I love the sound of seagulls calling, squalling, squabbling and chasing each other for fun or a wriggly fish – reminds me of holidays in Tramore as a tiny child, ice-cream cornets, sand buckets, little fishing nets, picnics by the Metal Man…
I’m in Cornwall for a few days, staying in an enchanting little fishing village called Mousehole, which we quickly learned is pronounced ‘ Mousel’ after we asked directions to Mouse Hole and got the same sort of amused looks that tourists to these parts get when they ask for cob (Cobh) or Yoo-gal (Youghal).
Cornwall is an enchanting place, I love any excuse to meander through the narrow lanes or lie on the beaches or potter through the pretty villages.
This time we were on a mission – to christen our part Cornish grandson, now a feisty two year old. The christening of a spirited two year old is no mean feat at the best of time so much to our immense relief, the ceremony went off almost without incident apart from three distinctly audible ‘NOs’ during the sprinkling of water from St Levan’s Well ‘in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost’.
After the ceremony we sipped a little fizz to celebrate and then drove down the hill to Porth Curno beach, one of many truly beautiful beaches in Cornwall – rock pools, golden sand, clear blue sea with little waves, lots of seashells to decorate sandcastles.
I decided to walk along the National Trust path on the cliff top to Penberth, a little secluded cove where a celebration lunch awaited.
Cornwall is still fiercely nationalistic, the Cornish pasty is alive and well and much loved. Cafés and tea shops and farm shops vie with each other to serve the best cream teas. Rodda’s clotted cream with its thick crust on top is to die for and in Cornwall is eaten at every excuse, spread on toast underneath marmalade or slathered on saffron bread and of-course as part of the famous cream teas.
Bridget Hugh-Jones Jasper’s paternal Grandmother makes the best Bakewell tart I have ever tasted; she served it warm, of-course with clotted cream – divine. She sweetly gave me the recipe which I share with you. Her chocolate and ginger bombe, scattered with crunchy praline was the pièce de résistance of the christening luncheon.
This is one the loveliest times of the year to visit Cornwall. The countryside is beautiful; the Maybush is already in flower, lots of wild garlic, bluebells, raggedy robin and gorse in full bloom, but the thousands of summer visitors have not yet descended. Mousehole, a few miles from Penzance is one of the most enchanting fishing villages, a labyrinth of narrow laneways and passages, higgledy-piggeldy houses, with casement and dormer windows, half slated, white washed walls with little gardens full of geraniums and pink valerians and daisies growing out of the crevices. Lots of B&Bs, cafés, galleries, English pubs, fish and chippers, ice-cream parlours and gift shops to explore. We stayed in the Coastguard Hotel overlooking the bay, a new acquisition of Charles Inken and his team who own Gurnards’ Head, a pub with rooms just twelve miles away on the other side of the peninsula. We had a fantastically good dinner there one evening. One of the highlights was vichyssoise of alexanders with horseradish cream and pea-shoots and mackerel with new seasons asparagus, tri-cornered leek (allium triquetrum) and pennywort (umbilicus rupestris). When I saw the blackboard outside which says ‘Can you forage or grow for us?’ I knew I was on the right track. The head chef Bruce Rennie and his team make full use of local wild food in season.
Cornwall is still looked on as a disadvantaged area but as in other challenged areas people are immensely creative and entrepreneurial.
As you drive through the country side, many farms and cottages have a little stand outside with an honesty box selling plants, cut flowers, jam and preserves or home baking. I bought a lovely little bunch of exquisitely scented violets for fifty pence, pinned them to my lapel for the christening and sprinkled them into the green salad later – delicious, waste not want not!
Bruce Rennie of Gurnards’ Pub Grilled Mackerel with English Asparagus, Three Cornered Leek and Pennywort
6 fresh mackerel fillets, pin-bones removed
18 spears asparagus, prepped
extra virgin olive oil
stems and flowers of three cornered leek (allium triquetrum)
pennywort leaves (umbilicus rupestris), washed
Season each side of the mackerel with salt and place on a lightly oiled tray skin side up.
Drizzle the top of the fish with a little olive oil and place under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes until the fish is just cooked and the skin has started to get crisp. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until just tender.
Remove the asparagus from the water and divide between 6 plates.
