Nature Kitchen, St. Austell

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Nature Kitchen is certainly the most interesting and exciting shop in St. Austell. Step inside and you’re instantly transported into a fascinating emporium of  herbs, spices and all the ‘hard to find’ exotic ingredients you could imagine.

Frankly, I’ve just be overwhelmed by the array of colours, the sumptuous aromas and the thrill of endless flavour possibilities that were presently that I’m currently stumped for words. Therefore I’ll let the pictures speak for me.

Or you could pop in and sample it for yourself.

Ally Watkins is a bright and energetic lady, as vibrant as her shop. As a business idea, she has now started recruiting ‘spice merchants’ – almost like a franchise – it gives individuals anywhere across the UK a chance to start a small business selling herbs and spices themselves with the potential to earn £300 – £500 a week at single events and markets.

She is also the driving energy behind the town’s forthcoming Spring Fayre – ‘bringing plants, sunshine and laughter to St. Austell’s town centre’ on 28th & 29th April 2012. The plan is to make this an annual event.

Find out more: contact ally@naturekitchen.co.uk 

Pandora, adore her :-)

Much to the delight of regulars, the 13th century Pandora Inn has reopened its doors just under a year since it was destroyed by fire, on March 24th last year.

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The historic and much-loved Pandora Inn is once again a replica of its former self. Officially opened to the public on Friday March 9th. The Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Tim Thornton, joined the pubs’ tenants and St Austell Brewery directors to officially mark the inn’s opening on the evening of 8th March.

I was not a regular. In fact, its many a year  since I last stepped inside the Pandora.

It doesn’t mean that I didn’t adore her. Ok, so it’s not quite on the scale of ‘remembering the exact moment and where I was when I first learned the news’ – I was most likely at my computer…however, I do remember feeling quite sick when I saw the images of the fire that had taken hold of the thatch.

My dad owned a sailing boat and I’ve many happy memories as a teenager sailing over to the Pandora at the weekend for lunch. Approaching the long, boat pontoon, my sisters and I nimbly leaping off as we drew alongside with a rope to secure us tight. I fancied myself a bit then. We were 3 girls with long blonde hair and brown legs in skimpy shorts and it was a thrill to know we made the heads of drinkers and diners turn.

Although masquerading as the ‘deck totty’ off a sleek white sloop,  all we could afford to buy for lunch was  a pasty or a sandwich. I’d tiptoe the intimate dinning rooms upstairs on my way to the loo and promise myself that one day, as a grown up, I return to sample the evening fare. For the Pandora has always had a great reputation as a place to dine in style.

But I never have and the thought of the Pandora no more felt like a dream never to be fulfilled.

Former head chef, Tom Milby, is back at the helm, cooking up many of the favourite dishes regulars will remember. As ever, with its location on the edge of the creek, fresh fish will feature prominently on the menu.

John Milan and Steve Bellman, who have been tenants at the Pandora Inn for more than 12 years, said: “It is a great feeling to be back behind the bar of the Pandora and officially marking the reopening was a very special day. After so much interest in the Pandora’s return it’s wonderful that we can now welcome regulars and visitors alike.”

Adam Luck, Estate Director for St Austell Brewery, said:”After the trauma of the fire nearly a year ago it is amazing to see the Pandora restored to its former glory.  I am sure customers are going to be delighted to see their pub back and appreciate some of the improvements we have taken the opportunity to make during the painstaking rebuild of this historic pub.

Adam added: “We would like to thank all those involved and in particular our architect Steve Peacock, builders Cummins and Pope, master thatcher Guy Moore and of course John & Steve and all the staff at the Pandora who have been so supportive during the last year. We look forward to seeing you there soon”

To contact the Pandora call 01326 372678 or visit www.pandorainn.com for more information.

Banbury’s Cornish Turkeys

They might not actually vote for Christmas but Banbury’s Cornish Turkeys certainly live the rural idyll, raised by three generations of the same farming family outside Padstow on the North Cornish Coast.

And this year for the first time Christmas diners across the land will get to savour the difference between these birds and their intensively reared relatives – via a new national delivery service from cornishfoodmarket.co.uk.

“We hand-rear free-range black and traditional white turkeys here at  Trembleathe Farm and they grow for much longer than mass produced birds so they develop that lovely deep turkey flavour,” says Richard Banbury whose parents  Fernley and  Nancy, wife Clare and little daughters Gracie Ann and Roseanna all play their part in the nurturing process.

“I think part of it is also that our natural environment is so clean and clear with fresh air off the Atlantic – we’re remote from roads and noise and commercial activity and the birds are raised as they should be – stress free.”

For nearly fifty years these turkeys have been enjoyed throughout Cornwall at Christmas time but now the Banbury family – like scores of the county’s best food and drink producers – are working with the team at cornishfoodmarket.co.uk to spread not just the word but the reality of best Cornish fare to the nation at large. Continue reading

Grumpies of Cornwall

Grumpy pies  to improve your mood?

