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

Advertisements

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.

IMG_0796

Mozzarella di bufala, dressed beets and almonds

IMG_0797

Ribollita (a thick Tuscan soup)

IMG_0806

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

IMG_0809

Pappardelle of slow cooked balsamic pork ragu and crispy herbs

IMG_0823

Sticky toffee apple pudding and clotted cream

IMG_0822

Panna cotta, spiced plums and shortbread

Foraging with ‘Fat Hen’

IMG_1212

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.

IMG_1205

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.

IMG_1227

Stinging Nettles – Urtica dioica

IMG_1226

Hottentot Fig – Carpobrotus edulis

IMG_1202

Sea Beet – Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima

IMG_1201

Common Scurvy-grass – Cochlearia officinalis

IMG_1198

Sea Rocket – Cakile maritima

Farmhouse Breakfast Week

Cornish-Sweetheart-streaky-bacon-1The-Kernow-Sausage-Company-breakfastAccording to a recent study commissioned for Farmhouse Breakfast Week, 47% of the nation skip breakfast at least once a week and 15% do not even eat breakfast at all. It also concluded that 59% of people were unaware of the health and wellbeing benefits that breakfast can offer.*

But did you know that this week has been  Farmhouse Breakfast Week (21- 26 January 2013)?

Farmhouse Breakfast Week runs annually and aims to highlight the health benefits of eating breakfast as well as showing consumers the wealth of local produce available across the country.

The only real breakfast I’ve had this week was on Monday, and I confess it was so good it has rather raised my expectations. Why eat cereal when I can have bangers? Even my  own bread toasted with homemade is a mere consolation prize.

Tregony-based Kernow Sausage Company, an award-winning Cornish meat producer gave me a sausage making masterclass at The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay and then treated me to a proper breakfast with two types of bacon (including a double award-winning ‘Cornish Sweetheart’ streaky bacon, hogs pudding, Trelawney sausages, scrambled and a fried egg, mushroom and tomato.

Owner of Kernow Sausage Company, Gavin Roberts declared: “A carefully crafted and passionate approach can make all the difference to the end product.”

Certainly this hands-on approach of making sausages was great fun especially with the inevitable innuendos.

Born from farmhouse kitchen beginnings, Kernow Sausage Company now supply some of the county’s finest chefs, hotels and restaurants with their sausages, bacon and hog’s pudding, made from pigs hand-reared on their Cornish farm.

Existing customer Watergate Bay Hotel recognises the value of providing a quality breakfast to their customers. Recently awarded Best Foodie Hotel at the 2013 Food Magazine Reader Awards, they are known for their quality food offering and locally sourced menu.

Executive Chef Neil Haydock, said: “We want all the food we serve here at Watergate Bay Hotel and The Beach Hut to showcase the very best of Cornwall’s produce and that goes for our breakfasts as well.

“We source everything we possibly can locally and like to give people choices which reflect what’s on offer here in Cornwall. Having quality reliable producers with great products is just as important as having talented chefs in the kitchen.”

“Breakfast is the one meal all guests eat at B&Bs and hotels and often the last one they have before they check out, so it is essential that the quality is really high. By choosing good quality breakfast ingredients hotels and restaurants will leave customers with a lasting memory of their stay.”

Breakfast is also a vital component of the UK economy with the retail value of sales for the breakfast sector estimated at £1,582million*.

Cornwall Food & Drink have recognised the direct impact this can have on the Cornish economy with their ‘Real Cornish Breakfast’ campaign, being launched to tie in with Farmhouse Breakfast Week.

MD of Cornwall Food & Drink, Ruth Huxley said: “Sourcing from local producers is incredibly important for the Cornish economy – it’s been well documented for years that keeping money circulating within the local economy generates multiple benefits for both business and community – our campaign is intended to remind people of that.”

Breakfast is served daily at The Beach Hut, Watergate Bay from 10am mid-week and 9am on weekends. For more information on the Kernow Sausage Company and the breakfast products it provides for hotels and restaurants please visit www.kernowsausages.com.

