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Vegetarian and Vegan Indian Cookery with Ben and Jasmine of the Mahamasala Spice Company

Back in February we teamed up with Ben Martin and Jasmine Sharma of the Mahamasala Spice Company to launch a new Indian cookery course. As it’s been so popular, we’re launching a new Indian cookery course for vegetarians and vegans!

Ben and Jasmine will share their skills and experience, teaching students how to prepare delicious vegan and vegetarian curries, traditional side dishes and breads from scratch, helping you use spices with confidence, and understand how Indian flavours interplay to create harmony on the plate. As well as using some of the finest, locally-sourced Cornish ingredients you’ll also be using traditional Indian spices imported from India by Ben and Jasmine.

We spoke to Ben and Jasmine about why they’re excited about this new course, why they think Indian food is still hugely popular, and about their upcoming Indian feast night at Philleigh Way!

Q Ben and Jasmine, in your own words, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

How did you both meet? 

Ben: We’ve been married for six years having initially met online. We quickly realised after an evening of chatting that we in fact worked about 150 metres away from each other! We met in person for a meal the next day after work and the rest, as they say, is history (we were married within six months of meeting!) I had travelled quite a bit in India before I met Jasmine and studied South Asian religions at university before getting into social work. This meant that I had a passion for all things Indian including, of course, the food. I like to think Jasmine was quite impressed with my interest in her culture despite my terrible small talk! Jasmine moved to the UK to study in Edinburgh before finding work in Cornwall in the voluntary sector. She realised that we both had lots in common in terms of career and outside interests, so we had no shortage of things to talk about. Above all we loved sharing home cooked food together.

Q Who were your cooking influences/inspirations growing up? 

Jasmine: I was raised by my grandparents and was the chosen sous chef of my Dadimaa (my grandmother on my father’s side). Dadimaa did most of the cooking at home rather than having a paid cook and this proved to be invaluable experience for my future career in food. It helped me to forge the homely style of Indian food that has become our trademark. Dadimaa also played an active role in the running of the local Hindu temple so cooking for lots of people was a common feature of my childhood and something I still love to do. I have also travelled extensively in India and have lots of experience in the extremely varied regional foods on offer. 

Ben: I was passionate about food from an early age and growing up in a family with Irish and Cornish roots, it was hard not to be. Whilst like Jasmine, I’ve had no formal culinary training, my Mum is a very accomplished cook so I was exposed to all manner of cuisines from around the world. As a young person, Sunday was a day for a family get together and was always centred around food. This often included produce grown, foraged or caught by the family. I still go sea fishing regularly and make cider from our orchard with Dad every year. I’m pleased to say that our cider (which we call ‘Adam’s Ruin’) has quite a reputation with our friends and family and it is particularly lethal this year at 9.9%! I think these early experiences have inspired me to continue to keep things local and seasonal in the food we do as well as keeping an eye on chefs with similar values, such as Raymond Blanc and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I suppose where we differ to these cooks is that we give local seasonal things a distinctly South Asian twist by combining them with the best spices from India that we can get our hands on. This chimes well with the life that we live and how we eat as a family; bringing together two cultures and cooking heritages.

Q What prompted you start up Mahamasala Spice Company? 

Ben: Jasmine and I were always keen hosts and held dinner parties and BBQs on a regular basis for friends and family. We were often complimented by our guests on the food that we produced and over a period of time, the love of cooking and hosting started to take over from our day jobs. With the birth of our son, Isaac, we began to review our priorities and we felt that food may be the answer to achieving the work-life balance that we wanted. We have never looked back.

Q Indian food has been hugely popular in the UK for many decades, why do you think this is? 

Jasmine: Aside from the deeply connected history of trade, migration and colonial rule that has existed for hundreds of years between the UK and India, I think a bit of spice seems to have great appeal to a broad spectrum of society here. Indian food seems to bring people together and it’s a real contrast to traditional English or European food. It is quite amazing what you can do with a few spices and very humble ingredients. Also, if you really want to push the boat out, Indian food has a long tradition of luxury derived from the kitchens of kings and princes, so the possibilities are endless.

Q The food you prepare on the Indian Cookery Courses is different from a lot of the food we might eat or pick up from an Indian take-away. Do you feel the dishes you prepare on the courses are a lot closer to traditional Indian cuisine? 

Ben: Yes definitely. Before we started the business we often remarked that the Indian restaurant food available here does not really represent the diverse nature of the food that can be found across India. This is not to say that it’s bad food, it’s just been a victim of its own success really. It can be quite generic and often far removed from the traditional dish. All of the food we serve always begins life on our family table and we want it to stay that way. I sometimes have to convince Jasmine that there is indeed something special about what she sees as these ‘everyday’ dishes. I’m certain that anyone who has eaten Jasmine’s food would beg to differ with this description, but I do have to plead with her to make sure that they go on the menu from time to time. 

