Last week, CT and I were somewhat shocked to find we’d been together for twenty years. How did that happen? To celebrate we both took the day off and went clambering around the Cornish coast. We also called in at the Canteen at Maker Heights. How could we resist the best food in those parts? There, sitting on the counter was a round of almond rye shortbread. Completely intrigued, I had to recreate it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Whenever we head west out of Liskeard, we have the delight of driving down the Glynn Valley. Glynn is the Cornish word for a deep wooded valley, so the name is a bit of a tautology, but an attractive one. This eight mile stretch of the A38 links Liskeard to the A30 and runs along the edge of Bodmin Moor. It mostly follows a particularly attractive stretch of the River Fowey on its twisting and fast flowing way to meet the sea at Fowey. The interlocking hills either side are mostly covered in trees with intermittent glimpses of beautiful scenery. I always look forward to this part of the journey.
|Nice car, but not the one we did out trip in|
This particular day, we were celebrating CTs birthday and taking a trip down west to visit a garden we hadn’t seen before. As soon as I heard about MoneySupermarket’s £50 Road Trip Challenge I knew immediately this would be the trip I would be writing about and the Glynn Valley would be the main feature. It was virtually impossible taking pictures from the car, so we stopped off in a couple of places to have a mooch about and take photographs. The grand views turned out to be too awkward to capture.
Not only is the Glynn Valley beautiful, it’s also remarkably interesting with much to see and do; you could spend a couple of days here doing your sightseeing dreckly (as we say down here). It starts with Carnglaze Caverns, which we passed by on this occasion. Famously used to store the Royal Navy’s supply of rum in the 2nd World War, it started life as a slate quarry. It is now a visitor attraction with cavern tours and a fairy dell. It is also a rather spectacular concert venue with excellent acoustics and a very steady temperature. We once had the pleasure of attending a Show of Hands concert there and can certainly attest to the sound quality.
Driving on a little further we came to the glittering spires of the pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap retail park which is Trago Mills. A visit here can only be described as an “experience”. To get a taste as to what’s in store, here’s one of the many statues that adorn the site.
Just up the road on the right is a lane leading to Pinsla Nursery. It’s run by the appropriately named Claire Woodbine (aka honeysuckle) and looks down over the valley. It sells some unusual plants and has an interesting and arty garden.
Travelling on further, we had fleeting glimpses through the trees of the rather magnificent Glynn House. Rebuilt in 1805 by Edward John Glynn, High Sherif of Cornwall, it became a biological research institute in 1962. Rather sadly I feel, it has now been converted into luxury homes.
The road curves, bends and weaves alongside the mainline railway on its way to Bodmin Parkway station. Then the railway parts company with the Glynn Valley and follows the River Fowey to Lostwithiel. Unusually, for a mainline station, Bodmin Parkway is set in rural isolation at the foot of the Lanhydrock Estate. Here you can depart the modern age , get cinders in your hair and take a ride on the Bodmin and Wenford steam train to Bodmin Central station. We pulled in to the car park to see whether there were any steam trains in the vicinity. There weren’t.
Once owned by the Glynn family, Lanyhydrock is a vast and magnificent estate which now belongs to the National Trust. We decided to take a stroll up the old carriage way to the bridge over the River Fowey. Nice to have a station built just for you so you can travel in comfort to the ancestral pile after an all night blinder in London. The carriageway sports a lovely selection of rather grand trees and makes for a very pleasant walk through the estate.
Another mile or so further along the road, is the turn off to Cardinham Woods, a large tract of forestry, ideal for walking and mountain biking. For those less energetic, it has a nice cafe which is worth a visit if you are passing. It has also served as a venue for the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club. Nice as it is, we decided not to stop this time.
Almost at the head of the valley is Cornwall’s prettiest crematorium!
Finally, we passed under the Halgavor bridge, a small but impressive suspension bridge used by cyclists following the National Cycle Route.
