Cornwall

A tempting invitation to a wedding in Cornwall gave us the excuse we needed to pop over to Newquay on the South West Airways connection from Cork – what a gem, this quick 45 minute hop gets you to Cornwall in almost less time than it takes to get to West Cork (notwithstanding the carbon footprint of course.)

Just five minutes from the airport is Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall which has just celebrated its first birthday.  The cool, funky restaurant with floor to ceiling windows, overlooks Watergate Bay, offers panoramic views over miles of sandy strand, surely one of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and a surfers paradise.

This is not merely another restaurant, Jamie Oliver is a chef with a mission and its not just PR guff, he really does want to use his many talents to make a difference. When he opened Fifteen Cornwall in a blaze of publicity in May 2006, it had an ambitious agenda, not only to serve terrific food made with the finest local ingredients, but also to transform the lives of its apprentices as well as supporting the food producers and community surrounding the restaurant.

Many of the disadvantaged young people had got themselves on to the wrong side of the law. In just twelve months they have been transformed from unemployed young people lacking in confidence and direction into highly skilled talented chefs.  The first batch graduated at an emotional ceremony in June and have now gone on to work in a variety of restaurants, some as far afield as New York.  Three of the original bunch remained at Fifteen Cornwall to mentor and train the second batch.  The atmosphere in the restaurant was young and energetic – the service skilled and knowledgeable and the food was fresh-tasting and delicious.

We started with one of Fifteen’s ‘amazing antipasta’ sharing plates, an outstanding selection of beautifully dressed roast seasonal vegetable, artichokes, fennel, baby leeks. Mammoth green olives, paper thin slices of Toscano and Milanese salami, Mozzarella with really good homemade breads.  Then a couple of pasta dishes – pappardelle of wild Cornish rabbit, olives and marjoram, Taglieri of local squid from Looe, tomato, chilli and grated bottega di Muggine and the lightest potato gnocchi with lots of mixed wild mushrooms, rocket and mascarpone – all were exceptionally good.  As if that wasn’t enough, we tucked into Grampound duck breast, creamy borlotti beans, hipse cabbage and red onion jam, roast monkfish, piperonata and pickled samphire and even fought over Cornish fisherman’s stew (sea bass, razor clams, squid, halibut and cockles with crostini and aioli – fresh, flavourful and gorgeous.

We couldn’t manage much on the pudding front but shared a white chocolate tiramisu with balsamic strawberries.

(Cornish mackerel, golden beetroot, loads of herbs and horseradish, wild quail, saltimbocca, smashed celeriac and twelve year old balsamic).

Well worth making the trip for that alone and it has to be said that I’m not that easy to impress.   If you do decide to make the hop there’s lots more in a small area to entice.  St Ives is close by, art and architecture lovers mustn’t miss the Tate Modern, but there are lots of craft shops, galleries and restaurants.  I particularly love Portminster Café although I didn’t manage to make it this time.

We scooted down along the coast to the Gurnards Head outside Treen.  The drive is one of the most beautiful in Britain and as soon as you come to the yellow-washed guest house on the brow of the hill, you know it will be something special.  This pub with rooms, voted Cornwall’s best newcomer in 2007 is owned by Charles and Edmund Inkin who have brought their award-winning formula from the Griffin in Felin Fach in Wales to Cornwall – a cosy convivial pub with just seven simply furnished bedrooms and great food.  Its very close to some of the most spectacular coastline in the British Isles and there really is something about the light in Cornwall, every second person seems to be a painter or a wannabe painter.

Charles changes his menu every day depending on what’s available locally.  We loved the sardine escabeche on rocket leaves, the pork rillettes with salsa verde and the cucumber and pomegranate, feta, sunflower seed and flat parsley salad with tahina dressing.  The pork chop with kale and roast butternut squash and tarragon butter, and the sirloin of beef with celeriac puree, turnips and chard.   There was also a tempting local cheese selection but we could only manage a chocolate tart with stem ginger and clotted cream.   One of those rare chocolate puddings that one licks guiltily off the spoon, allowing it to melt slowly and deliciously as you savour every calorie laden moment.

I managed to persuade Matt to part with the recipe and the recipe for sardine escabeche which would probably work well with mackerel also if fresh sardines are not available.