Two self-proclaimed ‘grumpy old men’ from Cornwall have launched a new range of savoury pies.

My comment was ‘that it saves having to smile at your customers all the time, if looking grumpy is just self-proclaiming the brand.’ I purchased a steak and ale and  blue cheese, mushroom and walnut to take home from the Falmouth Oyster Festival recently and yes they were good.

Grumpies of Cornwall was founded in January 2011 by Trevor Shea and Mark Carne at their bakery in Launceston.

The pair live by their ethos of ‘serious about food’ and use the best Cornish ingredients including local vegetables, Cornish ale, and meat from Philip Warren’s, a prize winning Launceston butcher.

The range of six pies also avoid artificial additives, preservatives and processed ingredients to create products with a home cooked quality. Continue reading

Clandestinely having my cake and eating it.

The rise (and rise) of home baking has a lot to answer for. Talk of such is everywhere. Across telly, in all kind of magazines, whole social groups brought together over cake recipes and sharing tips. In the chill of hard times ahead and the gloom of a deepening recession the waft of vanilla essence seeps into our daily life. Butter cream, chocolate, jam or cream cheese fillings wrap friendly arms of reassurance turning morning coffee time, plain cake and afternoon tea into comforting occasions. Brash muffins and cheeky cupcakes move over, the noble Victoria sponge has regained her top spot on the cake stand, graced on every side by numberless cakes of every invention.

My kitchen cupboard spills forth an assortment of baking tins and mixing bowls; a licked spoon, a scraped bowl and a spatula lie discarded in the sink; the work surface has been liberally messed by flour and sugar and smudges of buttery cake mixture have appeared on my kids’ faces. One tweet, a cyber whisper and the rumour’s out there: the first Clandestine Cake Club in Cornwall is about to happen but nobody knows where.

I’m curious. What is a cake club? Who goes, and why the big secret? Lynn Hill started the first Clandestine Cake Club, however her whereabouts in Britain, or who she is, remains unknown. The premise of a cake club, Lynn’s website reveals, is create opportunities for social interaction with cake loving strangers to bake, bring, eat, share and take slices of each other’s cakes home. Continue reading

Tasting and tours at Polgoon Vineyard’s October Open Days

Penzance’s local vineyard, ‘Polgoon’ has just returned from the Taste of the West Awards with more praise for their latest products. They entered five drinks, two of their 2010 wines and three ciders.  All won awards with the 2010 Bacchus and Ortega white wine winning Gold, the Cornish Black, Cornish Pink and Cornish Dry Cider winning a Silver Award each and the 2010 Rondo and Pinot Noir red wine, achieving Bronze.

Vineyard Owners John & Kim Coulson have seen their business develop over the last 5 years from an amazing start, with their first ever wine, a still rosé, winning the coveted UK Vineyards Association’s ‘Waitrose Trophy’ which John and Kim were presented with at a ceremony at the House Of Lords. Continue reading

The World’s Best Cheese, Beer, Wine (and a whole lot more) Party

If you were one of the 43,000 who visited this year’s Cornwall Food & Drink Festival in the last three days you’ll know that Cornwall’s food and drink, and all the industries associated with it, are pretty special.

The food and drink pavilion wasn’t filled with homely-but-a-little-amateurish WI type sponge cakes, and jars of jam and marmalade;  or in the other extreme, with expansive corporate sales pitches from big food businesses. The catering offerings weren’t greasy chips and burgers or limp ham rolls and the top chefs weren’t brought in from other regions.

The reality, in fact, is so good: the quality, integrity, and passion; sometimes you have to pinch yourself, that what you are actually seeing is just the top rim of a proverbial horn of plenty.

Limited only by the space available on Lemon Quay, you can bet there are dozens and dozens of other food retailers, producers and chefs putting their names down now to be at next year’s festival. Tired and exhausted, they may be, but the twitter buzz is already showing evidence of festival withdrawal symptoms.

One of the best aspects is the sheer friendliness. You don’t pop into the festival for a few minutes to see what’s going on, you lose  yourself in it for hours. Bumping into old and new friends, the pleasure as much in the dialogue as the sampling of great foodstuffs.

There’s one event (I’m now going to strongly advise you book and pay for now for they’ll be many others trying to elbow their way to a place at a table) is the Magnificent Seven Dinner (or #Mag7 if you are a ‘tweeter’). This is the ultimate in pop up restaurants, held in the festival marquee the night before opening, in which all the dishes cooked  from Cornish ingredients by the seven best chefs in Cornwall. Where else can that kind of thing happen?

I didn’t go and listing to the exuberant twitter talk felt more determined to catch the other fringe event – Champions’ night.

“I won’t be late,” I told the kids, “be good for Grandpa” who’d been good enough to be the responsible adult at home. It sounded like some early evening drink and nibbles, the prequel to a proper dinner or a lazy settling back home again in front of the telly. How wrong could I be? Continue reading