The Cornwall Food & Drink Festival 2011

~  Menu  ~

Chorizo, Chickpeas and Bacon
Chunk of Lovely Bread
Glass of Red

Yesterday I went to the Cornwall Food & Drink Festival in Truro where every product exhibited is made in Cornwall.  It was really crowded which is a shame because there is so much to see and taste and talk about and I was worried I might miss something.  I wonder if I did. 

I love this sort of thing, not least for the bizarre nibbling that goes on … a decadent chocky followed by a piece of smoked fish and then shortbread and beer with a small curry sauce chaser etc. etc. 

I was pleased to see not only Vicky’s Bread which I adore but also Baker Tom who makes somewhat different but just as exciting bread such as Brie & Grape and Carrot, Mustard & Thyme.  Read about Baker Tom here  Sadly he has tweeted to me that today he has made strawberry and white chocolate tarts which I have missed.

I tried and then bought some smoked duck breast from the Cornish Duck company.  Their website hasn’t gone live yet but click here for the link anyway.  I plan on making a smoked duck salad with … what do you think? … black garlic vinaigrette.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I had a quick chat with the girl at Riverford Home Delivery.  I was embarrassed because I have never tried their organic veg or organic meat boxes.  Of course I’ve been very nomadic and things might change.  Their produce certainly looked good.  In the meantime I do have their new cookbook “Everyday & Sunday Recipes from Riverford Farm“ which I will be reviewing shortly.  Lots of good stuff in it.  Read all about them here.
Deli Farm Charcuterie had loads of tempting stuff on display and they are also a little smutty which I appreciate; I was tempted to try a Devil’s poker and am amused to see that they sell knob ends!  We used to have knob ends on our menu back in the 80s but ours were made of bread. 

Um … what else?  Healey’s Cornish Rattler Cyder, of course – delicious.  Lots of yummy cheeses; Cornish Yarg, Cornish Blue, Helford White and Helford Blue, gorgeous ices made with Cornish cream, Cornish clotted cream, Cornish mead, saffron cake, cream teas, pasties (including kangaroo!), Cornish fairings, etc.  What a lovely foodie place Cornwall is and what a shame for us that Lincolnshire was voted the UK’s foodie capital, they must be good!

When I got home I couldn’t quite decide what to have for um … if brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch what is a lunch, afternoon tea, early supper combo called?   Recently, when reading Niamh Shield’s excellent book “Comfort &Spice” I was tempted by her recipe for Chorizo & Chickpea Stew. didn't really follow the recipe, however, just remembered it and then bunged a mixture of leftovers; bacon, tomato passata, chickpeas, chorizo, caramelised red onion and fresh sweet hot chillies in a pan and heated them all up together.  Yummy with some of Vicky’s wholegrain bread and a glass of red.

Quite a large portion for me and I couldn't eat it all (after all that nibbling and quaffing at the festival) so finished it off today with some quinoa - left over leftovers!

Delicious Ways to Use Panko Crumbs!

hippies use side door sign

A while ago now I got to fancying some panko crumbs.  I used to buy them by the sack load when working in the BVI (I have a feeling they were much cheaper there) and used them mainly to make an uber crunchy version of Fish ‘n’ Chips.   So I went into the lovely shop in St. Austell, Nature Kitchen, where I boldly walked in the front door!

After a pleasant browse I almost bought a small box of panko when the friendly girl behind the counter suggested that instead I had the much larger more authentic and I don’t think much more expensive bag.  So that’s what I did.  If you are looking for the same thing it has this written on it ...

bag of panko crumbs

… that should be a help a bit!

Panko crumbs are a great thing to keep in the Storecupboard – they are perfect for perking up leftovers and just generally enhancing things.  I’ve been playing with them a bit.

The first thing I did was an experiment  …

Panko Topped Pancakes

I have always have the last couple of pancakes after cooking everyone else’s, partly because I am a really nice lady and partly because I cook mine in an unhealthily large amount of oil so that the edges go all crispy.  Today, instead I poured the batter into the lightly oiled pan and then sprinkled the uncooked top with panko crumbs.  Once flipped and cooked on both sides this made a gorgeously crunchy pancake and is probably the way I shall cook pancakes for the rest of my life.

panko topped panckaes

Pleased with this result I decided to try …

Panko Crusted French Toast

Not an entirely original idea as Mrs. Beeton did write something about dipping bread in milk and then coating with breadcrumbs and frying it.  I tried doing this for a recent article I wrote for Vegetarian Living magazine and it was not that pleasant until I played with it a bit. 

