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

The Hub Cafe – Liskeard’s Hidden Gem

Way way back, when we first moved to Liskeard, there was a move to create a community centre in a recently vacated primary school. Politics was very much in evidence, but eventually disputes were resolved, the community brought on board and money raised. We now have the Liskerrett Centre, a wonderful community asset which hosts a number of artists studios, a computer suite, a monthly cinema, all sorts of events, rooms for hire and The Hub Cafe.

The Hub Cafe has been quietly producing good vegetarian food at very reasonable prices for the last few years and those in the know are highly appreciative. Cathy Ross, the cook and owner of the business provides a varied lunchtime menu, all chalked up on a blackboard, as well as coffee, tea and of course homemade cake. Different diets are catered for with gluten and dairy free options. Whenever possible Cathy uses produce from the Liskerrett garden; you can’t get much more local than that. The ambience is welcoming and family friendly. It’s the sort of place you’d feel comfortable at whether eating alone, with a group, accompanied by young children or wanting a cosy tete a tete. Although the cafe stops serving at 14:00, because it is the community centre, you can finish off your food, drink and talk in a leisurely fashion and won’t be thrown out.

Cathy herself is also an artist and her work, along with a few others, is exhibited around the cafe; this adds to the general interest in the room. The space is bright with large windows and lots of well tended plants which adds to the convivial atmosphere. There are newspapers and magazines to read and plenty of toys to keep the young ones amused. If bored with the adult conversation, older children can slope off to the IT suite where use of the computers is free.

My blogging neighbour Jane from The Hedge Combers and I met up at The Hub Cafe for lunch one day recently, to have a chat and to review the cafe.

Being vegetarian, it is such a pleasure to be offered a choice; it always takes me a while to figure out what to have. There was of course soup, but I make soup all the time at home, so wanted something a bit different. So what to go for? Feta tart, homity pie, lentil fritters, a burger …? Most of the mains come with a selection of salads so I knew I would get a goodly proportion of my five a day.

After a little bit of head scratching, I opted for the bean burger and Jane went for a lentil fritter. The lentil fritter normally comes with yogurt sauce, but Jane doesn’t eat dairy. However, it was a simple matter for Cathy to swap this for the same tomato sauce that accompanied my burger. Our plates arrived, full to the brim. They looked colourful, vibrant and enticing. I really like having lots of different tastes and textures to try and this felt like getting an all in one tapas or mezze. There was coleslaw, mixed salad, two rice salads, couscous, a pasta salad and a bean salad. All of it was delicious. The bean burger was very soft and I don’t think would have survived being in a bun. However, this was not a problem as it came bunless and with plenty of spicy tomato sauce. All this for £5.95.

As an occasional customer, I knew what to expect, but it was all new to Jane. Thankfully, she seemed delighted, both with the venue and the food. Full after her meal, she watched me consume a large piece of chocolate cake. Now, I’m always a little wary of eating cake in cafes as I am often disappointed with the quality, but as part of the review process I just had to give it a go. I’m so glad I did. This wasn’t any old chocolate cake, although I’m sure Cathy doesn’t make that sort of cake anyway, no, this was a chocolate potato cake. Yes, a cake made with potatoes. Served warm with cream, it was truly delicious. The potato gave it a lovely smooth consistency, so it almost melted in the mouth and it tasted of chocolate. The cake was covered with a rich dark chocolate ganache and then topped with white and milk chocolate curls. This was one piece of chocolate cake I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed with. Cathy was kind enough to give me the recipe, so you may well see a chocolate and potato cake appearing on the blog in the not too distant future.

If ever you are passing Liskeard, I would strongly recommend popping into The Hub Cafe for a bite to eat. And if you’re local, I would hope you are already a regular.

Thanks to Cathy for the meal. I was not required to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.

Five Arrive in Cheltenham – a Food Bloggers Meet-up

Well Walk Tea Rooms

Finally, after many months of talking, or possibly even years, #thesmuts arranged a meet up. Smuts? You might well ask, but it is a long story and I’m not going into it here. Suffice it to say, it started as a bit of fun and ended up as a group of eight food bloggers who tweet to each other using some sort of hashtag that includes “smut”. Far flung as we all are – France, Scotland, Cornwall, East Anglia and London, we eventually agreed on Cheltenham as a nice place to meet. It is relatively central and is on a main train line with good links. One by one, as is inevitable with meet-ups, various #smuts were unable to make it. Jac of Tinned Tomatoes was away in Cyprus, Dom of Belleau Kitchen wasn’t well and Sue of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate had work commitments.

Well Walk Tea Rooms – the aftermath

Thus it was the Cheltenham Five who finally met and enjoyed a gluttonous afternoon and evening of eating and drinking: Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen, Roz of The More Than Occasional Baker, Karen of Lavender and Lovage, Fiona of London Unattached and me. I’d met Karen and Fiona briefly before at a Fortnum & Mason event and it was lovely to see them again. It was also really good to finally meet Janice and Ros. With top hole organisation courtesy of Fiona and Janice, everything went swimmingly well. The only contribution I had to make was to turn up.

