Newlyn prawn pasta

IMG_0025_1

Newlyn lands the best quality and variety of fish and shellfish in the British Isles and one of the principal fish merchants in the area, and indeed the only permanent fishmonger in Penzance, is Stevenson of Newlyn. Quite often there will be a deal on prawns. These prawns are nothing like the Young’s variety you get boiled and frozen from supermarket freezers, and still a million miles away from the pseudo fresh prawns you are duped into buying from supermarket fish counters or fresh packed.

Cornish prawns, landed and bought within a few miles and a few hours still have blood in their veins. Last weekend I bought 10 juicy ones for a fiver and made a classic prawn pasta dish with what else I had available at home.

Serves 2 for a good lunch or light supper.

Ingredients

10 good sized fresh Newlyn prawns, shelled and deveined (do not rinse).

25g or so of Rodda’s salted butter.

Olive oil.

1 heaped tbs red onion or shallots, finely chopped.

1 large clove purple garlic, finely chopped.

Dash of white wine.

Cornish sea salt and crack of black pepper.

1 heaped tbs Rodda’s crème fraiche.

1 tbs curly parsley, finely chopped.

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to season.

Pasta penne. I used pasta made with a bit of quinoa for a nuttier flavour. Available at our local independent grocer Thorne’s for a 50p deal!

Method

Keep a kettle boiled ready to cook the pasta for the five or so minutes it takes to cook the prawns. Very simple. Warm a large frying pan on a medium high heat, add the oil, then the butter, let it melt. You should put the pasta on now.

As the oil and butter start sizzling, add the onion and garlic. If you find it is cooking very quickly turn the heat to medium. As it becomes translucent, add the prawns, now start timing as you don’t want to overcook the prawns. As they turn pink, which should take less than a minute, turn them over and keep coating and basting the prawns with the melted butter mixture. Add your splash of wine and turn up the temperature a bit to evaporate the alcohol so you are just left with that heady aroma of garlic, butter, wine and sea. Once the prawns are nearly cooked but still tender, take off the heat.

The heat from the pan will keep cooking the prawns so it is important to use your instincts and get this right. Remember they are shelled so will cook much quicker than cooking prawns in the shell.

Add the dollop of crème fraiche and season well, add the lemon juice and incorporate well. Add the parsley, reserving a bit for a garnish.

Drain the pasta and place back in its pan, add the prawns and the sauce and coat the pasta well taking care not to break any prawns.

Serve.

IMG_0026

 

Cool pink dessert

image

An early season watermelon. Cooling after a fiery paneer curry but lacking flavour.

The buttons you see are white chocolate strawberry jewels of great delight, discovered at St Ives Food Festival last Sunday.

They are made by I Should Coco in St Ives using Cornish cream and natural fruit.

I usually hate fruit flavoured chocolate and find white chocolate too sweet. This chocolate has coverted me into a devotee. We just finished all the buttons. Now what?

 

Cambridge Favourite strawberries

Cambridge Favourite strawberriesBeen a while since I grew strawberries. So I had a fancy to grow them in our courtyard. I bought eight plants from Penzance Farmers Market of Cambridge Favourites, a small sweet old variety.

I planted them in compost in raised coconut matting hanging troughs (good drainage) attached to the balustrade of our raised decking. Easy attachment with heavy duty white cable ties, and elegant too. And no permanent screws.

They are all coming into flower. Hope this sun sticks around.

 

A way with Cornish veal sausages

Tom-cardoon-TruroThere was a huge farmers market in Truro on Saturday so as we were in town anyway it would have been irreverent to have missed it. In the end we came back with chocolate and vanilla spiced dark beer, a knuckle of mutton, wild venison salami, half a dozen eggs, a goose egg, ate a Breton ‘complète’ crêpe for lunch and washed it down with a melon and mint ice lolly… and we bought a cardoon!

All of this is Cornish produce for goodness sake. I sometimes feel faint at the thought that we live in a country with the best ingredients in the entire world.

Veal education

It was seriously delicious! Mad for something so easy to obtain and easy to prepare.

But this post is about veal. Amongst the stalls we met Bocaddon Farm Veal for the first time. They are based in Looe, East Cornwall. The great thing about Truro Farmers Market is that it attracts producers from across the Duchy.

We’re a bit wary of veal for reasons of welfare and, quite frankly, because the French way of keeping the meat pale is so pointless and tasteless that I have been put off the meat for years. And it certainly isn’t the usual fare of Cornish butchers although recently our local butcher started selling Cornish rose veal (or young beef).