At this point we left the Glynn Valley and drove down the A30 to our final destination, Penrose Water Gardens near Truro. We wandered amongst the several acres of lily ponds and were entertained by the antics of damsel flies, butterflies and ducklings. The cafe serves local food, mostly grown on site: a tour of the polytunnels left us in no doubt thats our attempts at productive home growing are somewhat amateurish. It has a good reputation and was certainly busy when we stopped by for lunch.
We finished our meal with a banoffee pie for CT and a warm brownie with clotted cream for me. After all no road trip is complete without chocolate.
|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.
Our celebratory trip to the Isles of Scilly this year, taken as our annual holiday, was utterly and completely glorious. Good walking, a bit of pampering and relaxation and delicious food in a quiet and beautiful location was what we were after and that is exactly what we got. The weather wasn’t too bad either. We only got three days of drizzle and mists and the rest of our week was near unbroken sunshine – not bad for this part of the world.
|View from Samson Hill Cottage|
|Cromwell’s Castle, Tresco|
|Rocky islet, Bryher|
|Our last night|
We’ve been promising ourselves a trip to the Scilly Isles for years. I went to Bryher on a school camping trip when I was twelve and fell in love with the island then. I’d never been back and CT had never been at all despite all the botanical delights to be seen there. If it hadn’t been for Issy of Clotted Cream Diaries, I very much doubt we’d have made it this year either. Issy is Scillonian born and this year left her life here on the mainland to go home and set up an eco B&B which just happened to be on the island of Bryher. What with significant birthdays to celebrate and total exhaustion to alleviate, the call was just too strong.
|One of many roadside stalls with honesty box, St Agnes|
|Get your pizzas here|
The Scilly Isles are made up of many islands, but only five of them are inhabited. Bryher is the smallest, but also the least developed with a particularly wild moorland quality, which made me feel right at home. We managed to visit all five islands whilst we were there and although Bryher remains my favourite, we were both taken with St Martin’s and St Agnes as well. One of the great delights was the virtual absence of motorised road traffic – bliss. We found the Scilly Isles in general to be very laid back and the people friendly – it was like stepping back in time and reminded us of our six months spent in New Zealand back in the 90s.
|Scilly rock art on Bryher|
|Weather forecasting on St Agnes|
|Boys and their toys! Tresco|
|Gaia, Tresco Abbey Gardens|
|Last resting place of Harold Wilson, St Mary’s|
Samson Hill Cottage is the last dwelling on the sheltered side of the island, so it was wonderfully quiet and secluded. Overlooking Tresco, we had a stunning view of the sometimes turquoise waters. On the day of our arrival, we were welcomed with a huge cream tea, with local clotted cream and jam and a pile of scones made by Issy, which we scoffed in the garden. As well as a fabulous breakfast with more menu choices than I’ve ever seen and using as much local produce as possible, we also enjoyed three evening meals. Each afternoon when we returned from our various outings, we’d find a piece of delicious homemade cake in our room. Goodness me, Issy’s double chocolate brownies were something else, in fact they were so good, I forgot to take a picture. In addition to the B&B, Issy and her husband Gareth also do two pizza nights a week from their wood fired pizza oven in the garden. Despite our feeling of repleteness, we couldn’t resist a pizza on our last evening and we are so glad we indulged. Oh, did I mention the fudge? We had a packet of locally made fudge (which just happened to be made by Issy’s mum) left in our room on a couple of occasions too.
|Sweetcorn Fritters, one of the many vegetarian breakfast options available|
|CT raring to get started on the Full Scillonian|
|Issy’s homemade pain au chocolat – what’s left of it anyway|
|Scilly pea soup with goat’s cheese & croutons|
|Couldn’t resist this cheeseboard with four Cornish cheeses – who needs dessert?|
|Not on the menu – Portuguese Man-of-war, all washed up with nowhere to go|
As well as the chocolate brownies and pain au chocolat, we did have a couple of other chocolate indulgences whilst visiting the other islands. Sadly the chocolates, handmade on St Agnes, were not available on our visit, but luckily the island had chocolate ice-cream, made with Jersey and Ayrshire clotted cream. It was the best ice-cream I’ve had in a very long time – thick, creamy and rich. It worked really well with the, ahem, “bonus” scoop of rose geranium – a complete revelation.