Well Walk Tea Rooms Cake Medley

We all met up for an early afternoon tea at the Well Walk Tea Room. Quirky, stuffed full of vintage china and other items AND with great cake, this was an excellent find – thank you Fiona. Apparently, they have supplied props for Downton Abbey and I can well believe it; there are some very fine items down in the basement and indeed crammed into every available space of the two floors of the tea rooms.

Almost as good as a Cornish cream tea

Feeling somewhat peckish as she hadn’t had any lunch, Fiona started off with toast and Gentleman’s Relish. The rest of us, no sooner saw the menu than there were cries of “we want CAKE” – a cake medley to be precise, which was a stand of six assorted slabs of homemade cake and clotted cream. We tried to be decorous, but somehow that cake just disappeared. The verdict was unanimous, we all loved the rhubarb and cinnamon cake and wanted the recipe. In this respect, we were doomed to disappointment, the recipe was a house secret. Somewhat stuffed and with dinner not far off, we somehow couldn’t resist the call of scones when we were told they were freshly out of the oven. Served with homemade jam and clotted cream, they were nearly as good as a Cornish cream tea.

Boudica

Not being much of a black tea drinker I didn’t share the very large pot of tea with the others, but ordered Rooibos and had a lovely teapot all to myself, named Boudica – yes, every teapot has its very own name.

The Tavern Cocktails

Not long after this, we made our way to The Tavern, a couple of streets away. Luckily we got a little lost which meant we had a bit more time to digest before the next onslaught. Here, we were greeted by friendly staff and complimentary cocktails – something to do with Fiona having forewarned them that we were food bloggers, I suspect. The Mojito Royal was a popular choice and one I was not averse to indulging in – it really hit the spot. Drinks were served with mugs of popcorn making for a festive atmosphere.

The Tavern Veggie Burger

Whilst we made up our minds as to what to order, we opted for some nibbles to keep us going. The chickpea chips were a real winner and everyone’s favourite, but we were all a bit nonplussed by the deep fried olives, which were, quite frankly, weird and not something I’d choose to eat again. The others all had fleshy things for their mains, but were well satisfied. I was pleased to have some interesting veggie choices. I opted for a rather splendid burger stuffed with all sorts, including roast vegetables and a field mushroom. The fact it was accompanied by more of the delightful chickpea chips might have played its part in my decision.

The Tavern Kitchen

The meal didn’t disappoint. Again the service was good and the prices were very reasonable. I’d be very happy to pay a return visit and rather wish we had something similar here in Liskeard. We were asked to take a look upstairs where the dishes are cooked in front of diners. In fact you can sit at the kitchen serving bar and for a few pounds ask to taste any of the dishes you see being prepared. This is a fun idea, but with the clang and clatter of pans, perhaps not the most conducive place for a tete a tete. We were, I felt, better off in the relative quiet of downstairs.

The Tavern Molten Chocolate Pudding

Full as we were, we just couldn’t miss out on pudding and chocolate had to feature somehow. I was lucky – we plumped for a hot chocolate mouse with pistachio ice-cream – we all tucked in.

Lypiatt Breakfast

For some reason we picked a particularly busy weekend and were unable to book into the same hotel, as was the original plan. This was a shame as it would have been fun to carry on the food fest by feasting on breakfast together. After trying several hotels, I eventually found one with a free room and gosh I was lucky. Lypiatt House was a lovely little Regency hotel in a quiet and attractive quarter of Cheltenham, not far from both the town centre and the station. I had the best night’s sleep there I’ve had in a very long time and the breakfast was delightful. I’m not sure I’d put the hotel down as the five star it claimed, but it really was a very comfortable and spacious place to stay. I later learned that there was a “buskers’ conference” in Cheltenham that weekend which might have accounted for the lack of hotels. It all seemed rather peculiar and I have to say I didn’t encounter a single busker whilst out and about in Cheltenham.

Lypiatt House

I really enjoyed my trip and meeting up with the other #smuts; in fact I’m looking forward to a repeat performance and maybe with the full eight next time. Not only was it a pleasure to join company with such lively and friendly fellow food bloggers, but it was also very interesting to finally visit Cheltenham. As a regency spa town, I knew I would like the Georgian architecture, but with its wide leafy avenues too, I was unprepared for how much it made me miss Leamington Spa, where I lived for seven years – a similar, if slightly smaller town.

For further insights into our trip and a glimpse of better photos, do take a look at: Janice’s posts part 1 and part 2 and Fiona’s post.

Everything’s Hunky Dory in Newport

I’ve been following Shaheen’s blog, Allotment2Kitchen, for a few years now. I first knew her as MangoCheeks when she was living in Glasgow with her productive allotment and creative vegetarian cooking. Somehow, despite having a full time job, she managed to blog almost daily. She now has less time for blogging because she is running a vegetarian cafe in Newport and is having plenty of practice in putting her creative culinary skills to even better use. The cafe is Hunky Dorys – if ever you are in the vicinity of Newport, I strongly recommend you hunt it out.

