Tag: Cornwall

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.

‘Healthy seas supporting productive fisheries’

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.”

Matt Slater, Marine Awareness Officer & Project Lead, Cornwall Wildlife Trust
fisherman holding a freshly caught pollack on his boat

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.

fishing boat in hgarbour with colourful buoys hanging over the side

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.

small inshore fishing day boat returning to port in porthleven, cornwall, followed by a flock 
of gulls

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.

chef tutor christian sharpe preparing sole at philleigh way cookery school

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.

freshly caught lobster and pollack in a box onboard a fishing boat next to a coiled rope

You can check out the Cornwall Good Seafood Guide here to see their list of recommended fish and shellfish, and recipes from local chefs for how to best enjoy them. If you’re buying fish or ordering it in a restaurant, look out for their logo or ask before you buy!

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.

gala night dinner by philleigh way at park house opera 2023



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.

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.

looking down on porthleven and the harbour during the food festival

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.

long table laid for feast at the net loft by rupert cooper at porthleven food festival

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)
Bread – trufle butter – dips (v)
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)
Rhubarb & Cornish fairing cheesecake, roasted rhubarb with stem ginger & Cornish Gin (v)

sharing starters at a net loft feast at porthleven food festival

Sunday Lunch

Spring minestrone (v)

Smoked & roasted Cornish Pork served with traditional roasted vegetables, stuffing & cider gravy
Veggie Pie served with traditional roasted vegetables, stuffing & veggie gravy (v)
Rhubarb & seasonal fruit crumble, served with Rossa’s clotted cream (v)

evening stalls and food tents at porthleven food festival

Images by Here Now Films for Porthleven Food Festival.

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.

tin of cornish sardines

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 and tomato pici

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

Pangrattato (optional)


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!

tinned sardine and tomato pici with pangratata

King Harry Ferry

Friday 17th June 2022

Join us for a spectacular evening of food, drinks and dancing, all whilst floating in the middle of the Fal river on board the King Harry Ferry. This will be an evening to remember! There will be a bar on board, and we’ll be serving up the following menu – and you don’t have to choose, you get all of it! We’ll have vegetarian and vegan options available too, and if you have any other dietary requirements please just let us know when you book your ticket.


Catalan fish stew, aioli & focaccia
Barbecoa smoked pork, crispy tacos, sour cream, green salsa & pickled cabbage
Callestick G&T sorbet
Biscoff & coffee brownie

drone photo of the king harry ferry at feock, cornwall

Tickets are £25 per person and you can book yours here.

As a cookery school in Cornwall, our half-day Cornish pasty cookery courses (that run regularly throughout the year) are understandably popular. You can’t visit Cornwall and not eat a Cornish pasty, but it’s even better if you not only eat one that you made yourself but also take the recipe away with you to repeat at home forever more!

homemade cornish pasty

The Origins of the Pasty

Pasties date back as far as the 13th century, at which time they were a pie baked without a dish of French origins, with a rich filling of venison, veal, beef, lamb or seafood, gravy and fruit. The name pasty is a mutation of the Medieval French “paste”, for pie. One Royal charter from 1208 binding the town of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk to “send to the sheriffs of Norwich every year one hundred herrings, baked in twenty four pasties, which the sheriffs are to deliver to the lord of the manor of East Carlton who is then to convey them to the King [John].”

The History of the Cornish Pasty

It wasn’t until the 1700s when historic references to pasties across the rest of the country started to decline, and pasties began to become popular in Cornwall amongst working class families. These weren’t the rich, decadent pies of the previous centuries however; filling a simple short crust pastry case with potato, swede and onion, all common vegetables, and occasionally some cheap pieces of meat if available, was an affordable and easily transportable meal.
As mining boomed in Cornwall, pasties became a go-to meal for the miners’ crib break (a Cornish colloquialism for a mid-morning break): they were an all-in-one meal that could be taken down the mines, particularly if they were so deep that it was impractical for the miners to return to the surface during the day for a crib or lunch break. Sometimes fruit was cooked into one end of the pasty to provide a sweet treat at the end of their meal. Carrying a warm pasty in a small bag under their work clothes also helped to keep miners warm underground!

historic image of cornish tin miners eating pasties underground
Cornish tin miners eating pasties during their crib break underground. Photo courtesy of the Cornish Pasty Association.