Jasmine: We always try to respect traditional Indian methods and recipes in any dish that we serve up. Many remain absolutely true to their roots but we are not completely slavish to this principle. Ben applies a lot of modern techniques with our food too (like cooking in a sous vide for example or using a dehydrator), as well as sourcing fresh local ingredients that do a good job of imitating produce that is simply not possible to ship all the way from India. This is a really fruitful part of our partnership in the kitchen and we spend hours getting the balance right. The test for us is when we can serve our take on a traditional dish to our circle of Indian friends or family and they understand and enjoy it instinctively.

Q Once someone has been taught the basics of spice blending and flavour combinations, would you say that this would give them the confidence to prepare delicious curries and other dishes at home from scratch and experiment with flavours and ingredients? 

Jasmine: Absolutely. Despite what many people might think, Indian food only has a few basic principles that can be quickly grasped and applied. Once you understand how to create harmony with the Indian spice palate and build layers of flavor, you can ‘paint’ what you want. We spend huge amounts of time working to preserve the authentic feel of the cuisine we teach and serve whilst adapting to what’s good locally or what we have in the larder at the time. Anyone who comes to one of our courses will be able to do the same no matter how inexperienced they feel. You really don’t have to worry about following the recipes to a tee, just embrace the concepts.

Q You teach a range of dishes on the courses that are suitable for both meat eaters and vegetarians and vegans. Is this a common aspect of Indian food? 

Yes it is. It often surprises people who have only eaten Indian food in restaurants here that there is so much for non-meat eaters to enjoy. Indian cuisine really celebrates and gets the most out of vegetables, grains pulses and fruits, as many households are vegetarian for religious reasons. Having said this, there are also many Indians who eat meat especially in the North. India is so vast and regional in its food that you can really eat like a king no matter what your preference is. 

Q What’s your favourite meat and vegetable to cook with when preparing meat based and vegetarian dishes? 

Ben: I think that you can’t beat a Tandoori Raan, which is basically a whole leg of goat marinated in yoghurt and spices cooked over coals. It’s a real celebration dish and the left-over meat (if there is any) can then be used to make a delicious layered rice byriani. 

Jasmine: For me it’s Rajmah – a spicy kidney bean curry served with rice. It’s a classic Punjabi dish and reminds me of home. Sometimes I make a big pot of it and eat it for every meal until it’s all gone!

Q You import all of the spices for your spice blends direct from India. Do you feel this is key to being able to provide the highest quality products for your customers? 

Jasmine: Without a doubt. What’s available in the shops and supermarkets here is really not of the same level of quality. Even if it is reasonably good quality to begin with, the amount of time that it sits on the shelves means it’s not at its best when you get to use it. In search of the taste of home, Ben and I started to get my mum to send huge packages to us about three or four times a year, each filled to the brim with spices which we then ground and blended for use at home. It wasn’t long before people started to ask us for a jar of our blends and it seemed like a logical progression to turn this into part of the business. Now we import spices that we have sourced on our trips to India so we can personally vouch for their quality. It makes all the difference. Up until now we’ve mostly been selling the blends face to face at our events but with the launch of our new website www.mahamasala.com you will be able to order them from us online.

Q Are there any ingredients that you still cannot find in the UK that make you miss India, Jasmine? 

Jasmine: I would say that I really miss the different varieties of mangoes and bananas that are available as the seasons change. There are literally hundreds of different ones to choose from, each with a specific flavour and culinary use.

Q You regularly appear at food festivals and also run your own dining evenings, what do particularly you enjoy about these events? 

We just both love sharing Indian food and educating people about it. Cooking is such a great way to meet people from all walks of life. We are really pleased to say that most of our promotion for the events is by word of mouth and we have really started to build a loyal customer base. It’s wonderful to see familiar faces popping up at the different things we host. Recently we did a Bollywood Movie Night with a curry at Devoran Village Hall and we also run regular Secret Restaurant evenings which takes place in our own home in Penryn on Fridays from June until the end of September. Our new website has an online calendar so we should be able to keep everyone more in touch with what we are up to.

Q What do you love about Cornwall? 

We think that Cornwall is full of people who know how to make their own fun and who embrace their communities and surroundings . These things are essential to making a great life here as it’s easy to think that it’s all cream teas and sandy beaches when you are here for a short time in the summer. Cornish people are proud of their culture and traditions but also welcome others to share it with them. As a business we love how making good friends with your customers and partners comes first and how good old fashioned kindness opens so many doors.

Q What is your favourite Cornish food product? 

Jasmine: I really love traditional Cornish mead. The one we particularly like is made by Ninemaidens in Lanner. Their spiced mead is perfect with Christmas pudding or you can use a splash or two of it on roasted Crown Prince pumpkins to add an extra bit of complexity. 