Back in April when we were in that neck of the woods for my cousin’s wedding, I was hoping we would find a bit of time to slip away and pay Shaheen and Hunky Dorys a visit. Luckily we did and a had a quick tour of Newport into the bargain. We slipped off after breakfast on Satruday morning and arrived in Newport bright and early, too early for Hunky Dorys, which didn’t open until 10:00. This actually worked out really well as we had a chance to explore the city. The highlight for us was an impressive mural of the Chartists in an underground passage in the town centre. We were rather horrified to learn later from Shaheen that it was going to be knocked down to make way for a new shopping centre. Apparently feelings in the city were running high as a demonstration to protest against its demolition was going to be held later that day.

So to Hunky Dorys. I knew the food was going to be good, but had little idea what else to expect. I was delighted with what we found, we both were in fact. I now have serious cafe envy and wish we had something like it closer to home. The style was informal and friendly with wooden tables and chairs, cushions if you wanted them and various blackboards listing the scrumptious fare on offer – now that’s what I call a proper vegetarian cafe. Breakfast and lunch are served as well as coffee and cake of course. I was impressed by the wide selection of speciality teas which included some particularly unusual ones. The menu changes regularly, so customers don’t have a chance to get bored and vegans have plenty to choose from. Some of the fresh produce is home grown adding resonance to the name Allotment 2 Kitchen, or in this case Allotment 2 Cafe. I would have been very happy to stay for lunch as there were several things that sounded specially appetising and Shaheen’s pies in particular are legendary. She has recently written a post about the first one she made, garlic mushroom parsley pies. My photographs, sadly do not to it justice, but they are the best I have.

Having ordered our cake and cups of chilli and ginkgo tea respectively, we sat down to soak up the ambience. Cakes? Yes, even after a massive breakfast at the hotel, we could not resist the array of tempting treats laid out before us.  CT went for a strawberry chocolate cake and I had an Oreo chocolate one – both vegan and both absolutely delicious. We were soon joined by Shaheen, who managed to spare us a few minutes from her busy cooking schedule for an impromptu chat. CT thought she was absolutely gorgeous (which she was), so I had to remind him she was already taken. Corroboration came in the form of her husband D, who I was really pleased to meet as he is often mentioned on the Allotment 2 Kitchen blog. After a longer chin wag than she’d intended, Shaheen had to get back to ensuring her customers had something to eat for lunch, D had to go into town and we had a wedding to attend. It was with some regret that we had to leave so soon. It was a joy to meet Shaheen and finally get to see her excellent cafe. We both wish her every success with it.

Shaheen is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa and has chosen a particularly appropriate ingredient – do take a look.

Riverford and a Blogger’s Lunch

With my organic radar firmly in place, I’ve known about Riverford for a very long time: my mother gets a weekly vegetable box, the vans drive past our door on a regular basis and our sadly missed local organic shop, which closed last year, stocked much of its veg. As a Soil Association (SA) member of many years, I have heard on-going reports and I am pleased that all the vegetables grown in the UK that find their way into the weekly boxes are SA certified. As well as their veg box operation, they have a handful of farm shops around the area and a restaurant with an excellent reputation – the Riverford Field Kitchen at Wash Farm, near Buckfastleigh, Devon.

Where is the chocolate I hear you say? Well read on and hopefully, you won’t be disappointed.

Guy Watson was the enterprising farmer who founded the business on the family farm back in 1987. From three acres and 20 local customers, things have literally mushroomed. It is now a multi-million pound business delivering over 40,000 boxes a week with a network of growers throughout the UK and beyond. Last year Guy won Farmer of the Year at the BBC Food and Farming Awards, no mean achievement.

When I was invited to attend a tour of the farm followed by lunch at the Field Kitchen, I was delighted. CT, with his obsession for novel crops, got to come along too. We have been to the Field Kitchen once before, a few years ago, to hear a talk by Graham Harvey. It has lived on in my memory as one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

We were very happy to find ourselves in the company of a select band of local bloggers. I’ve linked to their write ups so you can get a different take on the visit and see some better pictures!

  • Natalie of the HungryHinny, a fellow member of the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club and We Should Cocoa contributor.
  • Grazing Kate who has organised a couple of South West blogger meet-ups which I managed to attend.
  • Marcus of Country Woodsmoke, a blogger who is passionate about smoking food and who I’d met online but not in actuality.
  • Frugal Queen (accompanied by her husband), a blogger I’d very strangely not come across before – strange because she too lives in Liskeard.
 

The farm tour commenced with the packing shed which was impressively large and well organised. After seeing pallets of boxes packed full of juicy looking veg ready for delivery and crates of tomatoes and avocados, my mouth was well and truly watering. Next up, the field trip; bravely, we ventured outside into the cold and blustery wind. The fields are scattered over an extensive acreage, so we all hopped into a rather muddy and battered works van for a whistle stop tour of the winter crops. Fields of broad beans, leeks, kale, and my favourite purple sprouting broccoli were duly inspected. Guy had plenty to tell us and it was all very interesting. He talked with knowledge and passion about his crops and the challenges of growing them organically. We found out the fields are fertilised by the farm’s own dairy cows managed by Guy’s brother. Grass and clover leys are also used to maintain fertility.