Not all miners carried their pasties with them, though. Some mines had stoves installed in them to cook pasties for the miners, whilst at other mines the pasties were cooked and the miners either returned to the surface for a break, or they were carried down to them. This is how the chant “Oggie, Oggie, Oggie!” “Oi! Oi! Oi!”, since appropriated by Australian sports fans (who shout “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!”), originated. If pasties were being cooked at the surface by bal maidens (from the Cornish for mine, bal, and the English maiden), young women who worked at the mines, they would often shout the Cornish word for pasty, “hoggan”, three times down the mine shaft to notify the miners that their food was ready. In the depths of the mine, these shouts were heard as “oggy”, and the miners would chant “Oi! Oi! Oi!” back in acknowledgement.
Many people believe that the classic D shape and side-crimp of the Cornish pasty was so that the crust could be used as a handle by the miners. This makes sense, as mining was filthy work and there was a risk that miners hands could contaminate their meal with traces of arsenic (a by-product of processing tin and copper ore) or the explosives that they used. Others say that miners carried their pasties in muslin or paper bags so that they could eat from that and enjoy the entire pasty. Some say that miners’ wives carved their husbands’ initials into the end of the crust so that they could identify their food and also leave the very end for the “Knockers” – the mischievous underground pixies of Cornish folklore who needed bribing with food to stay on good behavior.

From Cornwall To The World

As the mining industry declined and eventually collapsed in Cornwall in the 19th century, many mining families emigrated to emerging mining areas around the world. The “Cousin Jacks and Cousin Jennies” as they were known, traveled to America, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa where there was demand for their mining expertise. They took their pasty recipes with them, and in many of these areas pasties (or variations of them) are still enjoyed.

filling for a cornish pasty

What Makes An Official Cornish Pasty?

In 2011 the Cornish pasty was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in Europe, meaning that for a pasty to be sold as a Cornish pasty is must meet certain criteria:

  • A Cornish pasty must comprise savoury pastry (usually shortcrust) with a filling of beef, potato, swede (often called a turnip in Cornwall, but it’s not!), onion, seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • There must be at least 12.5% beef and 25% vegetables in the pasty as a whole.
  • All the ingredients must be uncooked when the pasty is assembled before cooking.
  • The pasty must be sealed by crimping it along one side (not over the top).
  • To qualify as a Cornish pasty, it must be produced west of the river Tamar
chipping swede for a cornish pasty

Tips For Making Your Own Cornish Pasty

A Cornish pasty traditionally uses cheap cuts of beef, such as beef skirt (from the diaphragm/underside of the cow) or chuck steak (from the shoulder), both of which have little fat and require low and slow cooking to make them tender and create a gravy. Because the pasty is assembled with raw ingredients that all cook together at the same time, the size of your dice is important so that ingredients with different cooking times are all cooked properly. I’d recommend chipping your swede so that it’s smaller than your diced potato, otherwise there is a risk that it will be undercooked and hard. Likewise, a hard waxy variety of potato (such as Maris Piper) is better so that the potato chunks retain their shape and don’t disintegrate.
Of course, if you want to make your own Cornish pasty then for a start you need to be here in Cornwall and the best way to ensure absolute success is to come along to one of our half-day Pasties and Cream cookery courses so that I can guide you through every step of the process and share even more tips with you (the cream element refers to a traditional Cornish Cream Tea – you’ll learn how to make one of those too whilst your pasties are baking).

You can find out when our next Pasties and Cream course is by clicking here.

cornish pasty course at philleigh way cookery school

Saffron buns are a traditional Cornish teatime treat – a rich yeast bun not dissimilar to a teacake, only better! Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice by weight, so how did it end up being a key ingredient in Cornish baking? Spices such as saffron were often landed in Cornwall, both legally and illegally, with records showing that it was once traded with the Phoenicians for tin and copper. The county’s mild maritime climate also made it one of the few places in the UK where the crocus flowers that produce saffron could be grown commercially. It’s been a couple of centuries since saffron was produced commercially in Cornwall, however one farm is now growing it here on the Roseland Peninsula. With such ready access to saffron, it was baked into revel buns on special occasions with so much being used that it gave the buns a characteristic yellow colour. For the past hundred years it’s been prohibitively expensive to use that much saffron, so many bakers used food colourings to turn their buns yellow. This recipe that I recently baked for Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream uses a decent pinch of saffron and clotted cream to create a rich, spiced, teatime treat. Enjoy!