Ben: I think we make very little of our cauliflowers in this part of the world. I usually get them as close to where we live in Penryn as possible so they are super fresh. They really are the best in the country in my opinion. I like them early on when they tend to be a little smaller and I like the varieties which have firmer yellower curds. I make the curds into a purée with lots of butter and nutmeg and then sautée the leaves with garlic and Trevilley Farm rapeseed oil. They are a fantastic accompaniment to a nice bit of hake or sea bass. We also do a Gobi Mussalam which is a whole roasted spiced cauliflower that you carve up like a joint of beef. It’s so tasty you don’t need any meat at all for your Sunday roast. You can try it for yourselves at the Tandoori feast that we are holding at the cookery school this summer.

Q Favourite place to eat out in Cornwall? 

We both love the Gurnard’s Head near Zennor. The food is always very fresh with lots of specials and the surroundings are just breathtaking. You would be hard pressed to find a better slice of Cornwall and we recommend talking a brisk walk on headland to work up an appetite before you eat. We also enjoyed a great stay at The Old Quay House in Fowey a few weeks back. It has a lovely waterside dining room and the food was classic and seasonal. They also do a mean cocktail or two, which always adds to the enjoyment!

Q Why do you enjoy working with Philleigh Way? 

Well, what’s not to like? They are bleddy bewts! We first came across Philleigh Way as paying customers at their brilliant outdoor feast nights (the Woodfired Sessions). We were really impressed with the relaxed atmosphere and the different local produce that was on offer. Having now started to work with the team behind it all, we see that same warmness and openness transfers into how they do business. Plus we certainly all have a good chuckle together along the way. For us, being able to find a team like Philleigh Way who encourage us to be creative in our ventures together has been a huge bonus.

Q What are you looking forward to about teaching the new Indian Vegetarian and Vegan course? 

We’ve had so many people asking us for a specific vegetarian or vegan course it will be great to finally make it a reality. As we mentioned before, Indian food is full of vegetable dishes and as a national cuisine, it has to have some of the most interesting dishes in the world for those who don’t eat meat. It will be great to help home cooks gain confidence and challenge the idea that vegetarian or vegan recipes have to be in some way adapted from meat based dishes rather than just being a great dish in their own right.

Q You are going to be hosting a new Indian Feast Night at Philleigh Way in July, what delights can visitors expect on the menu!? 

We have all sorts on offer. The food is all going to be cooked on the outdoor grills and ovens which will give it an extra smokey character and that is really reminiscent of the roadside Tandoori food found in the Punjab region. We’ve got some delicious corn that we chargrill and smother in melted butter and spices. Another great dish is a whole spatchcock chicken seasoned for 48hours in our own dry rub. Also, if you have never tried goat before now is your chance! We are serving tenderised slices of Cornish goat on skewers made to a royal recipe. There are lots of other dishes that will be served to the table as sharing platters and we really want everyone to get in there and get messy – no knives and forks required for this one!

Tickets for the Indian feast night which takes place on Friday 7th July can be purchased via the website or by calling the Cookery School.

Punjabi Pakore (spinach and onion bhajis)

To celebrate the launch of our new vegetarian and vegan Indian cookery course, we’ve a delicious recipe from Ben and Jasmine of the Maha Masala Spice Company to share with you. Pakore (bhajis) are a great accompaniment to traditional Indian curries, but can also be enjoyed on their own served with green chutney and salad.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

6 large heaped tbsp. besan flour (chickpea flour)

Mustard/groundnut oil for frying

1 medium onion (thinly sliced)

A small bunch of Spinach (roughly chopped)

¼ tsp coriander seeds lightly crushed

1 tsp fennel seeds

¼ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp chilli powder

Salt to taste

Fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Juice of a Lime

Method

In a large bowl, mix all spices and salt into the chickpea flour. Add the juice of a whole lime to the dry ingredients.

Divide the mixture into two bowls. Add sliced onion into one and spinach into the other to make two different types of bhaji.

Add water into the mixture in both bowls one spoonful at a time. You are looking for a cake batter consistency.

Stir really well with a fork to get some air into the batter and then set aside.

Carefully heat the oil in a deep, wide wok (there needs to be about 4 inches of oil at the centre point of the wok). You will know it is ready to fry in when the oil stops shimmering and goes still.

Turn the hob off completely.

Now use a soup spoon to gently drop a heaped spoonful of each bhaji mixture into the oil leaving the bhaji  to cook in the residual heat of the pan for about a minute, turning them over in the wok with a slotted spoon once or twice.

After dropping all the bhajis into the wok, turn the hob on again this time on low heat.

Using a slotted spoon, gently turn the Pakore. Cook till they have a deep golden hue.

Take the bhajis out of the wok and put them on kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil.

Serve with green chutney and a cup of hot chai!

Vietnamese Style Iced Coffee

Simple to make, this drink is refreshing and perfect for warmer weather, or if you just feel like a quick ‘pick me up’.

