Sampling the art of Nicky Grant, Patisssiere and Chocolatier

Romantic Infusion

Nicky Grant is a seductress.

One bite of her ‘Great Taste’ gold award-winning Cornish seasalt caramel truffles and I’m smitten!

It might be the quick snap sensation of the dark chocolate shell breaking apart under my teeth, followed by the oozing creamy-rich, sweet caramel centre on my tongue that transports a feeling of rapture straight from my head to my toes; or possibly the guilty memento of sin touched with smudges of cocoa powder left on my fingertips to lick? However, what sets these caramels apart, and my taste buds spiralling into bliss, is the barely discernible flavour of sea salt. Don’t ask me why or how, but salt appears to add something quite remarkable.  It turns a nod of approval into the tenderest proposal: ‘my heart is putty. I adore you’

All of this is a world away from Nicky’s previous life. Until 2001 she was a Corporate Identity Manager for BAA, a blue chip company in London, where her most of her life was spent in airports designing public spaces. Moving from corporate life to a farmhouse in west Cornwall might seem like a far cry from the sublime to the ordinary. Her husband Tom admitted, “I was a little nervous how she might react on meeting my large and almost overwhelming Cornish family.” However, for Nicky, it gave her the perfect opportunity to fine-tune a passion for another artistic design form completely. Continue reading

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Crab and Parmesan Tarts and Clotted Cream Truffles!

At last! Something delicious and savoury to use up my over-buy of Rodda’s cream this Christmas as I can’t bear it going to waste.

This tart is full of the flavours of the British Seaside. If you are off for a picnic make 6 individual tarts.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes plus chilling time Cooking Time: 20 minutes Serves: 6

375g pack ready-rolled short crust pastry For the filling: 100g watercress, stems removed and finely chopped

250g mixed crabmeat, fresh or defrosted 3 eggs 113g Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream 113g Rodda’s Cornish crème fraiche

1⁄4tsp dried chilli flakes 1 tbsp lemon juice 100g freshly grated Parmesan seasoning

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C, 400°F/Gas 6 and very lightly grease a 22cm loose bottom flan tin. Place the tin onto a baking tray.

Roll out the pastry until it’s big enough to generously fit the tin. Ease the pastry into the corners of the dish leaving excess pastry falling over the sides – don’t trim at this stage. Prick the base with a fork. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Trim the excess pastry using a sharp knife. Bake the pastry case blind for about 15 minutes – remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Continue reading

The Flavour Weekly: Chocolate Truffles and a Stollen Cake.

Well, it’s Christmas!

So the naughty  indulgence of loading myself with lots of rich, sweet, delicious and frankly dangerously indulgent foods seems almost righteous.  Eat like this every day and  I’ll die happy.

Nicky Grant is a seductress.

One bite of her ‘Great Taste’ gold award winning Cornish seasalt caramel truffles and I’m smitten!

It might be the quick snap sensation of the dark chocolate shell breaking apart under my teeth, followed by the oozing creamy-rich, sweet caramel centre on my tongue that transports a feeling of rapture straight from my head to my toes; or possibly the guilty memento of sin touched with smudges of cocoa powder left on my fingertips to lick? However, what sets these caramels apart, and my taste buds spiralling into bliss, is the barely discernible flavour of sea salt. Don’t ask me why or how, but salt appears to add something quite remarkable.  It turns a nod of approval into the tenderest proposal: ‘my heart is putty. I adore you’.

I met Nicky first at the Cornwall Food & Drink festival last September. Temptation brought me to her stand. She proffered a bowl of mouth-watering caramels in my general direction and I was irresistibly drawn in like a proverbial ‘carrot to the donkey’. Since then, like a ‘chocoholic’ possessed, I’ve not been able to get them out of my mind. In her home kitchen a few months later, I was treated to some of the most divine chocolates I have ever eaten. With coffee and conversation (meanwhile salivating over, sampling, ruminating and cogitating on half a dozen exquisite samples of Nicky’s beautiful chocolates) it took me literally hours to learn what it is to be a Chocolatier… and, believe me, to rush these things is to do them a terrible injustice! Continue reading

Festive ‘Eden’ in a Hamper

A GARDEN OF EDEN IN A CHRISTMAS HAMPER

The Eden Project in Cornwall is passionate about plants, people and working towards a sustainable future. To celebrate the season of goodwill, the team at Eden has sourced a number of Christmas hampers and gift sets that showcase the very best of food, drink and plant life – much of which comes from local producers in Cornwall.  All you need to do is buy, try and   enjoy!