We had a quick walk up to the woods to see the wild garlic which was starting to come through and warned not to confuse it with cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum). In its early stages it looks similar to the garlic. but it is not only very unpleasant to taste but also poisonous. The last stop was the polytunnels, where Guy handed out sharp knives and encouraged us to gather our own greens. We all got to pick some of the delicious salad leaves that I always start craving at this time of year. The views were picturesque and quintessentially Devon. The farm is located in the South Hams which is particularly pretty with lots of interlocking hills, woods, hedges and varying shades of green.

Chilled to the bone, but not in the least downhearted, we were rather glad to get into the warmth of the restaurant and see what delights awaited us. And delights there were aplenty. The Field Kitchen has an informal and sociable feel with long wooden benches for sharing with whoever else happens to be about. Bowls of food are passed around and diners help themselves to as much or as little of whichever ones appeal. If an intimate candelit dinner is what you are after, look elsewhere. Personally, I really like this way of dining. There were many nice touches including jam jars of local flowers and slices of blood orange in the water jugs.

The food was as good as I remembered it, all very fresh and completely delicious. We started with bread made on the premises and a blue cheese, celery and apple salad with hazelnuts and radish sprouts. This was followed by a veritable banquet. I had the vegetarian option of course: griddled aubergine and ricotta cheese on a bed of butternut squash, lentils and spinach. I’m a bit funny about aubergines, but these were melt in the mouth delicious. The accompanying vegetables were so well prepared and varied, that I would have been very happy with just those: beetroots and carrots, celeriac, potato and mushroom gratin with rosemary, purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflower with mustard, spring greens and curly kale with wild garlic (ramsons). CT was more than content to tuck into the duck which he found both tender and flavoursome. He took little persuasion to take seconds and even thirds. I enjoyed everything I ate, but I think my favourite dish of all was the spring greens and curly kale with ramsons; the potatoes came a very close second.

We were joined for lunch by Guy and two members of his PR team, Holly and Katie. As befits the setting, lively conversations and laughter erupted from our table. It turned out that Holly and Katie were both cake enthusiasts and seemed to be quite keen on chocolate too. There were lots of oohs and ahs over pudding. Head Chef Rob Andrew and the restaurant team had put on a large selection, all laid out on the counter for our delectation; we agonised over our choice – we were only allowed one. As well as sticky toffee pudding with or without custard (perfect weather for it), lemon mascarpone cheesecake, apple pear and fig tart and orange marmalade steamed pudding were on offer. There were also two chocolate choices: poached pear and chocolate pavlova or chocolate orange and almond torte. Oh my, what a dilemma. As I can never resist meringue, I plumped for the pavlova, but with a few backward glances of regret for what might have been. Katie, my guardian angel, saw my predicament and somehow charmed an additional slice out of the chef, so I got to have my cake and eat it – twice! It was worth it.

A two course meal at £22.50 is not cheap, but it is excellent food and you are unlikely to go hungry. The ten of us at our table were unable to finish the dishes from the main course and could only just squeeze dessert in. All of the food is organic and the dining experience is lively and interesting.

A few days later, we were sent a Riverford Veg Box to try. The choice of veg boxes is quite remarkable in terms of variety and size; ours was the small one. It didn’t seem that small to me and was packed with a good variety of fresh organic vegetables. We used to subscribe to a veg box scheme back along, before we had a plot to grow our own and although we were happy enough with it, we did get a little bored of the endless swedes in the winter months. No such problem here. We had a large crunchy lettuce, a bag of potatoes, carrots, a swede, calabrese, a cauliflower, tomatoes on the vine and a box of chestnut mushrooms. A couple of recipes and some farm news was also included, giving a personal touch to each delivery. The packaging used was minimal and the only non recyclable material was the plastic bag the lettuce came in. This is a massive reduction on the number of bags used to buy the equivalent produce in a supermarket. This box costs £12.99, which like the Field Kitchen is not cheap, but given the freshness of the produce, its organic status and its delivery to your front door, it is, I think, good value. Fruit boxes and meat boxes are also available and individual quantities can be purchased on line along with an astonishing array of dairy, store cupboard ingredients, drinks and baked goods – all organic of course.

Look out for a Riverford giveaway coming soon.

The Hidden Hut Revealed

I have great pleasure in welcoming CT to my blog for his annual guest review. Crafter of language, food pioneer, gardener, botanist extraordinaire and eater of cakes, he can now be found at From our Owen Correspondent as well as at his well established blog Radix. From our Owen Correspondent is a new blog featuring various tracts from his writing career on such varied subjects as fermented foods, travels around Australasia and garden visits.


In spring, a young man’s thoughts are said to turn to love. In autumn, I find a good stroll along the Cornish coast path serves just as well as a means of delighting the senses and stocking up on joie de vivre before the winter sets in.  So when Choclette suggested a walk along the Roseland Peninsula one sunny and calm day recently, I jumped at the opportunity.  Roseland is a pleasant, beckoning finger of land that juts out into the sea on Cornwall’s south coast between Falmouth and Mevagissey.  The coast path here has less of the patella-pummelling ups and downs which characterise some sections. I hardly know this area at all, so it seemed like a good chance to make its acquaintance.