If you have an aero press, make a brew of your favourite coffee. Alternatively, a double espresso will do the trick.

Mix this with a large spoonful of sweetened condensed milk for each portion of coffee you are making.

Fill a glass with crushed ice and pour over the milky coffee.

Stir to mix and enjoy!

Alternatively, use a smoothie maker or liquidiser to blend the ice, coffee and sweetened condensed milk to create more of a frappe style drink.

This will cool you down and also give you a good caffeine kick.

Recipe and image supplied by Fiona Were

 

South East Asian Cookery with Chef Fiona Were

Continuing our series of global cuisine cookery courses, (drum roll…) we’ve now launched a new South East Asian cookery course!

During this full-day course, students will learn how to make deliciously aromatic dishes such as Vietnamese summer rolls and exotic salads, as well as complexly-flavoured curry pastes. Importantly, you’ll also learn how to cook perfect sticky rice every time!  Student’s will leave with the skills and confidence to create dishes from a part of the world renowned for its exotic spices, which combine to create exciting intense flavours.

The course is run by Fiona Were who grew up in New Zealand, a country whose modern cuisine is heavily influenced by south east Asia. A freelance professional chef and foodie, she has a real passion for fusing different flavours and styles of cooking, and shares our passion for local, seasonal and ethical produce.

We asked Fiona about growing up in New Zealand, what she loves about Cornwall, what it’s like working as a freelance chef, and more. Find out below what she had to say!

Can you feel your taste buds tingling with all this talk of aromatic, spicy, fresh and vibrant flavours? Then this course is for you!

Fiona, tell us what inspired you to pursue a career in cooking?

I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. I used to help my mother with baking and preparing meals from a very early age. Mum used to often say that we have to eat everyday of our lives, so we should eat well! I think that has stuck with me.

I remember a holiday when we stayed at Fox Glacier and ate at a small café owned and operated by a chap called PJ. The story goes that I went up to him and told him that he was a good cook and that I wanted to grow up to be like him one day. I think I was five; certainly no older. I recall the culinary inspiration was tomato soup? Could have been fish and chips too, as we ate there a couple of times. I am sure PJ was suitably flattered to have been complimented by such a young, budding gourmand!

I used to regularly make breads, including sour dough, Danish pastries, cakes, biscuits and graduated to family meals. I always had my head in a recipe book and used to love reading mum’s old cookery books.  Food has always been incredibly important and once I made the decision to become a chef (which was only meant to be temporary I might add), I was hungry for knowledge and success. After toiling away in various kitchens for more years than I care to admit to, I decided to make the break and work for myself. I now run my own business, Chef Fiona NZ, where I focus predominantly on bespoke dining experiences for discerning clients.

You were born and brought up in New Zealand but have travelled extensively and have now lived in the UK for a number of years. Was it hard leaving New Zealand? And what do you miss about home now that you have settled in the UK?

It was hard leaving NZ in some ways, but it was the right time. I had met my partner Iain, who is from the UK and we wanted to be together. I believe life is what you make of it, wherever you are. I love the West Country and it feels very much like home. I do miss the diversity of food and culture that was readily available to experience in New Zealand. Feijoas  (a fruit often referred to as ‘pineaaple guava’), are something that I really miss, and also being able to eat amazing sushi any day of the week without having to take out a loan to do so! The wine in New Zealand is phenomenal too, with vineyards everywhere. Eating out is more relaxed and accessible, probably partly due to the climate, which is a little better than Cornwall. It really does not rain as much and the summers are definitely warmer.

You have worked for some well-known establishments holding top positions including Training and Development Chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall. Do you miss working in big commercial kitchens?

Honestly, I am happy that I have removed myself from the high-pressured environment of commercial kitchens. Being a head chef involves a job that is more about paperwork and management than focussing on the food. The stress and pressure can be very isolating. I interact with so many different people now, which I really enjoy. Being freelance enables me to cook top quality food for appreciative clients and not have the headache of unrealistic budgets, unreliable staff and long hours. I can take holidays and time off when I want to instead of looking forward to a couple of weeks off in January. I have different pressures being self-employed, I still have to be pro-active and motivated but if anything goes wrong, then the only person I can blame is myself. This wouldn’t work for everyone, but it suits me well. It’s about getting some kind of work/life balance; I’m not quite there with that yet, but working on it.

You are now a freelance chef running your own business. Do you enjoy the freedom this gives you with regard to the menus and styles of food you can offer your clients?

Yes, I love it. It’s paramount that my clients are going to have the food that they want on their special occasion. It’s fantastic that I am not stuck cooking the same dishes all the time. The work I do is both varied and interesting. I have always had daily changing menus wherever I have been in charge of a kitchen, but when diners are faced with a menu in a restaurant situation, they may not be able to find anything on the menu that they want to eat. I have a dialogue with all of my clients right from the start to get to know them and fully understand their requirements and tastes. It’s not about what I can cook as such, but to ensure they have the best possible experience eating the dishes they have chosen, cooked in my style.