|Troytown Farm Ice Cream|
So with all that food, lunch and sometimes dinner was hardly a priority for us. Quite honestly, the flapjacks I made before I left were not really needed, but they did come in useful on the long boat trips to and from Scilly and allayed any possible hunger pangs that arose during the day whilst we were out walking. I think we’ve come back two stone heavier than when we left.
- Melted 125g unsalted butter in a large pan with a heaped tbsp of Cornish runny honey.
- Stirred in 75g demerara sugar.
- Stirred in 280g rolled oats.
- Added 50g chopped dried figs, 50g chopped almonds and 25g dark 70% chocolate chips.
- Stirred until all incorporated.
- Pressed into a 9 x7 inch tin and scattered with sesame seeds.
- Baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Allowed to cool, then cut into 12 rectangles.
Homemade by Fleur is doing a flapjack challenge, so I couldn’t resist entering these figgy delights, even though it is a little late in the day (11/10/12).
Clotted cream and pasties vied for centre stage in this round-up of Cornwall’s Best of British. I was pleased to see that seafood, cheese, honey and fruit made an appearance too – all good Cornish produce. In total there were fourteen fabulous entries, thank you all. Fiona is also doing a round up of this first ever Best of British challenge over at The Face of New World, so do check out her blog. The next challenge is for Scottish food and is being hosted by Janice. Lots of lovely produce to choose from there – you can find out more at Farmersgirl Kitchen.
Pasties and Cornwall seem to be synonymous in most people’s minds; they were certainly the most popular entry here, so I thought I’d better do a little background research. According to Lindey Bareham in her book Pasties, pasty is an old English word for a meat pie made without a dish. Due to Cornwall’s far flung location, the name continued to be used here after it had died out in most other places. The pasty is of course well known for being the staple food of Cornish miners. A meat, onion and swede filling wrapped inside a pastry case with a crimped “handle” used to hold the pasty whilst eating with dirty hands; this was then discarded along with any adhering contaminants such as arsenic.
I’m a vegetarian so my idea of a good Cornish pasty is a cheese and onion one, which is definitely not traditional. My mother, however, is a bit of a fan, so I do know what a typical Cornish pasty should be like. It should have a juicy filling with a pastry case which is crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. The meat should be beef steak, cut into chunks, never minced with sliced or chopped potatoes, chopped onion and chopped swede – known as turnip in Cornwall. Ingredients are layered raw onto the pastry case and seasoned with salt and pepper. The pasty is then sealed by crimping the sides together along the top or along the edge and then baked. Crimping is a bit of an art and is taken very seriously; whether the crimp should be at the top or on the side is still hotly debated. In 2011, the Cornish pasty was awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status by the EU, which protects it from being made anywhere outside Cornwall. Interestingly, they say that the crimp must be on the side. This is probably because it is easier for large scale bakers to make them this way; home bakers often prefer the top crimp which makes for a plumper pasty, but is more fiddly to do.
Personally, I’ve never been able to make a decent pasty, my pastry falls apart and I’m rubbish at crimping, so I am truly impressed with the abilities showcased here.
Fiona of London Unattached, whose brainchild this Best of British challenge is, felt suitably responsible and kicked things of with her Somerset version of the Cornish pasty as made by her mother. Crimped on the top and containing no swede, Fiona has made it with her first ever flakey pastry, which worked a treat.
