If you’re looking for ideas for Christmas gifts for foodie friends or family, or if you’ve got a large group of people who you want to give Christmas gifts to, such as colleagues or team members, then biscotti is the perfect answer. Biscotti are twice baked almond biscuits that are dry and crunchy, often served with sweet wine or coffee to dunk in. They’re popular as a Christmas gift because of their festive flavours and the fact that they keep well for up to a month after baking. Biscotti originate from the Tuscan city of Prato (back in the 14th century), and the name means “twice baked”, but in Italy these biscuits are also often known as “cantuccini”. The dough is first baked as a log and then sliced up to make the oval biscuits, that are baked again to make them crunchy. Whether included as part of a festive hamper or given as small gifts to colleagues, nothing shows that you care like baking, and nothing’s easier to bake and gift at this time of year than biscotti. Give it a go, and get ahead for Christmas!
350g plain flour, plus extra for rolling 2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp mixed spice 250g golden caster sugar 3 eggs, beaten 1 orange, coarsely zested 85g sultanas 50g blanched almonds 50g your choice of other nuts
Heat your oven to 180C, 160C fan or gas mark 4, and line two baking sheets with baking paper. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and sugar. Stir in the eggs and zest until the mixture starts forming clumps, then bring the dough together with your hands – it will seem dry at first but keep kneading until no floury patches remain. Add the fruit and nuts, then work them into the dough until evenly distributed throughout. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into four pieces.Roll each piece into a thick sausage about 30cm long. Place two on each tray, spaced well apart as they will increase in size as they bake. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the dough has risen and spread, and feels firm. It should still look pale. Remove from the oven and turn it down to 140C, and place the baked dough on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Use a bread knife to cut the dough on the diagonal into 1cm thick slices, then lay the slices flat on the baking sheets. Bake for another 30 minutes, turning them over half way through, until dry and golden. Remove from the oven and tip out on to a wire rack to cool completely, then bundle up and gift wrap, or enjoy a few yourself with a coffee or glass of desert wine to dunk in.
If you’re a meat-eater or flexitarian, then a good case can be made for switching out farmed meat for wild game. Eating wild game can be better for our health than eating regular farmed meat (it is very low in fat and cholesterol) and can be better for the environment. It can also offer great value for money and is often more flavourful. The punchier flavours of many game meats matches perfectly with winter and the heartier dishes that many of us gravitate towards at this time of year – which also coincides with open season on the majority of game species and therefore its availability to us consumers.
What Counts as Wild Game?
Gamebirds such as pheasant, partridge and grouse (to name a few), waterfowl like ducks and geese, and rabbits, hare and the various species of deer (‘ground’ or ‘fur’ game’ – the mammals) all count as game. It is legal to shoot these species in the UK, but many of them have closed seasons when it is illegal to shoot them to allow them to breed, raise young, and migrate between their breeding and over-wintering grounds. The open season is the period of time within which they can be shot, and this is when wild game is most readily available. Some game species are farmed either directly for consumption (venison) or for organised shoots (gamebirds) – this is game meat, but not wild game and so whilst it may well carry the same flavour, eating it does not have the lower environmental impact that wild game does.
When Is Wild Game Available?
In England and Wales, the majority of gamebirds and waterfowl (certainly the most popular and readily available) have an open season from between the 1st of September or the 1st of October, and the end of January. There are some exceptions, and you can see the full table here. There is technically no closed season on rabbits and brown hare on private land in England and Wales, however there are date restrictions on moorland and in any instance it is only legal to shoot them between December 11th and March 31st which effectively creates a season for these ground game species.
The open season for wild venison depends upon the species and differs for male deer (stags or bucks) and female (hinds or does). In Scotland, stags or bucks can be taken year-round. Through winter and into early spring from November 1st through to March 31st, is open season for hinds and does. Roe deer bucks can then be taken between April 1st and October 31st creating a year-round season for roe deer. For red, sika and fallow deer, the stags or bucks have an open season from August 1st through April 30th, so for these species there is a closed season through late spring and into summer.
You can ask your local butcher about wild game meat, although be sure to specify wild rather than farmed if that is important to you. In Cornwall we are fortunate to have suppliers such as Duchy Game (at Pelean Cross, just outside Ponsanooth) or you can look online for a supplier local to you or who sells online.
If you are interested in learning how to prepare and cook game animals, then our Game Workshop (the next one takes place on Thursday November 23rd) is a great course to give yo the confidence, skills and recipes to add wild meat to your winter repertoire. Over the years, several game recipes have been shared on our Foodie Blog, from game terrine to “posh” venison kebabs. Take your pick from the links below, and give wild game a go this winter!
Do Bay Leaves Actually Make A Difference To A Dish?
Lots of recipes, particularly stews, sauces, stocks and soups, include the addition of a bay leaf, and most of us will have a packet of dusty old dried bay leaves at the back of a kitchen cabinet somewhere. But, what’s the point of using bay leaves, and do they make a difference to a dish?
What Are Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves are a Mediterranean herb that can be used fresh or dried, and that are most often used whole in a recipe. They are the foliage of the bay laurel tree (Laurus nobilis, also known as sweet bay and roman laurel), which thanks to its historic association with the ancient god Apollo led to victorious athletes being crowned with a laurel wreath, then later poets and those who have achieved great things (laureates). Bay trees are popular ornamental evergreen shrubs, so you may well have one in a pot on your patio. The leaves are quite hardy and waxy, so when used in cooking they remain stiff and don’t break up which is helpful because in most recipes that use them, you are asked to remove the bay leaf before serving.
What Do Bay Leaves Taste Like?
Bay leaves impart a subtle flavour similar to oregano or thyme when used in slow-cooked dishes. If it’s subtle, you may well ask “what’s the point?”, and plenty of people do. The point is that they add a supporting background flavour that amplifies and deepens a dish. They aren’t mission ciritical, so you can get away without adding them, but if you happen to have a bay tree stood on your patio or a sealed pack or jar of dried bay leaves in your cupboard that aren’t so old that you’ve moved house with six times, then you have nothing to lose (and something to gain) from chucking in one or two.
The leaves of the bay laurel tree contain more than 50 essential oils and aromatic compounds including eucalyptol, terpenes, and methyleugenol. When they’re fresh or only cooked for a short time they can have a noticeable eucalyptus and menthol flavour, but the longer they are cooked for the more those harsher notes tone down and the aroma and flavour softens and becomes fuller and more herbal and tea-like. The aromatic compounds in hardier or woody Mediterranean herbs (which have evolved to try to retain as much moisture as possible in the often arid conditions they grow in) are far less volatile, so they won’t evaporate as the leaves dry and therefore when dried they retain almost as much flavour as fresh – as long as they are stored correctly!
Using Bay Leaves In Cooking
If you are cooking something slowly, such as a stew, casserole, a ragu or bolognaise, or similar, then adding a bay leaf or two and leaving it in for as long as possible will enhance the final dish. That’s why they appear in recipes. But if you don’t have any to hand, it’s not a total disaster. For most recipes, use one or maybe (at most) two leaves and keep them whole; the flavours will be released by the leaves and spread throughout the dish, and they are much easier to remove when left entire. There is no need to leave a whole leaf in your dish for serving – its job is done. If using fresh bay leaves then be sure to allow them to cook for long enough for the flavours to mellow. If using dried, they will store well for a couple of years if kept in a sealed container in a dark place; that often leads to them getting lost at the back of a kitchen cabinet for far longer than that though, so if you’re in any doubt about the age and origin of those dusty old bay leaves you’ve found, consider buying a new pack.
The weather may be suggesting otherwise, but we are firmly in autumn now, and autumn is mushroom season. I’ve been working with our friends at Truffle Hunter recently, the UK’s leading supplier of fresh truffle and truffle products, developing some recipes with their range of oils and condiments. This recipe for truffled mushrooms and lentils is a suitably hearty seasonal recipe (and it’s vegan, too).
1 tsp TruffleHunter Black or White Truffle Oil 1 tsp TruffleHunter Minced Black Truffle 1 large onion 2 cloves garlic 1 celery stick 1 carrot Handful of mixed fresh mushrooms 500g raw puy or green lentils (or pre cooked) 1 bay leaf 1 large glass red wine 1 vegetable stock cube Handful of fresh parsley
Add the TruffleHunter Truffle Oil to a pan and then finely dice the vegetables. Add these to the saucepan along with the bay leaf on a medium heat. Finely chop half the mushrooms and add to the pan. Season the pan well. After gently sweating the vegetables for 8 minutes, add the lentils, TruffleHunter Minced Black Truffle and stock cube. Next, add the red wine. Cook off the wine and then pour 1.5 litres of hot water into the pan. Gently simmer with the lid on until the lentils are soft. If using pre-cooked lentils, add a little liquid and cook until your desired consistency. Just before the lentils are cooked, roughly chop the rest of the mushrooms, heat another frying pan and toast the mushrooms in a little truffle oil and then serve on top of the lentils. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy with a glass of red wine!
Whether you call them cinnamon twists, rolls, scrolls or buns, the one thing that we can all agree on is that they’re delicious and one is never enough.
Our recipe for cinnamon twists is always a really popular addition to our Scandinavian Cookery or Baking courses. Rather than creating loads of really thin laminations to create a croissant or “cro-nut” style pastry, our version is less energy and time intensive, so you can get them in the oven (and onto your plate) sooner. Here’s a step-by step guide to folding and plaiting them to create those delicious little knots.
Once you have rolled out your enriched dough (to about the size of a piece of A3 paper) and spread the cinnamon paste over it (see recipe here), take one of the long edges and fold it 1/3 over. Then fold the other 1/3 with exposed paste over on top of the doubled-up layer, so that you have a long, thin rectangle. Slice this into 24 strips, approximately 3.5cm wide.
Use a sharp knife to cut two lines down each strip to create three strands, starting 1-1.5cm from the top
Plait the three strands together by taking one outer strand and crossing it over top of the middle one, then repeating from the other side, and alternating.
Roll the plaited dough up into a ball and place in a greased muffin tray, then repeat until you have plaited all 24 twists.
Having manipulated your dough so much, you then need to leave it to prove again for fifteen minutes to half an hour before baking, so that the dough can relax and expand into its new shape. Then bake!
Over the weekend of September 16th & 17th I got to cook with the most amazing backdrops and local produce on the Isles of Scilly for the 2023 Taste of Scilly Festival.
On Saturday I had my toes in the sand on Porthmellon Beach, cooking smoked Moroccan beef and spiced chicken thighs served with flat breads, pickled cabbage, garlic mayo, romseco and za’tar. Then on Sunday we set up the Drumbecues on the slipway at The Mermaid Inn on the harbourside in Hugh Town where I cooked Lebanon style lamb leg with anchovy dressing, and pulled pork with smoked paprika (served again on flatbreads with pickled cabbage, garlic mayo, romseco and za’tar).