You are a champion of high quality, local, seasonal produce. Do you feel this ethos is important not only to yourself but to your clients?

Absolutely. Quality is vital and this is reflected in the plates of food I serve. One of my core values is to source the best quality ingredients I can for my clients. I am not prepared to budge on this at all. I have been faced with this challenge while working for others; to cut corners and this is not what I am about. The standard of food that I cook has to be consistently top notch for my discerning clients and they really do appreciate the attention to detail that goes into this.

Foreign cuisine has been a big part of the UK food scene for a long time. What do you think has helped make Asian food become so popular?

Fashions come and go with anything. I think that different foods and cultures all take turns with being popular. Cheaper travel to countries further afield have certainly made food from Asia more accessible. Chefs travelling abroad and then bringing their experiences back with them is part of this too. I think foodies are always keen to try something new or different and when there are unexplored flavours and ingredients to experience, it’s exciting.  Supermarkets and specialist grocers have a wider range of ingredients available now, so the home cook can dabble with the cuisine of different cultures with relative ease. Also the shift to the convenience of ready meals gives the chance to perhaps try something seemingly exotic at an affordable price, without the need to invest the time to make it from scratch.

What is your favourite Asian dish to cook?

I really enjoy cooking Ramen at the moment. I love the soya eggs that go with it and taking the time to get the broth just right. Making a really good Thai curry is also a personal favourite.

Are there still any ingredients that you find it hard to source in the UK for this style of cooking?

Trying to source more seasonally-affected fresh items such as pomelos and some greens can be hard to find sometimes but generally, a vast majority of the ingredients are reasonably easy to come by now.

Do you think people are becoming more adventurous when it comes to cooking at home? And do you think that cookery schools such as Philleigh Way are helping to provide home cooks with the confidence to become more inventive with their cooking?

Definitely! Confidence is a huge part of having the courage to try something new. Cookery schools like Philleigh Way provide a supportive environment to learn and a resource for home cooks to expand their own cooking repertoire.

What do you love about Cornwall?

I love our home. We live semi-rural which means we are able to keep chickens and grow apples to make cider. I can forage for wild ingredients easily and enjoy time in the garden when the weather allows.

What is your favourite Cornish food product?

Cornish Duck. Roger and Tanya Olver breed super-delicious free range duck and the quality is second to none. I have used their products for such a long time now and have never been disappointed.

What is your favourite Cornish drink?

To be honest I am more of a cider and single malt drinker but I am rather partial to the odd pint of Skinners Heligan Honey.

Favourite place to eat out?

Olivers in Falmouth is always superb. Love to have lunch there!

Favourite place to visit in Cornwall?

I spend such a lot of time on the road with my work, driving all over Cornwall, so to get time at home to relax and enjoy the garden has to be one of my favourite things.

Why do you enjoy working with Philleigh Way?

It’s such a fantastic venue. The team are amazing! A very supportive and enthusiastic bunch, we share the same foodie ethos. It’s great to be involved with such likeminded people.

What’s the best bit about the new South East Asian cookery courses?

It’s going to be amazing to be able to showcase the food from this part of the world which is a little closer to my homeland. I am looking forward to sharing the simplicity of recreating some classic South East Asian dishes with such exciting flavours.

As well as the new South East Asian cookery course, Fiona will be hosting an indoor Supper Club at the cookery school on Friday 23rd June where she will be treating you to a delicious taster menu of South East Asian cuisine. Tickets are limited so we advise booking quickly.

Japanese Cookery with Naoko Kashiwagi

At Philleigh Way, not only are courses led by resident chef, the gorgeous George, we’re also lucky enough to work with other incredible tutors, all of whom are experts in their field. Since last summer, we’ve been running short, half-day sushi and sashimi courses with the delightful Naoko Kashiwagi. As they’ve been so popular, this month we’re launching a new, full-day Japanese cookery course.

Designed to provide students with an overview of traditional Japanese cookery, during this hands-on course you’ll learn how to create delicious dishes such as delicate California roll sushi with tempura prawn, okonomiyaki (traditional savoury pancake), lightly seared tuna with yuzu sauce, teriyaki chicken, Namban Zuke (Japanese escabeche) and more!

As well as using some of the finest, locally sourced Cornish fish and meat (what else from a Cornish cookery school?!), you’ll also be using traditional Japanese ingredients sourced by Naoko.

Born in Tokyo, Naoko has been living in Cornwall with her family for three years after being re-located here through her husband’s work. A cookery teacher in Japan, we spoke to Naoko about her favourite Cornish suppliers, what she misses about Japan, and why she is loving working with Philleigh Way.