I've made a lot of French Toast in my time doing brunches and as I make it with a creamy custardy middle am often asked for my recipe.  I haven’t really got a recipe, however, just a method which is …
~   Use soft white bread – it is rare that I recommend such a thing – not too fresh.
~   Cut the bread a little thick – maybe 20mm or ¾ of an inch or something like that.
~   Soak the bread in this for 10 minutes or so rather than just dipping it in.

For 2 thick slices of bread I whisked together 1 egg, ½ tsp caster sugar, 3 small drips of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp double cream and about 3-4 tbsp of milk.  Having soaked the bread I coated both sides with panko crumbs and fried in light olive oil till crisp and golden.

panko crusted french toast

In both the above “recipes” the crisp golden crumbs capture the syrup and butter in a most edifying manner and the crunch is divine.

So that was breakfast.

I have also had two sudden lunches recently involving panko crumbs and shallow frying.  The best way to make sure crumbs (panko or otherwise) form a crisp and stable coating is to have ready a plate of seasoned flour, a bowl of beaten egg and a roomy kind of box or bowl of crumbs ready.  Coat whatever you are going to fry in the flour, dip into the egg and then shake about in the crumbs till completely coated.  Monitor the time and temperature carefully whilst cooking so as to ensure that the crumbs don’t get too brown till the inside of the dish, whatever it is, is cooked and hot.  

Crisp Courgette Batons/Sticks/Crudité Things with Tomato & Chilli Dipping Sauce

The sauce for this was bought in tomato and chilli pasta sauce which I always have in my Storecupboard and use for all sorts on non-pasta dishes. I just coated the pieces of courgette as above and fried in a little olive oil paying attention and turning frequently.

panko crusted zucchini

Pan Fried Panko Crusted Brie

This really does need a little care with cooking; the brie melts quite quickly so make sure the crumbs are cooked in time!  Just shallow fry in olive oil and turn oh so carefully, I use my hands but you might not be so stupid!

red onion marmalade
An old menu favourite of mine, I use to sell this with an apple and Calvados sauce but today I had a spoonful of Spicy Red Onion Marmalade made by The Cherry Tree  who, according to their website, sell their excellent products at “local markets, prestigious shows and outdoor events across the country” and indeed I get mine at a weekly market in Padstow.  It is exceptional stuff so get some if you can.

Panko crumbs make a great coating on deep fried foods too.  I haven’t got a deep fryer and don’t fancy all that faff now but here are a couple of photos from my past …

Panko Crusted Fish with Homefries and Lime Tartare Sauce (aka Fish and Chips) 

Here is a picture of this dish relaxing by the pool where I worked in the islands.

panko crusted fish and chips

Chicken Tenders coated with Panko and Black Sesame Seeds   

panko crusted chicken tenders

.... which I served with two dipping sauces; crunchy peanut & coconut and sweet chilli & lime.

I have also used panko crumbs mixed with grated cheese and sprinkled on gratins and pasta bakes and mixed with shredded coconut to coat spicy fish cakes.

Leftover Panko Crumbs?

If have any unused crumbs left I sauté them up in a dry frying pan, season with a little crunchy sea salt and sprinkle them on salads etc.  You didn’t think I’d waste them, did you?

leftover panko crumbs

I am so keen on using up leftovers I even wrote a book about it!

Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

This is about getting the utmost pleasure out of every single scrap of food available. The waste it tackles is not that of money or of resources but of good eating opportunities. As a bonus this will, of course, save money and may even help the planet.
ideas and recipe for leftover food cookbook

“Comfort and Spice” by Niamh Shields – a Review

I have been a fan of Niamh Shield’s blog; Eat Like a Girl, for some while now and who hasn’t?  She writes about interesting foodie things in a friendly, easygoing manner and I am delighted to see that she has written her first cookbook;  “Comfort & Spice”, another goodie from Quadrille (thank you so much), in the same attractive style.

The first thing I saw on my Preliminary Flick was Ham Salt – a brilliant idea which I shall go into no further at this juncture.  Other nice surprises are Chicken Skin Skewers, Chorizo in Cider and Roast Bone Marrow with a Parmesan Crust which looks really impressive.  I wish I was still cheffing in the sun so that I could steal this idea (they’d never know in Tortola!) and impress the knickers off everyone.  I shall also be trying the Black Pudding Croquettes asap on my Geordie lad – I shall coat them in panko crumbs, as suggested in the recipe, to prove to him that he does like “foreign muck” after all!

