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I wanted to share with you a feature I wrote about a new Cornish cookery school, first published in Cornwall Today.
In which pasties & cream learns how to make, er, pasties and cream (more pictures below the fold):
You can hardly swing an artisan baguette in Cornwall without hitting upon a specialist bakery course, a filleting masterclass or a foraging walk, with everyone from chocolatiers to fishmongers to high-end restaurants now running niche cookery lessons on the side to meet our seemingly insatiable appetite for food education. The flourishing market for food skills and selectively sourced ingredients is, I like to think, part of the nation’s long journey back from the anonymity of the supermarket to the origins of our food.
If ever there were somewhere to help us reconnect with the land without forgoing modern sensibilities, it is Philleigh Way, a dedicated new cookery school on an old farm amid the pristine pastures of the Roseland Peninsula.
The business is the brainchild of brothers-in-law James, a long-time foodie who has left a 15-year career in law, and trained chef George, who earned his stripes in the kitchen at Bustophers in Truro – and their aim is to teach ‘new generation country cooking’.
It’s a back to basics approach, drawing on generations-old recipes and precision-sourced local ingredients, combined (and this is the really attractive bit) with the comforts of a state-of-the-art contemporary kitchen. Unlike the predominantly demo-based courses on the market in Cornwall, Philleigh Way stands out for its custom-created space, with workstations for up to ten people and no expense spared in the fit – marble surfaces, Neff ovens (à la Great British Bake Off), Robert Welch knives and Le Creuset cookware in the kitchen – not to mention the satisfying crunch of gravel on the approach.
No rough and ready farm experience, then, but nor is this an operation that shies away from the necessary mess, mud and blood of real food. One of the courses on its calendar is called, quite simply, ‘Pig’, Read the rest of this entry »
In an ideal world, this is how I like my foraged food to look. Spot the candied alexanders stem, carrageen-set panna cotta and wild fennel shortbread in this composition.
It is said to the point of cliche, but nonetheless true, that there is something about foraging for food that seems to tap into our most primitive instincts. Just the simple action of plucking a leaf from a tangled Cornish hedge and finding it tastes like wasabi or watercress or coconut – in short, something you would normally pay for – is unfailingly thrilling.
That probably says a lot about how darkly far we’ve come from the origins of our food. Still, there’s no need to go getting too primitive about these things, and that’s what I particularly like about Caroline Davey of St Buryan wild food school Fat Hen. On her courses, it’s not just about whether the plant is edible, it’s about whether it tastes good… and not just good, but Read the rest of this entry »
I’m a fan of this poster for the Cornwall Film Festival. It’s the wunderbar work of Cornwall-based illustrator & animator Darren Whittington, and is inspired by the Cornish national [sic] emblem, the chough, which is of course making an exciting comeback on the cliffs of the Lizard. And, no, non-Cornos – it’s clearly nothing like a boring blackbird.
The 10th annual Cornwall Film Festival will be Read the rest of this entry »
Where oh where would we be without the Penzance Arts Club?
A little while back, the lovely Emily Evans and Harry Gordon-Smith took over the Club (after rumours of a boutique hotel) – located in the instantly memorable old mansion, once the Portuguese embassy, at the bottom of Chapel Street.
I say instantly memorable because, although I only visited Penzance maybe once as a child (for a Kneehigh Theatre production at the Acorn – we have to save it!), the extravagant seaside mansion and its intriguing side entrance etched themselves on my memory.
Let’s be honest, the restaurant situation in Penzance is pretty dire at the moment – I really love a chilli and chorizo pizza and a pint of Otter in the Crown, occasionally get a Curry Corner or Sukothai takeout (both good & friendly) and I stop for a Corona and some tapas at Mackerel Sky now and again but there’s really not much else cooking.
Or at least there wasn’t until the Dining Room at the Penzance Arts Club opened a few weeks back. I made it over last weekend to try it out and it’s brilliant – and *very big cheer* it’s priced with locals in mind. The room is pure shabby chic, with sweet French perfume bottles as mini vases, simple rustic furniture and white tablecloths, and Breon O’Casey paintings on the walls.
Check out the colours in the food – it looks like an abstract art canvas! The chef makes extensive use of Dan the Potager’s salad boxes, which are stuffed with bright, wild greens, and lots of edible flowers.
Bruschetta, giant prawns with aoili and fishcakes were all fantastic – oh, and we met a nicely sticky end with limoncello cake and cream topped with roasted almonds. There are worse ways to go.
Penzance Arts Club, Chapel Street, 01736 363 761/www.penzanceartsclub.co.uk
In Cornwall’s steady move towards food & drink domination, three new bottled drinks hailing from these parts are hitting the shelves this summer. (Domination is a slight exaggeration, but we do now have 100% Cornish ‘champagne’ from Camel Valley, tea from Tregothnan, ‘aval’ from Polgoon, all manner of Very Expensive premium juices, such as Helford Creek and Cornish Orchards, not to mention the ridiculousness that is bottled Cornish spring water.)
Two of the new brews are alcoholic, but the third is no shrinking violet. I’ve been sipping away selflessly to bring you some tasting notes:
Cornwall’s favourite cider, Cornish Rattler, has given birth to a fruity new Rattler infused with red berries.
The look: cloudy, red, girly, new surfy label. The taste: fruity but not Read the rest of this entry »
A bit like the paladares of Cuba or the puertas cerradas (meaning literally ‘closed door’) of Buenos Aires, ‘home-restaurants’ are taking off in the UK, particularly in London. I was holidaying in the distant capital at the weekend and I had the good fortune to be invited to Secret Kitchen, a monthly restaurant run by North London mega-foodie (and author of Eat Slow Britain) Anna Colquhoun.
It was all flawlessly prepared and presented, and endlessly creative and surprising. There was pecorino cheese with unforgettable truffle honey, wild garlic pesto lasagne, home-cured salami, zesty homemade limoncello…
In short, it was all the things you always hope a meal at a fancy restaurant will be, but so very rarely is – because the chef’s got 100 other covers to deal with, the waitress has a hangover, the sous-chef only started yesterday…
As with almost everything Read the rest of this entry »
Ever since attending a ‘gourmet wild food weekend’ with Fat Hen near St Buryan last year, I’ve been full of the joys of wild garlic, or three-cornered leek (or Allium triquetrum if you really want to get serious).
This ubiquitous and pleasantly pungent plant (different to the UK’s native wild garlic, Ramsons, which we don’t really get in Penwith) is all over west Cornwall in spring – and is currently bullying its way into a hedgerow near you.
Those fretting about upsetting the ecological balance by foraging should take comfort in the fact that Cornwall Council considers wild garlic a problem species and is actually directing funds to clearing it in some areas.
Foraging for food is a nervy business for beginners – and clearly you need to ensure a positive identification before chowing down – but you can take it from this very twitchy forager that wild garlic is easy to identify. For one, it stinks!