It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow someone some good. Even the volcanic ash has benefitted some people – The mâitre d’hotel at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant in Padstow was beaming from ear to ear when I was there recently. Although they are virtually always full anyway, they have experienced a definite increase in business over the past few weeks as many British people decided to holiday at home rather than risk the hassle of cancelled flights. Let’s hope for the sake of the beleaguered Irish tourism industry the same sentiment prevails here.
We were in Cornwall for a few days to trace some ancient ancestors. Like Ireland Cornwall is utterly beautiful at this time of the year. Lots of gorse lighting up the countryside, hedgerows illuminated with pink and white campion, wild garlic, Queen Anne’s lace, forget-me-nots, buttercups, bluebells… As one drives through the Cornish lanes there are lots of signs for home baking and preserves. Little farm stands selling farm produce with honesty boxes for locals to pop in the money and of course signs for Cornish cream teas. I still dream about those delicious scones topped with homemade jam and clotted cream.
We booked out the super little pub with rooms at Gurnards Head, south of New Quay, and used that as a base for lots of cliff walks and expeditions to local villages and the Quaker graveyard in St Just where Nicholas Jose, tenth great grandfather of our grandchildren was buried. We couldn’t have found a better base for a family gathering; the extra bonus was the delicious breakfast and dinner menus of local food and cracking good soda bread. Walking gives one a terrific appetite and a virtuous feeling so one can tuck into beautiful meals without having a conscience. After a long walk to Landsend we had a smashing lunch at the Beach Restaurant overlooking the brilliant surfing beach at Sennen Cove. Roast fish and chips and homemade tartare sauce, a fritto misto of squid salted mackerel and gurnard with aioli and piperonata, a towering salad of local crab and fresh organic leaves, some lovely thin crust pizzas – compensation for the grim café and tourist centre at Landsend.
Rick Stein’s latest venture is a Fish and Chip restaurant in Falmouth beside the Maritime Museum. Seven different types of fish, battered and cooked in beef dripping, served with chips – cod, haddock, sea bream, lemon sole, ray, plaice and monkfish – grilled fish and charcoal roasted and fried fish galore – you can’t book so it works on a first come first served basis and there is a take-away next door.
Down in the Penzance area we also had a delicious pub lunch in the Victoria Inn. I particularly remember the faggots with swede turnips, not everyone’s cups of tea but I loved them. The little café out at the Tresco gardens on the Scilly Isles was also delightful and the gardens worth the effort – my third attempt to see them.
It’s easy peasy to get to Cornwall, there are regular daily flights to New Quay, so don’t miss Jamie Oliver’s 15 Restaurant at Watergate Bay, just 5 minutes drive from the airport, I didn’t make it on this trip but have had several excellent meals there on other occasions. For a treat check out the designer hotel, everyone is talking about; the Scarlet Hotel is again in a breathtakingly beautiful location on a cliff top site, over looking Mawgan Porth and very good food from Chef Ben Tunnicliffe.
If you get ‘ashed’ you’re not too far from the car ferries back to Ireland – we came back on the Julia from Swansea into Cork, perfect.
Gurnards Head Chicken Liver Pate
350g chicken livers, de-veined
225g unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
Melt 25g of the butter in a frying pan and cook the livers with a little salt and the garlic until they firm up but remain pink in the centre. Put the chicken livers into a food processor. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala and add the pan-juices to the food processor. Melt another 25g of the butter in the pan and gently cook the onions with a pinch of salt until they are translucent and soft but without colouring them. Add the onions to the food processor along with the remaining butter and chopped parsley and blend the ingredients until they are smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Put the pate into suitable containers or dishes and put them into the fridge to set completely.
Gurnards Head Presse Of Tomato, Spider Crab, Haas Avocado
1kg vine tomatoes
8 basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
½ tsp celery salt
Tabasco to taste
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
Lemon juice to taste
Salt to taste
Put the vinegar and sugar into a pan and heat it gently to dissolve the sugar. Allow it to cool, this is the ‘gastric’. Halve the tomatoes, remove the seeds and place the rest into a blender. Add the basil, garlic, water, salt and celery salt to the blender along with the water. Blend the ingredients together lightly so the mix remains chunky.
Add the Tabasco, lemon, juice and gastric to taste and pulse it again quickly.
Transfer the contents of the blender into a cloth suspended over a clean bowl to catch the clear liquid that runs out. Allow the cloth to hang until all of the liquid has drained from the pulp in the cloth. Chill the consommé well before serving it.
