Vegetarian food blog featuring nourishing home cooked recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

A Cornish Cornucopia

Cornwall is not only blessed with stunning scenery, but also a mild climate that enables grass to grow nearly all year round and crops to have a longer season than in many other parts of the UK. Admittedly, this does mean we have to put up with a lot of rain, but we also get lots of sunshine. The result of all the sunshine and rain is a wealth of wonderful Cornish produce. As a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat, but I do eat dairy and Cornwall has long been known for it’s rich milk, butter and cream. Cornish cows are mostly pasture fed and out in the fields for many months of the year. This results in a milk which is tasty and full of essential nutrients. Cornish potatoes, cauliflower and daffodils are well known but most fruit and vegetables grow well here. As regular readers will know, I try to buy as much local produce as possible and I am very lucky to have such a choice. Produced within just a few miles, I can buy award winning cheeses, cider, flour, eggs, honey and any number of fruit and vegetables. To add to this bounty, Cornwall is now starting to become known for its innovative and delicious chocolate creations. Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled about this.

Here, I am highlighting just a very few of the wonderful products Cornwall has to offer. I am hoping that this will become a regular feature and I can bring you more. Cornish produce is well worth trying.

The Chocolarder

Oh chocolate is a wonderful thing. Very excitingly, Cornwall now has its very own bean to bar chocolatier, The Chocolarder. Joining the ranks of Willie Harcourt-Cooze and Duffy Sheardown, Michael Longman is one of only a handful of UK chocolatiers producing their very own chocolate. Using organic beans sourced from single estate, family run plantations around the tropics, the chocolate is ground by stone over four days and then hand tempered.

You can tell good chocolate just by the smell; rich and complex cocoa notes will zip up your nostrils leaving you longing for more. When I unwrapped the chocolate, the whole room quickly took on the aroma – I couldn’t ask for a better air freshener. The packaging is plain and in keeping with the handmade purity of the brand.

You can see the full range offered on the online shop. I am intrigued by the wild gorse milk chocolate bar. We have masses of wild gorse growing all around Cornwall and it is particularly noticeable at this time of year when it’s bright yellow flowers shine out for all to see and the distinctive smell of coconut wafts around in the sunshine. I have not yet come across anyone whose used it, until now.

Sea Salt Caramel Truffles

I must admit, I am no stranger to these  truffles. Having come across them in Truro one day, I now make a point of buying some whenever I take a trip to Cornwall’s capital. They send me into such an exstacy, I can hardly describe them. The caramel is soft without being runny and is lightly salted, bringing out the flavour rather than overwhelming the palate. I was pleased to note that the salt used is Cornish Sea Salt. I’m often disappointed at the ratio of caramel to chocolate, but these are just about perfect. The 65% dark chocolate shells are not too thick and not too thin either and there is plenty of caramel. The Peruvian chocolate has an enticing aroma with notes of tobacco and spice.

Easter Chick

With Easter fast approaching, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find an Easter treat in my parcel, but I was. I might just have let out a cluck of excitement when I saw this cute little chick. The scent of chocolate with caramel notes wafted up making me eager to stop looking and start tasting. Weighing in at 100g, this is not one of those disappointing forms that turns out to be a hollow shell. No this is solid through and through and falls neatly into two halves when the first bite is taken. This makes it easy to eat and easy to share – if you can bear to.  With a cocoa content of 40%, this Javan chocolate is creamy but not overly sweet, just how I like my milk chocolate to be. Made with only three ingredients and no masking flavours, this is milk chocolate at its purist.

Dominican Republic Dark

The first thing I noticed about this very dark bar of chocolate, was the delicate cocoa pods etched into the bar. Whole cocoa pods and halved ones showing the beans inside are there in extraordinary detail I thought. The next thing I noticed was that the cocoa beans were Criollo, the rarest and finest beans to be grown. Complex chocolate notes emanated from this bar with tobacco being at the fore. The flavour was strong, but not particularly bitter and as it melted on the tongue the tobacco notes were followed by fruiter ones. As in all good quality chocolate I have tried, there is a drying sensation in the mouth, but the chocolate was beautifully smooth. The taste of rich tobaccoey chocolate lingered for quite some time.

As in the Naive bars from Lithuania, the information given about the chocolate goes into fine detail: bean origin Dominican Republic; bean variety Criollo;  grind length 80hrs; batch number 2 and cocoa content 80%.

Raw Chocolate Pie

Raw Chocolate Pie is a product I have been a fan of for many years now. Again, I first came across it in Truro, but was later able to buy it in Liskeard at Taste Cornwall, a shop selling only Cornish produce. Sadly the shop closed a couple of years ago and I can no longer buy my pie here.

