Growing up in a far flung part of the country, the railway was a bit of a lifeline to the civilised world. Back along, the roads weren’t so good and leaving Cornwall was not for the faint hearted. Thankfully, we’ve always had a mainline train service that carried us up to Plymouth, Exeter and even London. Three cheers for Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his Great Western Railway! We were able to visit geographically distant relatives in East Anglia and Scotland without too much trouble thanks to the train. We also got to take in some pretty gorgeous countryside on the way.
Once upon a time, many years ago, back in the 1960s in fact, or possibly the 1970s, reports are a bit vague, the Mayor stopped handing out the Liskeard Bun. This was an annual event when the newly invested mayor of Liskeard would hand out buns wrapped in brown paper bags to the local children. What a lovely tradition.
Saffron with its bright yellow hues and subtle floral and bitter notes is a spice which seems singularly exotic. But it has long been associated with Cornwall. It is said that the Cornish traded with the Phoenicians way back, exchanging tin for saffron and it’s been used here ever since. This may or may not be true, but saffron was a highly popular ingredient in the Middle Ages and saffron crocuses were grown in Bude until the late 19th Century.
Best of British comes back to the South West this month from London and has now reached the county of Dorset. The first and if truth be told, only thing that came to mind when thinking about Dorset speciality food was Dorset Apple Cake. Strangely, with all of my cookery books I didn’t have a single recipe for this. So, I resorted to the net and came up with this winner – voted the Dorset National Dish in 2006 by Greg Coomer.
Like many other people this year, I haven’t had nearly as many apples from my mother’s trees as normal, but I still have a few. I’d been mulling over an apple cake for a while and wanted to include a bar of Lindt Luscious Caramel in it. Easy peasy, I would adapt Greg’s cake of course. I made a larger quantity as I don’t have an 8″ cake mould, omitted the lemon peel, substituted chocolate for raisins and used cardamom sugar. I also substituted buckwheat for the specified cornflour and did my usual mix of flours. I also used, err, Cornish apples – shhhhh!
This is how I did it:
- Weighed out 10oz flour (4oz spelt, 4oz plain white, 2oz buckwheat) and sifted into a bowl with 2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Added 5oz cardamom (caster) sugar.
- Rubbed in 5oz unsalted butter until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Peeled, cored and diced 250g of tart apples (Cornish variety – label missing) stirring into the mixture to coat as I went along so the apples didn’t brown.
- Made a well in the centre and added 2 medium eggs and 2 tbsp milk.
- Stirred until all combined.
- Added a chopped 100g bar of Lindt Luscious Caramel and stirred in.
- Spooned into a 21cm cake mould.
- Cored and sliced one tart apple, but left the peel on.
- Drizzled over 1 tbsp lemon juice to stop the slices from browning, then arranged the slices on top of the cake.
- Scattered over 1 tbsp of soft brown sugar.
- Baked in the oven at 180C for 35 minutes.
As some of you might have gathered by now, there is a monthly blog challenge for the Best of British created and supported by The Face of New World Appliances. Each month, a different region or county within the UK is featured and the challenge is to make either a dish from that area or using ingredients that come from it. I’m keen to support this as it is very much about promoting British produce AND I did kick things off with the Best of British Cornwall back in May. There is also an incentive of a possible £50 Amazon voucher for one lucky entrant. Janice of Farmergirl Kitchen hosted a Scottish challenge in June and the current one, for Yorkshire is hosted by the exuberant and energetic Karen from Lavender and Lovage.
Now, since trying my first (and only) Yorkshire curd tart when I was in York last year – from the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms no less – I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making them myself. Needless to say, it took this challenge to get me kick started. A couple of nights ago a group of us went to see No Fit State, an amazing animal free circus that is performing at the Eden Project throughout August. We were all meeting up for a picnic beforehand, which seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out the tarts. Of course, these were my interpretation of this classic recipe – I had to get chocolate in somehow! I based the filling on this Hairy Bikers recipe.
This is what I did:
- The night before, brought 2 pints of milk to a simmer.
- Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and left the milk to cool down, stirring very briefly.
- Poured the mixture into a sieve lined with a cheesecloth and left overnight for the whey to drip out.
- Placed 150g of wholemeal flour in a bowl with 25g cocoa powder and 15g icing sugar.
- Added 100g of cold cubed unsalted butter and rubbed the mixture between my fingers until it resembled breadcrumbs.
- Threw in an egg yolk and a splash of cold water.
- Stirred and brought the mixture together into a ball.
- Placed in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Creamed 65g of unsalted butter with 65g cardamom (caster) sugar until very light and fluffy.
- Grated in the zest of an organic lemon and creamed some more.
- Beat in an egg until thoroughly combined.
- Stirred in the curd cheese.
- Added 25g of raisins (would have used current, but didn’t have any).
- Rolled out the chilled pastry and cut into rounds to fill four 9cm tart cases and 7 jam tart sized dimensions – I used my muffin moulds.
- Divided the mixture between the tarts and baked at 180C – 20 minutes for the larger tarts and 13 minutes for the smaller ones.
As these are tarts and they were baked especially for a picnic – where they were all consumed I might add, they fit very well into this month’s Tea Time Treats. Hosted on alternate months by Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage, this month’s theme chosen by Kate is picnic pies. I might almost have planned it 😉
I know Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen started us off with a very mastercheffy interpretation of cranachan which there is no way I am attempting to compete with. But even before I’d seen her entry, it was my first thought when I knew the next Best of British challenge was going to be Scotland. It’s been on my list of things to make for years AND I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to give it a whirl. For the uninitiated cranachan is a traditional Scottish celebration dish consisting of oatmeal, whipped cream, honey & whisky and sometimes raspberries.
After Cornwall, Scotland is my second love. Many a family holiday has been spent there over the years. One of my aunts lived in Stirling and we would make the long journey up from Cornwall to stay with her at least twice a year. The Castle, Bridge of Allan, Wallace Monument and nearby hills are not something I’m ever likely to forget. She later moved to Edinburgh which was already full of family stories from my mother having been a student nurse there. Edinburgh is my favourite city anywhere, I just love the way there is a great big mountain stuck right in the middle of it. King Arthur’s seat is the core of an ancient volcano. We also had family in Fort William for a while and spent hours walking the surrounding hills, although I only got to climb Ben Nevis once. It’s the kind of wild remote beauty that I seem to crave.
Anyway, this is rather a rambling way of saying that I wasn’t going to miss this Scottish challenge!
Sadly my raspberries weren’t Scottish and I can’t claim that they swam down the West Coast to Cornwall as Janice did with her mackerel, but it is my version of a Scottish classic and I did use a good Scottish malt whisky.
This is how I did it:
- Toasted 40g oatmeal for a few minutes until lightly browned but not burnt.
- Roughly crushed 200g raspberries, leaving a few whole for decoration.
- Whipped 300g double cream and 100g Greek yogurt until peaks just starting to form.
- Added 2 tbsp Cornish runny honey and 2 tbsp malt whisky and whisked a little bit more, until firm but still soft.
- Swirled the raspberries through the cream.
- Shaved about 40g of white chocolate with a vegetable peeler.
- Spooned some of the raspberry cream into four glass bowls. Scattered on some oatmeal then added a final layer of raspberry cream. Scattered over the remaining oatmeal.
- Finished with the whole raspberries and chocolate shavings.
- Served with Highland shortbread.
I made this as the grand finale to a special meal and this cranachan crescendo was a delightful surprise. It was simply divine, a proper “stoater”.
Best of British is a monthly challenge sponsored by The Face of New World Appliances and there is a £50 amazon voucher awarded to one lucky entrant each month. Here is the round-up to last month’s Best of British Cornwall.
Now what could be more perfect for a Cornish cream tea or English tea party than these Cornish splits? A Diamond Jubilee street party was not something we thought we would be attending – we’d planned to use the additional time to catch up down at our plot. But at the last minute we received an invite to a small one just up the road and thought it would be churlish to refuse.