Rather than portray this as a gentle trek for the middle aged across the beaches and along the cliffs, my vanity dictates that I dress things up in slightly more heroic garb; let’s call it another in a series of impromptu ethnobotanical walks – where I brush up on my floral identification skills and try and recall the various uses made of the plants in days gone by. I occasionally nibble on a leaf or two, but anyone who knows me will confirm that this is hardly sufficient inducement to persuade me to drag my frame on a forced route march of several miles, no matter how stunning the scenery. No, I prefer to combine some foraging with at least one stop in a well-appointed tea room or café for proper refuelling. I mean, have you actually tried raw seakale shoots? Choclette is astute enough to know, that like snakes and numerous armies, I too march on my stomach, so she mentioned that a café stop, at a place called the Hidden Hut was part of the deal; she’d heard good things about it.

We parked up at Pendower, not far from the Nare Head Hotel and duly set off. The sky was cloudless and the sea had that strange glassy quality that seems to come with calm conditions; the waves lapping on the shore made scarcely a murmur.   There were few other walkers around and we enjoyed the sensation of peace and isolation in a majestic setting. It was hard to imagine a better way to work up an appetite. 

After walking steadily for some time, we rounded a headland and before us, a few hundred yards away was Porthcurnick Beach, the home of The Hidden Hut. Indeed, we could see a squat wooden structure with a few chairs and tables placed around it just above the strand.  More alarmingly, as I was beginning to suffer pangs of hunger and my throat was distinctly dry, the shutters seemed to be closed.  We both exchanged anxious glances as we continued down the path and approached the beach. Then, with impeccable timing, as we crossed the sand, the shutters lifted and so did our spirits.


We plonked our bags on one of the large wooden tables, decorated with vases of flowers and proceeded to the counter.  Choclette opted for a reviving mug of chai and the inevitable chocolate brownie, while I went for a more prosaic Earl Grey which I followed up with a Roskilly’s ice cream – from the lovely Jersey cows not so far away on the Lizard. 


It was abundantly clear that this was no ordinary beach hut café.  Not a single all day breakfast featured on the menu. In fact, al fresco gourmet dining seemed more like it – quite a surprise given the unadventurous fare walkers often have to endure when tramping the coast path.  


The hut itself is owned by the National Trust and has apparently occupied the site since WWII.  Hidden may be pushing it somewhat – it doesn’t look as though it would have presented any difficulties for a U boat captain intent on target practice.

In its current incarnation it is run by Jemma and Simon, a local couple, with Jemma’s mum, Maggie offering logistical support on the cake front.  Their policy is a simple one: the best local food, prepared with love and care, for a reasonable price. And the punters have voted with their feet – literally – there’s no parking at the Hidden Hut, so everyone has to walk there, either from Portscatho, about half a mile away, or from nearby Rosevine Hill. And after the relative isolation of the walk, there did seem to be quite a few people gravitating towards this rather unpromising looking shack.  Simon is a trained chef and in addition to the fare served during normal hours, he also cooks up a storm in summer (when the weather doesn’t) with great paella pans for summer evening feasts. 

Jemma started to chalk up the lunch menu on the blackboards and we exchanged glances once again. The weather was lovely, the location superb and the offerings very tempting. Hang it, we thought, let’s stay for lunch now we’re here.    


Choclette opted for a delicious vegetarian option, a salad of tangerine, feta, Spanish olives, mixed leaves and toasted almonds with warm pitta bread; I went for Italian meatballs with mozzarella. Both were truly delicious and consumed with gusto. Eating outdoors is a real delight and is in fact the only option here.


Refuelled, we proceeded to march on to St Anthony Head, stopping at the fort to take in views of Falmouth and St Mawes, before returning via the inland route to Portscatho. If truth be told, I was feeling pretty weary by this time and longed for a sit down. Descending to the Hidden Hut once more, I prayed that this last homely house would be open for refreshments before we lugged ourselves over the last leg of our journey. It was indeed, so I had another pot of tea and an ice cream chaser before carting my weary bones back to the car and home.

When the weather is with you, as it was on the day we visited, I can think of no better place to work up an appetite and eat some first class food in a lovely setting. In fact, if the wind and rain hold off, we’re going back this weekend with some friends. 

I’m sure my mum told me that you shouldn’t judge a book by the cover; in future I will avoid doing the same to any hidden huts on the Cornish coast – because at least one of them is a real gem.

PS The wind and rain did hold off, we did go back with our friends yesterday and we had a celebratory birthday lunch in bright sunshine; everyone was as impressed as we had been.

Chocolate Week and Cornish Goings On

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s National Chocolate Week this week and I wanted to pay homage to this wonderful food of the gods. This is a chocolate blog after all and it would be a pretty poor show not to take part in this celebratory week. Last year, I attended an excellent tea and chocolate tasting event on the Tregothnan Estate. The previous year I created my own chocolate event. However, what with one thing and another, I really didn’t have time to organise much this year – I had loads of cakes to plan for and bake for a start! Looking at the events calendar, there wasn’t a lot going on in Cornwall. But there were a couple of tea shops taking part and both sounded tempting.