As the name suggests, these chocolate pies are made with only raw ingredients. They are gluten, dairy and sugar free, so a sweet treat you can indulge in without feeling the least bit guilty. Although they weigh in at only 60g, they are quite rich and filling; this makes over consumption at one sitting quite hard to achieve. These days, the pie comes in lots of different flavours, twelve to be exact, but the ingredients remain raw and few in number. The base ingredients consist of raw cocoa nibs, coconut butter, agave nectar, lucuma powder and carob flour. The distinctive flavour of carob is very much present; I find it melds well with chocolate and the raw and healthy nature of the pie. Cocoa nibs give added interest by providing a crunchy texture. I have tried a number of different flavours over the years, but chilli fiend that I am, the chilli pie remains my favourite. I particularly love the packaging of these pies. they are simple, yet colourful and fun at the same time. They also contain a fair amount of information in a small space without looking overcrowded. Produced by Living Food just outside St Ives, I’m really pleased to have seen the company grow in the years I’ve been enjoying the product. You can buy these raw chocolate pies in a number of retail outlets in Cornwall and also via the online shop.

Goji Berry & Pumpkin Seed Pie

Colourful when you slice into it, the red of the goji berries and the green of the pumpkin seeds make this one particularly attractive. Packed full of flavour, it has a crunchy consistency which keeps the pie in the mouth for longer.

Nut Pie

Softer than the previous pie, but equally crunchy, this one is full of nuts: almonds, pecans, hazel and macadamia.

Pie with Pink Himalayan Salt

The only crunch here is provided by the cocoa nibs but the flavour is really enhanced by the salt.

Gingham Chicken

Liskeard can boast a number of excellent food producers, but I am only highlighting one of them this time. Gingham Chicken is an award winning fudge company that makes delicious fudge entirely by hand. Supporting local traders is very important to Gingham Chicken; as many local ingredients are used as possible, including cream and butter – something I heartily approve of. Ingredients are kept to a minimum and nothing unnecessary is added. Fudge is sold in 100g bags or 250g boxes if you don’t think a bag is enough. There are a wide variety of flavours with Cornish Sea Salt and Pecan being one of the most popular. The tag line “a little bit of indulgence to make your world a more scrumptious place” says it all really. I am reviewing the three available chocolate flavours, yes that’s right, three! I can honestly say I was unable to pick out a favourite, all three were equally scrumptious. You can buy the fudge here in Liskeard at the shop Jelly Pebbles, as well as a number of other local retail outlets, at various food fairs and online. Liskeard really is worth a stop if ever you are passing by on the A38.

Chocolate Orange Fudge

I’m always slightly wary of orange flavoured chocolate as I often find the orange tastes artificial and sickly. No such worries here, the orange is fresh and tastes like real orange and both the aroma and flavour of rich chocolate comes through loud and clear. It has a light crumbly texture that just melts in the mouth. It is quite simply delicious.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Fudge

Just the thought of raspberries had my mouth watering. Summer and the raspberry season still feels like a long way off. This fudge looked really attractive too with the liberal addition of dark red raspberries contrasting nicely with the white chocolate fudge. I was not disappointed, this fudge really tastes of raspberries. White chocolate can make confectionary overly sweet I find, but the raspberries counterbalanced any possible sickliness resulting in a creamy fudge which is really quite delightful.

Chocolate Goddess Fudge

Inspired by the cocktail of the same name, this fudge contains chocolate, hazelnuts, Baileys and coffee. I was all agog to try this one. I can see where the name came from. There are lots of flavours going on here but blended so well, they were really quite subtle. All but the hazelnut, where the nutty chunks are not only flavourful but provide a good chewy texture to the otherwise light and crumbly fudge.

Mugz Hot Chocolate

Made by the same folk as the Cornish Sushi Company, I came across this at a Christmas fair in Wadebridge. It is to be officially launched on the 1st of May, so look out for it then. So many hot chocolate mixes are overly sweet I find. This one isn’t. It still does the trick for those of us with a sweet tooth, but allows the taste of the chocolate to really come through. It is thick, creamy and delicious. Just heat 250 ml of milk and whisk in 30g of the hot chocolate mix. Ideal for sharing with the one you love, my Mugz came in a 60g tub, enough to make two mugs of hot chocolate.

Cornish Sea Salt

I have been using Cornish Sea Salt since the company was first launched back in 2008. I use it in my bread making and would find it hard now to contemplate any other. Cornish coastal waters are one of the cleanest in the UK and the salt harvested from them contains over 60 trace elements which are said to help the body metabolise sodium as well as contribute to general health and wellbeing. Interestingly, salt was made along these shores way back in the Iron Age. Not surprisingly, this salt tastes of the sea. Although flavoursome it is quite mild and not like some other salts which can be quite harsh.

This is also my salt of choice when making salted caramel. Now it just so happens that I’ve recently made some Cornish Sea Salted Caramel Brownies featuring this very salt and I will be posting about them soon. When I was sent this pot of salt flakes, I was a little surprised to see the colour of the pot had changed. It took a while to figure out that the clue is in the name and these were flakes rather than the normal large crystals I buy – perfect for sprinkling over a brownie!