There’s also a fairly good chance this kind of question might turn up in a Christmas Cracker a a Trivia fact between the corny joke and the paper crown.

Did you know?  Best known as being Cornwall’s top garden and eco tourist attraction, the Eden Project is also home to the world’s  biggest rainforest  in captivity.

However, if you are like me and dislike being given anything for Christmas unless you can eat it…here are some very tasty suggestions. Continue reading

A cake for a double digit.

My son had this idea for his 10th birthday, yesterday. He was very clear about it. He wanted a coiled snake and suggested this could be achieved by baking cakes in different sized tins. The smaller cake could sit on the larger one, and a smaller one again on that, except that I pointed out I was limited to two sizes of cake tins only in my cupboard.

He’s a creative thinker, a lover of reptiles and amphibians and very encouraging and complimentary of my efforts which helps a lot as I was nervous of making a complete hash of it.

The cake was a simple recipe. I weighed 4 eggs in their shells first and then used weighed out butter, sugar and flour to the same weight as the eggs. Continue reading

This is personal. My mid-riff in crisis

There are two disadvantages to writing about food all day.

One is that writing requires thinking, and thinking requires sustenance, and writing about Cornish food makes eating obligatory. The second disadvantage is that I’m sitting on my arse all day.

You need to understand that I’m also going through a bit of a mid-life crisis too.

I’m caught in life’s suspender belt. I’m middle-aged and menopausal. Pinched awkwardly, distinctly uncomfortable, probably twisted but going through with for the sake of someone else’s pleasure; my life’s not my own. Others snap the elasticated straps or have me bound up in complicated corsetry and yet expect me to drop everything, when they plead a need, at a moments notice.

I have elderly parents toppling off their mortal coil on the one end and children at the other, hurtling pell-mell into the hormone swamp of their teens. In between all of this, I’m reaching for my spectacles just to read the food labels on things, experiencing hot flushes and having no control over my stiff joints and thickening waistline. Is it any wonder I’m in a potential state of continual exhaustion? Continue reading

Chef’s Special: Silks Bistro & Champagne Bar, Atlantic Hotel, Newquay.

Dark Chocolate & Pear Fondant, Conference Petals & Caramel with William Syrup, Pear Drop Brittle & Roddas Clotted Ice Cream.

Recipe by Aaron Janes, Silks Bistro & Champagne Bar, Atlantic Hotel, Newquay

Image courtesy of www.westcountryphotographers.com

Aaron Janes

Dark Chocolate and Pear Fondant

There is no doubting Aaron Janes’ ambition and determination to put Silks on the culinary map, and he is proud of the fact that the menu will be as Cornish in its ingredients as it is possible to be. “Silks is the only restaurant in Newquay to win a Taste of the West Award in 2009,” he enthuses, and in February, Aaron was part of team that came second at ‘The Cornish Challenge’ (run by Cornwall Catering Excellence to promote the use of Cornish ingredients). “Our menus are 96% made up of Cornish ingredients. If we could grow sugar, coffee and or citrus fruits reliably, we’d guarantee you tasted only Cornwall on the plate.”

“Silks”, he says, “is changing. We have updated the menus using classic dishes. There will be a choice of set menus of 2 or 3 courses with complimentary pre-starters and between course sorbets. We will also have a local fish special every day. We’re moving away from the habit of stacking ingredients on the plate, and working horizontally, as the Japanese do, making it possible to taste ingredients separately or combining them together.” Aaron’s aim is to show how flair can take the minimum of main ingredients and transform them into many different guises on a single plate; “For example a lemon tart with lemon sorbet and lemon brittle.”

“Desserts are my forte, and this particular one was made in the competition. The pears are from Westcountry Fruit Sales and the chocolate is Trenance’s.  The dish is deceptively simple but looks complex. If you can make a caramel, the rest is easy; it is only the decorative garnish which makes it appear complicated.”

Continue reading