It was an incredible weekend and amazing getting to spend some time on these beautiful islands just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall. Thanks so much to Visit Isles of Scilly, Victoria Bond and Anna Mahoney for inviting me over to be a part of Taste of Scilly.
Autumn is apple season. That’s come around quickly, huh! Some apple varieties are ready to harvest in August, but September and October are when the action really ramps up in the UK. But whilst we’re still also clinging on to the remains of summer, I’ve got a recipe for you that combines your barbecue with the first of the new season’s apples. And, if it’s raining, you can use your oven instead of your barbecue. You can make most of the elements of this dessert a day or two in advance too, so all you need to do when the time comes is cook your apples and assemble. Give it a go, and let me know what you think!
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180ºC fan). Lightly butter a deep baking dish. Add the Biscoff spread to a small pan and gently heat until runny. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Put the flour, butter and a pinch of salt to a medium sized mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until resembling breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and broken biscuits and nuts. Then add the melted biscoff. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown. If preparing in advance, transfer to an airtight containter and refrigerate.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, add sugar and salt and cover with coffee, topping up with water as required. Bring to a simmer, stirring every so often until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Increase heat to medium-high and cook until deeply golden, without stirring, (4 to 5 minutes more). Once the caramel is a deep copper colour, turn off the heat and immediately stir in the cream and butter. The mixture will bubble up so be careful! Let it cool slightly in pan, then transfer to a container to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 180°C Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium for a few minutes until they turn golden brown, giving the pan a shake every now and then so they don’t catch. Set aside to cool. Put the sugar, butter, golden syrup, and vanilla extract in a pan and heat over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Don’t let it boil! Then take the saucepan off the heat and tip in the toasted sesame seeds and mix well. Pour the mixture out onto the lined baking tray and spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon or spatula, pressing it down as you go. Pop that in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the edges are starting to brown and crisp up. Remove from the oven and place the tray on a cooling rack. If you want uniform pieces then once it’s cooled a bit score the brittle so that you can break it along those lines later, or just leave it to cool thoroughly and then snap into random shapes. You can sotre your sesame brittle in an airtight container in a cupboard for a week or two if you need to .
All of above can be done few days before you want to serve.
TO BRING THE DISH TOGETHER
Either fire up the BBQ or pre heat your oven to 190°C. Cut your apples in half, removing the seeds, and roast or bbq until golden brown and softened. You’ll probably want one eating apple per person. Put two halves of cooked apple and a dollop of the cream on each plate, sprinkle some crumble mixture over, stick a couple of bits of sesame brittle in the cream and then drizzle syrup over it all. Serve, and enjoy!
As an island nation we’re fortunate to have access to some great fish and seafood, particularly here in Cornwall in particular where we are surrounded by the sea on three sides and have a well-managed fishing industry.
Because of the importance of Cornish-caught fish to the local economy (both the fishers who work our waters and the fish merchants and restaurants and cafes that sell and serve their catch), and the fragility of harvesting wild fish and seafood from the ocean, it’s important that all of us make well-informed and sustainable decisions about what we eat. At various points in the past fish stocks of certain species or particular areas have been overfished or damaging methods used, and stocks have critically declined or collapsed. It happened with the Cornish pilchard and herring fisheries through the early decades of the 20th century, and with mackerel in the mid 1980s (in 1989 the European Economic Community introduced the 6,7000km2 ‘Mackerel Box’ covering the waters around Southwest England and Southwest Wales in which there is a ban on targeted fishing for mackerel by trawlers and purse seiners, and where a hand-line fishery operates with a separate quota allocation). It’s important that we don’t let these sorts of collapses happen again, for the sake of the marine environment and the livelihoods of people who work in the fishing industry, many of whom in Cornwall fish inshore from small boats using inherently sustainable methods. So that’s not to say that we can’t eat fish and shellfish at all, we just need to make informed decisions that are environmentally and economically sustainable.
That’s where the Cornwall Good Seafood Guide comes in.
“The Cornish fishing industry is something we should all be proud of, but knowing what fish to buy is a complicated issue. The Cornwall Good Seafood Guide is an incredible resource that is constantly updated so that consumers as well as those in the fishing and food industries can plainly see what’s best and most sustainable to eat.”
Launched in 2015 and led by Cornwall Wildlife Trust in partnership with representatives from Cornwall’s fishing industry, the Cornwall Good Seafood Guide aims to help us consumers to eat more sustainable and locally caught seafood. It uses the Marine Conservation Society’s sustainable seafood rating system that is known nationwide, and applies it to fish and shellfish available in Cornwall using local data about fisheries’ health to promote or protect certain species. Alongside their rating system, fishers, fish-sellers and restaurants can apply to be supporters of the Cornwall Good Seafood guide meaning they have taken a pledge to highlight sustainable Cornish seafood and to offer it to their customers. Philleigh Way Cookery School are supporters and we are proud to be helping spread the word about this vital and important project.
We recently caught up with Oscar Miller, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Fisheries Liaison and Marine Business Advisor, to find out more about how Cornwall Good Seafood Guide came to be, how it’s developed, and what’s in store for the scheme.
What was it that prompted the creation of a sustainable seafood guide specific to Cornwall?
For years the members of Cornwall Wildlife Trust were asking for information on seafood – what to eat and what not to eat. We found it was very difficult to find information on the subject, and hard for experts let alone members of the public to make well-informed choices. We decided to work to bring together information on all of Cornwall’s fishing industry into one place where the public could get unbiased information on sustainability. We wanted to rate seafood on its sustainability but rather than create our own system for doing that we decided to work with an existing system – the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide – to provide clear, detailed information on the sustainability of Cornwall’s seafood. The aim is to help businesses and consumers make well informed choices and to help incentivise and steer the fishing industry in a more sustainable direction for the long-term benefit of fishers and our amazing marine environment and its wildlife. Well-managed fisheries provide the most efficient way to provide high quality protein, however poorly managed fisheries result in over fishing and depleted fish populations meaning that fishers and the marine environment are worse off. It’s in everyone’s interest to get fishing right – using the methods with the lowest impact and managing effort to ensure that fish populations are allowed to recover and stay high. This makes the system far more productive and yields the best possible annual catches without risking overfishing.
How has the project developed over the last eight years?
We now have a huge amount of traffic to our website, with over 10,000 visitors each month. We have noticed a real improvement in understanding of the industry, and increased awareness from businesses and the public about what to eat and the need for good fisheries management to prevent unsustainable fishing.
How have the fishing industry, hospitality industry, and consumers responded?
Many businesses have changed their menus and have offered local sustainable seafood to their customers. The public are definitely asking businesses and seafood sellers more questions. We have seen a big increase in the number of people buying seafood online, particularly since COVID, and many fish sellers now use our logo to highlight sustainable Cornish options to their customers. Consumers are now far better informed, which is positive. Prices for sustainable seafood are responding well, so fishers are being rewarded for fishing well. Many large buyers of seafood will avoid species with poor ratings so the information is definitely having an impact and incentivising improved fishing management.
Does the project have an end goal or is it ever evolving and reactive to circumstances?
The fishing industry is always changing – at the moment the management of fishing is massively changing due to our leaving the EU, and we are now faced with an opportunity to get fisheries management right for the long term benefit of the fishing industry and the marine environment. It is vital that the public are kept well informed and that we continue to realise the importance of good management of fisheries. Climate change is also creating massive changes in the distribution of fish species across the Atlantic Ocean and over future years we are likely to see warm water species continue to thrive while cool water species decline. The situation is constantly changing and our website and ratings respond to these changes. We hope to continue providing information to consumers and businesses for many years to come and see our project as being vital in the long term to help influence the fishing industry positively.
If you had one piece of advice for readers about consuming fish, what would it be?
Ask questions! How was it caught? Is it Cornish? Get to know your local fishers and fish sellers and ask for sustainable seafood. Visit our website to check which species and capture methods are on our recommended list. Making sure that you only eat seafood from local well managed fisheries and avoid seafood that has been transported from other areas of the world (with the associated high carbon footprint and often poorer fisheries management) is one of the best ways you can help our oceans.
Cast iron cookware is a fantastic addition to your kitchen cabinet, particularly if you regularly cook outside and barbecue over the summer months. Cast iron pots and pans (often called skillets in the States) are heavy, and they hold and distribute heat really well. They also last FOREVER with the right care and upkeep. Compared to a set of cheap pans that may have hotspots or warp with heat so that they wobble on your hob, cast iron is solid, dependable, and super versatile.
Whether you bought a pre-seasoned cast iron pan from a shop or online, or found a vintage gem at a car boot sale, it will need seasoning every now and then and there are a few golden rules.
Cleaning A Cast Iron Pan
After use, clean your cast iron in hot water with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth, using a wooden spatula to scrape off any stuck-on bits. You can use a small amount of washing up liquid although many people advise against this as it can remove the seasoning on the cooking surface. If food is really stuck on then you can use coarse rock salt as an abrasive to help remove it. Dry the pan thoroughly with a dry tea towel, and you can even put it back on the heat or in a warm oven to dry completely. It’s really important that you pan is absolutely dry before you store it away, so that there is no moisture left on it that might trigger rust. Whatever you do, do not put your cast iron in the dishwasher or leave it in a bowl of water. Once dry, add a teaspoon of neutral cooking oil, such as rapeseed oil, and wipe around and all over using a piece of kitchen paper.
Restoring A Cast Iron Pan
Just like tools, they don’t make them like they used to. Or, when they do, they’re expensive. If you manage to get your hands on some old cast iron cookware from a car boot sale or the like, or if perhaps you left your Dutch oven with all of your camping stuff in the shed or garage over the winter, then nit might need a bit of restoration. Remove any surface rust using an abrasive sponge or a wire scourer in hot or hot and soapy water. This will almost certainly affect or remove the layers of seasoning that have built up on the surface, so once free-from-rust, clean and thoroughly dry, you will need to re-season it.
Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware
The seasoning on cast iron cookware is simply layers of polymerized cooking oil, which means that the oil has been heated to the point where it naturally hardens and creates a blackened, almost non-stick coating. To re-season a pan, you are simply rebuilding these layers of hardened oil. I’d suggest using rapeseed oil, although you can use other neutral cooking oils with high-smoke points (don’t use olive oil). You can either add some oil to you pan and heat it on the hob until it begins to smoke, then turn off the heat and allow to cool before discarding any excess oil and carefully using a clean cloth or piece of kitchen paper to wipe the warm oil around the pan, or you can wipe oil all over your pan and then put it in your oven upside down. Heat your oven to 220, with your extractor hood turned on or a window open in case it creates any smoke. Leave for up to an hour and then turn off and allow to cool thoroughly before removing from the oven. We use our large outdoor pizza oven for this job! Repeating this step (hob or oven) several times will build up layers of seasoning (it should end up looking shiny, like it’s been varnished) and increase the non-stick-ness of your pan. If you frequently cook fatty food in your pan, such as bacon or steaks, then this will continue to add to the seasoning. You ought to do this re-seasoning process a couple of times each year, if you’re cooking with your cast iron regularly. Perhaps that means at the end of the summer after a season of barbecues and campfire cooking, and then again in late spring when you take it out of storage before a summer of use, if you primarily use them for outdoor cooking. However, I’d encourage you to use it throughout the year in your kitchen, as they’re such good bits of kit.
