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?

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Spring Feast at the Porthminster Beach Café

My sister, for her 50th ‘googled’ for a place to eat near the beach. I’m so glad she did.

For had she not, we might have chosen to celebrate her birthday lunch on more familiar territory and not have made the hour’s car drive west to St. Ives just to experience the pleasures of the Porthminister Café.

Well worth the trip in every sense. This was much more than a pleasant restaurant with a gorgeous spot on golden sands with and uninterrupted sea view. The food was original, the ambience light and airy, and late Sunday lunchers positively encouraged….and when my kids got restless we just sent them outside to play on the beach 🙂

I won’t bore you with details of what we ate or how good it tasted. I’ll just show you pictures of what we had…

Want to try it? A lunch time, Monday to Friday and well worth getting out in the Cornish Spring sunshine for some gastro exploration. Continue reading

Ten ‘Cornish’ best for the Christmas table.

Giving traditional Christmas Day dining a proper Cornish twist with unique food and drink specialities from the best local producers.

1. Apéritif:

Ninemaiden's Mead

‘Ninemaidens Mead’, Lanner, TR16 5TQ.

Mead, a sweet, honey-based alcohol and, was not invented in Cornwall, but has been strongly associated with the Duchy. Ninemaidens produce five different varieties: ‘traditional’, with a strong heather honey nose, and ‘spiced’, which makes an invigorating winter warmer. These could be just as easily drunk as a sweet desert wine.  ‘Apple’, ‘blackcurrant’ and ‘redcurrant’ are fruity, slightly drier but equally delicious. Honey is sourced from hives across West Cornwall and the best locally sourced ingredients are added during the brewing process.

For Christmas it can be warmed, mulled or added to a spicy winter punch. Alternatively, try their new ‘Gwires’, crystal clear distilled mead with a floral, honeyed bouquet; a great Cornish alternative to classic single malt.

Tel:(01209) 820939 / 860630 www.cornwallsolar.co.uk/ninemaidens 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.”

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Chef’s Special: Beaucliffes, Porth Veor Manor, Porth, Newquay.

Strawberry Charlotte

Alex Sandor Kis

Recipe by Alex Sandor Kis, Head Chef at Beaucliffes, Porth Veor Manor

Alex is a Hungarian by birth, but he has worked in countries as far-flung and diverse as Israel, Italy, France, Greece and the United States. What drove him to travel was a self-confessed love of fish, “Hungary, being a land-locked country, doesn’t do fish so I decided to go to places where I could learn as many ways as possible to cook with fish. In Cornwall, the fish here is beautiful. The variety amazing and an excellent price in season.”

Undoubtedly the experience of cooking with difference flavours has influenced and informed his cooking style. “From Italy especially,” he tells, “where the emphasis is on a variety of fresh, tasty, seasonal fruit and vegetables.” Alex likes old school recipes for his cooking with a modern twist.

The English fruit dessert known as “charlotte” was a warm, fruit-filled case of butter and bread, which was probably devised in honour of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III. “However, the more elaborate and elegant French charlotte, on which this recipe is based, requires a mould of sponge, filled with a light mousse. Alex advises, “It is a little time-consuming to make this classic dessert and you’ll have to watch your timing.” Its inventor, Antonin Carême, was one of France’s greatest chefs.

For the autumn the strawberries can be replaced with apricots – a lovely, much underused fruit – but use the old bread and butter method and serve with a sauté of apricots and Chantilly cream.

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