Rodda’s

And last but by no means least, I have a selection of creamy produce from the Rodda’s dairy. Rodda’s are best known for their delectable clotted cream which has grown from strength to strength since they started making it way back in 1890.  I grew up with clotted cream, made by hand from the milk produced by a couple of Guernsey cows in the village. It was an occasional treat, to have on our Sunday porridge or apple crumble. There are many producers of clotted cream in Cornwall and some are better than others. Rodda’s always has a thick yellow crust on the top of their cream. This, in my book, is always the best bit and a sure sign of good quality.

No cream tea worth its name should be served without this glorious accompaniment. I served mine on the saffron buns I recently made with a choice of my own homemade Cornish bramble jelly or blood orange curd. I know I shouldn’t say it, but I really can’t resist. The cream really is best served the Cornish way, on top of the jam (or curd). This means, not only can you generally get more on, but your teeth sink delightfully through the creamy unctuousness which is lost if the jam is on top.

As well as the cream, I was sent a 250g pack of butter and a pot of clotted cream custard. The custard is a new product and is as good as it sounds. You really can taste the clotted cream. We polished it off rather too quickly. I served it with the above mentioned brownies (recipe appearing soon) and it was the perfect accompaniment, both when they were warm and when they were cold. We didn’t heat the custard as it really didn’t need it. In fact, it was so delicious, I had a hard time not eating it straight from the tub.

The butter was just how I remember butter being when I was a child and we bought it straight from our local dairy (the afore mentioned Guernsey cows). It has a beautiful yellow colour to it, indicative of true pasture fed cows and a wonderful creamy taste. It’s the sort of butter you want to eat on your toast or saffron buns and although I used half of it in my brownies, I sort of felt it was a bit of a waste of good butter. The butter is salted. I am so used to unsalted butter or slightly salted that I was rather taken by surprise on first tasting. But my goodness it is delicious and really quite addictive.

Thanks to all of the producers mentioned in this post for providing me with samples of their produce. I was not required to give a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

If you have anything suitable you’d like me to review in my next Cornish Cornucopia, do please send an e-mail to choclette (@) gmail (dot) com

Non-Lardy Lardy Cakes aka Liskeardy Cake

5 Star, Bread & Buns, Cornish | 20th October 2013 | By

One of the few things I miss as a vegetarian is a good lardy cake. Our local bakery BlakesBakery does a particularly good one. Rich with fat, sugar and spicy fruit, it has a crunchy exterior with a lovely doughy interior. When I found out the #TeaTimeTreats theme was for yeast bakery this month, an idea was conceived. I would invent my very own non-lardy, lardy cake using white chocolate instead of lard, my own candied peel and very non traditionally, apples.

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Rhubarb Fairy Cakes and Edible Flowers

Cornish, Cupcakes | 27th April 2013 | By

Spring, it’s really here at last. Despite the rubbish weather we’ve been having, the hedges are alive with primroses, slightly later than usual but absolutely spectacular. Talking of spectacular flowers, I was recently given a punnet of edible ones from a local grower. The Flower Mill, based just up the road from us (in an old flour mill as it happens), grows chemical free flowers for decoration and also for eating. It’s primarily a mail order business, so anyone in the UK can enjoy bouquets and posies of seasonal Cornish flowers as well as edible flowers to decorate cakes, salads or whatever else grabs their fancy. My punnet contained a collection of borage flowers, violas and different types of primulas. What fun – it was time to play.

Kate has chosen fairy cakes, cupcakes and muffins for this month’s Tea Time Treats and fairy cakes seemed just the thing to showcase the beautiful flowers I’d received. As I like to bake seasonally where I can, rhubarb seemed to be an obvious choice. Now, I don’t know why, but for some reason we’ve been unable to grow rhubarb down at our plot, it used to flourish on our old site. Luckily, my mother grows some in her garden, so it was all systems go.

This is how I made:

Rhubarb, Rose & White chocolate Fairy Cakes

  • Peeled and finely chopped 1 stick rhubarb (about 80g).
  • Chopped 50g white chocolate (G&B).
  • Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 90g golden caster sugar.
  • Beat in one duck egg.
  • Sifted in 100g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white), 50g ground almonds, 1 scant teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda.
  • Added 1 tbsp yogurt and 1 tsp orange flower water.
  • Stirred in the chocolate and rhubarb.
  • Spooned into 12 fairy cake cases.
  • Baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • Turned out onto a wire rack and left to cool.
  • Stewed a few stems of chopped rhubarb without sugar which made a beautiful pink juice.
  • Sifted 100g icing sugar into a bowl.
  • Added 1 tsp orange flower water and poured in enough of the rhubarb juice to make a slightly runny icing.
  • Spooned over the top of the cakes.
  • With gay abandon, decorated the tops with beautiful edible flowers.