Some Tips For Cooking With Cast Iron Pans
Always pre-heat a cast iron pan before cooking with it – if you try to cook from cold your food will likely stick to it, regardless of how much you’ve built up the seasoning! Because they’re solid and heavy, it’s best to preheat for longer and on a slightly lower heat than with other types of pots and pans. Only occasionally cook acidic foods, such as tomato sauces, citrus fruits and the like in your cast iron pan, because the acids can reduce the seasoning. “Respect the first touch” as live-fire chef Francis Mallmann famously said – that means put your food in a hot pan and leave it – don’t be tempted to move it around too soon, or too much! Clean your cookware as soon as possible after use, and dry it thoroughly – I can’t emphasise that enough!
Cooking with cast iron pots and pans may seem like a lot of effort, when you could just use any old cookware. But believe me, it is worth it – for minimal effort (you wash your pans anyway, right?!) you get a great cooking experience and a pan that can cook most things, on the stove top or in the oven, or both for the same dish. If you see an old pan for sale on your travels, pick it up, clean it up, re-season it and enjoy many years of good cooking with it.
Known in Greece as “xoriatiki” (or “horiatiki”), which translates as “rural”, this salad is best kept simple and as intended. Super fresh in-season ingredients, tangy creamy feta cheese, and a simple dressing, it’s got texture and flavour by the bucket-load.
Cherry tomatoes (good handful, or 3-4 large tomatoes Cucumber Red onion (medium sized) Kalamata olives Feta cheese (200g-ish block) Oregano (fresh or dried) Extra virgin olive oil Red wine vinegar (you can add a green pepper too if you like)
Halve the cherry tomatoes or cut regular sized tomaotoes into wedges, in the salad bowl so that the juices collect at the bottom. Cut the cucmber into thick quarters, and slice the red onion into thin rings. Add to the bowl with the olives, then add a good glug or two of olive oil and about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Gently stir and toss it all together to coat. The feta can be placed on top whole or in large slabs depending on how many people you’re feeding (quite traditional) or cut into large cubes. Just because feta crumbles doesn’t mean you crumble it into this salad – cut cubes are better! Incidentally, if you have a colleague or team mate, who crumbles under pressure but retains a decent sense of humour, feta makes for a great nickname 😉 Garnish with a sprinkling of dried oregano and one last drizzle of olive oil, and get stuck in.
Fancy mixing things up a bit? Try adding chunks of watermelon to this salad! You won’t regret it.
If you’re having this as a light lunch then a piece of crusty bread to mop up the dressing is borderline essential. It also goes great as a side with lamb koftas (recipe here).
If there’s one thing that unites us in the UK, it’s a love for drizzling or dolloping sauces over and alongside our meals. In fact, a poll commissioned by Waitrose last summer found that over a third of us have 5-6 jars or bottles of different condiments in their fridge.
As we hit peak summer, lots of us are also trying to find ways to utilise the crops from our veg patches and greenhouses. Last year a friend and I developed a recipe for an absolutely banging smoked chilli sauce that you can buy bottles of from the cookery school or Cove Café. We’re talking Cornish chillis that have been fermented for a fortnight, local apple cider vinegar, confit garlic, and smoking peppers, onions and tomatoes over cherry and oak wood. We went deep on this one!
If you can’t get your hands on a bottle before it all sells out, and if you’ve been growing chillies at home this year like our friend Matt (pictured), then I’ve got a simpler recipe for you to try so that you can put the fruits of your greenhouse or windowsill to good use and cook up a batch of this smokey chilli sauce. It’s incredible poured over…. absolutely everything.
Sterilising your jars or bottles Wash your jars and lids in warm soapy water and leave to dry on a draining rack – don’t touch the insides! You can dry the lids with a clean, dry, tea towel. Place the jars and lids in a preheated oven at 180c/160c fan/gas 4 for fifteen minutes. Remove, allow to cool, and use!
500g Chillis (a couple of handfuls, or about 20 chillis, but go steady if you grew Scotch Bonnets like Matt) 1 red onion 1 red pepper 1 yellow pepper 1 vine of cherry tomatoes 2 cloves of garlic Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger (grated) 300g castor sugar 250ml apple cider vinegar 1 – 1.5l water (you can use half and half cloudy apple juice if you like) 1 bay leaf Rosemary – sprig Thyme – small bunch
Whether you have a biscuit tin smoker that you can pop on your barbecue (see here for how to make one yourself) an offset smoker, or are keeping it as simple as a barbecue with a lid, smoke the chillis and garlic for an hour or two. If you have any fruit wood or shavings (apple or cherry) that’d be ideal. Whilst your barbecue is lit, char the peppers, onions and tomatoes. Remove the skin from the charred veg, and roughly chop with the smoked chillis. Put it all into a large pot or casserole, add the rest of the ingredients going easy on the water or diluted apple juice (start with a litre and add more later if required) and bring up to the boil. Simmer for an hour over a low heat. Season and taste to check – you can adjust the water, vinegar and sugar to get the balance you’re after. Blend it with a stick-blender or in batches in a food processor – you can keep it fairly rough or blitz it for a while and then push it through a sieve with the back of a spoon if you want a super smooth sauce. It’s up to you! Check the seasoning and balance one last time, allow to cool, then decant into your sterilised jars or bottles.Store in a cool cupboard for up to a couple of months, and once opened keep it in the fridge and use it with a week or two. Which won’t be hard.
This is another fantastic recipe for our friends at Wild Cornwall that you can cook at any time of year, but that’s particularly good to cook over fire in the summer months – whether that’s a barbecue, or a campfire for a bit of cowboy authenticity!
For this chilli con carne recipe Rupert picked the Hunter’s BBQ Sauce and Fragrant Rosemary Sunflower Oilfrom their range of seasonal foraged and home-grown condiments, oils, vinegars, relishes and rubs. The BBQ sauce is deliciously smoky and rich, with sweetness from the raw Trelonk honey balanced with the earthy savouriness from their wild alexanders sea salt.
You can of course cook this chilli con carne inside using your hob and oven, but we like to cook it on the barbecue, sealing and browning the beef shin on the grill over the embers and creating the chilli con carne in a cast iron pot or Dutch oven, using the lid of the barbecue to add a bit of smoky flavour to the dish. Here’s how to make it:
3 tbsp Wild Cornwall Hunter’s BBQ Sauce Wild Cornwall Fragrant Rosemary Sunflower Oil 3 Red Onions 500-600g Beef Shin (could use skirt, chuck, braising steak etc) 2 Peppers 2 sticks of celery 1-2 carrots Half a Chilli – orangey green one Garlic 1 tin of beans (kidney beans, cannellini beans, etc) Bay Leaves Spice Mix – smoked paprika, cumin, cumin seeds, coriander, oregano Sherry vinegar Beef stock
For the dressings:
Small bunch coriander Small bunch parsley 2 cloves garlic, Sherry vinegar Wild Cornwall Fragrant Rosemary Sunflower Oil
Jar mint sauce Pot Greek yoghurt
Start by seasoning the shin of beef with salt all over. Keep it whole, then chop down into diced cubes later on after initial sealing and browning to go into pan. Put it straight onto a hot barbecue to get loads of colour on it.
Whilst that is happening, prep the veg: Chop the onions into large chunks and dice the carrots and celery a bit smaller into 1cm cubes. Chop the peppers into big chunks. Put a large cast iron pot or casserole on the bbq to warm up. Add a slug of Wild Cornwall’s rosemary infused sunflower oil and when it’s hot add the veg to the pan with the bay leaves. Season with salt, and put it back onto the barbecue or hob Sweat down the veg whilst the beef finishes colouring (turn it so that it’s coloured on all sides) Add the spices in and 3-4 tablespoons of barbecue sauce, with a glug of vinegar. This will create a sweet/sour paste in bottom. Add brown sugar if want to sweeten it more. Take the beef off the grill and dice into large cubes. Add to the pan and top up with beef stock, to around half way or just covering the ingredients. From this point it could take take 2-3 hours cooking it low and slow in the oven (150-170 degrees C) to break down all the collagen and ligaments, or slightly less time over the heat of the barbecue. Leave the lid OFF the pot, but put the lid ON the barbecue. If you want a punchy smoky flavour then place a piece of fragrant wood (apple, cherry, beech etc) that’s been soaked in water onto the grill rack off the barbecue off to one side. Come back to it after 45 minutes to 1 hour, and put the lid on the pot for the remaining cooking time. Add beans at this point, roughly half way through the cooking time. You’re looking for the beef shin to pull apart and be nice and soft. Top up the pot with beef stock if needed, or put a bit of baking paper over it (called a cartouche) to stop the steam from escaping and the chilli from drying out too much.
Make green dressing with coriander, parsley and garlic, vinegar and rosemary oil. Finely chop a couple of cloves of garlic. Season with a touch of salt, and add a glug of vinegar. This recipe uses parsley and coriander, but any soft green herb will do. Chop roughly. Add Rosemary oil. Mix.
The Mint dressing is simply a jar of mint sauce mixed with Greek yoghurt ad seasoned with salt.
Serve with white rice – basmati or long grain. You could put more beans or root veg in to reduce or replace the beef. It’d also be great served with tacos. Top with green dressing and mint yoghurt, and enjoy!
Duchy Opera returned to Park House on the outskirts of Truro on the first weekend in July for another year of the wonderful Park House Opera. This year the performance was a double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana (the incredibly moving and dramatic Italian opera that featured in the final Godfather film) and Trial by Jury (another entertaining and comic Gilbert and Sullivan opera) and we were delighted to cook for the Gala nights on Friday and Saturday. We planned and served a seasonal Italian menu, and really enjoyed another year of being involved with this fantastic, atmospheric and entertaining evening in Cornwall’s summer calendar.
Lemon arancini – truffle mayo Goats cheese Cannoli – red onion chutney Pickled sardines – pine nuts, orange & raisins Pesto Trapanese bruschetta Stuffed courgette with chilli & garlic
Rolled pork loin stuffed with orange, fennel & pancetta served with polenta with roasted green salsa
Caponata served with same sides
If you missed out this year, then plan ahead to get a ticket for next summer’s performance of Die Fledermaus, a rumbustious drunken tale of the shenanigans at a Viennese costume ball. Early Bird tickets will go on sale before Christmas, and you can find out more about Park House Opera here.
If a BBQ seafood feast on a secluded beach on the south coast takes your fancy, then join me at this unique dining experience on the beach at Hotel Meudon next week.
