It’s with a heavy heart that we have decided to sell our Esse Ironheart. One of the hearths at Three Hearth House is now empty. But not for long!
We loved our Ironheart. A great big slab of cast iron that we could cook on and in, that fed our hot water and provided much-needed flames in the cold of winter. I’ll miss cooking flatbreads directly on its hotplates, and slow roasting in its oven.
But we just weren’t able to circulate all that heat that the Ironheart generated around the house. Parts of the it were uninhabitably cold during the winter months. The room where the Ironheart was has never really been a room we’ve used – it would make an excellent dining room, but it was too hot. The thermal store wasn’t installed properly and the heat leak radiator kept getting blocked with black slime, presumably because corrosion inhibitor hadn’t been used when it was commissioned. The solar coil in the thermal store had decayed and the store was leaking green slime (sacrificial anode?), and so it had to be capped off, preventing our once-grand ideas about solar thermal.
Having firewood delivered was eventually fine, thanks to the fine folk at Iglu in Looe, after many ups and downs with different suppliers. But we burn rather a lot of it, and it was becoming expensive for us. Plus, as both of us are freelancers, our working hours can vary, and coming home to a cold house gradually began to become a bit annoying. So we started to use an electric radiator attached to an internet-enabled plug so that we could take the chill off the house before we got home.
Combine all of this and we decided to give in to the temptations of the modern era. Yes, we’re having central heating installed.
The installation is three-quarters of the way done. Currently, all the radiators are attached to the walls bar one (to allow the Ironheart to be removed by some very strong people), the gas flue has been cut through, and all other piping nearly in place.
We’re having a Nest thermostat installed connected to a Veissmann condensing combi-boiler so that we can have easy control of the system via hardware and our phones. This is all being planned and installed by Ed Bolton of Innovations Heating and Electrical Solutions, who we found via Checkatrade. Ed’s a plumber and electrician who also specialises in home automation. If you’re in Cornwall and want to dip your toe into the world of automated heating, lighting and other applications then look him up.
On the hearth where the Ironheart used to be we will be installing a small stove. We’re looking at the Salamander Stoves Hobbit as a distinct possibility (leave a comment if you have one!). So we will still have three fires and three hearths, but just won’t be relying upon them for our sole source of warmth and hot water.
We’ll definitely blog about our experiences with the Nest during the coming weeks.
I hold a great deal of awe for amazing British charcuterie and pastry. Since moving to Cornwall I have missed the stunning pork produce we got used to in Hampshire and Wiltshire. Even Cornishman Tom is still to find the best of pork in Kernow. We have great continental style charcuterie (salamis etc) but home grown Cornish and British not so much. Even decent pork and apple pasties are hard if not impossible to come by.
It was therefore an exotic treat to start our tripette in York with good Yorkshire pork. We happened upon the Hairy Fig on Fossgate. I ordered the house plate determined to pork out and I wasn’t disappointed. Washed down with a pot of tea I feasted on home roasted ham, spicy but gentle black pud and the best pork pie ever.
The pork pie was packed, refined jelly throughout kept it moist with great mouth feel and a hot water crust to make you weep with comfort. It also looked handsome, perfectly glazed like it belonged to. Chaucerian pilgrim in a fancy illumination.
We’re on our way back and this is the one we just demolished on the train. It is quite simply the best pork pie we’ve ever had. Best pork pie in Britain. I challenge you to come up with better.
On Sunday 1st May we took part in the annual May Horns tradition to welcome in the summer (to “drive out the devil of winter”). This was our fifth time participating in the tradition, and it’s perhaps my favourite. Dressed in white and green, adorned with leaves and ribbons, about 100 people processed from Newlyn to Penzance along the seafront and then through the streets blowing horns and whistles to make as much noise as possible.
Old Ned being revived outside the Admiral Benbow
Last year it didn’t seem to work and we had a misererably cool and cloudy summer with endless rain. Hopefully this year it will 😉
This morning, as the train pulled out of Penzance as I travelled to work, the sun was shining, the sea sparkling, and the town sat resplendent.
Who needs St Ives?!
And here’s a photo of St Michael’s Mount sunning itself.
St Michael’s Mount
And finally this motivational newsstand sign for our local paper The Cornishman.
The London Evening Standard seems to agree.
We’ve been buying Cornish now for over 4 years. That means 60%-ish of our food and drink is produced in Cornwall or bought from shops whose profits predominantly stay in Cornwall.
It’s still chilly here in the far west of Cornwall. Our three hearths are all regularly lit (well, one of them occasionally) and our two cats take full advantage of any sun.
Here’s Becket and Bamboo doing their Puss in Boots impression while the sun streams into our porch.
It’s that time of year already. Summer only briefly arrived here in west Cornwall, and departed some time ago. We had a few fires in August to drive away the damp and cheer ourselves up on some wet weekends. But now it’s nearly mid-September and autumn has embraced us and it’s time to stock up on firewood.
The friendly Iglu team were able to deliver to us on a Sunday, so we’ve just taken delivery of 80 nets of kiln-dried wood and 6 nets of kindling. We had 10 nets left from our previous delivery, so 90 nets in reserve is quite a haul.