Due to the almonds, these veered more towards the dense texture than light and spongy, but, oh, they were delicious. Rhubarb is one of those ingredients that works particularly well in cakes, giving bursts of tartness and flavour in amongst the sweetness. The rhubarb juice gave the icing a tinge of pink which I was pleased with. I used the remaining rhubarb in a breakfast smoothie the following day and it was so good I’m now craving more.

As it happened, the cake cases came away from the cakes, making them look really tatty, so I removed them all together. Thank goodness for the flowers, which made these otherwise plain looking cakes into the real deal – fairy cakes of elegance and beauty. The flowers all had their own flavours and were not only good to look at but were good to eat too. In retrospect I regret not putting some of them into ice-cube trays, but I shall remember that for another time. Cool summer drinks would surely be enhanced with a flower or two floating on the surface. I was told that the flowers can be kept for 2-3 days in the fridge, but I was surprised at just how long they lasted out of the fridge and on the cakes – it was several hours before they showed any sign of wilting.

You can check out the range of options available at The Flower Mill here.

I am entering these fairy cakes into Tea Time Treats with Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

As edible flowers abound, I am also entering these into Herbs on Saturday with Karen of Lavender and Lovage. It just so happens that this month’s prize is Cooking with Edible Flowers.

These would go down a treat I reckon for a St George spring fete, so I’m also entering these into Calendar Cakes with Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes.

As I’ve made everything from scratch as usual, I’m sending these off to Made with Love Mondays with Javelin Warrior.

And finally, because rhubarb is in season and I haven’t submitted anything for ages, I’m entering these into Simple & in Season with Ren of Fabulicious Food.

Organic Eggs and a Cornish Holiday Discount

Some of you may have noticed that I have been using Penbugle Farm organic eggs in some of my recent bakes. Keen as I am to support local businesses, I am even more so when they are organically certified by the Soil Association. As you may be tired of hearing by now, I am a long term supporter of the Soil Association, believing that they are ethically driven and offer the most rigourous organic standards that exist anywhere. They also campaign for more sustainable farming practices and higher quality food for all. This is especially true when it comes to egg production. Soil Association certified eggs must come from free range chickens that have proper outdoor access to grass. This not only leads to healthy and happy hens, but the eggs are better too. See my post on Ingredients are the Key and on duck eggs back along when I first started this blog.

Penbugle Hen – photo courtesy of Allison Livingstone

The chooks at Penbugle are all reared on the farm and have plenty of outdoor field space to run about in during the day. They have even more of it than the minimum required by the Soil Association. They also have access to indoor scratching and bathing areas as well as the nest boxes of course. What about foxes you may ask? The secret weapon in the Penbugle armoury are some rather gorgeous alpacas. Cute they may be, but they will not tolerate foxes in their fields and will drive them off and even kill them if they can. Oh and their fibre is rather lovely too.

By a strange coincidence, I spotted a Penbugle stand at the Three Bags Full market, held on Friday to celebrate Liskeard’s wool heritage. They weren’t selling wool, but fibre from their alpacas instead. The fibre is not only very soft, but light, extremely warm due to the hollow fibres and hard wearing too – think of grandad’s camel hair coat.

The following day, somewhat drenched after dancing the Community Scarf around Liskeard in the rain, I actually got to meet the Fox Patrol in person. They were taking part in the continuation of the Three Bags Full festivities along with some Penbugle sheep and a well dressed tractor courtesy of Victoria Knittingfairy.

Penbugle double yolker, with a dab of chilli sauce

Thanks to Alison of Gingerpop Communications and to Lizzie of Penbugle Farm, I was sent a couple of dozen eggs to try out – just when I needed them most. I had several cakes to make for a friend’s birthday, culminating in this lime and pistachio layer cake. The eggs were large and as it turned out many of them were double yokers too – not something I’ve seen very often.

I was determined to keep some back from the cake making, so we could try them au naturel. We had a couple of them boiled for Easter Day and a couple poached on another occasion. They tasted particularly good. CT being an avid egg eater is something of a connoisseur in these matters, so his thumbs up really means something.

Penbugle Farm, is not only a working organic farm with rare breed cattle, sheep, pigs, hens, ponies and alpacas, but it also provides holiday accommodation in the form of wigwams and bell tents as well as tent pitches if you want to bring your own. So if you fancy a bit of glamping or even camping and a chance to get away from it all, this might well be the spot for you. Living in a particularly pretty part of Cornwall as we do, I can tell you it is well worth a visit. Most visitors to Cornwall charge down to the more well know western parts of the county, completely passing us by – it’s their loss. The farm is situated close to the pretty village of Duloe complete with its own stone circle. It is only five miles from the fishing village of Looe and the beautiful Cornish coast and only a few miles from Bodmin Moor. This provides plenty of good walking opportunities, wildlife spotting and a chance to explore our mining heritage. The farm is, of course, very close to my charming home town of Liskeard!