On Wednesday 28th June I will be cooking a seafood banquet of locally caught lobster and fresh fish over open fire. Teaming up with the beautiful Hotel Meudon, we will be transforming Bream Cove on Cornwall’s south coast into a magical open-air restaurant for one night only.
It’s a relaxed affair – think beach blankets, sand between your toes, the sound of the ocean, and the delicious smoky smell of the day’s catch cooking.
Tickets start from £39 and are available to purchase from the link below.
The evening will begin at Hotel Meudon as you enjoy a welcome drink and canapé starter prepared by the hotel’s new Head Chef David Waters, before making your way down through the sub-tropical leafy gardens to the beach. Unroll your picnic blanket and watch me prepare a main course feast of catch of the day, half lobster, grilled asparagus, fennel salad, garlic mids, focaccia and aioli, cooked over fire on our drumbecues.
Drinks will be available to purchase throughout the evening from the Bream Box, and dessert will be served on the beach courtesy of Hotel Meudon before strolling back through the gardens for optional nightcaps at Freddie’s Bar.
This unmissable pop-up event will officially mark the launch of Hotel Meudon’s Feast Series – a collection of unique dining experiences in picturesque locations, celebrating the culinary expertise of brilliant local guest chefs. I’m honoured to be kicking off the season for them!
Wednesday 28th June 2023 – Arrival at 6.30pm | £39 per person + £15 lobster supplement
*This is a relaxed dining event, and guests are asked to please bring their own blankets/cushions/chairs for the beach plus plates and cutlery for the open-fire feast. Please note that we will not be able to provide these on the night.
St Ives Food Festival is always such a great weekend. Taking place in mid-May, this food festival on Porthminster Beach has the most incredible backdrop for the chefs lucky enough to be invited to demonstrate a recipe on the Asado Fire Pit stage.
On Sunday 14th Rupert shared with the crowd how to make mechouia salad, a fantastic traditional Tunisian dish of grilled Mediterranean vegetables that goes incredibly with barbecued meats or works as a stand-alone dish. It’s a frequent favourite at our Wooodfired Cooking courses!
Mechouia (also known as slata mechouia in Tunisian Arabic) has a base of char-grilled tomatoes, onions, peppers, chillis and garlic, which are coarsely chopped and seasoned before being dressed with olive oil. Rupert cooked a tomahawk steak over the coals, serving it medium-rare, sliced over the mechouia.
Cook your steak to your preference, remembering to oil your steak (whether or not you use a pan) and, once placed on the grill, not to move it until you come to turn it. And, of course, rest it before slicing and serving!
Here’s how to make the mechouia to serve it on:
4 Medium Tomatoes
2 Red Peppers
2 Large Jalapeno Peppers
2 Small Onions, the outer paper leaves removed
1 Teaspoon Caraway Seeds
½ Teaspoon Coriander Seeds
2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon red wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Using either a grill or BBQ fire, char the outsides of the tomato, peppers, and onions until they’re completely blackened and blistered, turning frequently to char all sides. You can put the onions directly into the coals of the fire. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow them to steam in their own heat for 15 minutes.
Peel the char off of the vegetables, coarsely chop them and place them in a bowl.
Toast the caraway and coriander seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Grind them into a powder in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.
Add the spices with the olive oil and vinegar to the chopped vegetables and stir well. Salt and pepper to taste.
Header image by Nik Read, article images by Sam Buckle. Thanks to both for sharing their work with us.
We recently welcomed the team from our Roseland near-neighbours Wild Cornwall to Philleigh Way, to work on some summer recipes utilising their range of seasonal foraged and homegrown condiments, oils, vinegars, relishes and rubs. First up, spatchcock sweet chilli chicken!
This dish of whole barbecued sweet chilli chicken, wedges and coleslaw is perfect for cooking and eating outside now that the sun’s come out, but you can just as easily make it in your kitchen (then carry it outside to eat). It uses Wild Cornwall’s punchy Rambler’s Sweet Chilli Sauce that features Calendula flowers for an earthy flavour to add balance and depth, and foraged water pepper (Arsesmart) for a hot and peppery punch.
Wild Cornwall Rambler’s sweet chilli sauce Whole medium chicken White potatoes Half red onion Half a white cabbage Half a red cabbage Vinegar (red or white wine vinegar) Plain natural yoghurt Mayonnaise Coriander leaves (optional) Spring onions (optional)
For The Coleslaw Finely slice half a red onion Season with salt and pepper Add some vinegar to reduce the acidity of the onions Slice the red and white cabbage Add Wild Cornwall Rambler’s Sweet Chilli sauce Add the yogurt and mayo Give it a mix and that’s your coleslaw done Here you could add coriander or spring onions as extras.
To spatchcock the chicken with a pair of scissors or secateurs for reduced cooking time, cut alongside the back bone from one end to the other and the same on the other side. Turn it over Give it a push down Season with salt Brush on wild Cornwall sweet chilli sauce Put the chicken in a barbecue with a lid, or the oven Leave to cook for an hour and a half to two hours Keep basting with the sweet chilli sauce
To check the chicken is done either use a thermometer or check the juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife in the thigh.
Cut the potatoes in wedges and par boil for 10-15 minutes. Drain and give them a little shake to rough up the outsides. Preheat a roasting tray with a slug of oil, then spreads out the wedges and put in the barbecue or oven to cook and crisp up.
Monday marks the start of British Tomato Fortnight 2023, which runs from May 29 through to June 11th to coincide with peak tomato season in the UK. And now that the sun’s out and summer seems to have arrived, it’s salad season and this classic from last week’s Taste of Tuscany course is simple, delicious and filling. Enjoy!
200g stale (unsliced) bread
600 g ripe mixed tomatoes,roughly chopped
1 handful small capers, drained
1 small red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
8 anchovy fillets in oil (optional), drained and finely sliced
Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Bunch of fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Tear the bread into rough 3cm pieces and place on a tray. Leave aside in a warm place for around 30 minutes – this helps to dry it out. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Rinse the capers, squeezing out any excess liquid and add to the bowl, along with the onion, ciabatta and anchovies, if using. Toss the mixture together with your hands, then stir in 2 tablespoons of vinegar and about 3 times as much extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add a little more salt, pepper, vinegar or oil, if needed. Tear in the basil leaves, stir together and serve. Delicious with barbecued meats or roast chicken.
As part of last week’s Roseland Festival, Rupert had the pleasure of teaming up with Roseland Market Garden to host a long-table garden supper in their polytunnel for forty lucky diners on Thursday May 4th. The menu consisted of Roseland Market Garden’s spring seasonal vegetables and delicious home-reared, grass-fed hogget from the farm, all enjoyed sat at a table laid down the centre of their polytunnel in the heart of their veg patch.
“The mission: to connect our guests with the finest of produce, reared and grown in the very fields we are dining in. A truly beautiful and unique concept. Mission accomplished.”
Jamie Hext, Roseland Market Garden
“What an amazing and unique experience Everything looked lovely and the food was fantastic, especially that lemon posset pudding!”
Josh Hoole, Roseland Festival Vice Chair, Publicity & Events Co-Ordinator
Whipped feta crostini – dukka Baba ganoush flatbread Charcuterie
We are really excited to announce that, alongside the cookery school, Rupert has also taken over the ownership and running of Cove Cafe overlooking St Ives Bay at Riviere Towans, Hayle. It’s such a fabulous location and spot, nestled into the rocks just above the sand with a view across the bay towards St Ives.
We’re looking forward to offering simple and great tasting dishes such as Cornish fish soup, mushroom fricassee and mussels with ‘nduja and mascarpone. We’ll also be continuing our ethos of working with local suppliers, such as Trevaskis Farm, Primrose Herd, Dodo Bakery and Homage to Bovine and using seasonal ingredients. The menu will change regularly with something for everyone.
“Taking on Cove Cafe is actually something I’ve wanted to do for over five years – the timing was never right, so now everything has aligned, I’m really excited to get started. My vision is for Cove to become a near-enough 12-month beach café with a simple offering, welcoming both locals, and visitors to enjoy wholesome food, incredible scenery and great hospitality.”
Aside from the daytime offering, we’re looking to continue and expand the legacy of evening events, which promises to be exciting. Cove Cafe opens on Wednesday 3rd May and will then be open Wednesday – Sunday from 9.30am to 3.30pm with no booking needed.
We’ve have some work to do getting the space set up, re-branded and ready to open and it’s been a busy few weeks to say the least, but now that the paint’s dry (just!) we want to welcome you to a little opening party this Sunday, May 7th. Four courses of goodness and plenty of fantastic wine and beer on offer (It’s a bank holiday after all!) We have 30 tickets available for inside, but if you want to gamble on the day and sit outside then let us know. Menu and the link to book are below:
“Fit For A King” Lunch Menu
“Canapes for a King” Cove fish soup, Cornish Yarg crostini & dill Smoked striploin of beef, roasted onions, horseradish sour cream, confit garlic mids served with burnt lettuce & wild garlic salsa Sticky ginger pudding, clotted cream and rum sauce
On the weekend of the 21st-23rd April, the small harbour town of Porthleven on the south coast of Cornwall once again played host to an epic food festival. For one weekend in April every year, the harbourside and the park at the centre of the small town are taken over by marquees, stages and stalls, and food lovers from across the country arrive for a weekend of inspiring food and drink featuring the best chefs and producers from Cornwall and beyond. Philleigh Way’s Rupert Cooper had the honour of compering the festival’s Chef’s Theatre stage alongside the festival’s chef patron Jude Kereama on Friday, introducing the presenting chefs, talking the crowd through their recipes and lending an extra pair of hands when needed.
The big ticket event for Porthleven Food Festival this year however was the Feasts At The Net Loft, hosted by Rupert. He had a busy weekend! Held in the beautiful and characterful old Net Loft on the harbourside with views out across the fishing boats, Rupert hosted a three-course feast on the Friday and Saturday nights and then a special Sunday lunch. The Friday feasts featured dishes from friends and acclaimed chefs Jude Kereama, Guy Owen, and Andrew Tuck (who’ve all competed on the hit BBC Two TV programme Great British Menu) paired with a wine flight selected by sommelier Elly Owen, and on Sunday it was all about the seasonal roast.