Being a food fanatic I read a lot of cookbooks and often, although enjoying a book, I find myself skimming the actual recipes as they are already familiar to me.  I realise of course that not everyone is as experienced (aka old) and besotted as I am and that these books are a huge boon to many cooks.  Niamh’s recipes (if I may be so familiar – we have tweeted to each other occasionally!) on the other hand please and inspire me with her excellent methods and combinations of ingredients BUT, take note, none of it is intimidating.

Comfort & Spice is an exceptional mixture of brilliant ideas and practical, down to earth but very useful information.  I very much agree with her advice to go for it so far as flavour is concerned, I think many otherwise competent cooks are frightened by bold seasoning but if they follow these recipes they won’t go wrong.

In addition to her very exciting and creative dishes Niamh also offers guidelines for making homemade basics that are normally bought in.  For instance I have long intended to make fresh cheese and now, back in the UK and not having to rely on long life milk as I did in the Caribbean, I hope to have a go following her instructions for making ricotta and paneer.  She also gives instructions on how to make butter (including how to flavour it with rose petals!), yogurt and wine vinegar – all very useful stuff.

Comfort & Spice is divided in much the same way that life itself is eating wise: Brunch, Speedy Suppers, Long Weekends, Sugar and Spice and Drinks.  It contains 120 recipes plus lots of ideas including ways to use leftovers which, as you know, is something I am very keen on.   It is an attractive paperback (or really cardboardback) book in the style of the New Voices in Food series of which it is a part.   The photography by Georgia Glynn Smith is also worth a mention; I would not have thought the patterned backgrounds would work so well but they look great.  As I have said this lovely book was published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd. on 5th September 2011 - ISBN-10: 1849490120, ISBN-13: 978-1849490122 - get it from Amazon.

Ever tried Black Garlic? Here's some good ideas to get you started!


If you have been concentrating you will remember that I was recently delighted; the reason being that I had discovered black garlic. Well I have just been delighted again by trying a blue cheese, Saint Agur, that for some inexplicable reason I have never tasted before.  Yummeeeeee!  And so to a recent lunch for which I first made myself some ...

Black Garlic Oil

6 cloves of black garlic
60 ml olive oil

~    Process the two together!

That’s pretty well it.  So far I have tried black garlic in two slightly different forms; a whole black garlic bulb and also as separated cloves in a little tub.  I don’t know why but the separated cloves are firmer than those still attached to the bulb, this being the case the former are better for making this oil.

Tagliatelle with Black Garlic & Blue Cheese – serves 1

A slice of great bread, coarsely crumbled
1 tbsp of black garlic oil
4 nests of tagliatelle
75g Saint Agur cheese (or any other leftover blue cheese)
another tbsp of black garlic oil
a clove or two of black garlic coarsely chopped

~   Drizzle the first tbsp of oil over the breadcrumbs and toss together.  Either dry fry till crisp and golden or bake for a few minutes in a hot oven to achieve the same end. These crisp crumbs are known as Pangrattato, read more here.
~   Chop or crumble the cheese and mix together with the chopped garlic and the second tbsp of oil.
~   Cook the tagliatelle according to instructions on the packet.
~   Set aside about 60 ml of the cooking water then drain the pasta.
~   Stir together the pasta, the blue cheese mixture and the reserved cooking water.
~   Taste and season – freshly ground black pepper is great with this – stir in some of the crisp crumbs and top the pasta with the rest.


Having made the Black Garlic Oil I was on a roll and made some other things with it …

~   As a dipping oil.
~   To brush over freshly baked Focaccia.
~   Mix with a modicum of balsamic vinegar as a great salad dressing.

A few more black garlic ideas …

~  Mix a little soft butter in to the black garlic oil and make delicious garlic bread.
~   Purée together a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise and 2 cloves of black garlic.
~   Mix black garlic together with some of the aforementioned Saint Agur and eat with hot nubbly toast and a glass of red wine.  Just typing about it makes me drool!
~   More ideas here on Pinterest ~ click on the board as if it was full sized to be taken to individual pins or the whole board.

The good black garlic people have sent me some information on their wonderful product and so here is a bit of background.   Apparently it originates from South Korea but is now made using a method, recently developed in America, which takes several weeks.  During this time the sugars and amino acids react together causing the mellow flavour and the black colour. 

Benefits of Black Garlic

In addition to its wonderful flavour black garlic offers several other benefits …

~   Despite having no additives it has a surprisingly long shelf life, the packet I have is best before sometime in 2013.
~   It doesn’t cause bad breath.
~   It is full of antioxidants which, as we all know, kill free radicals – the gits.
~   It is low fat and high in natural sugars.
~   It is easily digested, more easily than fresh garlic.