Cornish Holiday Discount

Penbugle Farm are offering Chocolate Log Blog readers a 10% discount on any wigwam holiday plus a welcome pack of local produce, including their own organic eggs of course. To be eligible for the discount, just mention “choc log blog” when booking. To take advantage of this offer, holidays must be booked before 14th May and taken by the end of September 2013.

Temper Temper – the Secret of Chocolate Success

Picture courtesy of Sadie Phillips

Have you ever wanted to do a chocolate course? Wondered what tempering chocolate was all about or how to make ganache or truffles? As some of you may know, I have been struggling with tempering chocolate for a long time now. Occasionally it’s worked, but more often than not it hasn’t and the chocolates I’ve made with love just don’t look very good. Not only that, they don’t last very long and I don’t mean because I have scoffed them all. The chocolate is dull and often produces a white bloom after a couple of days. This not only looks unappealing, but just doesn’t taste right. So when given the opportunity to attend a morning’s chocolate session with Cornwall’s top chocolatier, Nicky Grant, I was determined to attend.

Picture courtesy of Sadie Phillips

Nicky Grant, patissiere and chocolatier, has won several awards for her delectable fresh handmade chocolates; I’ve tasted them on a number of occasions and reviewed them here on my blog. Flavours I haven’t tried yet but am particularly keen to include, cardamom & pistachio, lime & chilli, honey & cinnamon and Cornish Blue & port. Nicky’s fennel & ginger won an Academy of Chocolate Gold in 2011 and her Cornish seasalted caramel, which is to die for, won a Gold Great Taste Award. Behind every great woman there is a great man and husband Tom is sous chef and business manager. The couple have recently branched out into hosting bespoke chocolate courses. If you want to learn a specific aspect of chocolate making, cake making or decorating, give them a call. For those unable to attend a course in a remote (but very lovely) part of the country, there are plans afoot to run various courses online.

We all know that Cornwall is God’s own country, but it was a thoroughly awful day weatherise. The cold driving rain, made for an unpleasant journey, but the allure and aroma of melted chocolate soon eliminated all other thoughts. A select band of Cornish bloggers along with a journalist and photographer gathered in the Grants’ farmhouse kitchen and dried out in front of the Aga. Nat of the HungryHinny I knew, but the others I was meeting for the first time: Rachel of Saffron Bunny, Sadie Phillips from Cornwall Food and Drink, Jessica of FishWifey and journalist Eleanor Gaskarth.

Tom is knowledgeable and quite passionate about the science behind chocolate. Nicky is the artist and creator of flavours and is highly adept at her chocolate craft. Both were very keen to impart their knowledge and expertise. In the short time we were with them, I learnt loads and now have a much clearer understanding about how chocolate works. We listened, asked questions, watched, tasted and then got to play with chocolate. The session was divided into three main parts. I am not going to include everything that was imparted to us as that would be a book in itself, but I’ve noted one particularly useful tip for each part.

Tempering – The transformation of chocolate from molten goo to a stable, shiny substance, that has a good snap to it. This is very temperature dependent and if you don’t get it right, your finished chocolate is likely to develop a white bloom, look dull and have a rubbery consistency. It’s all to do with polymorphism, Tom’s favourite word. What this means is that chocolate can take many forms depending on how it is treated.
Top Tip – Test the chocolate before using. Dip a piece of greasproof paper in the chocolate and leave it for a few minutes. If it is tempered you will soon start to see the chocolate crystallising and in about three minutes it should be set and shiny. The chocolate will continue to crystallise for the next 48 hours. What you’re after is Beta 5, apparently, chocolate in its perfect state. Untempered chocolate will take ages to set, we did two strips and compared them; it was easy to see which one was tempered and which wasn’t.

Tasting – We, er, did get to try some chocolate whilst we were there. A high cocoa content milk chocolate is my favourite so I was delighted to be trying a Venezuelan 44% milk – it was truly good. A dark 73% was also rather good and not particularly bitter.
Top Tip – 11:00 is apparently the best time of day to taste test as that is when our tastebuds should be at their optimum.

Making Chocolates – We left the cosy kitchen and headed for Nicky’s chocolate studio. There we saw how to make ganache and how to pipe it, including how to fill a piping bag which is something I always struggle with. Nicky did a demo of how to make a piping bag out of paper – she made it look very easy, but I suspect I’ve already forgotten what to fold and where. At this point we were allowed to get our hands dirty and we all had a go at rolling the dark tear drop ganache shapes in cocoa powder (Red, Extra brute). We then dipped the milk chocolate ganache forms in tempered milk chocolate and rolled them in milk chocolate shavings – what a pleasure.