Friday & Saturday Feast Nights
Black & blue onglet, parmesan, pickled jalapenos, watercress – Andy Tuck Slow cooked Catalan style charred octopus Grilled asparagus with Cornish yarg dressing (v) Wild pesto & sourdough crackers (v) ~0~ Bread – trufle butter – dips (v) ~0~ Kota Kai Pork Char Sui with grilled Asian greens – Jude Kereama Spring vegetable orzo – mojo verde with smoked onions (v) BBQ Hispi cabbage with feta & onion – Guy Owen (v) Roasted potatoes with confit garlic (v) ~0~ Rhubarb & Cornish fairing cheesecake, roasted rhubarb with stem ginger & Cornish Gin (v)
Spring minestrone (v) ~0~
Smoked & roasted Cornish Pork served with traditional roasted vegetables, stuffing & cider gravy Or Veggie Pie served with traditional roasted vegetables, stuffing & veggie gravy (v) ~0~ Rhubarb & seasonal fruit crumble, served with Rossa’s clotted cream (v)
Cooking with children is a great way to help them to develop a healthy relationship with food. When they’re young they don’t have to be involved from start to finish – just the fun messy bits that they’ll enjoy! This recipe for lentil and beef meatballs with pasta is a healthy one pan meal that the kids can help make, and that the whole family can enjoy. Give it a go!
400g can green lentils, drained 400g good quality beef mince 1 onion, finely chopped 1 celery, finely chopped 1 carrot, finely chopped 1 tsp dried mixed herbs 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tbsp olive oil 400g chopped tomatoes 2 tbsp tomato paste 400g small pasta shapes, like orzo or macaroni 30g Parmesan or other hard cheese (Optional) fresh parsley to serve
Start by chopping all of the vegetables before making your meatballs.
In a bowl add the mince, lentils, mixed herbs and season. Then squash and combine the mixture (get the kids involved! They can’t break it!) until it become smoother. You want to really work the mixture to mash it all together so that the meatballs don’t break apart when cooking.
Form meatballs the size of a ping pong ball and add to a large high sided cold casserole pan. Once they have all been shaped, put the pan onto a medium high heat, and brown the meatballs on 2/3 sides. You may need to cook them in batches. Don’t move them too quickly!
When they have coloured nicely remove from the pan to a plate, turn the heat down to medium and add the veggies. Gently sweat off for 4-6 mins, then add the tomato puree. Add the chopped toms, rinse out the can and fill with hot water and add to the mixture. Stir in the pasta and then add the meatballs back in.
Simmer with the lid on gently for 12-15 mins or until the orzo is cooked ( you can top up with water if needed).
Serve with a generous grating of cheese and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
One billion people around the world rely on fish and seafood as their primary source of protein, with 3.3 billion getting at least 20% of their animal protein from fish. Fish and seafood are incredibly important not only for people’s diets but also for many people’s livelihoods, however the scales of sustainability aren’t always balanced and so sources and stocks need to be carefully managed and we need to consume consciously if we are to avoid catastrophic collapses. This recipe is all about helping you to do that – it’s a quick and delicious meal using tinned sardines that ticks the boxes for great value, sustainable and local fish.
Cornish Sardines and Pilchards
Cornwall has a long history of fishing for pilchards – small silver fish that we now call sardines that are caught as shoals in inshore waters. Historically, fishing boats would row out and lay a large wall of netting around a shoal of fish and then draw it in. The catch was then pressed for oil and the fish salted and laid in barrels for transport in the fish cellars that can be found in so many of Cornwall’s old fishing villages. These days fishing boats encircle the shoals with a ring net (a modern take on a purse seine net). How sustainable sardines are depends on where they are caught, but one of the most sustainable fisheries where fish stocks are actually increasing, is the Cornish fishery that catches fish in the Celtic Sea and English Channel. According to Cornwall Good Seafood Guide there are 14 vessels (all under 15m) fishing for sardines in Cornish waters. All of these boats belong to an organisation called the Cornwall Sardine Management Group and through this the Marine Stewardship Council has accredited the fishery. CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) carries out a survey every year and stock levels of sardines in our area appear to be healthy and improving.
The Benefits of Tinned Fish
Fish, particularly oily fish such as sardines, are a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein. Tinned or canned fish provide just the same amount of these and have the same nutritional values as fresh fish. The benefit of canning fish is that they have a really long shelf life. The fish are processed then sealed in an airtight can, sometimes in a sauce, and the can is heated to make it sterile which also cooks the fish. Tinned fish can have a shelf life of anywhere between 1-5 years and can be eaten straight of of the tin or used in a recipe like this.
Tinned Sardine & Tomato Pici Pasta
200g semolina flour 100ml warm water
Pici pasta (or any string pasta)
1 tin of Cornish Sardines (or any MSC certified tinned oily fish) Handful of cherry tomatoes 1 pinch of chilli flakes 3 cloves of garlic ½ tsp dried oregano 1 tbsp red wine vinegar Fresh basil
You can use shop-bought dried linguini or spaghetti. But if you want to make the pici, in a bowl weigh 200g semolina flour, add a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil then pour in 100ml of warm water. Combine and then begin to knead until pliable and soft like playdough. Wrap and put into the fridge for at least 30mins. Without adding any extra flour, roll the dough out into a 1cm thick round. Next, cut the dough into ¼ inch thick strips. Make the Pici – One at a time, roll each strip out on a clean work surface to resemble thick spaghetti. The pasta needs enough grip to roll so don’t add any flour or you won’t be able to roll it out. Place each piece of rolled out pici on a tray or separate area dusted with flour or semolina to stop them sticking
Heat a saucepan or high sided frying pan. Then with a little veg/rapeseed oil put the cherry tomatoes in. You’re looking to blister and burn them! Don’t be shy. While they are frying, finely chop the garlic When the tomatoes are nicely charred and beginning to break, turn the heat down, drizle a little olive and add the garlic. Season. Add the tinned sardines, oregano and vinegar. Gently simmer for 7-10mins. Season with black pepper and the chilli flakes. The sardines will provide enough saltiness. Boil your pasta until al-dente then add that to the “sauce” with a little pasta water. Cook and incorporate. Serve with torn basil leafs and pangrattato. Enjoy!
In our Store Cupboard Essentials series we’ve dived into the details of which cooking oils and vinegars you should always have to hand when cooking, or the differences between the various types of paprika, for example. But, I’ve not yet shared my list of the staple items that I suggest you keep your store cupboard or pantry* stocked with. Whether you’re starting afresh or having a spring clear out of your kitchen cupboards and getting rid of all of those tins and jars that are waaay past their best-before date, I hope that this helps.
*Few people have a pantry in their homes, but pantry or larder cupboards are popular in larger modern kitchens. Historically a larder was a cool cupboard or room built into the north or west side of a house (because those walls get less sun) with stone shelving built into the walls so that the whole space is below ambient room temperature; they were used to store perishables such as butter, milk, cheese and eggs, and the name comes from a time when they were used to store meat that had been covered in a layer of lard to further help in preserving it. A pantry is a similar large walk-in cupboard or small room dating back to medieval times used as additional storage for a kitchen, used to store bread originally but that over time became a general dry goods and crockery store.
When it comes to eating well, there are a number of different ways to look at it; here at Philleigh Way we try to cover them all. Eating well for the planet and environment is something that more and more people are taking into consideration these days. It is a nuanced topic full of debate, and it’s easy to get distracted by the arguments and side-taking. There are a few things that each of us can do, and for meat-eaters and flexitarians, eating wild game or replacing farmed meat with wild game, particularly replacing beef with venison, is one of them.
Venison is nutrient rich, and is the result of deer grazing the grass, plants and trees that we can’t eat directly. Deer no longer have any natural predators in the British Isles and as a result their population booms with disastrous consequences. They often end up having a negative impact on biodiversity within forests and woodlands, damage and destroy crops, and there are often cases of starvation and death amongst deer populations when their population outstrips their food supply. Every year in the UK, around 350,000 deer are culled to keep their numbers under control so that they don’t outgrow their food sources or become a nuisance to farmers. There is also a net benefit to the smaller wildlife and birds that would be outcompeted by deer. In short, by controlling wild deer populations, nature wins and we get nutrient and mineral rich, lean, organic meat that has none or only a fraction of the carbon footprint of farmed red meat. You certainly couldn’t meet the nation’s appetite for red meat with wild venison, but at the moment it’s under utilized and we could and should be eating more of it.
We recently caught up with Scott Martin of wild game supplier Duchy Game at Pelean Cross, just outside Ponsanooth, to find out more about wild game in Cornwall.
Scott started out hunting rabbits. “I used to go out with lurchers, because farmers liked it because you weren’t taking guns on the land with livestock, and the lurchers were stock trained so they wouldn’t touch the stock but they would pick up rabbits.” He tells us. “I was getting 100-150 in a night which was really good. I was earning way more money doing that than from my day job! I was aware I had to be sustainable. I had an end use for what we were catching.”
Now he supplies wild rabbits and pigeons shot on his family’s farm, with wild venison from Tregothnan Estate making up the majority of the wild “fur” game meat that he sells (rather than feathered game). He’s one of a dozen or so people who regularly hunt at Tregothnan, the seat of Viscount Falmouth and the ancestral stately home of the Boscawen family just outside Truro (they have lived there since 1334). The estate is estimated to be almost twice the size of The Duchy of Cornwall’s holdings. “In the early 1900s, fallow deer were seen as a good parkland deer. The stately home at Tregothnan has a 300-acre park that surrounds it. Other places like Powderham Castle near Exeter have a lot of deer, or Prideaux Place in Padstow. In Richmond Park up in London there’s a big herd of fallows and reds, they coexist together up there. At Tregothnan over the years some deer have escaped from the parkland into the greater estate. They’re famously good at jumping fences! The greater estate over there is massive – it covers thousands of acres.” Scott says that around 400-550 deer are culled there every year to keep the numbers down for grazing purposes and so that the deer don’t end up going hungry (which for wild game meat would result in a poor quality carcass), and that only around 100 of those come from the park itself. The rest come from the greater estate. “There’s been reports of them over the other side of Tregony and Gerrans on the Roseland. During the shooting season the more they cull, the further the deer will spread. In the 3-4 months in the summer when they’re not being culled they all wander back towards Tregothnan as it’s quieter and there are more bucks in the park.”
One condition of sourcing from Tregothnan is that the meat can only be sold within Cornwall, but there is a benefit that it all comes from a single traceable source. Wild game is not farming, however. “I can only sell what’s been shot.” Scott says. “I can’t go and pull an animal out of the field – with livestock farming you gauge, you know your numbers, you know your stock, you know the busier times and quieter times of year it terms of demand and all that sort of thing. Game is a bit different because it’s weather dependent, light dependent, and so on. There are loads of different factors that come into it.” He goes on to explain that if it’s really stormy or windy weather then the deer tend to stay in the woods and during those periods he doesn’t tend to hunt as much. “The last few weeks have been lovely and normally it’s unheard of to shoot 20-30 in February for the whole month, but they’ve shot that in around 10 days this year because the weather has been so good and they are able to hit them.”