Naoko, in your own words, tell us who you are and what you do.

I was born in Tokyo, Japan but lived in various parts of the country due to work, moving with my father’s job. My family loved to travel and we had many holidays in different regions of Japan, and these exciting experiences inspired my creativities, especially when it came to learning different regional recipes.

My mum always cooked for our family from when I was a child and I learnt all of my basic cooking knowledge and skills of Japanese cookery from her.

As a child, I was also so passionate about art, especially drawing pictures and oil painting. I was fascinated to spend my time appreciating arts in various art museums in Tokyo.

I love to combine my passion and joy for art and cooking by making my food look like art on a plate. I want to express my love of food and art, by making dishes that people can indulge with their eyes and taste buds!

Who or what inspired you into cooking and into becoming a cookery teacher?

That would be a Japanese chef who used to work at a Michelin starred hotel in France. After she came back to Japan, she started to run cookery courses in Tokyo. She ran traditional French cooking classes but with a slightly more plain style. Her cooking was simple but breathtakingly flavourful and delicious. I clearly remember how much I was knocked out when I experienced her food and cooking methods for the first time. I learnt cooking from her in the evenings after working at my day job, (office work in marketing), and she gave me huge inspiration and enthusiasm for cooking.

What inspired you start up Naoko’s Kitchen?

When I had my first baby, I made a decision to quit my job as a full time office worker because I wanted to be more flexible for my family. I knew well that I had a passion for cooking deep in my heart like a magma.

I found running cookery lessons in my own home kitchen was popular in Tokyo. I pondered about what was best for my family and myself, and I made up my mind to be a self-employed cookery teacher.

I then began running cooking and baking courses from my own home kitchen in central Tokyo.

Sushi and Sashimi and Japanese food have become hugely popular in the UK and worldwide, why do you think this is?

I think that one of the reasons is the healthy image of Japanese food.

Actually, Japanese food was originally based on Buddhism principle and that was vegan food. Also we value seasonal fresh ingredients above anything else, and use less fat and oil than other cuisines. So I think these aspects are matching with the trend of worldwide healthy tendency.

What do you think makes sushi and sashimi and Japanese food so interesting and tasty?

Most of traditional Japanese condiments like Miso, Soy sauce, Sake and so on are made of various fermentations, so they have deep flavours. To season with these condiments can create deep flavours and very distinctive/unique tastes.

What is your favourite fish to work with when making sushi and sashimi and why?

Squid and Scallop. Their raw taste is subtle, but I also quite like the cleaning and curing steps for them as well. Also I can’t resist squid’s nice chewy texture and scallop’s sweet taste when we savour them with soy sauce.

What do you love about Cornwall?

Beautiful beaches, shining green countryside, huge sky and most of all, I love people in Cornwall who are so kind and friendly to each other.

I haven’t felt any loneliness in Cornwall where even I didn’t have any relatives, because a lot of kind people befriended me soon after I moved to Truro.   Now Cornwall is my home.

What is your favourite Cornish food product?

Pasty (especially steak one) and fish & chips! If I don’t have fish & chips over 10 days, I would suffer from withdrawal!!

Who are your favourite Cornish food suppliers?

Fish: Matthew Stevens & Son, Wing of St Mawes -I can’t do anything without their kind supplying. Their products are really fresh and reliable.

Meat: Brian Etherington Meat -> I love their fresh and clean meat

Japanese vegetables: Newlina Eco Gardens -> their Japanese vegetables, Mizuna, Chrysanthemum and so on, are all hand-picked and reliable.

What is the one product that you still cannot do without that you still have import/source elsewhere for your cooking?

That is a black cod (Candle fish). This is a species of deep sea fish common to the North Pacific ocean at depths of 980 to 8,860 ft.

Their meat contains distinctive fat and is soft-textured and mildly flavoured.

My most favourite dish for this fish is grilled, sweetened, miso-marinated black cod.

Are there any ingredients that you cannot find in the UK that make you miss Japan?

Eel rice bowl. We enjoy grilled eel fillet on rice with sweet soy sauce. Their taste is smoky, sweet, savoury and so richly fatty. This is a very traditional meal for a special occasion.

Favourite family friendly place to eat?

Duchy Cornwall Nursery near Lostwithiel. They deal Asian plants and also I love their cafe in their spacious garden. And another of my favourites is Cardinham wood café. Good food and perfect surrounding of nature for children.

If you were on death row, what would you request for your last meal!?

I can answer this without hesitation, that is row fresh oyster!

I love their creamy sweeten flavour and also silky, dense texture. To eat row oyster is quite popular in Japan.

Favourite place in Cornwall?

Watergate Bay in Newquay, Carbis Bay near St. Ives, Sennen beach, and Penrose National Trust near Helston

Why do you enjoy working with Philleigh Way?

