly Christmas entertainment, live music and festive food.

Festival organiser Tina Evans said: “The festival is now in its fifth year and has continued to go from strength to strength. The timetable is jam packed for 2012 and the festivities are spread across the whole town, with many local businesses and restaurants running special offers.

“The support we have received from local chefs, in particular Rick (Stein) and The Seafood Restaurant, has been unbelievable. It is wonderful to have such big name chefs coming to Padstow to appear at our festival.”

Following their popular debut last year, a series of food forums will again feature at the festival. The forums will see some of the country’s leading industry professionals debate contemporary food issues in front of a live audience.

Originally the idea of Padstow’s resident chef Rick Stein, this year’s forums will look at topics such as the real price of milk, pop up restaurants and women in hospitality.

Rick Stein said: “The food forums always create lively debate. I am particularly looking forward to joining Brian Turner to discuss the real price of milk, which hit the headlines earlier this year. I’ll be along to see Elizabeth Carter, consultant editor of the Good Food Guide telling us what she thinks of Trip Advisor and similar websites.”

The food forums will take place throughout the weekend in the Chefs’ Theatre, sponsored bySharp’s Brewery. The heated marquee will also host demonstrations from over 18 acclaimed chefs, including five with Michelin stars, and chefs from five of the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants 2012 as voted by The Sunday Times.

The festival opens on Friday 7 December with a Christmas market, chef demonstrations and live music, and continues into the evening with a lantern parade, firework display, late night shopping, Santa’s grotto and festive workshops for children.

A traditional Christmas Market with over 40 local producers will be on hand to tempt festival-goers with tasty treats and Cornish crafts, selling everything from chutneys and chocolates to mulled cider and mince pies.

On ‘Super Saturday’ Phil Vickery from ITV’s This Morning will join Rick Stein OBE, Angela Hartnett, Mitch Tonks, Mark Hix, Jill Stein, Nathan Outlaw and Fifteen Cornwall’s Andy Appleton in an unmissable line up that puts Padstow firmly on the international food stage.

The Christmas spirit continues throughout the weekend, including the annual Santa Fun Runraising money for Cornwall Hospice Care on Saturday, and a live performance on Sunday from Cornwall’s Fisherman’s Friends, famous for their sea shanties.

This year organisers have also introduced a festival cook book brimming with recipes and tips from all the chefs involved. Available now and priced at £9.95 the book can be bought from Padstow Tourist Information Centre and various outlets in Padstow to raise funds for this not for profit event.

For more information or to see a full programme of events,

#Pastytax: Why it matters so much.

It might be quite easy for other people in Britain to be dismissive of the proposed 20% VAT to be levied on pasties and hot pies. This patronising video from CNN sums up how little a ripple it’ll make in our nation’s capital, “..the sort of food that keeps a lot of us going in the less wealthy parts of the country”, says CNN’s Becky Anderson.

In my local town, in the heart of Cornwall, there are at least 6 bakery shops who make their own pasties and 2 or 3 butchers that also make and sell hot pasties. The queues that form can often run out of the door and onto the street of a lunch time.

Munching a hot pasty out of a paper bag is the lunch hour preferred activity over pealing cellophane off plastic sandwich cartons or washing plates. Cornwall goes to work on pasties: the weekday lunch fuel for labourers, office workers and shoppers. It’s also the weekend quick fix meal staple for mothers with hungry kids. Continue reading

Lunch on the terrace…

Pickled Herring, cucumber & dill dressing

Chicken Leg Salad, bacon & hazelnuts

We’ve been having incredible weather in Cornwall of late.

Perfect timing for Cornwall’s Spring Feast.

An event, running for a fortnight, from 18th March – 1st April, to get us out dining and discovering new places to dine at the bargain offering of £14 for 2 courses and £18 for 3.

Cornwall Food and Drink, who have spearheaded the event, reminded us that spring arrives early in Cornwall. Mind you, they were doing so while it was still chilly and frosts still lingered at the start of March.

We’d never actually imagined we’d really be dining al fresco in glorious sunshine at the end of the month and stripping back to bare arms… Continue reading