It feels good to have stocked up and to see all of the log baskets and log holders full. A sort of comfy security that come what may we’ll have heat for our home, and for cooking and hot water for many months ahead.
I cleaned the glass on the Esse Ironheart too. It’s raining hard outside, but seeing the flames merrily licking away inside the firebox are the complete antidote.
Today we had our second delivery of firewood from Looe-based Iglu to our little house in Penzance. They deliver across Cornwall and can be most accommodating when it comes to delivery. Crucially, the wood they sell is superb. It’s kiln dried ash, dry as a bone and is making our lounge nice and toasty as I type this.
Our first order was for four of their mini-bags which lasted us about 3 weeks (wood is our only fuel) and we thought that the wood was great. This time we decided to take the plunge and order enough wood to fill up our wood shed (and more), 65 bags in total. I wasn’t able to be around to help, so it’s great that their price includes a stacking service. Tehmina was luckily at home to show them where the wood needed to go, and they did the rest. Excellent service.
We are relieved to have finally found a supplier of firewood in Cornwall that we can stick with and rely upon. If you have no central heating and rely on wood for all of your heating, hot water and cooking, and it’s cold, you will know what I mean when I say that it’s a relief.
So well done Iglu, thank you, and we hope you do well!
With yet another cold snap upon us, we have just restocked our wood supplies. The last few loads of wood has been kiln dried firewood from the Luxury Wood Company which arrives on a pallet. Their wood is superb – light, bone dry ash. However, with our variable working arrangements, being around to take the delivery isn’t always convenient. Living as we do on a regular terraced street there is nowhere for a pallet to be left.
So this time we had another look around to see if there were any new firewood suppliers in Cornwall, or anyone further afield who fancies a trip to Penzance. It turns out that we’d somehow missed Iglu, who are based near Looe. Their website boasts 7 day deliver across Cornwall – very enlightened for those of us who work in the week.
A quick call to them for a chat led to us placing an order which was delivered to us late Sunday morning. The wood from Iglu is excellent – light, dry ash, and it burns as well as our previous load. The only criticism I would make is that their loads are by the ‘minibag’ which can be a little confusing at first when you are used to buying firewood by the cubic metre. However, it looks like we’re going to be going through a minibag a week, so we feel hat we have our money’s worth now that we have stacked the wood and can appreciate how much there is.
There’s definitely not as much wood as on the Luxury Wood pallet, but given that we also have to balance convenience, we’ll probably order from Iglu again.
Today is Guldize, the Cornish harvest festival. As part of the festivities in Penzance I wanted to contribute some seasonally appropriate fayre to the harvest table. I was told of some descriptions of Guldize involving a kind of plum cake or pudding – sort of like a Christmas pudding – the plums in fact referring to any dried fruit particularly raisins, and rarely plums. However, now that Christmas, plum or figgy pudding is so firmly in our consciousness as a Winter and Christmas thing I didn’t feel it would be quite right for day. In my researches I came across an early 18th century recipe for Penzance cakes, thanks to the Foods of England website. I am taking the liberty of reproducing the original receipt/recipe as described by Prof. R. Bradley in The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director, 1728:
To make Penzance-Cakes. Take the Yolks of Eggs well beaten, put to them some Mace finely powder’d, with a few spoonfuls of Wine, a little Salt, and as much Sugar as you please; then add as much Flour as is necessary, and a small quantity of Ale-Yeast, and work your Dough pretty stiff; then add some fresh Butter, broken in little bits, and work it in till all the Paste has partaken of it, and the Dough becomes as stiff as at first. Make your Cakes then, and bake them. They will keep some time.
As is often the case with historic recipes, much is left to the ingenuity and imagination of the cook. I have experimented with historic recipes before but none is vigorously tested as this one. I tried three iterations of the recipe, each time honing in on what makes these little yeasty, spicy, cakey buns different.
The first turned out much like a fruit bread/tea cake. The second I tried as a loaf and finally the third, and the most authentic, I feel, of the three. The third picture shows the Penzance cakes that will be shared tonight at the Admiral Benbow after the traditional Crying the Neck. They are like rock cakes but heady with mulled plump fruit, citrus peel, and rich honey sweetness. The key flavours are wheat, red wine mulled fruit, citrus peel and ginger. All versions were made partly with local Cornish wholemeal flour from Trewey Mill in Zennor. I used some of the sieved-out wheatgerm and chaff to decorate the tops of the final versions to give them some festive flair. The butter and milk used were also Cornish, everything else sourced from the excellent Weigh Inn on Causewayhead, Penzance where I get all my baking ingredients. The red wine used is a full-bodied Cabernet. I’ll blog the final recipe later but you should try your own versions. My base to experiment with quantities and proportions was a recipe for Cornish yeast cakes.
Penzance cake I
Penzance cake II as a loaf.
And the winner is… Penzance cake III as rock cakes.
The end of August was full of glowing light at dawn, making the granite streets of Penzance resemble those of Southern Italy. See your country first never felt so true.
Photos I took before my early morning commutes to work.
The Crown pub, Bread Street.
Branwell’s Mill, Station Road.
06:45 to London Paddington at Penzance station.
Royal British Legion, Bread Street.
Sunrise from the rooftops.