There are legal seasons for shooting different deer, as well as the weather and hunting conditions to consider. Most of the venison that Scott shoots, butchers and sells is from fallow deer. Roe deer are the small deer that most people see occasionally in fields and on the edges of woodlands, in ones and twos; they don’t really move in herds. Fallow deer stay in herds from six individuals up to perhaps 90 or 100 animals. Because of the smaller size of roe bucks, which are in season during the summer, Scott doesn’t tend to take them. “I can’t get a high enough meat yield on the roe, I can’t get good haunch steaks.” He says as we tour his on-site butchery. “These legs are quiet small-ish fallows, but still I can just about get the three main muscle groups out of the legs. With roe I don’t, I just sell it whole on the bone. They are too small. Financially it doesn’t make much sense. I do shoot a few roe at Tregothnan but 98-99% of what we shoot are fallow deer.”
Scott’s views are that the animals that we eat should be treated with respect, and that waste should be avoided. “My personal view is that an animal should be killed in it’s own environment instead of being put on a trailer and dragged around everywhere.” He says. “Working with Tregothnan they are very good, because they are more interested in making sure the meat is processed properly for the food chain, which is another reason I don’t want or need to take venison from anywhere else because I know how it’s been treated. If you’ve got someone purely thinking of financially gain they don’t always treat the carcass with respect. They are just thinking about what they’re going to get paid for it.” Scott cites the varying demand for wild game and particular cuts of venison, and how it doesn’t necessarily lead to some people utilising the whole beast. “All the restaurants wanted at Christmas was loin. If I could have been getting five saddles off every deer I would have been quids in, but that isn’t the case!”
Scott tries to send the hides off to be tanned, however because they are wild deer only about 60% are good enough to be sold because the deer skins had been damaged from rutting and snagging. The ones that couldn’t be sold whole are turned into cushion covers – all efforts to use the whole animal and get the best return on investment, particularly considering the cost of disposing of waste properly.
When it comes to the meat itself, Scott sells direct to the public from his farm shop at Pelean Cross, between Ponsanooth and Perranwell, and supplies restaurants in the county. “The restaurants seem to like the fallow deer down here, which tends to be slightly fattier, for wild flavour. Red can be very strong. Only 5-10% of people in the UK eat game regularly, whereas in Europe, like France and Germany, it’s up to 70-80%. If you’re trying to introduce people to it then, as with almost all foods, you want the milder version so as not to put people off.”
Our final question to Scott, as we browsed the fridge in the converted vintage lorry that acts as his farm shop in the roadside food court that he’s developing, was if he were going to take his pick for dinner out the fridge what would he have and how would he cook it? “My favourite cut of game is venison shank. Slow cooked because it’s sort of like a pulled venison. There’s loads of flavour because it’s got the marrow as well. Put that in the slow cooker, a lamb shank would melt away but this stays the same size and it would feed three of you comfortably. It’s a bit different to the standard answer – lots of people come in looking for diced venison for stews, or sausages or burgers.”
The hospitality industry in the UK is feeling the impact of a serious staffing crisis. And yet, food is an essential and unifying thing for us humans, and we’re lucky in this country to have an economy and society where eating out is available as a treat. Feeding people is a privilege and there are some incredible jobs and career paths in the in the hospitality industry. You only have to look to some of our nation’s best-loved celebrities who are chefs, and their stories, to see what is possible. Here in Cornwall, thanks to our vibrant tourism sector and the incredible produce grown, caught and reared in the Duchy, there are even more of those opportunities.
A few weeks ago I joined chefs, owners and experts from Cornwall’s hospitality sector at Truro and Penwith College’s annual ‘Employer Week’. Organised by the college’s Hospitality department and Hospitality Table Cornwall (part of the ESF Business Clusters project, which is part funded by the European Social Fund), the week is designed to inspire students, increase awareness of the variety of career opportunities in the sector, and raise their aspirations as they get to learn from and “rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the industry” (their words, not mine!)
“This week will help give our students the time to interact with future employers and learn different styles of hospitality.”
Tony Duce, Hospitality Course Coordinator at Truro and Penwith College
Year 10 Experience Days
Towards the end of 2022 we welcomed eight Year 10 students from Richard Lander School in Truro to Philleigh Way for a part-day “Access To Hospitality” course, with a view to then offering this to other Cornish schools, colleges, and academies. Our aim is to offer a unique and vocationally focused opportunity to students who are interested in a career in food. Cornwall has a large and prosperous hospitality industry, and attracting, nurturing and retaining young talent is something that many of us in the industry are working to improve. Throughout the day we offered insights, tips and practical skills acquisition that students can take with them through further studies and vocational training, all whilst they cooked lunch for themselves and their accompanying teachers. Taking food lessons out of the school classroom can provide a memorable experience for these students that I hope will deepen their interest in pursuing a career in the industry.
“We had the pleasure of taking some of our GCSE students over to Philleigh Way Cookery School in December.
The students had a fantastic time. Rupert is a great teacher and someone who really inspires the younger generation of future chefs! Our students came away with better knowledge of how to knead a bread dough, how to combine flavours to create a range of dishes and used some fantastic knife skills. This benefits our students by giving them key skills that they can use in the classroom, preparing them for when they are choosing the dishes that they wish to create for their practical exam. Philleigh Way really is special, and the work that Rupert is doing here, is at the heart of it all – he not only inspires the future generation of hospitality stars in Cornwall, but also their teachers – we all learnt a lot from the day, and this has ultimately helped change and mould the way we teach in the classroom – what could be better?
We would thoroughly recommend booking onto one of the courses with your students.”
Lynsey Toms, Head of Design & Technology (Fd/Tx/Cd/H&SC), Richard Lander School
We’re putting together the final touches to this offering before we make it available to other schools, but in the meantime if you are a teacher, school governor or parent who would like to find out about how we an do it for your school, please drop us an email.
February 1st is the last day of the partridge shooting season in England, Scotland and Wales, so that being today it’s a great opportunity to share this recipe so that you can make the most of this wonderful game bird before it’s off the menu for another six months.
Partridge isn’t just for The Twelve Days of Christmas, and this delicate tasting game bird offers a great introduction to cooking and eating wild game. They are small so a single partridge is perfect for feeding one to two people (which looks great when cooking for friends or family) and their pale flesh and delicate flavour isn’t a million miles away from chicken – they’re certainly not as punchy as other game birds. In this recipe, I use a spice rub to flavour the bird, and pair it with the sweetness of roast apples and creamed cauliflower. It’s a great seasonal Sunday roast for the winter months, so visit your butcher this week or next whilst they’re still available!
1 x partridge (½ pp) 1 tsp coriander 1 tsp cumin ½ smoked paprika 1 tsp sumac 1 x apple 1 x cauliflower 50g butter 25g double cream 25g milk 2 tbsp Dukka Salt Olive oil
Pre heat your oven to 190 c. For the cauliflower puree, For the cauliflower purée, melt the butter in a large pan over a low to medium heat and add the cauliflower florets. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly until they are just beginning to colour.
Add the milk and cream, season well with salt and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 8-12 minutes, depending on their size, or until the cauliflower is really soft. Season and blender with a hand blender. Put it to the side.
Then start by heating up a frying pan with a little oil and then brown the bird all over, then season with the spices and salt generously. Put the partridge onto a baking tray, and into the oven. 12-15 minutes.
Core and cut the apple into wedges, then in the same pan as the partridge was coloured in. Add the apple quarters with a dash of oil and salt until golden brown, transfer on the baking with the partridge for 2 mins.
When the partridge is cooked, warm up the puree and plate up. Sprinkle the dukka on top to finish the dish.
Menu planning has never been more important, or necessary. Sure, in winter we all spend more evenings at home and each January many of us make commitments to eat better or scrutinise and experiment with our lifestyles, but as we start 2023 with a cost of living crisis, it’s a great way to eat well, for less.
As with the one week meal plans that I prepared and shared at the start of each of the three COVID19 lockdowns, this menu carries ingredients and leftovers from meal to meal to minimise food waste and maximise value for money. Ingredients with short shelf lives such as meat and fish are used in the first half of the menu so that those of you who do a single weekly shop don’t have to worry about expensive ingredients ticking over their use-by dates.
For our vegetarian, vegan, dairy and gluten-free followers or those with other dietary needs, I apologise that not all of these dishes will work for you however I hope that you can still perhaps adapt some of these meals to your requirements or take inspiration from the core concept of carrying over key ingredients or leftovers into other meals. Feel free to replace or omit ingredients and to play around with the recipes and the menu to suit your dietary requirements.
Please click each link to be taken through to the web page with ingredients and instructions.
Use leftover chicken (you can really strip the carcass and use all the bits for the soup) for this classic comfort food meal. Vegetarians and vegans, omit the meat and replace with additional oriental greens, and swap chicken stock for veg stock. Take leftovers to work for lunch.
It is said that cheese and fish don’t go together, but I’d say there are a couple of exceptions: fish pie, and this recipe. This dish is a cross between a kedgeree and a classic rarebit. It’s simple, full of flavour, and amazing for a light midweek dinner.
Another great light and easy midweek dinner, and if this menu is a bit light on meat for your liking then you can always pair it with sausages or similar. Use veg stock instead of chicken stock and cream to make this vegan.
Lentils are a great and versatile source of cheap protein, and if you want to reduce your impact on the planet then they are absolutely the way to go. Dhal is a lentil dish that is then tempered with a spiced oil (the tarka). Dhal is almost infinitely adaptable, easy to make and a great source of leftovers for lunches.
A warming dish for a winter weekend that I prepared for our friends at Rodda’s this autumn. Make it vegan by leaving out the cream.
We teach elements of menu planning and how to make the most of all of your ingredients through all of our cookery courses. Our upcoming Eat Well For Less cookery course is now fully booked, but keep an eye out as we’ll be running it again in 2023.
Parsnips are a great winter vegetable – their flavour improves and they become sweeter following frosts, so they’re at their best right now, in mid to late winter. This parsnip risotto recipe is from our recent Italian Christmas course, but isn’t just for Christmas – it’s fantastic right through the winter months. If you buy locally grown vegetables then it’s local, seasonal, and if you have a roast chicken on a Sunday and make a stock with the carcass, it’s a great way to utilise that. Give it a go and let us know what you think!
2 parsnips Parmesan cheese, for grating 2 pints stock (chicken, fish, or vegetable, as appropriate) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tbsp of butter 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped ½ a head of celery, trimmed and finely chopped 2 cups risotto/Arborio rice 1 glass of white wine or vermouth Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tbsp crème fraîche Pangrattato to serve Truffle oil to serve
Peel and cut the woody bit from the parsnips (keep the peels) then dice into cubes Gently fry the parsnips with finely chopped garlic and butter, then add the stock and simmer until parsnip is soft. Then blitz with a hand blender. This will become your risotto stock. Preheat your oven to 180. Heat the stock. Put the olive oil and butter into a separate pan, add the onion, and celery, and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. This is called a ‘soffrito’. Meanwhile, put your parsnip peels in a bowl and toss with some olive oil then roast in the oven until they crisp up – around 20-25 minutes. When the vegetables in your pan have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat. The rice will now begin to slightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring. Once the vermouth or wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding stock a ladle at a time, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. Remove from the heat and add the cream and Parmesan. Stir well. Drizzle over truffle oil and sprinkle with pangrattato (recipe here), then arrange some of your parsnip peel crisps on top and dig in!