Top Tip – Making ganache seems to be a hit and miss affair with me, my ganache splits as often as it doesn’t. I learnt that the varying temperatures of ingredients and implements might be one of the causes. This could explain why it happens so often to me; it goes back to my kitchen again where the cold implements probably give the ganache an unwelcome shock. We were told there are two ways of rescuing split ganache: 1) cool the mixture and whisk with a balloon whisk, 2) add a little additional hot cream to the mixture and whisk with a balloon whisk. As it happened, the ganache Tom was making split and he was then able to demonstrate the first method – to my amazement, it worked.

I have yet to put the tips I learnt into practice, but I’m actually looking forward to my next tempering experience. As I suspected, my kitchen makes working with chocolate particularly difficult as it is usually too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer; the ideal working conditions are a temperature between 18C and 20C and a humidity of less than 70%.

Working in the studio was a feast for the eye, beautifully crafted chocolates, Easter eggs, and decorated cakes covered virtually every surface. The massive tray of melted chocolate was so inviting I just wanted to dive straight in. How Nicky and Tom remain slim is a mystery, although they did say something about intensive workouts. I must try this myself.

Thanks to Nat for organising the course. Getting five busy bloggers and a journalist to agree on a date which would fit in with Nicky and Tom was quite a feat in itself. Thanks also to Sadie who kindly allowed me to use some of her photographs – she’s a much better photographer than me. And of course thanks to Nicky and Tom who generously gave of their time, expertise and chocolate.

You can follow Nicky Grant on Facebook or on Twitter

Nathan Outlaw’s Cornish Salted Fudge Brownies – Random Recipes #22

This month Dom tasked us with randomly selecting a recipe. Not from a book, but from our piles of clippings and odd cuttings filed away in recipe books – you mean I’m not the only one that does this? I’ve been squirrelling away various recipe cuttings for years and have probably lost more than I currently have. I cut them out because I really like the look of the recipe and know I have to make it very soon. Then it somehow disappears into a pile, as a bookmark and occasionally into an actual file. Now, I may not be as organised as I’d like to be and I can’t guarantee that every chocolate recipe clipping is in the same place, but I do have a cuttings folder of chocolate recipes. This was the one I thrust under CT’s nose, told him to close his eyes, put in his hand and pull something out, which he obligingly did.

And out he drew a recipe from Food, a local magazine focussing on the South West: a recipe from celebrity chef Nathan Outlaw no less. Nathan Outlaw is one of Cornwall’s Michelin starred chefs and although I’ve never eaten any of his food, Fiona of London Unattached is quite a fan. His recipe for chocolate, fudge and Cornish sea salt brownies put a happy smile on my face. I always have a tub of Cornish sea salt on hand as I use it to make my weekly loaves, so that wasn’t a problem. The Cornish fudge wasn’t a problem either. We have our very own fudge maker here in Liskeard, Gingham Chicken and very popular her fudge is proving to be. I had to adapt the recipe a little as the quantities were large. I used 100% wholemeal spelt, which I find works perfectly in brownies.

This is how I made:

Cornish Salted Fudge Brownies

  • Melted 110g unsalted butter in a large pan with 110g of Fairtrade 85% chocolate.
  • Stirred in 160g dark brown sugar and took of the heat to cool slightly.
  • Beat in two large duck eggs.
  • Stirred in 110g wholemeal spelt flour
  • Added a scant tsp of Cornish sea salt and stirred.
  • Chopped 50g of local Cornish fudge and stirred into the mix.
  • Poured into an 8″ square cake mould and baked at 150C for 20 minutes (as the recipe stated). It was still runny at this point, so I turned the oven up to 180C and baked for another 7 minutes. It was well risen and the top was crusty, but it was still gooey (not runny) in the middle – just right.
  • Left to cool then cut into 9 squares.

Even though I love salted caramel and salted chocolate, I did find it very strange at first bite to taste salt in a brownie. In fact, I’m sitting on the fence on this one and can’t make my mind up if I like it. I don’t dislike it and the brownies were lovely and fudgy and it was fun to come across the chunks of fudge, which gave additional flavour and texture. CT, whilst also sitting on the fence, managed to polish off a fair few of them.

These brownies are my submission for this month’s Random Recipes with the Dashing Dom of Belleau Kitchen.

I’m also adding submitting this to Jac’s Bookmarked Recipes from Tinned Tomatoes.

Chewy Apricot Cookies

5 Star, Biscuits, Cornish, Gifts | 7th December 2012 | By

As some of you know, I try to use organic ingredients where I can. Although organic is better for individual human health, more importantly, it is better for the environment and ultimately benefits human health in the long term. Anyway, on the back of a recently purchased packet of Crazy Jack’s organic dried apricots, I noticed a recipe for these apricot cookies. I had to try them just as soon as I could. A weekend away visiting friends in Glastonbury last month provided just the right opportunity to try them out.