cornish saffron buns with clotted cream


300ml whole milk
Large pinch of saffron
50g Rodda’s clotted cream, melted
2 tsp mixed spice
550g strong bread flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
80g caster sugar
1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast
100g sultanas/currants
4-tablespoons of milk
For the glaze:
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of water


Gently heat the milk with the saffron in a small pan until it’s steaming. Add clotted cream to the saffron-infused milk and return to a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk until melted and combined.

Take the mixture of the heat and allow to cool until it is warm to the touch

Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt, spices, sugar, and yeast.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk. Mix and bring together into a soft dough. Knead on a slow speed in a free-standing mixer with the dough hook attached for 7-10 minutes, or slap and fold a few times to bring it together. After 5 minutes, incorporate the currants. To check if the dough is ready, when the dough is touched it should bounce back.

Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Knock back the dough and turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly.

Divide the dough into 10 equal portions to make buns and place on a lined baking sheet.

Cover the buns and leave to prove again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas mark 6. Then brush the top of the buns with a little milk and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Once the buns have baked, its time to make the glaze. To make the glaze – put 50g of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and then boil for 1 minute. Then brush the mixture over the warm buns and transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Slice in half and enjoy the buns fresh or toasted, spread with more clotted cream.

If you’d like to get stuck into more traditional Cornish bakes and dishes, why not join me for a Cornwall in a Day cookery course?

At the end of last year, we paid a visit to Porthilly Shellfish at Rock to learn more about their oysters and to enjoy some of their amazing produce straight from the half shell on the waters edge. Food doesn’t get much fresher than that. The quality of shellfish that we have access to in the UK, and particularly in Cornwall, is exceptional, and we want to celebrate it and encourage more people to eat Cornish shellfish, more often.

porthilly oysters

Oysters are nutritious and a great source of protein. These days they have a bit of a reputation for being an upmarket item only found on the menus of high-end restaurants, but historically they were a really common and affordable food, especially in Victorian-era London. Oysters are also great for the environment and native oysters are a keystone species; they fix carbon as calcium carbonate in their shells, and the reefs created by oyster beds can protect coasts from storm damage. Because oysters are filter feeders they improve water clarity, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper so that sea grasses can flourish and provide valuable habitats for other marine life. This means that farming oysters is actually good for the body of water that they’re raised in.

the camel estuary at rock and padstow on the north coast of cornwall

Porthilly Shellfish raise oysters and mussels in the Camel Estuary on the coast of North Cornwall, directly opposite Padstow. The Marshall family has been farming at Porthilly for five generations, so although their shellfish operation is very well established it’s relatively new compared to the life of the farm. We spent a morning with farmer Tim Marshall and his nephew Matt, who runs the day-to-day operations of Porthilly Shellfish, talking to them about how they got started in oysters and how they create such an amazing product.

rupert cooper of philleigh way cookery school talking with Matt Marshall of Porthilly Shellfish on the camel estuary

How Oysters Are Farmed At Porthilly

Like a lot of farming, it all starts with seed. Porthilly buy in oyster “seed” from a hatchery who nurture single oyster spats onto fragments of shell and grow them to about the size of a piece of granola (about 7mm x 7mm). The seed gets to Porthilly and is placed in mesh bags that are placed on racks in the intertidal area of the estuary. This is a classic French technique that lifts the oysters out of the sand and mud, and puts them in the best possible place to feast on all of the phytoplankton floating past them.

oyster racks on the camel estuary, cornwall

Porthilly also employ another method with floating racks suspended from a buoy line, that uses the motion of the water to tumble the shells. The oysters will spend up to two years out in the estuary, filtering around 200 litres of seawater per day through their partially opened shells. The team regularly turn over and shake the mesh bags to tumble the oysters around and promote the development of deeply cupped shells, and periodically the bags are brought back to the farm so that the oysters can be graded.

collecting in oysters for grading at porthilly shellfish in cornwall

On the day that we visited, Matt and his team were grading oysters that were about one year old. The oysters are inspected on a conveyor belt, with any empty shells discarded, and then sorted by weight. As the oysters grow they are given more space in the mesh bags – as seed there might be a few hundred tiny oysters in a mesh bag, but as they get towards market size there are only around eight. This sorting is done using a machine that weighs, bags and counts the oysters. “This machine was designed for packing chicken or fish fillets in a food factory,” Tim told us, “but sometimes we’ve got a million and a half oysters to do and when we used bring them in on the back of the trailer and count them in, we’d lose count.”

grading oysters at porthilly shellfish

Harvesting Oysters

Once they’ve reached market size, the bags are collected in and the oysters are unloaded into special saltwater tanks where they spend a few days. Water from the estuary is piped in and passed under ultra-violet lights before it reaches the storage tanks. This process kills any bacteria in the water and gives the oysters the opportunity to “freshen up” and drop any sediment that they may be carrying as excess baggage, without losing the beautiful flavor of their home waters. They’re then ready to be sent off to restaurants or fishmongers.

rinsing oysters prior to grading at porthilly shellfish

How Porthilly Shellfish Started

Tim began farming oysters in 1978. “The farm’s been in our family for five generations,” he told us, “And that means that we owned the land to the mean high water mark. My grandfather bought the foreshore from the then Duke of Cornwall, which is a bit of a grey area in terms of where the foreshore begins and ends. So we own and farm on a stretch on the Porthilly side of the estuary, as well as now having some racks on the other side of the estuary.”

“I used to mess about fishing and picking crabs and going out in the boats. I always thought I was going to have a trout farm of some sort, and make something out in the estuary. But it doesn’t really lend itself to that because it’s too shallow. And then when I was about 15 or 16 an academic came along from what was then Plymouth Polytechnic, who’d seen this system out in France. He asked if he could have a go at it here. He came and spoke to my Dad, who let him do it without charging him any rent. It failed for some reason and he gave up. There was a lovely old chap up the road who was one of my Dad’s contemporaries – a boatbuilder and carpenter by trade and a real character – a salmon poacher too. He was taking some of these oysters and selling them to a fellow in Exeter, and he told me I ought to get into it. He sent me to see his friend, who was using the French system in Exmouth, by Dawlish, so I went up to learn from him. He was really good to me and set me on my way.”

tim marshall of porthilly shellfish talking with rupert cooper of philleigh way cookery school

“Slowly, along with Rick [Stein] and other local chefs pushing shellfish, we slowly grew it. There were times when we struggled to sell them, but I took a trip to France and soon realised what a market there was over there, so that’s where we used to sell most of our oysters to. One year they didn’t want to take any, and it coincided with my son coming home and he wanted to grow mussels as well. We had to put the tanks in to make enough money out of the mussels, and it all just slowly grew on from there. That year that the French didn’t want any, we pushed it much harder in this country and grew the market. I don’t think we realised what a great product we had, compared to some oysters from other parts of the country.

harvesting oysters at porthilly shellfish

Porthilly’s Pacific (Rock) Oysters

There are several different types of oysters that you’ll most commonly find in fishmongers or on a restaurant menu. Each has its own characteristics and flavour profiles, which are then developed further by the environment and conditions in which they grow; this is known in the oyster world as terroir, much like merroir in wine.
Porthilly Shellfish raise Pacific oysters, a variety that originates from Japan but are now the most common variety farmed around the world. “The native oysters don’t like it in the bags,” Tim explained, “They also take five to six years to mature and get to market, whereas these Pacifics take half the time. They’re also more popular, as they’re cheaper and are a bit more accessible taste-wise. Native oysters are much more seasonal. We can harvest these Pacifics all year round, although they’re much better through the winter months.