All members are so friendly and kindly understand and respect my will for cooking. Most of all I can relax with these wonderful open-minded members who have warm hearts. I Love Philleigh Way so much!!

What’s the best bit about the Japanese & Sushi and Sashimi cookery courses?

We proudly selected all dishes for sharing that are very traditional and popular Japanese food.

Every dish is what I highly recommend you to try in Japan if you visit Japan.

You will be able to experience the ultimate Japanese taste with us in Cornwall!

The first full-day Japanese cookery course is taking place on Wednesday 19th April.

Bean Thread Noodle with Oyster Sauce

We’re really excited about the launch of our new full-day Japanese cookery course this month in conjunction with Naoko Kashiwagi of Naoko’s Kitchen. To get you in the mood, we’ve a fantastic, quick and simple dish for you to try that has been provided by Naoko herself.

If you’ve not tried bean thread noodles (vermicelli) before, they are a really tasty and quick ingredient to introduce to your store cupboard. You can jazz them up with stir-fried veg or meat and any sauce you have to hand for a quick and simple lunch or dinner.

Ingredients: Serves 2

50g Bean thread noodle (vermicelli)

Carrot – (finely sliced)

½ leek (sliced)

Soy beans (optional)

1 clove garlic (grated)

½ Tsp fresh ginger (grated)

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Tbsp Sunflower oil

1 Tbsp Thai oyster sauce (Naoko uses Maekrua oyster sauce)

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

Pinch of salt

Method:

Bring to the boil a large, deep saucepan of water and add the noodles. Boil until the noodles become soft (around 2 minutes), stirring continuously.  Drain and rinse under cold running water for a minute.

Put the sesame oil and sunflower oil in a pan and add the garlic and ginger. Heat on a low heat until they are infused. Add the carrot, leek and a pinch of salt and turn up the heat to cook the vegetables.

Once the vegetables become soft, add the boiled noodles, oyster sauce and soy sauce. Fry together, stirring until well combined.

Serve with additional soy and oyster sauce on the side.

Granny Spear’s Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are traditionally served on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent. A spiced sweet bun made with currants or sultanas, they are traditionally marked with a cross on the top to represent the crucifixion of Jesus. Spices are used in the buns to signify the spices used to embalm Jesus at his burial.

This is not a recipe if you are in a hurry. Hot cross buns like saffron buns, take some time and love to prepare but are well worth the effort. They can be frozen once cooked and just need a little warm up in the oven once defrosted.

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs Strong plain flour (we use strong white bread flour)

4oz Granulated sugar

3oz Block margarine

3oz Block lard

1oz Fresh yeast (or alternatively, 14g of Allinsons Easy Bake dried yeast (in a small tin) or, 2 x sachets of Co-op Fast Action dried yeast – if using any other dried yeast, ensure it is fast action and can be added straight to the dry ingredients and does not need to be added to liquid and allowed to rise first).

½ Pint of tepid water (blood temperature)

6oz Sultanas

1 Heaped tsp mixed spice

1 Egg (beaten)

Glaze

2 tbsp Granulated sugar

2 tbsp Water

Method

In a large bowl, rub together the flour, sugar, fats and mixed spice until it resembles breadcrumbs and there are no large lumps of fat left.

Make a well in the middle of the flour. Using a little of the tepid water, make a paste with the yeast and then add the remaining water. Pour this into the well along with the beaten egg.

**If using dried yeast, add the yeast to the flour along with the spice and sugar and then rub in the fats. Add the tepid water and knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with a tea-towel and leave to rise for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size – Then, skip to the step below where you add in the fruit**

With a fork, mix a little of the flour from the sides with the liquid and then, cover the liquid in the well completly with some of the flour from the sides (flicking it from the sides on top of the liquid).

Cover with a tea-towel and place in a warm place. After about 20 minutes, the yeast mixture should begin to erupt through the flour.

Remove the tea-towel and add the fruit and draw all of the mixture together in the bowl until well mixed. Turn the mixture out onto an oiled or floured cool surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. Place the mixture back into the bowl, cover with a tea-towel and place back in a warm place for approximately 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. If making your own pastry crosses (see below), prepare the pastry whilst the dough is rising.

Turn the mixture out again and knead it again for approximately 5/10 minutes drawing it back to its original size.

Divide the dough into individual round portions of the same size (around 60g). You can weigh each ball of dough to ensure you get even sized buns (around 60g per ball). Using the palm of your hand, roll each portion into a ball on your work surface. Remember not to add any flour to the work surface at this stage to ensure the balls grip the surface and are easier to roll.

Place the balls onto a greased and floured or, lined baking sheet (if lining, use baking parchment and not greaseproof paper) leaving a little gap between each ball to allow for expansion.

At this stage you can either score the top of the buns with a sharp knife in the shape of a cross or, as we prefer, you can put a shortcrust pastry cross on top of each bun.