300g picked white crab meat
4 tablespoons of olive oil
Maldon sea salt
A selection of mixed salad leaves
2 Haas avocadoes
6 tsp chopped fresh coriander
Remove the skin from the avocadoes and cut the flesh into 1cm dice. Put the avocado dice into a bowl and season it with a little salt, coriander and a little lemon juice to taste and mix it well together. Spoon a little of the avocado into a ring mould onto each plate. Remove any visible pieces of crab shell from the meat. Season the crab with the salt and lemon juice and stir in the olive oil. Spoon the crab into the rings on top of the avocado mix on the plates. Dress some mixed leaves with a little olive oil and lemon juice and season with little Maldon Salt. Place the salad on top of the crab.
Gurnards Head Squid Braised In Red Wine and Tomato
1kg whole squid
1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
500ml red wine
250ml good quality tomato juice
800ml fresh chicken stock
I tsp salt
100 g unsalted butter
1 handful fresh curly parsley, finely chopped
Cut the squid into slices as thin as possible. Melt 50g of the butter in a wide pan and cook the onions and garlic gently for 5 minutes without colouring. Add the squid to the pan, season with a little salt, and continue to cook for a further 3-4mins. Add 1/3 of the red wine and turn the heat to full, reducing the wine to almost a glaze. Repeat this until all of the wine has been added, reducing the wine by ¾ only on the final turn. Add the tomato juice and mix well with the squid.
Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil and turn down the heat so the squid is barely simmering. Cover the pan with a round piece of greaseproof paper and leave to cook for 60-90 minutes or until the squid becomes very tender.
NOTE: (if the stock reduces to much before the squid has cooked then add a little water)
When the squid is cooked and the sauce is thick stir in the rest of the butter and the chopped parsley. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve.
Smoked Eel Salad with Dandelion Leaves and Crispy Capers
6ozs (170g) or more, smoked eel
a selection of salad leaves
preferably blanched frisee
3 tablesp. extra virgin Olive oil
1 tablesp. Forum Chardonnay vinegar
freshly ground pepper
Skin the eel and discard the skin. Cut down towards the bone and then into thin slivers horizontally about 1 1/2inches long.
Heat ½ inch of Extra virgin olive oil in a deep fry or frying pan. Dry the capers, fry for 3 or 4 minutes until they fluff out and crisp up.
Dry on kitchen paper. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together.
Sprinkle a little dressing over the salad leaves and toss gently.
Divide between four plates, piling the leaves in a little pyramid. Lay 2 or 3 pieces of smoked eel on top. Scatter each salad with crispy capers and serve as soon as possible.
Cornish Cream Tea
Scones with homemade jam and lots of clotted cream – bliss.
Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3inch) cutter
900g (2lb) plain white flour
175g (6oz) butter
3 free-range eggs
pinch of salt
50g (2oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
egg wash (see below)
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones
First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/gas mark 9.
Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round. Roll out to about 21/2cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve split in half with home made jam and a blob of clotted cream.
Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.
If you would like to try the smoked eel salad contact Frank Hederman’s Belvelly Smokehouse – on the way to Cobh – or visit his stall at the Cobh Farmer’s Market every Friday morning and the Midleton Farmer’s Market every Saturday. My brother Rory O’ Connell also folds smoked eel through soft scrambled eggs, adds a pinch of chopped chives and serves on Melba toast. Yum. Phone 021 4811089.
If you’re peckish in Cork in the morning, Kay Harte serves a terrific breakfast at the Farmgate Cafe in the Market from 9:00am to 11:00am Monday to Saturday. All the ingredients come from the market downstairs, bacon from Tom Durcan butchers, apple and pork sausages from Catherine O’Mahony and Son butchers, and black puddings from Jack and Tim McCarthy in Kanturk and free range eggs from Gerry Moynihan. Start with a bowl of organic oats porridge and freshly squeezed oranges to order or Paddy O’s Granola and lots of fresh fruit and hot buttery toast made with bread from Sheila Fitzpatrick from ABC Breadshop and Arbutus Bakery. The Farmgate Café caters brilliantly for coeliacs. Phone 021 4278134.
Taste of Dublin restaurant festival is back from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th June in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens – dine your way around Dublin’s top restaurants, for a full program of events visit www.tasteofdublin.ie
Nuala Kenny from Ballydehob in West Cork has produced a Seasonal Food Calendar that lists, season by season, the foods we should be eating with a shopping guide to help you choose foods from each of the food groups.
Phone 087 9719174 email: email@example.com
Scarlet Hotel 0044 1637 861 800 www.scarlethotel.co.uk
The Victoria Inn 0044 1736 710 309 www.victoriainn-penzance.co.uk
The Gurnard’s Head 0044 1736 796928 www.gurnardshead.co.uk
Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant Padstow 0044 1841532700 www.rickstein.com
Beach Restaurant 0044 1736871191 www.thebeachrestaurant.com