• These competitions/sweepstakes are promoted, run and officiated by Philleigh Way LLP. • The competitions are open to residents of the United Kingdom aged 16 years or over. • There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter these competitions. • By entering these competitions, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions. • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Meta, Facebook, Instagram or any of their subsidiaries. • Closing date and time for entry will be specified in each of the individual posts. After these times no further entries to the competition will be permitted. • No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason. • To enter the competition you must like and tag a friend in the comment on this post, and to win both the entrant and tagged prize recipient must be following Philleigh Way • The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition • The prize is as indicated in each of the individual posts. Travel and accommodation is not included. • The prizes are as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice. • The winner will be chosen at random from all entries received and verified by Promoter. • The winner will be notified by comment on the competition post and DM on Facebook/Instagram at time of closing. If the winner cannot be contacted or does not acknowledge or claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner. • The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. • By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions. • The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by [English] law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of [England]. • The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current [UK] data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent. • Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.
On Friday November 4th, the evening before Bonfire Night, we lit fires of our own at Knightor Winery to cook a Bonfire Feast. It was a fantastic evening and it felt like a great way to welcome winter – outside, around fires, with warming glasses of smokey mulled wine before retiring into the Winery barn to sit at long tables and share plates of seasonal food.
Here’s a gallery of some photos from the night, and for those of you who missed and it want to torture yourself, the menu that we served. If you’re interested in hosting a similar event this winter and you’d like to have us entertain and cook for your guests, or if you like the idea of your staff Christmas party looking like this, then drop us a line to discuss what we can do for you.
Smokey mulled wine ~0~ Autumnal canapés ~0~ Smoked pork shoulder, woodfired apples dauphinoise served with Knightor gravy and pangrattato Or Stuffed squash cooked over coals with pearl barley and cavalo nero salsa verde (vegan) ~0~ Knightor Vermouth polenta cake with smokey plum syrup and nut brittle with vanilla crème fraîche
We are so lucky in Cornwall to be surrounded by some incredible chefs, and so lucky here at Philleigh Way to count some of them as tutors. Our Pâtisserie and Chocolate course tutor Emma Adams is one such incredibly talented chef. Emma started her career in the kitchen of a Michelin star restaurant, and went on to become the go-to pâtissier called upon to create delicious deserts for private celebrity events and weddings. She’s catered for famous names such as Elton John, Robbie Williams, and the Beckhams, and now you can come to Philleigh Way to learn the secrets of her incredible creations. Ahead of her upcoming courses teaching Pâtisserie (November 26th – now sold out) and Christmas Chocolate (December 11th), we sat down with Emma at her café in Truro’s creative quarter (where she’s brought baking back to the Old Bakery Studios for the first time in a quarter of a century) to find out a bit more about her back story and her baking.
Did you go into the hospitality industry with the aim of becoming a pastry chef and chocolatier, or was it a role that you developed into? No, I started out at the bottom as a 2nd commission chef working in the main kitchen. I moved to the south of France, and I was put on the pastry section, and that was the start of my patisserie journey. I actually love cooking starters and mains too.
What is it that you love about pâtisserie? I love patisserie because everything is a science. Get one thing wrong, and it won’t work! I enjoy the challenge of that. You can never be complacent that it will work ,no matter how many times you’ve made the recipe. Plus the end results speak for themselves.
You’ve worked with high profile chefs and in Michelin starred establishments, and catered many celebrity weddings and parties. What does it take to work at that level? It takes many hours of hard work to learn the trade, giving up my weekends, bank holidays and evenings, sometimes working 60 to 70 hour weeks. I’ve probably worked double the amount of hours to most people. Also a passion for cooking and detail is absolutely essential. I try to work to the best standard that I possibly can.
What skills from those experiences do you bring to your courses at Philleigh Way? I am classically trained but love a modern twist, so modern classics beautifully presented with some tips and tricks and a bit of science as well.
You’re also teaching a Christmas Chocolate course on December 11th – what can attendees expect from that? For the Christmas chocolates, we will be making beautiful bon bons and truffles and Christmas treats with festive flavours.
What is your favourite recipe to make, and your favourite to eat, and why? I actually love making south east Asian food, anything spicy. My favourite patisserie or dessert would be something fruity with exotic flavours like a delice of passionfruit, mango and coconut.
An Interview With Cookery School Tutor Amelia Hollis
Philleigh Way’s Amelia Hollis spent nearly a decade cooking at sea aboard some of the most spectacular super yachts to ever set sail, before returning to the UK and settling in Cornwall. Her experience cooking on various vessels, as well as in high end restaurants in London and Sydney, makes her the perfect person to lead our brand new five-day Yacht Chef Course, setting students up with all of the skills required for seasonal chef jobs at sea or in ski chalets. For anybody considering skilling themselves up for a stint at sea, we sat down with Amelia to learn more about her time working on boats – the realities of cooking in a galley for a hungry crew or super yacht owners, plus all of the incredible opportunities that come with the job.
Were you a chef before going to work on boats, or was it a role that you took on once at sea?
After graduating from Leiths Cooking School, I started my career at a fine dining restaurant in Marylebone, London as a Commis Chef. A couple of years later I completed my STCW 95 course for the yachts (the basic safety training certification required by anyone looking for commercial work aboard vessels over 24 metres, such as superyachts and cruise ships) in the Isle of White and left for Antibes to search for a chef role on a super yacht.
How and why did you go to work on Yachts?
I had heard about yacht work through a family member who had been in the industry, and the thought of being able to travel the world as well as doing what I loved appealed to me greatly.
28 50, the wine bar and restaurant in Marylebone close to Oxford Street and Bond Street where I got my first chef role, was a great starting point for my career as a chef. It instilled in me a huge discipline and work ethic, and I learnt some incredible skills and knew for certain that this is what I really wanted to do. However, being 21 years old and having a twin at university, I knew in myself that I needed something more from my early twenties before really committing to the London chef life that was made up of 18-hour days and zero social life.
Where did the job take you, and what opportunities did you get as a result of it?
My first port of call was Antibes where I had to “Dock Walk” which is the term used for all green seafarers who have to find day work or, if you are lucky, a full time job on a super yacht. This is rather a daunting challenge, especially on your own. I was very lucky because the crew house I was staying in had an ex yacht chef agent running it and that resulted in me getting an interview over the phone. Two days later I found myself in St. Maarten in the Caribbean where I joined the 62 meter long Motor Yacht Sea Owl, a privately owned yacht. This boat took us all around the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and some of America. I was cooking for the 21-strong crew and helped the head chef when the family who owned it were on board. After four Atlantic crossings I was offered a job at Quay Restaurant in Sydney.
After spending a year in Australia (the length of a working holiday visa) I then went back into yachting and landed a job on my second boat – Motor Yacht Senses. This was a very special boat in terms of where it was based and what the program offered us. We travelled around the Pacific Ocean visiting the most beautiful places, including Fiji and Tahiti. This is where I learnt how to surf and kite surf! After just over two years as chef on that vessel it was time for me to move back home to England.
Working on the yachts enabled me to buy my first home when I got back, and I decided to settle in Cornwall to stay close to the sea and continue to cook.
What are the main differences between being a chef on shore and cooking at sea?
It is extremely hard to compare the two jobs. Both require discipline, a great work ethic and a good skill set. Cooking on land teaches you the structure of commercial kitchens, patience, learning to cope with a strict hierarchy. It is very long hours and very limited social life. One of the most rewarding feelings is having completed a long service with a team that you love, knowing that you have brought food joy to a full restaurant of diners.
Cooking at sea is also demanding as you really are on your own and do not have the support of a team. You must do all of the ordering and provisioning in isolated places, all of the menu planning, and you have to cater for every dietary requirement under the sun. You must be flexible in every way, extremely patient and accommodating as timings and the menus can change at the drop of an owner’s request! What the owner says, goes. There is nowhere to hide, and you truly do have to show your skill and organisation as a chef. The financial rewards in yachting far exceed land-based jobs, though!
How did you manage the different requirements of feeding super yacht owners and guests, and feeding the crew?
This can vary depending on what size yacht you come to work on. Both yachts I was lucky enough to spend my time on had two chefs in the galley when owners were on board for a “Boss Trip”. We would work together as a team to feed both the crew and the guests. The most important thing is being organised for the guest trips with menus being pre-planned so we would have an idea of what we were going to cook throughout the weeks ahead for both sides. It changes all the time however, depending on what the provisions are like when they arrive, the guests’ requests, dietary requirements and what situations you may find yourself in such as storms, rocky seas, impromptu beach picnics and so on. We would have our provisioning, menus and time management down to a T before guest arrival with an outline plan to follow so that whatever might be thrown at us, we could work around to make sure that everyone – both crew and guests – were eating the best food possible and as happy as could be. Crew would always eat breakfast, lunch and dinner before the guests so that it was cleared and out of the way in the galley, then we could concentrate on cooking each meal for the boss and family, or guests. The crewmembers on yachts eat extremely well, as they are the ones who need the fuel and motivation to continue working the long hours and demanding boss trips for weeks on end. Any allergies or dietary needs for the crew were catered for. There were always various options served family style to choose from in the crew mess – a happy and well-fed crew is a must! As both of the boats that I worked on were privately owned, we would always have preference sheets on board for each guest and know exactly what the family likes and dislikes – from drinks, to snacks, to allergies basically everything is thought of to make sure that the experience was effortless and easy from the outside looking in. Nothing was ever too much and we never said “no”. The longer you stay on board the more you get to know the boss and how to cook for the family.
What were your signature or go to dishes when creating meals in a small space or with in a limited pantry?
Luckily when the owners were on board, we had no issues with a limited pantry as we would always be able to get what we needed. However, when on long passages such as crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific, when we would be at sea for two or more weeks without being able to provision after leaving the dock, I would have to be very clever with what produce we had available, what fresh produce would turn the easiest, and what would last the longest. For example, fresh salad leaves and potatoes! Organisation and planning were always key. Working on a boat you are pretty much always in a small space, but you definitely get used to your galley over time and how it works with the space that you have, and they are generally kitted out with what you need – adaptability is always very important. I would make fresh bread every day, healthy soups, I would generally follow a type of cuisine for each meal so Italian one day, Japanese the next, Mexican, Spanish and so on. My favourite go to menus were southeast Asian cuisine such as Vietnamese beef pho, pork laarb from Laos, rice paper rolls with chili dipping sauce, fresh Thai curries and coconut rice. I loved making Italian cuisine – fresh pasta dishes and fresh breads. Indian curries and fresh naan. It was always great exploring the area you were in cuisine-wise so I would always try and learn a dish or a few from the local area we would find ourselves in. One of my favourites was a very simple Tahitian dish called poisson cru.