Karen of Lavender and Lovage also had a hand in dreaming up this challenge. She decided to showcase Davidstow Cheddar with her mum’s cheese and potato pie – made by her mother just as she used to make it when Karen was growing up in Cornwall. On the other side of Bodmin Moor, my mother used to make something very similar and I can vouch for it being great vegetarian comfort food.
Less well known than the pasty, stargazey pie is another Cornish classic. I wasn’t really expecting anyone to give this a go, so I was delighted when Claire of Under the Blue Gum Tree made this prawn and Kingklip stargazey pie and all the way from South Africa no less. There is a strong link between Cornwall and South Africa as many Cornish miners were highly regarded for their expertise and went on to work in the gold fields and diamond mines. Traditionally made with pilchards, this pie has the fish heads poking out of the pastry crust and “gazing” at the sky. Claire has used prawns instead and why not?
Clotted cream is another ingredient we are very lucky to have in abundance in Cornwall. I grew up with it and have always missed it when living elsewhere. Janine of Cake of the Week was also feeling homesick for Cornish food, so decided to showcase one of the things she could get: clotted cream. Her format of choice was a cake for the Jubilee. Her strawberry and clotted cream Jubilee cake has a right royal wow factor.
I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by without trying something I hadn’t made before. Cornish splits are the traditional vehicle for carrying cream and jam for the highly renowned Cornish cream tea. They’ve been much neglected in recent years in favour of the easier to make scones, so this seemed like the ideal opportunity to stage a revival. I also managed to use a number of Cornish ingredients, including Cornish sea salt.
Clotted cream and strawberries continue their meteoric rise with this Cornish strawberry-rhubarb tiramisu from Chris of Cooking Around the World. A very special tiramisu this is, not only does it feature delicious Cornish ingredients, but it doesn’t contain coffee. This means I can make tiramisu AND be able to eat it. Do hop over to Chris’s post if you haven’t already done so as he has some lovely pictures of a sunny Cornwall – not something we’ve seen much of recently!
Following in the cream tea tradition, Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker decided to do things even more differently. Clotted cream and strawberries were the first thing that came to Ros’ mind when thinking of Cornish food and thus these mouthwatering clotted cream and strawberry tarts and cookies were born.
Enough of the sweet stuff, we’re back to seafood with this smoked mackerel kedgeree from Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen. Mackerel is one of the fish that Janice associates with Cornwall. She was unable was unable to source Cornish mackerel for this dish, but figured that the Scottish mackerel she used had quite likely swum up past the Lizard, so could be counted.
Once visited, Cornwall is not easily forgotten and Chris of Cooking Around the World, found that once he started thinking about Cornish food, he couldn’t rest until he’d made a pasty. Having taken an Italian dish for his first entry and turned it into a Cornish one, he reversed things this time by using olive oil and rosemary in this Cornish icon. Do visit his blog to find out what other surprising ingredients made their way into this pasty.
And another pasty makes an appearance. This time on Lavender and Lovage where Karen’s enthusiasm knows no bounds. In her second entry, she gives us the secrets of her friend Annie’s true Cornish pasty. There is plenty of information to be found about Cornish pasties in her post, so do take a look. A word of warning though, she is passionate about the side crimp, so I have to be careful we don’t come to blows.
At last a pasty I can eat! Fellow Cornish blogger Natalie of the Hungry Hinny came up with this most delicious take on the Cornish classic – mushroom, cheese and potato pasties. Filled with thyme and sweet potato as well as the title ingredients, this pasty used Davidstow cheddar and was given the full crimping treatment. Tis a real pasty, me han’some.
Another Cornish blogger, Beth of Jam and Clotted Cream decided to use Cornish honey from the Tregothnan estate in her entry. Tregothnan is mostly famed for its tea production, but it does have a number of other enterprises, including beekeeping. Beth reckons her ginger spiced honey cake would be especially good served warm with a dollop of Cornish clotted cream ice-cream. I’m definitely up for giving that a go.