Chocolate Week, now in it’s eighth year is sponsored mainly by Divine, a Fairtrade chocolate company which is 45% owned by it’s farmers. Launched in 1998, this was the UK’s first fair trade chocolate company and it has been going from strength to strength ever since. This week is all about indulgence, but indulgence in good quality and ethical chocolate cannot be a bad thing.

So to yesterday. I had a really busy but really enjoyable day and packed loads in, including a couple of chocolate week celebrations and far too much food. The morning was spent finishing off and decorating the cakes which had to be delivered by 12:00 – more on those in another post. Suffice it to say, I managed to get them completed and delivered in more or less good condition by 12:15.

We were now free to head off to our first chocolate destination, the Cowslip Cafe, a tearoom I was very pleased to discover. Set on a working farm together with a needlecraft workshop and shop selling all things material and quilted, it was a quiet location with lovely views across the valley to Launceston. The menu was interesting and the food good. Many of the vegetables used in the dishes were grown in an adjacent garden. We sat outside in the sunshine sheltered beneath a turf roof. The chocolate offerings of the day were A white chocolate cheesecake and a chocolate roulade. We had one of each to share – well what else could we do to support Chocolate Week? The white chocolate cheesecake was particularly good.

Feeling full, we headed off to our next chocolate destination which entailed a long drive through Cornwall’s picturesque (read tortuous) lane network to the wind blasted and furthest flung part of North Cornwall – Morwenstow. This hamlet is renowned as the home of the Reverend Hawker (1803-1875), an opium smoking eccentric whose activities included dressing up as a mermaid to encourage tourists to the area. He was by all accounts a bit of a case. He is, however, well known in church circles for introducing the Harvest Festival to Churches in 1843. We checked out the gothic rectory he had built, complete with church spire chimneys. He must have had some cash, because it was enormous. You can find out a bit more about his eccentric behavour over at Feast & Festivals.

We sat out in the autumnal sunshine again, this time at the Rectory Tearooms, an award winning establishment recognised by the Tea Guild. We could see why. The tea menu was not only present but was quite extensive – heavens to Hawker, it was even in the cake we ate. Yes, we managed to force down a piece of Divine Chocolate and Earl Grey Torte (we did share this one) and Divine it really was. CT partook of Orange Oolong and I supped White Monkey. This wonderful establishment is also set on a working farm, an organic one this time, so I was doubly pleased.

Our rapidly expanding girths were in need of trimming, so we set off in the late afternoon sunshine to walk the cliffs. The views were stunning, the North Coast is particularly dramatic in this area, although rather hard on the knees. We paid a brief visit to Hawker’s Hut, a small bothy set into the cliffs – perhaps this is where he smoked his opium, wrote poetry and watched the smuggling activities of his parishioners.

With the sun sinking fairly rapidly, we set off back to our first stop – the party was now in full swing involving plentiful supplies of food of all sorts (including chocolate cake), drink and Breton dancing.

The Rectory Tearooms, we were already aware of, but it’s thanks to Chocolate Week we’ve now found a new cafe well worth revisiting. And because of the special occasion we both mini 70% Divine dark chocolates to take home with us from both establishments. Today is the last day of Chocolate Week, so you still have a chance to take part. You can find out what’s going on around the country here. If you are in London you have Chocolate Unwrapped. I’m trying very hard not to feel too deprived down in this remote part of the country, although there are of course certain compensations!

As I was going to St Ives


Not having visited St Ives for at least four years, I thought it was about time we renewed our acquaintance. It was my birthday and “I’ll do what I want to” – that was my line of reasoning and I did have the day off work booked anyway. I dragged CT along with me and we boarded the train westwards. Parking in St Ives is a bit of a nightmare and taking the train is the most sensible option on all counts – it’s a lovely ride.

In my naivety, I had assumed a midweek visit before the school holidays would be fairly quiet. How wrong I was, the place was heaving – note to self: remember this for next year. We tried to make the best of it and as is usual, in honey pots like this one, we managed to find a few tranquil spots.

As a local, it’s easy to forget how beautiful this county is, so making irregular pilgrimages to the more scenic spots is a good reminder. St Ives is a typical fishing village with narrow streets and small cottages perched on rocky slopes with the ocean an ever present force. On this particular day, thankfully, the weather was kind, so the sea was blue and the beaches looked particularly inviting.
Having disembarked at the station, we followed the throng through the maze of streets. Buskers, punters and shops provided us with entertainment. The real highlight for me, was, cue fanfare, a chocolate shop offering its own artisan chocolates – I Should Coco. As it was my birthday, I felt no compunction whatsoever in treating myself to some of the gorgeous looking creations within.
Gorge, I have to confess, is exactly what we did. Unfortunately, the pristine designs became rather smudged with cocoa powder from the chilli truffle which I could not resist, so the only picture I actually took was not a particularly pretty sight and hence, does not appear here. Luckily, the taste was not affected and they were truly excellent. I will, however, be reviewing some of these chocolates in a later post, so pictures will be available then.
Amazingly, we later came across another chocolate shop, Chocolat St Ives which included an interesting selection of baking bits and bobs. Sad, but true, we’d had enough of chocolate by this stage, so we looked but didn’t purchase.

