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Since I was berating smugly photographed cookery books last week, I’ve been having a little email debate with my good friend and prolific blogger Emma Balch over at Doble M Design in Hay-on-Wye about the value of the “lifestyle cookbook”. She said she begs to differ and loves a good lifestyle cookbook with inspiring photography. And actually, when I came to think about it again, I often do too – as long as a) I believe the lifestyle in question is real (ie not when chef is standing in chinos and brogues pretending to have landed a huge fish) and/or b) I am interested in attaining the lifestyle in question.

Today’s lifestyle cookbook definitely falls into the latter category. It is roughly two parts lifestyle to one part recipes but I don’t seem to mind nearly as much because ultimately I am into the lifestyle it paints: living and eating outdoors on the British coast (with accompanying checked wool blanket and wild flowers).

The book is Martin Dorey’s Camper Van Coast. I am something of a canvas camping purist tbh, so even though I get the appeal of the VW porn, it isn’t the main lure for me – it’s all about the 100 recipes designed for cooking on a two-ring stove, something I intend to be doing again before long in my camp kitchen, y’know just as soon as the central heating goes off for the season.

I’m basically never happier than under canvas, fiddling about making tricky cups of tea on a Pocket Rocket stove and planning camp desserts such as bonfire-baked banana with dulce de leche. I am outraged to see that Martin Dorey has upstaged this dish by adding marshmallows and digestives and called it Rocky Road – these luxury-chasing campervanners, eh?

Out now, published by Saltyard Books, priced £16.99.

nathan outlaw book

Chef Nathan Outlaw’s star continues in the ascendant with the imminent publication of his first cookery book entitled Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood – it’s out in May but I got my mitts on a preview copy and can report that it’s a beautiful blue hard-back tome with full-colour, full-page pictures of every dish.

Refreshingly free from the lifestyle shots and smug backstory that have become part and parcel of the celebrity chef cookbook (do I need a full-size picture of your daughter/you on a boat with that turbot recipe? Without meaning to be harsh, no, I’m afraid I don’t), it focuses with precision on the food – how, when and where to source British seafood, and methods of preparation and cooking.

The recipes are divided pragmatically and usefully into fish type – flat white fish, round white fish, oily fish, smoked fish and shellfish – and are characterised by Outlaw’s trademark lightness of touch and clever simplicity. Tempting for summer are the cured brill with pistachio dressing, pink grapefruit and pickled chicory – his take on ceviche – the cured mackerel and gooseberry jam roll, and a mussel and saffron quiche with fennel and rocket salad.

The foreword by Rick Stein, who employed Outlaw in his younger cheffing days, pays tribute to the honesty and simplicity of his food, and the “utterly charming, self-effacing man who seems somewhat perplexed about the fact that he has two Michelin stars because he says it’s only simple cooking.”

Nathan really is Cornwall’s favourite adopted son.

Published 10 May by Quadrille, £25.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Falmouth gets all the fun. Literary types, here’s a date for your diaries: 29th November, Rum Bar, Falmouth, 7.30pm.

The Parabola Project – a not for profit creative writing and storytelling project – will be launching its second writing anthology, showcasing the talents of signed and unsigned creative writers from around Cornwall. The book is edited and masterminded by p&c friend and self-confessed ‘alphabet floozy’ Clare Howdle.

On the night, there will be the chance to hear the writers read from the new book – called Quickening – and other spoken word performances; buy a copy of the new book, priced £6; and drink Winter Pimms (and presumably rum).

The book is rather lusciously designed by Venn Creative.

The Parabola Project Issue II: Quickening is available online from, in Waterstones Truro and from independent bookshops across Cornwall, it costs £6 – with all profits going back into the production pot for issue III.

shell_cornwall book

As surely as night becomes day, we all turn into our parents while we’re not watching. And so it is written in the genes that I shall collect old, obscure books on Cornwall. One of my recent acquisitions is the sweetest little book on shell collecting in Cornwall – published by Tor Mark Press in the 1970s.

I’ve always had a soft spot for shell collecting, unable to resist any vaguely good-looking treasure on the shoreline – and I know enough to feel lucky if I find a cowrie. But I don’t really do identification, much less labelled display cases. This book is so geeky about it all, it’s Read the rest of this entry »

One of the more trying aspects of my job is having to go and sample the occasional spa for an article. And so it was that I had to accomplish this rare and terrible task the other weekend: a 90-minute ™Relax into Radiance treatment, care of Spiezia in Trelowarren‘s new spa.

But actually I was almost as excited about taking my first dip in their heated outdoor pool under the November sky. The temperature of the water was roughly 25ºC, which I thought was very fair under the wintery circs.

As my friends and family will know, I have developed a slightly strange obsession with the temperature of swimming pools around Cornwall lately, so I can actually tell you where this places it against other pools in west Cornwall… should anyone wish to know. No? Ok, so moving on.

Spa or no spa, Trelowarren was already pretty much one of my favourite places on earth – a peaceful and incredibly romantic woodland estate reaching all the way to the still banks of the Helford River.

I have been going there since I was a child so just in case I am no longer capable of objectivity, I call upon Daphne du Maurier for description: ‘a shock of surprise and delight, lying indeed like a jewel in the hollow of the hand’. She used to hang on the estate quite a bit and found inspiration here for her pulse-quickening novel Frenchman’s Creek.

Anyway, so Trelowarren has teamed up with luxury organic skincare company Spiezia to open the Walled Garden, a rather lovely new treatment room in one of the estate’s original walled gardens. (Full account in December’s Cornwall Today…).