This is how I made them:

  • Cut 100g butter into pieces and placed it on a heater to soften – the kitchen is already cold.
  • Added 100g soft brown sugar and creamed for a good few minutes until the mixture  was very light and fluffy.
  • Added 1 tbsp Cornish honey and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and creamed some more.
  • Sifted in 150g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and a scant teaspoon of baking powder.
  • Chopped 100g unsulphered apricots into pieces and added these.
  • Added 25g white chocolate chips & mixed until all was incorporated. It didn’t come together in one big lump, but that was fine.
  • Picked up small handfuls and patted into walnut sized balls with the palms of my hands. I made 26.
  • Placed well apart on lined baking sheets and baked at 175C for 10 minutes until golden and crisped around the edges.
  • Used a spatula to place them on a wire rack and left to cool.

The mixture smelt wonderfully of honey and the aroma as these biscuits baked was really quite heavenly. They were luxurious and delicious, very sweet, but oh so satisfying. They were crisp around the edges with a really chewy centre; the flavour of honey was strong, the apricots added their signature fruitiness and the bits of white chocolate had caramelised giving added texture and flavour. These would make perfect Christmas gifts and indeed I shall be making some myself to give away. If CT doesn’t get his mitts on them first.

Made from scratch as these are, I’m submitting them to JW’s Made with Love Mondays.

I’m also submitting them to Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes.

The Brownie Baker

When I was doing my bit at the Liskeard Food Day, I was in the company of The Brownie Baker, a wonderful Cornish outfit making handmade brownies in St Agnes. They supply local bakers and cafes as well as selling them direct at local markets and food fairs. They very kindly gave me one of each of their six flavours to review. Strangely, I was very happy to do this.

These are fudgy brownies with lovely crackly tops, just like proper brownies should be. I can’t tell you how glad it makes me feel to be able to get such good brownies in Cornwall. Some of them I liked more than others, but I’d be happy to eat my way through a stack of any of them.
Seasalt – With my current addiction for sea salted chocolate and caramel, this was my favourite. Chunks of salt were scattered throughout, giving wonderful crunchy bursts of flavour. CT wanted to roll it around his mouth and savour it for as long as possible. I think he must have had low blood sugar when he said this: “they are like icebergs of salt in a chocolate sea and every so often one collides with your taste buds and sinks backwards down your gullet like the Titanic”. What is he like?
Sour Cherry – One bite of this and I was no longer so sure that the seasalt was my favourite after all. This was really delicious. It contained dried cherries soaked in cherry brandy which gave a tart and refreshing burst within each mouthful. I also detected a pleasant but unidentified flavour, which I thoroughly enjoyed – I’d love to know what it was.

Fudge – This brownie was liberally studded with chunks of Cornish fudge. It was good but my least favourite of all, as it was a little too sweet for me. The overall taste suggested it had picked up the caramel notes from the fudge, giving it its own unique flavour and softer texture. CT and I agreed that pieces of salted fudge would have counteracted the sweetness and suited us better.

Classic – This was a really good chocolate brownie with milk chocolate chunks scattered throughout.

Orange – The flavour was unmistakably orange with a slight bitter grapefruit tone which gave it a more realistic and rounded orange taste. However, it was a bit too strong for both CT & I who are rather fussy about orange flavoured chocolate.

White Chocolate – This is a variation on the classic brownie as it includes chunks of  white chocolate. These give added interest by creating an occasional change in texture and flavour and this makes for a sweeter taste experience.

When I checked the website for more information on the products, I was pleased to see that that they use locally sourced ingredients. Sadly, no other information pertaining to the ingredients was available at the time of writing, although I did notice that the website said it was under construction. For me, knowing what is in my food is of paramount importance so I would like to see more on the website as to the specific ingredients used.

Nevertheless, these brownies are absolutely delicious and would make a fabulous gift at any time of the year including Christmas – I certainly wouldn’t say no to a box. For those of you lucky enough to be in Cornwall, you will find them at the Bude Christmas Fair this coming weekend (8th and 9th December) and at the Stithians Christmas Fair on 15th December.

The Fine Food and Folks of Liskeard

Thursday was the grand opening of the Liskeard Town Shop and the last day of filming by the Mary Portas team. This followed on from a high street clean up event a couple of weeks earlier, where residents from the town and local area turned out in force to scrub, sweep, paint and plant. CT and I were on planting duty; I don’t think I’ve ever planted as many polyanthus in my life. Thursday’s event was intended to showcase the fine foods of Liskeard. Mary, with film crew in tow, commenced proceedings by opening the shop. The gathering throng then descended on the samples of local producers and munched and slurped their way through them in traditional Liskeard style. I had been asked by the good folk of Love Liskeard if I’d like to provide some cake samples. What could be better than combining cake baking with helping my home town? An offer I could not refuse.

