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 

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Origin Coffee latte with Rodda’s milk (no sugar) please…

I’ve just moved house and I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee lately.  I’ve not cared much about how it tasted. Just that it’s hot and wet. The kind that’s endlessly offered as a cheap and routine stimulant. It has kept me going through the day’s shifting, packing, sorting, distributing of household assortments and detritus office paper work. It also seems to pass through me at a rate of knots and has made me an all too frequent traveller to the loo.

Sadly, this dismissive and disinterested attitude of mine is possibly fairly common amongst us Brits.

“With or without?” is all I’m expected to be asked. I don’t really mind how it comes.

“With milk, no sugar, please…” and “… as long as it’s hot and wet.”

“Real or instant?”

“Oh instant’s fine, I don’t want to be any trouble…”

Although, that answer isn’t strictly true.

For, from now on, I actually want high maintenance coffee. The type that seems to take ages to extract a deep, dark trickle of black coffee into tiny demitasse cups. Where the aroma of rich nutty flavours envelop my senses and is accompanied by the aggressive sound of steaming milk and metal jugs clunked on hard surfaces. Don’t give me any of that over frothy, milky stuff which is too hot to drink right away. I want a highly skilled barista to extrude handfuls of gorgeous ground Origin coffee at my bidding and to serve me a bitter-sweet shiny latte with a Rodda’s rich, creamy-sweet, milky top. Continue reading

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

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

Preview of the Cornwall Food and Drink Festival 23 – 25 September

The Cornwall Food & Drink Festival, held on Truro’s Lemon Quay towards the end of September, is a pretty unique foodie event in the UK for the fact that every food and drink producer, every exhibitor, every chef and every sponsor are totally Cornish. There can’t be many festivals where fifty stallholders  (there could be a lot more if the location didn’t limit the size) and a ‘Croust’ bar for Cornish refreshments, plus 3 days of chef’s demonstrations can claim this totally regional exclusivity, can there?

Having known Cornwall all my life, claiming itself a gastronomic capital of food would not have seemed remotely likely 25 years ago. Ask anyone, from Cornwall or beyond, and only Cornish pasties and clotted cream for the ubiquitous cream tea would have summed up food from Cornwall. Rick Stein had opened his first business in Padstow in 1974 and so back in 1986, his restaurant was the best of maybe of two, possibly three, places to dine out in Cornwall. Everything else was very mediocre and I can remember thinking: Just once, before I die, someone will love me enough to take me to eat at The Seafood Restaurant. It represented the pinnacle of food heaven that was out-of reach in terms of cost to the average Cornish wage.

So much has changed. Rick Stein had broadened his empire, great restaurants are aplenty and ridiculously good food is everywhere even in little cafe’s and bistros.I now get sniffy if even pub food in Cornwall isn’t freshly cooked and locally sourced.

Of course clotted cream and the ‘genuine’ Cornish pasty will always been synonymous with Cornwall and wonderfully they’re now both protected with special geographical status to stop inferior imitators giving the foods the wrong image. Motorway service stations would have us think as pasty came wrapped in plastic, contained minced beef and diced carrots and tasted rather dull.

Food hype is everywhere and all over the nation, food enthusiasts are all shouting for their own region. No wonder then that ‘fun’ polls to find Britain’s favourite food spot should inspire passionate food fights, where each county champions their own local food producers, their regional specialties and top-notch dining establishments.  If local people don’t support their local producers they disappear, and if a single region can establish a reputation as a foodie destination then it can thrive like no other.

…And the argument for Cornwall?

Continue reading