For more information on Farmhouse Breakfast Week:www.shakeupyourwakeup.com

*(Survey conducted on behalf of HGCA who are a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board amongst 2,000 respondents online between 6-10 July 2012, including 500 mums with children aged 11 and under.)

sausage ingredients photo[5] photo[2] photo[1]

 

Cornish bratwurst sausage? Wir scherzen nicht mit den Deutschen.

It was a tweet that first caught my eye, when Kernow Sausages teamed up with Skinner’s Brewery to make a special Betty Stogs sausage.  

From that first bite, having tracked this curious sounding sausage down, I found myself a fan of the Kernow Sausage and their many flavours. Gavin Roberts is the most enthusiastic sausage maker I have ever met.

Here is their latest news via Barefoot Media:

An award-winning meat producer has collaborated with a top chef to create the first Cornish bratwurst sausage for events catering.

The special sausage was created by pork connoisseur Gavin Roberts of The Kernow Sausage Company, specialist producers of sausages and other pork products, based on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall.

The collaboration came about after a request from Neil Haydock, executive chef at Watergate Bay Hotel, who was looking for a special occasion sausage to serve at large events.

Bratwurst sausages originate from Germany and are known for their size and lightness of texture. Traditionally they are served in a bread roll with sauerkraut and mustard, and typically washed down with beer. They lend themselves well to events where people are eating and drinking on the go.

Gavin Roberts, owner of Kernow Sausage Company said: “Neil is one of those chefs who is always looking for something a bit different, something that isn’t generally available off the shelf.

“We got talking about sausages and in particular bratwurst, and basically I’m not one to be beaten by a challenge so I thought right, I’m going to offer you the best bratwurst that you can get hold of.”

The Watergate Bay bratwurst made its debut at the Electric Beach Festival in July. The festival saw over 3,000 revellers take to the golden sands of this famous surfing beach to enjoy music from hip hop stars De La Soul and support act The Nextmen.

The sausage received rave reviews and was recently served again at the Veuve Clicquot Polo on the Beach event in September.

Neil Haydock, the executive chef from Watergate Bay Hotel said: “We really like working with Gavin because he provides fantastic sausages and bacon and at the same time is innovative and creative in his approach.

“I wanted to create something special for events here. I’ve always remembered bratwurst sausages from my childhood as being oversized and really tasty so I decided Watergate should have their own version. Luckily Gavin got it right first time and it went down really well.”

Gavin began the process with some thorough research into the production techniques and ingredients that make the definitive bratwurst.

Gavin said: “As comical as the sausage is to some people, we’re very serious about what we do. Much like traditional British sausages there are many different types of bratwurst and so I simply let myself be led by common influences.

“I think one of the things that makes The Kernow Sausgage Company unique is our ability to be able to develop products to specification. It’s a good example of what sets us apart from your regular meat wholesaler.”

Gavin has run the family-owned Kernow Sausage Company for the last five years and has worked closely with other chefs on numerous collaborations including a hog’s pudding recipe with Chris Eden from the Michelin-starred Driftwood Hotel near Portscatho.

The Kernow Sausage Company pride themselves on using the finest pork from happy pigs  with recipes that have been passed down through the generations from Gavin’s grandmother.

The specially created bratwurst last week picked up a Silver award at the South West British Pig Executive (BPEX) regional awards. BPEX holds the awards each year to recognise pork manufacturers who meet specific quality criteria in various areas of the product including taste, innovation and visual appearance.

The recommended retail price for a pack of four bratwurst sausages (454g) is £3.19. For more information on trade pricing email: sales@kernowsausages.com or phone 01872 531 888.

Cornish Cuisine: What you must try In Cornwall.

(This article was written for me by another for my blog. I take no credit for it, although to the best of my knowledge the information is accurate.)

