The first slice and a New Year

The intention was to share my Christmas cake recipe back in 2010.But truthfully, I don’t really follow any tried and tested recipe.

My mother made the best fruit Christmas cakes and she must have followed the same recipe when she made each of her three daughters’ wedding cakes as well. What I remember was that they were dense, dark, full of fruit and nuts, bound together with a little ‘cake’ and steeped with brandy.  So they were very, very moist.

Unsurprisingly, my desire is to try to replicate her cakes. I’ve no idea what recipe she followed so I borrow all the best ingredients from several recipe books at once. I want a cake to be loaded with fruit, candied peel, nuts and spice. For 2010’s Christmas cake I used cranberries instead of cherries just to see if it would make any difference. I soaked the fruit and nuts overnight with brandy and, after a month just before icing,  laced the cake again liberally with rum.

The end result is an intensely sweet and fruity hit, and since the cake is so solid thin slices are easy to cut. Just as well, really, as I can only really manage a little of this luxuriously mixture at a time. Perfect with a refreshing cut of tea after a long and bracing walk in the winter time, or pretty good when I’m tired after a late night and I need a ‘sugary’ boost to lift my energy levels. 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

Rosehip and Quince Jelly

Quinces look half way between and apple and a pear. Mine are a buttery yellow. However they are hard and when cut in half, there is nothing about the smell or texture to suggest that they can be made into something appetizing. But, as I discovered, quinces cook up sweet with a vibrant rose colour and a floral aroma and flavour.

Rosehips are full of vitamin C (20 times more than oranges) and, as syrup has long had the reputation for keeping colds at bay in the winter. Their flavour is reminiscent of redcurrants but more fragrant and quirky.

You have to know this at the outset. There’s a recipe here or sorts, but I can’t vouch for it as fail-safe and the quantities are approximations because I don’t recall exactly what I used.

It only happened because two plants in my garden happened to present themselves abundantly fruit at the same time and suggested the perfect combination. However, I couldn’t find any recipe to follow and so have combined recipes for each and simply brought them together. Continue reading

Chef’s Special: Rosewarne Manor, near Hayle.

Iced Ginger-bread Soufflé

Phil Thomas

Recipe by Phil Thomas, Head Chef, Rosewarne Manor, Connor Downs, Hayle.

Phil Thomas uses an ‘Italian’ meringue base for his dessert, which he describes as “the most technical of meringues to make”. An ‘Italian’ meringue is much underused even by other chef’s, “but it is the ideal base for any iced parfait. Simply add the puree, or fruit puree, of your choice to lightly whipped cream and the meringue. Once you have overcome the fear of making it,” he adds, “you will find many uses for it in stunning desserts. The advantage is that it keeps its shape; it can be frozen without going rock-solid, it can also be dried out like ordinary meringues but won’t collapse and go sticky and it makes a versatile base for many desserts from ice-creams to a lemon meringue pie.”

The Rosewarne was a popular West Cornwall dining venue in the 1980’s, where they regularly served between 200 – 300 meals a night in the summer time.  It was also where Phil had his first taste of his career on a work experience placement. Reopened in December 2007, with a complete refurbishment, the Rosewarne is set to rebuild its reputation and Phil found he had come full circle by returning as Head Chef. 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

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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Big Buns Cake Company, Fowey

Homemade with ‘lashings’ of love.

Wendy Mitchell

Victoria Sponge

Wendy Mitchell’s cup cakes are munificent and tantalising at the same time. You can’t help smiling at her big, bold and bright buns for possessing childlike purity and adult naughtiness in equal measure. These are ‘Carry-on’ fancies, resplendent with British eccentricity, stuffed full of butter and humour where wholesome ingredients go hand-in-hand with double-whipped entendres. Some have nipple-resembling fat berries enticingly perched on butter-cream peaks; some support sugar sparkles and jelly beans; others have white-iced messages piped on chocolate tops: “Eat me”, “Hold me” or “I’m yours”.

Summed up by her own words her cakes are like, “When Enid Blyton meets the Beano.” A cross between ‘The Famous Five’ rushing home to find a lovely big chocolate cake on the kitchen table to be eagerly consumed with ‘lashings’ of old-fashioned relish and the Beano’s ‘Three Bears’ weekly pictured stealing grub from Hank’s store. “My cakes resemble those massive comic creations in full flight: thick layers and fat strawberries, dripping icing blobs and oozing cream.”

“It’s that fun that I associate with baking,” she says, “and that lovely, irresistible smell from the oven; cooking eggs beaten with sugar and the scent of vanilla.” There’s certainly something incredibly homely in the sweet aroma of baking. Wendy’s children return from school “with their little noses twitching and take the scent trail straight to the kitchen so I always splodge a bit of what I’m baking into bun wrappers for them to taste.”

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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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