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Friday, 21 March 2014

Cornwall's Baking Tradition and a couple of recipes

Think of Cornwall and one of your first images will be of  a Clotted Cream Tea.

The plate piled high with scones, freshly churned butter a jar of good home-made raspberry or Strawberry Jam and a golden mountain of clotted cream waiting to crown the scone and jam.  In Cornwall the cream has to go on top, whereas Devon folk put the jam on top – more fool them as you can put much more cream on a Cornish tea!


To wash the confectionary delight down - a cup of tea, perhaps from the only tea plantation in the UK at Tregothnan or a pint of Scrumpy.


But wait a minute! The scone is a recent interloper. Traditional Cornish Teas should always have the Cornish Split as the vehicle for buttery, jammy creamy goodness.

A sweet bun, the Split has much to commend it, and as a Baker, I would rather a bread base than a cake one, even though the scone is a close first cousin to Soda Bread.

Sadly the Split has fallen out of fashion, probably because Scones are quicker to make and easier, but there is no doubt that it is the better accompaniment to the tea.

One of the few bakeries still making the traditional Split is the Chough Bakery on Padstow, right on the harbour and still independent; I used their recipe for the perfect Cornish Split.


Cornish Splits (makes 15)

Preheat an oven to 180c

This is a two stage recipe.

Stage 1

160g Strong Flour

25g Fresh Yeast (12.5g dried)

250g tepid water

25g Sugar

Mix the yeast, water and sugar together then whisk in the flour. Cover and stand aside. The mix will double in size then fall back as the yeast consumes the sugar. Takes about 45 minutes.

Stage 2

360g Strong Flour

60g Sugar

70g Butter

15g Milk Powder (I used 1 tbsp. full fat milk)

Pinch of Salt (Cornish Sea Salt gives a true provenance)

Mix the dry ingredients then rub in the fat. In a mixer slowly pour in the ferment whilst mixing on low speed with a dough hook until it is all absorbed. Turn speed up and mix till the dough goes shiny. Cover and leave for about 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out and fold it a couple of times then divide into 15 and shape into small rolls. Place on a greased baking tray or on one lined with Parchment Paper. Leave to double in size.

Cook the rolls for 16 minutes then tap to make sure they sound hollow. Turn onto a cooling rack and dust with Icing Sugar. Resist as long as possible then slather with Butter, Jam and Clotted Cream.

(I have also made them with Halen Mon Sea Salt with Organic Vanilla, from Anglesey. This gives an added depth of taste and remains Celtic if not strictly Cornish)


Another great Cornish traditional bread is Saffron Bread. Many English counties have their own fruit breads and here in Wales we have Bara Brith (Speckled Bread) whilst Ireland has Barm Brack. The defining feature here is the Saffron dating back to times when Cornwall had a thriving port business and sat at the hub of international trade.

Again I used the Chough Bakery recipe.


Saffron Bread Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves, 13 buns or 1 small loaf and 8 buns

2tbsp Water

Pinch of Saffron


575g Strong Flour

60g Castor Sugar

125g White Shortening (I used Lard)


25g Fresh Yeast (12.5g dried)

275g Warm Water


230g Mixed Fruit and Peel

Mix the saffron and 2tbsp water, heat and allow to cool.

Put all the dry ingredients into a mixer bowl, leaving the mixed fruit to one side.

Whisk the yeast water and saffron together, pour into the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes at low speed with a dough hook fitted. Turn up to high for another 2 minutes. When the dough is smooth and elastic add the dried fruit and mix together.

Cover and stand aside to double in size.

After the dough has risen take from the bowl, fold and shape.

A small loaf should weigh about 465g, rolls 100g each and a large loaf uses all of the mix.

Cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes or so.

Bake in a 160c oven, Rolls take 16 minutes, loaves of whatever size 30 minutes.

Turn onto a cooling rack and whilst hot glaze them in a sugar syrup made of 2tbsp Sugar dissolved in 2 tbsp. Water. This will give them a shiny, sticky glaze.

Serve cut thickly with lots of good Butter.

Of course you need great butter whether for Splits or Saffron Bread and great Cornish butter and cream, not to forget Clotted Cream is made by Roddas and, fortunately, available in supermarkets across the UK.

Incidentally, I'm fairly sure Enid Blyton's Famous Five would have enjoyed a good cream tea, or several, during their regular adventures in Cornwall, but, writing in a post war Britain where rationing was in force their teas consisted mainly of "lashings of hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and radishes" which were not on the ration book, and their tipple of Ginger Beer would have been homemade from a Ginger Beer Plant. But I am equally sure that their tea would have included Cornish Splits not Scones.
Two  Cornish Breads that are definitely Local and Great.
The Real Bread Campaign
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards

Friday, 14 March 2014

Cornwall's Alive and the Old Coastguard proves it

Despite a severe battering in the recent storms, and the railway line at Dawlish being severed Cornwall is still alive and still open! The A30 runs right across the county and, like Cornwall it's open for business.

Certainly there are signs of the winter battering, some shops in Newlyn have sandbags strategically placed, and the entrance to Mousehole Harbour is protected by planks to lessen the effect of any tidal surge, but the hedgerows are coming back to life and the Three Cornered Leeks - one of our native Wild Garlic plants - line many roads.