Place the mackerel on top of the asparagus. Chop the three cornered leek (allium triquetrum) stalks into small batons and dress the plates with these, the flowers and the pennywort leaves (umbilicus rupestris),
Drizzle the mackerel cooking juices around the plate and serve immediately
Bridget Hugh-Jones’ Bakewell Tart
75g (3oz) butter
175g (6oz) plain white flour
30g (1 ¼ oz) caster sugar
1 beaten egg with a couple of tablespoons water mixed (you won’t need all the water)
4 to 6 tablespoons of homemade raspberry jam
the weight of 3 eggs in caster sugar, butter, ground almonds
a few drops of almond extract
25g – 35g (1 – 1 ½ oz) flaked almonds to scatter over the top
9 inch tart tin, preferably with removable base.
First make the pastry. Sieve the flour and the sugar into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour, rub in with the fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with 2 teaspoons of cold water and add enough to bind the mixture. But do not make the pastry too wet – it should come away cleanly from the bowl. Flatten into a round and wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. Roll out thinly on a lightly floured worktop and use it to line a 9 inch (23cm) tart tin. Line with kitchen or greaseproof paper and fill to the top with dried beans. Rest for 15 minutes in the fridge.
Line the tart tin with short crust pastry and spread the base generously with raspberry jam. Cream the butter, add the caster sugar and continue to beat until soft and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs one at a time and then stir in the ground almonds and a few drops of almond extract. Spread this mixture evenly over the jam in the tart tin. Sprinkle the top with flaked almonds and bake in pre-heated oven at 180°C/350°F/Mark 4 for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then remove to a wire rack and serve with preferably Cornish clotted cream or softly whipped cream.
Bridget Hugh-Jones Chocolate and Ginger Bombe
Serves 10 – 12
1 jar of ginger conserve
450ml (16 fl oz) double cream
50g (2oz) dark chocolate
50g (2oz) caster sugar
50g (2oz) flaked almonds
100ml (3 ½ fl oz) double cream
100g (4oz) dark chocolate
2 lt Pudding bowl and plastic bag
Cut open a large plastic food bag and use it to line the pudding basin.
Tip a jar of ginger conserve into a bowl and stir to break it up a bit, then lightly whip the cream and chop 50g (2oz) dark chocolate, gently fold both into the ginger conserve until the mixture is evenly flecked. Tip into the lined bowl and smooth over the top. Cover and freeze for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.
Put the caster sugar into a heavy bottomed sauce pan and cook on a gentle heat without stirring until it caramelises to the colour of a conker. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the flaked almonds. Tip out onto a lightly oiled baking tray or a piece of foil. Leave to cool. When cold and set, break the almond caramel into unevenly sized small pieces with a rolling pin.
Pour 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) double cream into a small sauce pan over gentle heat, add 100g (4oz) dark chocolate broken into pieces, stir gently until the chocolate has melted. Then leave to cool until thickened to a spreading consistency.
When the ice-cream bombe is frozen, turn onto a chilled plate and quickly spread the chocolate icing over the top and sides as evenly as possible – it will set as soon as it touches the ice cream. Scatter the almond praline over the bombe and press lightly to make it stick on then return to the freezer until needed. Remove to the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving otherwise it will be difficult to slice.
Dust with a little icing sugar and serve in thick wedges.
Learn how to make your own cheese. Spend the day on Corleggy Farm, Belturbet, Co Cavan. with Silke Cropp on Sunday 6th May 2012. Learn the art of cheese-making and take home your very own kilo of cow’s milk cheese. Full day including lunch €150 or €250 for two people. Contact Silke at email@example.com to book.
A Slow Food Celebration of Local Food at Marco’s Pizzeria, Midleton on Tuesday 22nd May at 7.30pm. Meet local food producers, taste their produce, hear their story. Dinner €35.00. To book phone Marco and Caoimhe Brouwers – 021 463 30 30
All proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project.
Date for your diary – Coffee Morning at Ballymaloe Cookery School in in Aid of Self Help Africa on Friday 25th May 2012 – hosted by Darina Allen 021 4646785.
Wine Event at Ballymaloe House on Thursday 17th May – Riesling wine presentation with three winemakers from Riesling growing regions of the world – Tim Adams – Clare Valley, Australia, Carl Ehrhard, Rheingau, Germany and Severine Schlumberger, Alsace, France and chaired by wine writer John Wilson. €25.00. Stay on after the wine-tasting to enjoy a Slow Food Summer Plate from local food producers at €35.00 a head. This is priced separately from the wine-tasting and all proceeds from this will go to the Slow Food East Cork Education Project. Phone 021 4652531 to book.