The first encounter with classic Cornish cuisine probably emerged with TV chef, Rick Stein. His famous Seafood restaurant has turned Padstow into the first foodie haven in Cornwall. More recently, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall at Watergate Bay , Nathan Outlaw (the only 2 star Michelin fish restaurant in Britain) at the St Enodoc Hotel and the ‘Great British Menu‘ winner, Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 in Padstow have given Cornwall an ever-growing gastronomic reputation.

However, the humble pasty still rules,  and there are brilliant fresh fish and chips to be found in numerous locations for those in the know.

Here are some of the most popular food spots and things you should try in Cornwall.

Fish and Chips

We think Rick Stein has it sussed when it comes to fish and chips – offering the classic battered cod and chips or a whole host of other options, including grilled fish. Everything is fresh and super delicious – down the generous wedge of lemon served with all meals. Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop is found in Padstow and there is also a branch in Falmouth now too. A classic seaside treat, best enjoyed outdoors, we think – watch out for seagulls!

Pasties

A little known secret amongst tourists, but well-known amongst locals is the marvellous Philips Pasty Shop in Hayle. This town is fairly attraction less and industrial and doesn’t have much to draw visitors in – but it is SO worth stopping off for a pasty at Philips if you are passing through. The pasties here are baked throughout the day by a team of dedicated pasty makers and are the freshest, meatiest and most delicious you’ll taste!

Cream Teas

For a winning cream tea head to Fowey Hall, where you can sample the freshest scones and fruitiest jam in the most spectacular of locations. This period manor house is said to be the inspiration for Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows and you’ll have many a story to tell once you’ve been there too. Make sure you take time to stroll in the gardens before or after; they are also worth a visit!

Local Beers

If you get thirsty whilst you are down in Kernow it is only right to taste some of the counties very own beers.  Here are some favourites for you to look out for:

St Austell Brewery – Tribute, a real Cornish classic, 4.2% and everything you’d want from a robust locally brewed favourite, sought after by discerning establishments around the country too.

Sharps – Doom Bar, combines a sweet malty flavour, with that of resinous hops and some roasted notes for an aftertaste too. A true Cornish great.

Skinners – Heligan Honey, a lovely a light coloured pale ale, with hoppy honey flavours, at 4 % you can’t go wrong.

These are three true winners, but don’t be stopped from trying the others on offer by these reputable breweries too. And if you are a real fan of Real Ales, St. Austell Brewery’s Celtic Beer Festival is something to brighten dark November.

Funky Dining

Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Watergate bay, is a great place to head to if you want to experience funky dining in Cornwall at its best. The menu changes regularly and always incorporates 80% locally sourced, seasonal food from local waters and the land in Cornwall.  The food is Italian inspired and the setting, over hanging the beach, is even better.

If you are fan of surfing, or just enjoy the chilled out vibe that surf culture brings, head to the Oystercatcher bar in Polzeath. Overlooking the beach, this is a great spot to pick up good eats at reasonable prices and to stay for drinks afterwards. Check out regular music nights for even more entertainment.

Fine Dining

Nathan Outlaws restaurant at the St Enodoc hotel is the best place for fine dining and particularly for fresh fish and seafood. From Scallop’s Tartare, to Port Isaac Crab prepared with Fennel, Apple and Porthilly Sauce, to Burnt Rhubarb with Custard cream, we are sure you will have a culinary experience quite unlike any other!

Number 6 in Padstow is also a great choice at top end of the market, although prices reflect their mission to provide exceptional food at reasonable prices. You will find no end of local and seasonal delights on their menu and the setting and service are not to be faulted.

There is just so much good food and cuisine to be sampled in Cornwall that we recommend making a long weekend, or a proper holiday out of it. If you are tempted by the delights on the north coast, Polzeath holiday cottages, or anything in the Camel Estuary, make for a wonderful place to stay. If you are more taken by the south coast, Falmouth is a great place to look for B&B options or indeed there are many great campsites, hotels and cottages in the area too. Cornwall is a real melting pot of tradition and culture when it comes to food, so get out there and get tasting!