Trelowarren, Helston, Cornwall TR12 6AF. T 01326 221224.

home brew cornwall

Nice book alert. Just got my mitts on this cloth-bound, hardback book co-authored by Sara Paston-Williams, who lives in St Neot on Bodmin Moor.

Loving the eccentric English vibe of tipples such as parsley wine, peapod wine, gorse wine, blackberry wine and ‘Nursemaid Milk Stout’.

Home Brew’ –  £12.49 on Amazon here.

More pics of the book:

homebrew cornwallhomebrew cornwall Read the rest of this entry »

I was touched to receive an old, red Ward-Lock Guide to Penzance as a get-well present from my friend Sarah while recovering from surgery (I’ve started walking btw… like a duck, but you’ve got to start somewhere).

It’s hard to know exactly what date it was published as Ward-Locks apparently routinely omitted a date from all pages in order to look current but I’m guessing first half of 20th century… One can, should one not have a job, go on online forums where people endlessly discuss the possible publication dates of these old guides with impressive anality.

At the risk of romanticising my convalescence, which hasn’t been a walk in the park (literally no walks in the park!), I did indulge in several enjoyable afternoons of reading in the company of this book while watching the boats potter in and out of Newlyn harbour from my bedroom window and a) pondering how little Penzance had changed in the years that had passed since that book was written, and b) amusing myself with the things that had.

My top 10 highlights from the book:

1/ ‘Penzance is the metropolis of the toe of England – a town that has prospered amazingly considering its isolation for hundreds of years’.
Come on, I don’t think the use of the M-word has ever been appropriate.

2/ ‘Penzance shops close at 1pm on Fridays. On other days between 5pm and 6pm. On market days, some shops remain open later.’ Well, lucky old people of olden times. Can’t remember the last time I found a shop open a minute past 5.30pm.

3/ ‘To many the charm of the place, and the justification of a journey of some hundreds of miles, is simply that Penzance is–just Penzance.’

4/ ‘Mid-way along the seafront is the Pavilion Theatre, with a café and roof garden’
–ER, HELLO – PENZANCE HAD A SEAFRONT ROOF GARDEN? Who got rid of that and replaced with an amusement arcade?

5/ ‘Mousehole has no claim other than it is to-day as it was yesterday–an unsophisticated Cornish fishing village unreformed by artists and unspoiled by vandals.’
Thankfully still unvandalised though I think a few artists might be ‘reforming’ it.

6/ ‘After reading the effusive descriptions of the beauty of Lamorna Cove, handed down from writers of the past, many visitors express disappointment when they reach this pretty but over-publicised spot–particularly when they have seen more beautiful coves. Nevertheless, Lamorna is… very fine in its own wild, untidy way but is unfortunate in possessing a beach consisting entirely of granite boulders’
Ouch! Touch harsh on Lamorna.

7/ ‘What natural beauty Land’s End does possess is usually imperilled by the disgraceful amount of paper, cardboard and other debris of picnics cast aside by careless visitors’.
Oh well, better that than the unmovable debris of a sizeable theme park, no?

8/ ‘One arrives at Porthmeor Beach, a fine sandy bay, splendid for surf-bathing’

9/ ‘This peninsula combines the soft charms of a genial winter – and is, in fact, an invalid’s paradise, with a summer season of unvarying equability’.
Looking forward to its soft charms again as winter draws in… is he talking about mizzle?

10/ ‘A century ago, the journey from London to West Cornwall occupied something like forty hours… The world-famous Cornish Riviera Limited now runs from London to Penzance in about 7 hours’
Nice to see the coming of the 21st century has reduced the travel time by a whole hour. Maybe we’ll get it down to 4.5 hours by 2110.


I was horrified to read this week that Penzance came tenth in a survey looking into Britain’s worst clone towns, and charting the devastating rampage of the chains on this country’s high streets.

I have to admit I was also a little surprised. One of the things that draws a lot of us to this *faraway town (*swap in ‘godforsaken’ on a bad day), and Cornwall in general, is its strong sense of identity – a feeling of foreignness, community and all-round arty eccentricity.

While I’m not declaring myself above supermarket shopping, I am rather partial to a trundle around town (yes I have a shopping trolly and no, I don’t care if I look like a granny), buying my meat and sausages at the butchers, fish from Newlyn, eggs and cold meats from the deli, and all manner of goods by the side of the road. [I am yet to succumb to one of those wooden ducks that are always lined up in lay-bys in Cornwall – do people finally give in once they’ve lived here long enough?]

But let’s face up to facts: the chains – and really the most dire of chains – are all here. So, to cheer myself up, I’ve made a list of my top ten independent shops in Penzance (I’ve permitted Cornish mini chains!):

1/ Lavenders: eggs, cold meats & pasties
2/ The Deli: best coffee in town
3/ Lenterns: superb sausages and meat
4/ Stevo’s – fish boutique (Wharfside)
5/ Archie Browns – health shop and community hub
6/ Seasalt – organic Cornish clothing, though you have to go easy or you look like everyone else in Cornwall
7/ Steckfensters – second-hand emporium (I blogged about this the other day)
8/ Weigh Your Own Absolutely Anything on Causewayhead – not sure what it’s really called but they are shit-hot weighers
9/ Super Volt – the sort of passion for cables you want from your local electrics shop
10/ Books Plus – books & stationery, plus Cornwall section

There, I feel better now. It’s going to be OK. I mean I even had to miss lots out! Let me know if you agree with the lineup.

The good news is that Newlyn scored very highly in the same study for identity and diversity.


teaching dad to cook flapjack

I LOVE this new cookery book called ‘Teaching Dad To Cook Flapjack‘. Drawing casually on her great-grandmother’s old Cornish recipes, Read the rest of this entry »

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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