Cooking on a yacht and cooking for the crew gave me free reign and inspiration to really explore the world of food and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. You have to change it up all the time otherwise the crew you are cooking for can get very bored, so making sure your repertoire is boundless and ever changing is hugely important.
What transferrable skills do you develop cooking on a yacht perhaps for other seasonal cooking jobs, for chef work ashore or just for life in general?
There are many transferrable skills that you can develop, not only from cooking on a yacht but living on a yacht. It becomes your life, and you are living in a small space with many different personalities – some that you may not necessarily click with day in and day out. You learn self-awareness, organisation, time management, keeping tidy and clean, saving (most of the time you’re at sea and can’t even spend the money you make), and patience. You feel very privileged to have seen so much and humbled at what you get to experience and in the way you experience life. The people you meet and work with become your family and friends for ever, from all over the world. It opens so many possibilities not just in your career but in your personal life. It will push you to limits mentally that you never thought you could go to, and it makes you a stronger person.
What Advice would you give to anyone wanting to do a season or pursue a career working on yachts?
It really is an opportunity that, if you have the chance to take, then take it. You have nothing to lose. If you figure out that it is not for you, which for some people it isn’t, then you can finish a season and go home. But if you fall into it solidly then it can be the start of an incredible journey and career that can change your world for the better. It’s not for the faint hearted and it takes a certain type to be able to cope with all the moving parts and all the rules, so you need to be sure that it is what you want. You don’t see your family very often, you have no solid home except for the boat, you have to share a small cabin with one or more people, it can be the most stressful job at times and you can get fed up very easily however it takes you to the most incredible places around the world, you make friends for life and from my experience it is something I would not have changed. It has taught me so much about myself as a person and as a chef, and given me the most wonderful memories and life.
If Amelia’s story has got you thinking about setting sail and working at sea on super yachts, or if you’ve got your heart set on a chalet season this winter, arm yourself with all of the kitchen skills required to make you indispensable and super-employable on our 5-day Yacht Chef course. Find out more and book your place, here.
There’s no denying the change of seasons any more. Autumn is here, and it’s the start of comfort food season! That usually means melted cheese. Quesadillas are a traditional Mexican dish that is basically a cheese toastie made with corn (or wheat flour) tortillas, heated in a dry pan rather than being fried in oil. This version adds refried beans, another Mexican staple, to make the dish into more of a meal. Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and fibre, and they’re cheap and a very sustainable ingredient, helping to save your pounds and the planet. Furthermore, like many low-cost folk recipes with many variations, quesadillas are a great vehicle for leftovers – you can add leftover roast sweet potato, fried mushrooms, shredded leftover roast meat… it won’t be a traditional quesadilla anymore, but it’ll be delicious. Here’s our base recipe, which makes a great quick autumn lunch or light dinner.
1tbsp olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 tsp cumin seeds 400g can of beans (black/red kidney/cannellini 2 tsp smoked paprika 8 flour tortillas 100g cheddar or comte, coarsely grated Spring onions Coriander leaves(handful)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion and garlic for about four minutes until softened. Add the cumin and cook for one more minute. Tip in the beans, paprika and a splash of water. Using a fork, break the beans down as they warm through to make a rough paste. Season generously. Spread the refried beans onto 4 of the tortillas and scatter over the cheese and coriander, then place another tortilla on the top of each like a sandwich. Wipe the frying pan with kitchen paper and return to the heat, or heat a griddle pan. Cook each quesadilla for 1-2 minutes on each side until the tortillas are crisp and golden and the cheese is melting. Serve warm, cut into wedges, with chopped spring onions and soured cream for dipping, and any extra beans on top.
Over the August Bank Holiday weekend we had the pleasure of feeding hundreds of happy festival-goers at this year’s Big Feastival. Hosted by Alex James on his farm in The Cotswolds, the weekend is a celebration of food, producers, music and good times. We got stuck into all three, hosting the Feast On The Farm tent for the second year running with a menu championing the best Cornish produce, and then enjoying ourselves as a team once service had finished and the music got going.
A HUGE thank you to the hard-working, hard-playing team who made this year another huge success for us. There’s not really a “front of house” and “kitchen” at an event like this – it’s all on display and everybody gets stuck in, and they were absolutely amazing.
Below is a menu of what we cooked up for brunch, lunch and dinner over the long weekend, and a few of the photos snapped on our various phones in and around cooking and serving!
Loaded Cornish Buns
Hogs pudding, sausage, & bacon rolls with onions & potato OR Herb vegetarian patty, fried egg with onions & potato ~0~ Complimentary Mimosa & soft drinks
If you grow any vegetables in your garden or pots at home, then chances are that you’re growing courgettes and tomatoes and will have them coming out of your ears right now in the height of summer. This is a great recipe to help you get through a glut of homegrown veg, or a lovely summer supper if you buy your veg from a supermarket.
Pilaf, or pilau, is a rice dish found originally between the Mediterranean, Middle East, and South Asia, but is popular around the world. The common theme is that the rice is cooked in stock with spices and vegetables. This dish is a variation on classic stuffed Mediterranean vegetables, but without the hassle of stuffing – just pile it all up on a plate and enjoy!
1 courgette per person Handful cherry tomatoes per person 1 cup of rice per person 1 small onion (chopped) 2-3 cloves garlic (chopped) Cumin (ground) Coriander ground) Fennel seeds Pinch chilli flakes 1 lemon Water or vegetable stock Tahini
Sweat off the onion and garlic in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat for a few minutes until translucent. Add the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds and a pinch of chilli flakes. Add the rice and mix with the spice mix, the juice and some zest from the lemon, then add the stock or water to cover and simmer until all of the water has been absorbed. If the rice isn’t fully cooked then add a splash more stock or water and keep cooking until absorbed. Meanwhile, split your courgettes in half lengthways and pan fry, cut half down, with the tomatoes over a high heat for a few minutes. You want colour! Transfer them to the grill, and cook until there’s some charring. Alternatively, you could cook them on the barbecue.
Assemble by placing the courgette on your plate and then spooning some of your pilaf rice over the top, placing the tomatoes around it and drizzling some tahini dressing over the top. Garnish with a sprig of a Mediterranean herb like fresh oregano or marjoram, if you have any in your garden or window box!
Fat is almost as essential for cooking as heat, and you’ll struggle to find a single kitchen that doesn’t contain a bottle of cooking oil. But which one should you be cooking with, and when? Most of us will have a collection of bottles, so here’s a short guide to the most common edible oils that you’ll have in your kitchen and what to use them for.
What Does Cooking Oil Do?
Cooking oil is most often used for frying, roasting or baking, and fulfills a number of important roles. Oil transfers heat from the pan to the food, and because oil can be heated to a much higher temperature than water it allows food to be cooked faster. It also acts as a lubricant to prevent food from sticking to the cooking surface. Fat is a flavour carrier so improves the taste of food, and also the texture because oil facilitates the Maillard reaction, which is what gives us a crispy, golden crust on fried or roasted foods.
Oil For Flavour
Oils aren’t only used in the kitchen for frying. As well as enhancing the flavour of a dish they also have flavour in their own right, and can carry flavour. The choice of oil used in a salad dressing will have a significant impact upon the flavour of the dressing, and oils flavoured with chilli, garlic, truffle and so on are often used to add that flavour to a risotto, pizza or similar dish.
How Edible Oils Are Produced
Some oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil, are made by pressing the flesh of the fruit, however most oils are extracted by pressing the seeds (sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, sesame oil, peanut oil and so on) and then in many cases solvent extraction is used to collect the maximum yield. Taking olive oil as an example, the different types and grades available are based on how the oil was extracted – extra virgin olive oil comes from the first cold press, and has the strongest flavour. The second press will be heated to help extract more oil and the product will be lighter in colour and flavour, and so on. Sunflower, rapeseed and peanut oils can also be cold pressed by squeezing the oil out of the crushed nut or seed. Cheaper oils, of the sorts used in high volumes for frying, are pressed and then the “oil cake” of crushed seeds has any remaining oil harvested by a process called solvent extraction which uses a volatile hydrocarbon to dissolve the oil out of the cake before using fractional distillation to remove the solvent. These oils are then refined (unpleasant sounding industrial processes to “degum”, “bleach” and “deodorise” the oil) before bottling. You can see why so many chefs advise you to buy good quality oil, particularly for use in salad dressings.
The Cookery School’s Store Cupboard Selection, From Left to Right:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extracted from the first cold pressing of the olives, this oil has a richer, sometimes “earthier” flavour so is great for salad dressings or dips where you want that flavour. You can cook with it, but it has a low smoking point and it’s expensive so you might want to save it for specific uses rather than frying your eggs in it.
Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil
A lighter oil for cooking or salad dressings with a delicate nutty flavour. Rapeseed oil is high in mono-unsaturated fats so is one of the only unblended oils that can be heated to high temperatures for frying without the risk of spoiling. Rapeseed is the bright yellow flowering crop that fills British fields in the early summer months, meaning that you can buy locally produced rapeseed oil (because there aren’t too many olive groves here in the UK).
It’s good to have a lower grade olive oil to hand for occasions where you don’t need or want to cook with your precious first cold pressed! Virgin olive oil also comes from the first pressing but is slightly more acidic and can be used for cooking. Standard “pure” olive oil is blended and its flavour is blander, but it is a good multi-purpose cooking oil.
Sunflower is your go-to cooking oil for higher temperature methods, such as roasting, frying or deep frying, because of it’s high smoke point (the temperature at which the oil starts to smoke). It has a mild flavour so is a great general cooking oil, but wouldn’t be a good choice for salad dressings.
A must if you cook any Asian cuisine, sesame oil is great for stir-fries, dressings and marinades. It has a pretty intense nutty flavour, so you’ll know when you’ve used it.
White and Black Truffle Oil
Flavoured oils are often the sorts of things that you might bring back from holiday, or that a relative might give you for a gift. They’re also super common in hampers. Truffle oil is wonderful though. Because of the high value of truffles, infusing slices in oil is a great way of imparting some of the highly sought-after aroma and flavour into a dish. White truffles are one of the world’s most expensive foods, so don’t expect these bottles to be big or cheap! Truffle oil is strictly a finishing oil, to be drizzled over a dish just before serving (don’t cook with it!) – creamy dishes such as risotto are the most obvious choice, but have you ever drizzled truffle oil over scrambled eggs?
Chilli Flavoured Rapeseed Oil
Another “back of the cupboard” bottle, so many of us will have bottles of infused oils that don’t often see the light of day. These are finishing oils for drizzling over things like pizza – this chilli flavoured rapeseed oil makes the most of the rapeseed oils delicate flavour to focus on the chilli. You might have a similar bottle of garlic or herb infused oil, or you can make them yourself.