For one day only – Mary in overalls

Our very own fudge lady The Gingham Chicken was represented with huge baskets stuffed full of her tasty fudge. Yummy, a new cake shop specialising in wedding and other celebration cakes provided plates of sponge, bakewell tart and little chocolate mayonnaise cakes. I happily drank a glass of wine provided by a local producer, but rather stupidly didn’t take note of the name and no, I wasn’t drunk. The Liskeard area is fortunate to be well endowed with cheese makers. The award winning Cornish Blue is just up the road as was the now famous Yarg, wrapped in nettles. Sadly, Lynher Dairies outgrew its original premises and has now decamped down west. But we now have a third cheese from the Cornish Gouda Company, the only gouda to be made in the South West. I can vouch for the quality of the cheese, which we’ve bought a few times from the recently restarted farmer’s market. Giel Spierings is from a Dutch family and presumably fuels his epic canoe exploits with his cheese. The cheese comes in various varieties, my favourite being the mature one. The honey and clover is also delicious: aromatic with essence of hay meadow. Cornish Orchards, a now quite famous Liskeard apple juice and cider company was there, but I didn’t get to see them.

 

We were also joined by a not so local producer, but one we felt glad to accommodate. The Brownie Bakers is a Cornish company making scrumilicious handmade brownies which it sells all over Cornwall. We were very happy to have platefuls of their samples to dip into when the desire arose. And last, but by no means least (I hope), was yours truly, with two types of chocolate cake and a few pictures of my cakes of yore. I made a Cardamom Chocolate Traybake and an Apple, Rose and White Chocolate Traybake, both cut into 36 pieces.

Later in the day, my favourite greengrocer, Beddoes unveiled their newly developed leek, broccoli and Cornish blue cheese pie. I am particularly thrilled by this as I love pies and it can be quite hard getting hold of a good vegetarian one – this was delicious. A competition was held to find a suitable name for the pie, but the results have not yet been revealed; I’m still on tenterhooks to see if CTs suggestion of Leekskeard Pie will be adopted. This was to compete with a fish pie from the fish shop and a road kill pie from the butchers – neither of which I was interested in, but their samples disappeared quite quickly I noted.

 

Other festivities included a window display competition, prepared by art students at Liskeard Community College. I was pleased to discover that the winner was our most excellent bookshop. The local yarn bombers, organised by the Knitting Fairy, were out in force and covered the recently arrived benches in Fore Street. Music and singing competed the entertainment. At some time in the not too distant future, some of this may be appearing in a Mary Portas series on Channel Four. I sincerely hope any footage of me is edited out.

Cornish Sea Salted Caramel Birthday Cake

5 Star, Cornish, Layer cakes | 14th October 2012 | By

On Friday, we celebrated Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club’s 1st birthday.  With this momentous event in mind, we were tasked with making something rather special, a “birthday cake”, not I hasten to add that the CCC cakes aren’t always special. I’d seen a few caramel cakes on the internet recently and had also just tried Green & Black’s new sea salted milk chocolate which I rather fell for. These combined to give me salted caramel on the brain, so I decided to indulge my new found obsession and make a salted caramel chocolate cake. I couldn’t find anything in my cookery books or on the net that appealed, so I adapted the chocolate caramel cupcakes I made a couple of years ago to fit my vision.

This is what I did:
  • Dissolved 225g caster sugar in a large pan on gentle heat with 100ml water.
  • Brought to the boil and left for a few minutes to bubble away. Then “watched like a hawk” for it to turn to a nice reddish brown caramel colour, but to ensure it didn’t burn.
  • Poured in 200ml double cream.  It all went very lumpy at this point, but I stirred and stirred and eventually it became more or less smooth.
  • Stirred in 1/2 tsp Cornish sea salt and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Creamed 250g unsalted butter with 200g dark brown sugar.
  • Beat in about 1/3 of the caramel.
  • Broke in three duck eggs (large hens eggs are fine) and beat well.
  • Sifted in 200g flour (1/2 spelt, 1/2 white), 40g of cocoa and 1 rounded tsp baking powder.
  • Spooned into two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • Left to cool for ten minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Creamed 80g salted butter with 120g icing sugar until my arm was sore and the mixture was very light and fluffy.
  • Beat in another 1/2 of the remaining caramel.
  • Spread on top of one of the cooled cakes and placed the other on top.
  • Licked the bowl clean – reckoned it was the best buttercream I’ve yet made.
  • Spread the remaining caramel over the top of the cake.
  • Sprinkled various milk, dark and white chocolate bits over the top and dusted very lightly with two types of edible gold glitter.

Modesty be hanged, this cake proved to be very popular with the other cake club members and I only got to try a tiny slice. It was rich and chocolatey and offered the discerning punter three separate hits of salted caramel of differing intensities in the various layers. This just proves to me that salted caramel has not yet had its day!

I’d had visions of the caramel dripping down the sides of the cake, but by the time I got to apply it, it had set. This must mean that I am fated to make it again.

I shall be posting about the splendiferous fare that appeared at the first birthday celebrations of Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club in a few days time.