(Easy shortcrust pastry recipe for crosses. Rub 10g cold butter or block marg into 40g of strong plain or bread flour. Add just enough tepid water to form a dough. Roll out thinly into an oblong shape on a floured surface, around 12cm by 15cm and cut into around 24 thin strips. Brush the strips with a little water before placing onto the buns in the shape of a cross trimming off any excess at the ends)

Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise one more time in a warm place for approximately 20 minutes.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180o fan for approximately 20 minutes.

Whilst the buns are cooking prepare the glaze. Melt the sugar and the water together in a non-stick saucepan over a gentle heat. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Brush over the top of the buns as soon as they come out of the oven using a pastry brush to make them nice and sticky and give them the traditional glaze.

5** Fish Cookery Course

Hi Lindsey,

Thank you very much for sending through an electronic copy of Saturday’s recipes.

It was certainly a very enjoyable day, brilliant in fact. It has been a while since I was last a ‘student’ so was apprehensive to start with but was soon put at ease by Annie and George. I thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills, both preparing the fish and new cooking techniques. I can now fillet fish properly, skin fish and who ever though I would be making my own aioli !

All being well I will be moving to Cornwall in the not too distant future to be nearer the youngsters (and grandson!) so am keen to enrol for the shellfish course once I am ensconced in Cornwall.

Many thanks to Annie and George…….5***** !!

Best wishes

Roger

(image shows students being taught filleting skills on a previous fish cookery course)

Heavy Cake

To celebrate Saint Pirans Day, we’ve a treat for you this month by way of a truly Cornish recipe and one of our favourites, Heavy Cake.  Heavy Cake is a rich, fruit pastry rather than a traditional cake texture and as the name suggests contains no raising agents. Fruit is a popular ingredient in many traditional Cornish recipes such as yeast buns and saffron buns and may hark back to the time when the Phoenicians visited the county. A nation of great seafarers and traders, they visited Cornwall over 2000 years ago to export tin. It is thought that they may have been one of the nations to introduce rich fruits and spices including saffron to the county. There are many different versions of this recipe, some include peel, some include sultanas as well as currants and some use only plain flour. This version has been tried and tested in Granny Spears family for over 50 years and we think it’s a pretty tasty one!

Ingredients

¼ lb (100g) Self-raising flour

¾ lb (350g) Plain flour

½lb (225g) Lard

¼ lb (100g) Granulated sugar

4-5oz Currants (to taste)

1 Egg, beaten

A little milk

Baking sheet covered with silicone paper (baking parchment)

Method

Place all of the flour into a bowl and roughly rub in the lard. Do not rub in too finely, leave some lumps.

Mix in the sugar and then add the currents.

Mix in the beaten egg and then add enough milk to form a dough. Do not let the dough get too wet as you need to be able to roll it out. It should resemble pastry.

Split the mixture into two, and shape each half into a rough oval.

Roll out each half into a round or oval shape (whichever you prefer), no less than ½ inch thick. The thicker the dough, the less dry the cake will be.

Place onto a baking sheet that has been lined with silicone paper. Make a criss-cross pattern across the top using a knife, to resemble a fishing net.

Brush with a little milk & sprinkle over a little granulated sugar.

Cook in a pre-heated oven on gas mark 6, 200c (180c fan), for half an hour. The cake should still be slightly moist in the middle.

Saint Pirans Day

This weekend, folks all over Cornwall will be donning black, white and gold and taking part in celebrations around the county in honour of Saint Pirans Day which takes place on Sunday.

Legend has it that Saint Piran (a 6th century  abbot and Saint) floated across the Irish sea to Cornwall having been cast out by the ‘Heathen Irish’ by order of the Irish King who was suspicious of his miraculous healing powers.

According to legend, he was tied to a mill-stone and rolled over the edge of a cliff into stormy seas which immediately calmed, before floating all the way to Cornwall coming ashore at Perranporth. Having made Cornwall his new home, according to legend, he accidentally rediscovered tin-smelting when the ore hearthstone (which contained tin) on his fireplace got so hot it caused a white cross to appear on the surface. For this discovery, he was bestowed the honour of being named ‘Patron Saint of Tinners’ (tin-miners), mining being the backbone of Cornwall at this time. The discovery was also the basis for the Saint Piran flag which is a white cross on a black background  (denoting the hot white tin cross on the black hearthstone background).

Not long after landing in Cornwall, Saint Piran also established an Oratory or, small chapel (the remains of which are visible today after on-going excavation project) on Penhale Sands, close to Perranporth. Every year on St Pirans Day (5th March) a Grand Procession takes place where folks dressed in black, white and gold, the colours of Cornwall, cross the dunes to Penhale Sands, the site of Saint Piran’s cross and also the site of his Oratory. Other celebrations of Cornish music and song are also held throughout the county to view a list of many of them, click here…