St Ives is, of course, more famous for its artists than its chocolate. This time, we gave the Tate a miss, but spent some time at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden instead. This was her studio for the last 25 years of her life and her sculptures are displayed both inside and out. They are truly wonderful – they have such a tactile look about them, I just wanted to go and touch every single one.

After a brisk stroll along the sea-front and a paddle in the sea, our interest in chocolate had returned. Tea and brownies at the Digey Food Room satisfied this need. There was a wide range of Teapigs to choose from and the brownies were really good. This gave us the energy to puff up the hill to the station and on to the train home. A long, but satisfying day out.

Fun, But No Buns in Bath


Oh, we had such a good time in Bath. Great food of course, excellent company, fantastic weather and what a beautiful city Bath is. Lovely Regency architecture with that warm honey coloured Cotswold stone and an abundance of trees and parks everywhere. I don’t think we were anywhere (and we did have a good walk around) that didn’t have something green and growing to look at. We timed our trip quite accidentally to coincide with the Bath Festival, so caught snatches of arias coming over the walls and street theatre everywhere. We even went to the circus. There were so many highlights in our brief one and a half day sojourn, it’s difficult to know which ones to include. So here are a few of them.

 

 
The three of us, our guide (an ex-resident of Bath), CT and myself had a relatively peaceful train journey up to Bath on Thursday morning then made our way to our host’s house. He has the biggest collection of books I’ve ever seen extending, as it does, over every available surface including the stairs. A guided tour, occupied us on Thursday afternoon, which turned out to be very hot.
 
 
Walking past the Abbey, CT noticed Minerva, a chocolate shop – a chocolate shop? What could we do? We had to go in of course. Lots of good looking chocolates displaying Gallic elegance which, with the aid of the price tags, we managed to resist. One side of the shop was given over to the art of the chocolatier. We stayed in to sample the ice-cream, and naturally we all chose a wicked extra rich chocolate one, the perfect antidote to the sweltering weather.
 
 
Whilst walking along the river Avon, we noticed a whole row of Tulip trees all in flower. CT, lacking a picture of these in his collection, took the opportunity of acquiring one. We came across a few Norway Maples which were also noteworthy, resplendent in their bunches of winged seeds.
 

 
After a quick rest in the shade of the our host’s garden, we set off for Demuths Vegetarian Restaurant where we were to meet up with some of our guide’s friends. The meal was a delight, we were all six of us more than satisfied, even though only two of us were vegetarians. It was a real luxury for me to have such a wide choice of dishes.
 

So to the main event on Friday – a day at the Vegetarian Cookery School learning how to make Middle Eastern mezze. Wow, was this an enjoyable course! The school is actually in Rachel Demuth’s house, four floors overlooking Bath with wonderful views from every window and a delightful garden. One floor has been converted into a large kitchen where there was plenty of room for the ten of us on the course, the two chefs and a washer up. I had to feel sorry for the washer up, who spent most of the day just doing that. The used teaspoons alone must have been in the hundreds as we kept tasting our way through the day – a little more sumac, no perhaps some lemon or maybe another pinch of salt….. I later learnt that she was Rachel’s daughter earning some extra pocket money. We did nothing but cook and eat all day. We were welcomed on arrival with Baklava and Kunafa pastries. We then proceeded to make:
  • Almond & Orange Blossom Fruit Pastries, which we ate as a mid-morning snack in the living room.
  • Dukkah, Lebanese Thyme Flat Bread, Corander Butterbean Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and Muhammara Dip which we ate in the kitchen at lunchtime.
  • Falafal and Tahini Dip which we ate in the garden along with a glass of prosecco to toast the chefs, washer upper, us and one of the participants whose 85th birthday it was.
  • Imman Bayaldi, Tabouleh, and Sumac Courgettes with Haloumi which we ate as the grand finale in the dining room and drank with the same zesty white wine that we had imbibed at the restaurant the night before.
  • Labna with Rose and Mint Strawberries and Thyme and Almond Honeycomb, which was our very last course.
 
Completely stuffed is what we were by the end of the day. Despite all of the very yummy food that we made, the two highlights for me were how to use a knife properly and how to cut an onion without crying. I was also delighted to discover sumac and pomegranate molasses and get an idea of how to use them. I am now saving up to go on another of the many courses that are offered.
 
CT enjoyed his day watching street entertainment and then sleeping under a tree at the botanical gardens – botanising indeed!
 
It was then off to see Tabu, performed by No Fit State Circus. This was an amazing and unexpected performance where incredible acrobatic feats were performed right under our noses.
 
The following morning we made our weary but satisfied way back to Cornwall expressing our intentions to return for a longer visit to include a dip in the hot baths which we’d heard so much about.