I urge you to give this stuff a try, I’m sure you won’t regret it.  

How to Poach Eggs

~  Menu  ~

Poached Eggs on Nubbly Toast
A Scattering of Smoky Boiled Ham

My friend Carol has recently taken up chickening or whatever it’s called; poultry farming on a small scale.  She has three young lady chickens (much to the disgust of her old lady dogs) and they each lay one egg every day so she gave me three to try.

How to Poach Eggs

There seems to be a lot unnecessary kerfuffle about poaching eggs; all that is needed is a pan of boiling salted water about 5cm deep and lovely really fresh eggs.  

~   When the water is at a rolling boil, crack the eggs and gently pour the contents into the water (if you are nervous break the eggs individually into cups and then pour into the water).  
~   Immediately the thick fresh white will form a ball around the yolk and, equally immediately, turn down the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes depending on their size by which time the white will be firm and the yolks will be runny.  
~   Scoop out carefully with a holey spoon and allow to drain and dry a little before placing on hot toast. 

No need for vinegar in the water if the eggs are truly fresh and certainly no need of those little cups people used to use which, in effect steamed rather than poached the eggs.  There was nothing wrong with them – just not poached.

I used to work with an excellent person called Kathy who was always egg lady for Sunday brunch.  We used to serve about 150 meals, all cooked to order and a large percentage were Eggs Benedict.  Despite the frenzy of the kitchen Kathy used to keep an open book beside her in case she got bored and also, in her spare time, she would often dance a little.  She’s very talented!  She did all these eggs, maybe 100 every Sunday, using the above method.

Whilst writing about Eggs Benedict I often think it is strange that this dish of Canadian bacon, a French sauce with a Dutch name served on "English muffins" is considered by many to be classic American!!

So, anyway, I poached all three of my fresh out of the chicken eggs as they were tiny (Carol thinks that they might get bigger when the girls have had more practice) and ate them on lovely buttered toast. 

For my real men I had boiled a ham and made them some ham and pease pudding sandwiches but I “accidentally” cut a little too much ham so had to eat it up with my lunch.

So that’s it for today – have you tried black garlic yet?  It's delicious. 

Black Garlic, an Invitation and a Show Off!

~  Menu  ~

Black Garlic Risotto with Chestnut Mushrooms
Secret Red Wine
A few Strawberries from the Garden


Recently I have been seeing black garlic mentioned all over the place so when I spotted some in Tesco I bought it, obviously.

At first it seemed a bit scary – garlic that has been kept/aged/fermented for a year and, consequently has gone black, see here for details and when they say “black garlic” they mean seriously black, not blackish.


The garlic is soft and squidgy and a bit daunting but a tentative nibble revealed that there is nothing to be scared of, it is utterly delicious!!  The garlic flavour is mellowed, sweet and caramelised and I am sure it would go really well with blue cheese and black pepper.  However, curses, no blue cheese – so I made a bit of risotto and it was fab.

Black Garlic Risotto – one serving

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots finely chopped
2 (or 3 or 4) black garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
small knob (excuse me!) of butter
100g risotto rice
40 ml red wine
about 300 ml simmering vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Why not pin this for
future reference?
~   Cook the shallots gently in the olive oil till they are translucent.
~   Stir in the garlic and the butter.
~   When the butter has melted add the rice and stir till thoroughly coated with buttery goo.
~   Add the wine and cook, stirring, over medium heat till it has all disappeared (not really – it’s in the rice!).
~   Gradually add the hot stock a little at a time and cook, stirring continuously, till there is very little left then add some more.  Continue doing this till the rice is tender but with a little bite and is coated with an unctuous sauce. 
~   Grate in plenty of parmesan then taste and season.  I added my lovely smoked black pepper from Nature Kitchen but just freshly ground black pepper would be good too.
~  For even more luxuriousness stir in a little more butter.

Having some leftover chestnut mushrooms languishing in the fridge I sautéed a few and added them to the finished dish.

The risotto was gently infused with a sweet garlickiness, I only used 2 cloves of the black stuff but next time I think I shall use more and in bigger lumps so as to occasionally I get a solid hit of it. 

I'm sure you are going to read a lot more about this fantastic ingredient if you follow my blog!


In Other News ...

Here's the show off - lovely Vegetarian Living magazine have published another one of my articles.  This is about Mrs. Beeton – I have an old copy of my grandmother’s and got reading the vegetarian section - lots of weird stuff but also some surprisingly good ideas.         

You’ll have to read the magazine for details, I made some really gorgeous “porridge scones” based on an original idea by Mrs. B.