Planks protect the harbour

We popped down for a short break and had a great time!

Our base was The Old Coastguard in Mousehole, a sister to the Gurnards Head over the moor in Zennor, and the Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon. With Winter and Spring breaks available in all three, including dinner and breakfast they really are worth a visit.

Style wise they remind me of the relaxed atmosphere at Ballymaloe House, and the food has similar characteristics, not surprising as Charles Inkin trained at Ballymaloe Cookery School, and Darina Allen enjoys stays at the Old Coastguard.

Just 100 yards (genuinely!) from the centre of Mousehole the hotel has great views and a pleasant garden to sit or dine alfresco. But it's a place for all seasons and a sign says "where better to watch the wild weather than from the warmth of the lounge?"

No wild weather during our stay and seas so calm that we could see a pod of dolphins hunting fish about 20 yards off the hotel garden.

Arriving in time for lunch, but on a package that included dinner, we settled for a light lunch.

We both had a great Roast Rib of Beef. The Ballymaloe influence was clear in the vegetable accompaniment, Red Cabbage, Kale, Carrot and  Mashed Swede with a fresh Horseradish cream.These ARE seasonal vegetables, not the "Seasonal Vegetables", "Chefs Selection" or "Market Vegetables" that are on so many menus and are Carrot, Broccoli and French Beans 12 months a year. IF the chef selected them the only market that would have them a in season at the same time is the Supermarket, and the freezer section at that. A pint of the Scrumpy style Skreach Cider was an entirely appropriate drink to go with the roast.

A dessert just demanded to be eaten and we chose from the Iberian Month menu which runs through March as a special and both opted for Ice Cream with Pedro Ximinez soaked raisins. Wonderful.

Some hours later Dinner approached. An initial three kinds of freshly baked breads. was followed for me by Potted Salmon with Piccalilli (Romanesco florets instead of the more usual Cauliflower) whilst Janet went Iberian with the Charcuterie plate of Jamon Iberico

Mains were a Fish Stew with Mussels, in a rich tomato bisque for me and a whole grilled Plaice for Janet. Again the vegetables were entirely seasonal, Janet's Plaice resting under Wilted Spinach, Grilled Fennel and Brown Shrimp.

Janet finished the meal with a rich chocolate mousse whilst I had a simple vanilla ice cream.

Breakfast again showed the Ballymaloe influence, a table groaning under fresh breads, home made muesli, pastries, cereals and several home made jams, compotes, curds and marmalades. Yoghurt and milk were available to wash down the cereals and grains and toasters were available to toast your own.

The hot breakfast featured local ingredients including the Hogs Pudding - a Cornish White Pudding, made by Lenterns of Penzance and fish from Newlyn, just around the corner of the coast.

On the first day Janet opted for the Cornish Breakfast whilst I went for Kedgeree with Smoked Newlyn Haddock. The Cornish breakfast delivered hugely on taste and quality of ingredient - I had it for the second day's breakfast and was clearly sourced from good animals and butchers. The Kedgeree was the best I have had. Saffron rice with Wilted Spinach shot through. two large portions of flaky Haddock and a Poached Egg that split at the touch of a knife to send golden yolky goodness cascading through the rice.

Set up for the day we went out in search of good local ingredients to buy and take home.

Here the staff were terrific. They advised on suitable shops, the chef suggesting butchers and cheese shops, reception advising on Farm Shops and providing printed maps and routes and even locating a Farmers Market which would be open on a Tuesday and only 8 miles away - a must for our second and final morning.

Several hours of visiting shops, arranging to pick up goods the following morning and buying items that didn't need chilling such as the iconic Cornish Sea Salt led us via the moor to Zennor and the Gurnards Head, a sister to the old Coastguard.

A light lunch of Pork and Duck Rillettes, with Pickles for Janet and Gougons of Plaice with a home made Tartare Sauce for me, with a pint of Tribune Ale filled any minor gaps and we set off to complete the circuit of the peninsula, but not before Janet had a dessert of Vanilla Rice Pudding with Rhubarb and Apple Compote.

Arriving back at the hotel Janet opted for a walk along the coast whilst I sat on the balcony, admiring the view and with a mug of coffee. The Tea and Coffee tray in the room again showed the commitment to good food with a Cafitiere and locally ground coffee and Leaf Tea for those who prefer tannin to caffeine.

Our second dinner matched the first in terms of quality. After more of the delicious breads Janet had three Oysters whilst I had Porchetta style Suckling Pig.

Mains were pan roasted Pollock for Janet and Ale Braised Ox Cheek for myself. The Pollack had a glorious crisp skin and blindingly white, succulent flesh served with wilted spinach. The Ox Cheek fell apart to the touch and had a rich flavour that was almost very good barbecue in taste. We shared a bowl of Bubble and Squeak as an accompaniment.

Janet opted for an apple tart on thin crisp pastry which was well worth the 20 minutes that it took to bake from scratch, I had a single scoop of Chocolate Ice Cream which was all I could handle!

Our two night stay was wonderful and I cannot praise The Old Coastguard enough. Extremely good food, comfortable rooms and above all a friendly, caring and committed staff. If you want to visit Cornwall this is the place to stay.

It truly is Local and Great.

Some photos by Janet King, the rest and all typos, spelling and grammar is down to me.

The Real Bread Campaign
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards