I’ve been slacking….

It might have looked as if I’ve gone to ground, lost interest in this blogging lark….

Truth is, I had.

I’ve  been moving (if you needed to know) from one home to another, and  the past couple of months have been spent in the throes of completing a new house and then moving a lifetime of stuff, fluff, dust, dirt and 3 kids.  I’d no idea how it would become the all consuming, overwhelming focus of all my energies.

Once BT have me back on-line (big grumble there) in the new office – rather suffering in the icy blast of the old – plus, trying to get used to new vari-focal glasses which play havoc with trying to edit the typos. I’ll be back to resume normal service as soon as possible…

I’d just like to thank Origin Coffee and Roddas for fortifying my renewed energy today…

More on that later.

The Flavour Weekly: Grumpies to lift your mood

Unusually I’m making a second post about Grumpies pies or Grum-pies.

I’m that moved to say how good they are. Jam packed full of only the best Cornish ingredients; these are premium pies that’ll put a big smile on your face.

Who’d have thought? They’ve even been recently taste tested by Rick Stein.

I shall make a plea that every pub in Cornwall should offer a ‘Grum’ pie on their menu, which probably an odd request to make when this is the land of the pasty. However, pies do something that pasties don’t. They’re proper comfort food to eat on their own or to serve up with a plateful of veggies for supper. A pasty, is best eaten in a paper bag as food on the hoof. Served it up with chips and it looks out of place.

The family and I have been sampling my way through each of their flavours and this is the verdict thus far:

Turkey, cranberry and stuffing 

This is just a seasonal special, which quite frankly should be kept on all year round. The husband and I were both in agreement: SUPERB! 

(There’s a Christmas Vegetarian too, with roasted vegetables, stilton and chestnuts).

Steak & Ale 

Lean local steak with mushrooms in a Cornish real ale (from Penpont Brewery they tell me). A popular pie and densely filled with tender, juicy beef.

Lamb, Mint & Potato

Local lamb with mint and red wine. My kids love lamb but were a bit uncertain about the mint. A good thing  as it left all the more pie for me 🙂

Chicken, Gammon & Leek in a creamy bechamel sauce. I loved this one! And did my best to fight the others off.

Pork, Apple & Cider

Slow cooked lean pork with Bramley apples and Cornish cider.   On balance, this was probably the family favourite.

Looking forward to tasting the Blue Cheese, Mushoom & Walnut and Homity Pie soon.

The big dilemma now is where can we buy them?

The Flavour Weekly: The Cornish Food Box Company

These were the veggies spread gloriously and deliciously across my kitchen table just over a week ago. Who would imagine that Cornish grown vegetables could appear so fresh, colourful and delightful in December? Slap a turkey in the middle and my Christmas feast is sorted.

The Cornish Food Box Company is run by sisters Lucy Jones and Victoria Amran in Truro. I’d encountered their colourful stand at the Cornwall Food & Drink Festival in September which stood out for the sheer variety of produce displayed.

What you see is their early Christmas gift to me. It represents an £11 veg box and 12 different types of freshly grown (only from Cornwall) vegetables. I’m feeding a family at home and we are still enjoying some of the potatoes, carrots, sprouts, onions, peppers and cabbage you see here.

The Cornish Food Box Company was established 12 months ago and now delivers boxes of fresh, seasonal, local food to homes, offices and holiday cottages. Working with more than 70 small Cornish farmers and producers, the business aims to make it as easy as possible for busy working families to support the rural economy by buying local food. Continue reading

Cheesy Ends

Davidstow, gawd bless ’em, sent me a sample of their of a three-year-old matured cheddar earlier this month and I put it aside in the fridge for later and then forgot about it. I don’t suppose that could do it much harm, as what’s month at the back of the fridge to a cheese that has been around for 36 months already?

I unwrapped it from its brown paper and inhaled.

I love Davidstow cheese, methinks as I sniff deeper…. I would happily put myself of an Atkins-style Davidstow only diet if they would supply me enough cheese to support this radical experiment…

My ‘three-year old’ looked at little dry around the edges but I rather like my cheese when it goes a little crunchy. It wasn’t long before a curious teenager with a more receptive nose than I turned up and started to nibble the slithers I’d been grating.

“I like that, can I have some more?” he asked. My answer was pretty short. This cheese was gold (it took three years to mature, remember?) and I knew I wasn’t going to get anymore of it.

So what to do with it? I reckoned on the theory that the stronger and tastier the cheese the further it will go. I’m about half way through my wedge now but it has been used to enhance two family meals so far. Continue reading

The Flavour Weekly: The Queen’s, Sam’s and The Cornwall

Last week I ate bream. It was the best most enjoyable piece of fish I’ve eaten in an age.  If fish is served in heaven if will be like this: perfectly cooked, gorgeously moist, delicate and melting in the mouth with a really crispy skin served on a risotto and something green…

You’ll have to forgive me for failing to :

a) photograph it so I could show you now how good it was;

b) recall the details of what else was on the plate. I drank a lot of wine (the waitress kept refilling my glass) and I was having too good a time to take notes;

c) drawing a blank to everything else I need excusing for. I’m getting too old for late nights and alcohol.

But I can tell you that it was cooked by the Cornwall Hotel and Spa’s new head chef, Brett Camborne Paynter.

I started with a ‘Rilette of Cornish crab, gazpacho espuma, crisp basil leaves’ and we ended the meal with a medley of all the desserts on offer. 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

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