The Oyster Lady really rates Porthilly’s Pacific Rock Oysters (and if anybody knows their oysters, she does), noting them to be “fresh, clean and creamy, with notes of cucumber and zinc.”

porthilly oyster

Brexit’s Impact On UK Shellfish Producers

Since our visit in December the Brexit deal has crippled the UK’s shellfish industry because of a law that indefinitely bans the export of live bivalve molluscs (oysters, mussels, and clams, for example), both wild and farmed, to the EU from non-member states. The only exception is if they have come from Class A waters or have been purified in depuration tanks (which shortens their shelf life, hence why most exports haven’t been purified). Much of the UK’s inshore coastal waters are categorised as Class B, so almost overnight a huge export market vanished. It’s a small and specialist market (valued at less than £12m/year) but for the people involved, it’s their livelihoods. Our friends at Porthilly shouldn’t be too badly impacted by this development because they have spent many years developing a great reputation and domestic market for their shellfish, and because they have depuration facilities on the farm. We’re glad that they seem to be an exception, but other fisheries (such as the traditional oyster fishery near us on the Fal river) aren’t so fortunate.

You can purchase Porthilly oysters order online from Simply Oysters or Fish For Thought. Once you’ve got your oysters, try out some of our favourite oyster mignonette recipes (click here for the recipes).

a selection of oyster mignonette sauces

If you fancy learning more about cooking with and eating shellfish then click through to find out more about our Half-Day Fish, Fish In A Day, and Advanced Fish Cookery courses.



On Valentine’s weekend, Ben Ambridge (The Fox’s Revenge) and I will be back at Nansledan on the outskirts of Newquay cooking up a full take-away barbecue feast.

the old garage wine and deli at nansledan, cornwall



Pulled pork
Smoked chicken thighs
Smoked sausage



Smoked cauliflower and tahini
Grilled aubergine and red pepper
Smashed sweet potato.


Mac ‘n’ cheese
Caesar slaw
Pitt beans

Comes with a bit of everything!

philleigh way smoked chicken

Pre order by 7pm on Thursday 11th by e-mailing info@philleighway.co.uk with your order, your preferred collection time (we’ll do our best) and a contact telephone number. You’ll be given a time slot to collect in (to ensure social distancing is adhered to) and we ask you to please wear a mask and maintain a safe distance from us and others.

The Old Garage will be pairing some incredible wines to the menu too and will be open for collections on the night- for all your wine, beer, spirits and deli items – you can email or text your orders through to them via their website.

Here at Philleigh Way we love a good wedding, and we love playing a part in delivering an amazing and memorable experience on a bride and groom’s biggest day.  You can find out more about what we offer (it starts with the food, but goes right through to consulting and delivering on anything from location and logistics to equipment hire and drinks) over on our dedicated Wedding Catering page, but we’d like now to briefly take you back to the summer of 2019 and one of our favourite weddings of the year, to give you a flavour of what a Philleigh Way wedding is like.  We’ll aim to post more of these articles, celebrating the celebrations that we’re involved with, through the 2020 season.

We’ve still got some availability for weddings in 2020, both midweek and even a couple of those “peak” weekends in high summer, for events large or small, in Cornwall or further afield. If you’re going to be tying the knot this year, we’d love to speak to you about how we can help.

Now, without further ado:

Rachel & Andrew Scott
10th August 2019
Budock Vean and Meudon, Cornwall

Rachel & Andrew‘s Menu


Smoked mackerel pate with pickled shallots
Tomato & sardine toast
Goats cheese, honey & pink peppercorn
Duchy charcuterie speck & melon


Wedding Breakfast Sharing Boards

Bread & olive oil
Barbecued Cornish Strip loin
Slow roasted lamb shoulder with sumac
Whole grilled catch of the day
Sweet potato mash with roasted onion
Cucumber, yogurt & tahini salsa
Baba ganoush with mint & parsley
Heritage tomato salad with smoked mozzarella & basil



Affogato – Callestick ice cream with, ginger & tonka bean crumble, salted caramel & espresso




“Come hell or high water we will be there for you. When I heard that the Boardmasters Festival 2019 was cancelled because of the threat from 80mph winds, I phoned the bride whose wedding was scheduled for the next day on the cliffs at Maenporth, because we were due to be catering for her in a marquee! I asked what she thought about the expected gales and she said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ I replied, ‘If you’re in, I’m in!’ So the Philleigh Way team and I did it – cooking the entire wedding breakfast on top of a cliff. It was pretty blustery and the marquee was shifting a bit! But we did the married couple proud and it was a really happy day.”

Rupert Cooper, Philleigh Way

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