Breakfast was also a simple feast, fresh orange juice squeezed minutes earlier, local yoghurts and some cereals, good homemade bread to pop into the toaster, homemade jams, lemon curd and honey and the fattest kippers I’ve ever eaten and darn good fry – not surprising the Gurnard’s Head was announced as the winner of the 2008 Good Pub Guide “County Dining Pub of the Year” for Cornwall last week. It had already gathered the 2007 Best Newcomer by Which Good Food Guide,  2008 Good Hotel Guide – one of the really good newcomers in the Budget Hotel category and a 2 Star Rosette rating by the AA.

About 50 minutes drive from the Airport at Newquay, put it on your list of secret getaways. 

Gurnard’s Head Hotel, Treen, Zennor, Cornwall, Tel 01736 796928, Fax 01736 795313,  enquiries@gurnardshead.co.uk   www.gurnardshead.co.uk

Meanwhile here are a few delicious recipes to try.

 

Chocolate Torte
 (to make 1 x 9inch tin)
 
375g (13oz) dark 70% coco solid Chocolate
225g (8oz) unsalted butter
5 whole eggs
210g (7½ oz) caster sugar
 Preheat the oven to 110 degreesC (225F/Gas ¼)
 Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bain marie ensuring not to let the water beneath it come to a boil. The gentler this mixture melts, the better.
 
Meanwhile roughly divide the sugar into 2 piles of 1/3 and 2/3. Using 1/3 of the sugar, in an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and voluminous.
 Put the remaining 2/3 of sugar into a saucepan with a sprinkle of water. Enough to dampen the sugar. No more than 2 tablespoons. Bring this slowly to the boil and when you have a clear viscous looking liquid, remove the pan from the hob.
 

Pour the sugar syrup over the melted chocolate and gently fold the chocolate mixture in amongst the egg mixture.
  Pour the finished mixture into a 9 inch cake tin that will fit snugly into a roasting tray and top the roasting tray up with boiling water, ensuring not to let the water rise and topple into the tin.
 Bake uncovered in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. The torte should have a gentle wobble when removed from the oven.
 
Feta, pomegranate and pumpkin seed salad. (serves 4)
 
More of a method than a recipe perhaps!
 1 head of very leafy celery
250g Good quality Greek / Cypriot feta
2 deep crimson coloured pomegranates
Large handful of toasted pumpkin seeds
Flat leaf parsley
Tahini
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Sumac
Honey
Toasted and ground cumin seeds
Boiling water
Salt and pepper.
 
To make the dressing, first toast and grind the cumin seeds (equalling about 1/3 of a teaspoon).  In a bowl, put 1 heaped tablespoon of Tahini. Using the boiling water, thin the Tahini with enough water to make it the consistency of Crème Fraîche.  Now mix in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Some lemon juice to taste. A teaspoon of honey to balance the bitterness of the Tahini, the ground cumin and 1/3 teaspoon of sumac.  Finally season the dressing with salt and pepper.
 In a dry pan put a large handful of pumpkin seeds with a good pinch of salt and roast in the oven until crunchy and golden.
 

Using the leafiest celery you can find, slice in ¼ cm thickness.
 Slice the pomegranates in half, and using a wooden spoon beat the skin side halves thereby releasing the seeds onto a plate and making sure to pick out any of the white pith that may come away with the seeds.
 
In a large serving bowl, put the sliced celery, the pomegranate seeds, crumble the feta into sizable chunks, and pick enough whole parsley leaves to have a favourable mix of white, green and pink. Gently toss the mix with the dressing and scatter the toasted seeds on top of the finished salad.
 Sardine Escabeche
 

4 sardines – scaled, gutted and washed
1 carrot – peeled and thinly sliced
2 shallots – peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic – peeled and thinly sliced
Peel of ¼ orange – cut into thin strips
1 bay leaf – cut into thin strips
10 coriander seeds
12 saffron strands
1 sprig thyme
120 ml olive oil
Juice ½ orange
100 ml red wine vinegar (or Verjuice)
75 ml fish stock (or water)
Salt and pepper
           lightly flour and season the sardines. Fry in 1/2 the olive oil till almost cooked – lay in ceramic dish
          add the rest of the oil to the pan, and when hot add the carrot, shallot and garlic. Gently fry until just soft
           add aromatics (orange, bay, coriander, saffron, thyme) stir to mix
          pour over the liquids, season – bring to the boil and pour the hot mixture over the fish
           leave to marinate 24 hours.
 
Toffee Apple Tart – from Jamie Oliver “Jamie’s Dinners the Essential Cookbook”This is a fantastic dessert that Jamie loves to make for his friends as they can’t get enough of it. The combination of toffee and apples is a fairground classic but feel free to try it with pears, bananas and even strawberries.

Serves 6 – 8
 
For the Shortcrust Pastry
 optional: 1 vanilla pod125g /4½oz butter

100g/3¾oz icing sugar

a small pinch of salt

255g/9oz flour

Zest of ½ a lemon

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons cold milk or water

For the Filling
 2 x 397g tins of condensed milk or 2 jars or Merchant Gourmet Dulce de Leche toffee

4 medium sized cooking apples

2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar

Put your un-opened tins of condensed milk in a high sided pan, covered with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer constantly for about 3 hours with a lid on top. It’s very important to remember to keep checking the pan, as you don’t want it to boil dry – otherwise the tins will explode. It will give you the most amazing toffee. Put the tins to one side and allow to cool.

First of all you need to make your pastry. Score down the length of the vanilla pod, if using, and remove the seeds by scraping a knife down the inside of each half (keep the pod for making vanilla sugar) Cream together the butter, icing sugar and salt and then run in the flour, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and egg yolks – you can do all this by hand or in a food processor. When the mixture looks like course breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water. Pat gently and work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly and roll it into a large sausage shape – don’t work the pastry too much otherwise it will become too elastic and chewy, not flaky and short as you want it to be. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least an hour. Remove it from the fridge, slice it up and line a 28cm/11 inch tart mould with the slivers. Push them together, and then tidy up the sides by trimming off any excess. Place the tart mould into the freezer for an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350°F?gas 4, then take the pastry case out of the freezer and bake for around 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and place to one side.

Peel and quarter the apples and remove the cores, the slice finely and toss in the icing sugar. Remove the pastry base from the freezer and smear the caramel from both tins of condensed milk over it. Place the apples on top and pour any remaining juices over. Cook at the bottom of the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, to give you a crispy base and bubbling toffee over the apples. Serve with vanilla ice-cream. Beautiful.

Hot Tips
Savour Kilkenny Food Festival this weekend –
Food trails, special menus, tasting workshops – cooking demonstrations in the Ormonde Hotel today, Farmers Market on Kieran Street tomorrow and Gospel Brunch at Rivercourt Hotel, Polish specialities at Café Sol and much much more – booking with individual outlets.

West Cork Slow Food’s Seasonal Gourmet Food Discovery Evening at Urru
Will take place on Tuesday October 30th at Urru Culinary Store, Bandon.  
One of Ireland’s best known shopkeepers, Peter Ward from Country Choice Delicatessen in Nenagh, will be enthusing about the spectacular array of dried and candied fruits that you will all need for making the most delicious Plum Puddings and Christmas cakes, along with all the many other uses of these fruits.
The evening will include the preparatory stages of the Christmas cake baking and the evening will be complemented by wines from our sponsors, Febvre & Co.

Time 7.30 for 8pm, €10 for Slow Food Members, €12.50 non-members, booking essential – numbers limited.

Spirit of Christmas Fair – a Foodies’ Paradise 7-11 November 2007 Olympia London.
One of the highlights of this year’s fair – the ultimate Christmas shopping experience, is the Spirit of Christmas Food Hall, a virtual seventh heaven for all those who love fine wine, delicious and unusual ingredients and want the very best products sourced from around the world. Visit www.spiritofchristmasfair.co.uk

Fifteen Corwall, On the Beach, Watergate Bay, Cornwall, TR8 4AA,
Tel 01637 861 000   www.fifteencornwall.co.uk
Rory O’Connell will teach a 1 day Winter/Christmas Cookery Course on 8th December at Snugboro, Ballycotton, Co Cork.
For details and bookings contact Rory on 086-8516917  www.rgoconnell.com