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.
Laura from How to Cook Good Food has wisely chosen figs as this month’s One Ingredient, an excellent challenge that she co-hosts with Working London Mummy. I do like figs.
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.
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.