I was really hoping someone would make saffron cake, another of Cornwall’s well kept secrets and something I’ve not yet got around to making. I wasn’t to be disappointed. Jill of Lapin d’Or and More, blogging over the border in Devon, came up with her own interpretation – one that included less sugar and less fat. Her saffron buns turned out a beautiful pale yellow and sound delicious.
Having started with a pasty, we end with a pasty – of sorts! Susan of the delectable blog, A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate was a little concerned that Cornwall would be up in arms about her splendid rustic Cornish pastie pie. I don’t know why. It has all of the classic Cornish ingredients you’d expect and looks absolutely magnificent – it’s just that lugging such an enormous pie down the mine might have proved a little difficult. They like things bigger in Lancashire apparently!
Sponsored by The Face of New World, we have a £50 Amazon voucher for one lucky entrant who has been picked at random using Random.Org. There will be another £50 voucher next month and so on for the first six months of the challenge. At the end of the process entries submitted over the whole six months will be judged with a grand prize of a £300 voucher.
So, congratulations go to ………. The More Than Occasional Baker
An elegantly presented little package arrived through the post the day before Mother’s Day. I was very tempted to save it to give to my mother, but I had promised to review the chocolates, so the job just had to be done by me – it’s a hard life!
The quality of ingredients are key to really good chocolates and Nicky uses single origin and plantation chocolate. She also uses local produce, such as cream butter and honey, wherever possible; this makes them doubly appealing to me. Last year Nicky won Gold at the Academy of Chocolate Awards for her fennel and ginger truffle.
Ginger hit me straight away with this one. Lovely smooth and creamy ginger ganache with toffee notes. Covered in rich dark chocolate, this was rich, spicy warming and delicious. I wondered if it contained a touch of chilli, as it left a lovely warm feeling in my mouth and back of my throat long after I’d finished. I could have quite happily consumed a box full of these. I am now wondering if this may in fact be the award winning fennel & ginger and I just missed the fennel?
As I was hoping this was a fruit puree with a rich deep pink colour. I thought at first it was raspberry, probably because of the colour. I then started doubting myself and thought it tasted more like blackberry. Either way it was delicious and I would have been happy to have had several more.
This domed milk chocolate shell with white and dark marbled across contained what tasted like cardamom & hazelnut praline. The flavour of cardamom was delicate but very much present and combined well with the sweet milk chocolate. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here, but this too was really delicious.
Covered in dark chocolate and coated with cocoa, this was a dark chocolate ganache through and through. It was good; it had bitter notes and wasn’t too sweet, but somehow it just wasn’t quite as rich as I would have expected. I wouldn’t, however, say no to a box of these either.
This shiny chocolate dome looked to have a piece of crystallised ginger on top. Could this be another ginger I wondered? It was. Less rich and sweeter than the first it was still very gingery. It did not have the distinctive warmth of the first, which sort of confirms my suspicion of chilli. I liked the fact there were two different type of ginger chocolates in the box, for I am a fan – one for the more sweet toothed and one for the, err, more discerning palate!
A dark chocolate shell dusted in cocoa and containing this Cornish seasalt caramel. It was utter bliss. Beautiful smooth caramel which flooded my mouth with salty sweetness. This is another gold award winner and no wonder; the balance of salt to sweet was just right and the dark chocolate offset the sweet caramel wonderfully. Much as I loved the first three chocolates I tried, for me this was the best of the box.
This box of chocolates were a lovely mix of flavours, textures & shapes and were deeply satisfying. All six chocolates disappeared rather too quickly, but the taste of ginger, caramel and chocolate lingered on for quite some time making for a doubly great taste experience.
As well as filled chocolates Nicky also makes bars, cakes and amazing chocolate sculptures. You don’t have to be down in Cornwall to taste these chocolates however; they are available to buy online.
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 yesterday was CT’s last day of official sick leave, we felt a celebratory day out was in order. We decided to take the train down to Penzance so we could walk along the sea front to Newlyn and then revisit the Honey Pot.