Feeling Full In Fowey

Fowey is one of our favourite local destinations, but we don’t manage to get there very often. However, we succeeded a couple of weeks ago – how time flies – and had a very enjoyable time of it! In fact it was the 5th March, St Piran’s Day, the patron saint of Cornwall so what better cause for celebration. Occasionally we drive to Polruan or Bodinnick and take one of the ferries, but this time we drove to Fowey itself. Parking up at the top of the hill, we wandered down through the winding lanes and alleyways, past the obligatory ancestral pile and through the churchyard to the river and main part of town.
 
 
 
Having watched a big china clay tanker go up the river (Fowey is a deep water port), we wandered upriver ourselves, passing a number of little shops and galleries until we got to the Bodinnick Ferry where the cars can cross the water. We surmised that this was where the station must have been when the railway used to come to Fowey and then seeing a road named “Station Road” we decided to follow it. We ended up on the Saints Way, a long distance footpath and went through a delightful woodland ending up at the top of the hill overlooking the Fowey river and town. We were both much impressed with the wide expanse of water featured below.
 
 
The treat of the day was, as usual to have lunch at Pinky Murphy’s Cafe as we find the food there to be exceptionally good. We are obviously not alone in this, it is quite a popular haunt and it has been known for us to be turned away due to lack of space. We were lucky this time and sat down contentedly upstairs in our favourite location, both diving to the bookshelves so we could peruse our chosen literature while we waited for our lunch. Pinky Murphy’s is a quirky but fun establishment and has an eclectic mix of, well, everything – cutlery, crockery and furnishings all delightfully mismatched with, surprise surprise, many shades of pink to be found scattered about.
 
 
Although the desserts looked tempting, we decided we really ought to get out in the spring sunshine before it disappeared. For our afternoon perambulation we went up to the castle on the south side of the town, passing Ready Money Cove on our way. After sitting on some rocks by the castle, soaking up the sun, we exerted ourselves further by walking along the cliff path for a while. The sea was a dazzling blue and naturally we had to stop and appreciate it further. A thoughtfully placed bench provided us with the necessary back support. Never has working up an appetite for tea been so pleasant!
 
 
As the sun started to sink into the ocean we knew it was time for tea. Decision time – cake was a must – did we go back to Pinky Murphy’s for the rather delectable chocolate refrigerator cake we had seen earlier or should we try somewhere different? We opted for adventure and ended up at The Dwelling House, a tea shop which specialised in teas for the connoisseur – not that we fit that category, but thought we’d give it a go. The chocolate cake was delicious, aided no doubt, by the huge dollop of clotted cream. The tea was also excellent. My Silver Needles (white tea) was served in a wonderfully designed teapot which would not look out of place in a Japanese tea ceremony – hardly surprising as it was from Japan. The tea ambiance was reinforced by the singular sight of teacups hanging in picture frames all around the room.
 

Fully replenished, we staggered slowly up the hill secure in the knowledge that we had yet again shown no restraint. But it was fun!

All is Not Lost in Lostwithiel – Photomontage

No indeed, this small town packs in plenty of delights. Lostwithiel is the ancient capital of Cornwall – one of many! Cornwall is not part of England, just ask the Cornish. It’s the home of King Arthur, tin mines, pasties, but most importantly clotted cream. A dear friend, now deceased who swam in the seas nearby well into her eighties claimed that the Phoenicians brought clotted cream with them when they came trading for tin several thousand years ago. We came not in search of tin, but of cream teas!
Lostwithiel, a river runs though it, the Fowey, named after the Cornish word for the beech trees that hug its banks. In fact, in the middle ages this was one of the biggest ports on the South Coast of Britain. Since then the river has silted up with all the tin mining going on upstream in previous centuries. It was after all a stannary town – an administrative centre for the collection of Crown taxes on tin exports. Now the only boats you see are canoes and rowing boats. Although a few miles downsteam at Fowey, once home of Daphne du Maurier, large tankers still regularly call in to collect the local china clay.
Restormel Castle up on the hill was used by the dukes of Cornwall to stamp their authority on the region and protect their assets. It took a bit of a battering in the English Civil War. From the castle it’s possible to walk through to the Lanhydrock Estate where you can see what they did with the money made from their exploits. There is much more to tell about Lostwithiel including some intriguing connections with the United States.

But enough history – let’s eat!
Where better than Muffins, Lostwithiel’s very own award winning teashop. Not that we are going to be eating muffins of course, this is a cream tea expedition.
A Cornish Cream Tea is not to be confused with a Devonshire cream tea or any other cream tea to be found in England. The jam is applied to the cut scone first – the order in which this is done is very important. This is then topped with a magnificent dollop of delightful clotted cream. For those who have not yet tried this manna from heaven, it is produced by scalding rich milk from our lush pastures and then skimming the cream off the top. The scones at Muffins are particularly good – better than many of the overblown monsters sold in less deserving establishments. Actually, the scone is a bit of a Johnny come lately. Traditionally, a cream tea was served on a Cornish split – a yeasted roll.
If you are looking for something a little more exotic, you could pop up to Bellamama, a small but perfectly formed deli just up the road. Here you can get such delights as black garlic, chocolate cake, hand made pizzas and local cheeses such as Yarg, a speciality cheese wrapped in nettles – it’s delicious, honest!