However veal is a misunderstood meat because of the stigma surrounding the welfare of young calves. On their website and leaflet, Bocaddon Farm explains the reality that the birth of male calves is an unavoidable by-product of the dairy industry. As unwanted cattle a scandalous number of male calves are put down at birth because there is little economic mechanism to get them to market –a sad story familiar to goat dairy farmers and the reason why we don’t see much goat meat in British butchers and supermarkets.

So Bocaddon has been trying to establish a local market for its humanely reared veal and we thought we’d give it a go. We bought a pack of sausages, flavoured Sicilian style with white wine, garlic and parsley.

I was immediately reminded of a dish we once had in Bari, southern Italy, called salsicce di norcia named after this particular type of sausage. Sausages cooked in red wine with wild mushrooms. Here’s what I did:

Bargain gourmet.

Bargain gourmet.

Ingredients

5-6 Bocaddon Sicilian veal sausages

1/2 bottle of Sicilian red wine

1 packet of wild mushrooms, either ready to go like these or dried and rehydrated – a great bargain from our local Co-op!

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Knob of butter

Pepper

Method

Pour the wine into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer (you should see bubbles breaking and steam but don’t let it boil). Pop in the sausages (don’t pierce them). Keep on medium heat and let the sausages simmer away. Add a sprig of thyme.

In the meantime throw the knob of butter into a small frying pan, throw in the mushrooms and sizzle and coat. Add some thyme leaves, season with pepper. After the mushrooms are well coated, add to the wine mixture and simmer until the wine has reduced to a syrupy consistency.

This should not take more than 15 minutes but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t over-reduce. The idea is to make sure all the alcohol has evaporated leaving you with that intense grapey flavour.

Serve with some cheesy bread or crusty bread as you prefer.

It was seriously delicious! Mad for something so easy to obtain and easy to prepare.

Cornish-Sicilian veal sausages in red wine and mushrooms, inspired by salsicce di norcia.

Cornish-Sicilian veal sausages in red wine and mushrooms, inspired by salsicce di norcia.

 

 

 

 

Bank holiday beef

image

In my opinion, forerib of beef on the bone makes the tastiest roast beef. Last Monday I prepared a traditional roast using a forerib from Nancarrow Farm near Truro.

It was the best beef we have ever had.

Classic beef rub

The only thing you need do to such a wonderful piece of meat is to season it. I always go traditional with beef: English mustard, flour, salt and pepper. This time I substituted a small amount of smoked Cornish Sea Salt for normal salt. Make a paste and rub in liberally. A few silverskin onions help keep the meat tender while roasting. Roast high for 10-15 minutes uncovered, then medium, lightly covered with foil,  until it is cooked to your taste.

I served this with goosefat roasted Cornish potatoes and parsnips, Cornish purple sprouting, a fruity gravy and homemade Yorkies.

 

May Horns and the spirit of Penzance

Listen to this while you read this post: 

West Cornish towns have been precocious in holding onto, or reviving, ancient customs marking and celebrating changes in seasons, particularly those of May. On Wednesday 8 May it is Helston Flora Day. Today was St Ives May Day which has taken on somewhat of a regal flavour. In our home town, Penzance, it was May Horns, held every year on the Sunday of the May Bank Holiday weekend.

We experienced our first May Horns last year. It was the first event we took part in that made us feel truly at home. It was traditionally celebrated on 1 May when early in the morning children, usually boys, made “tinny music” on tin horns around the town but girls too joined. Edgar Rees recalls how the plumbers’ shops along Causewayhead had tin horns and whistles handing from the entrances, a familiar sight at the end of April. “Feepers” or rudimentary wood whistles were also made out of sycamore–locally known as May. In 1933, apparently, after complaints whipped up by a new resident fed up of the cacophony, the local authorities including the corporation and police put a stop to such practices and it fell into abeyance.

About ten years or more ago this brilliant tradition was revived, albeit taken over by mainly older kids blowing on whistles, horns, banging drums and making noise to bring in the summer. We spent the afternoon making our green decorations, from our own hazel, herbs and some scrumped sycamore, ivy and horse-chestnut.

Dressed for May (credit: Sorab Bhote)

Dressed for May (credit: Sorab Bhote)

We met at the Tolcarne Inn, dressed in green and white, crowns decorated with newly bloomed boughs and flowers, carrying our noise-making gear. We’re led up to the borner between Newlyn and Penzance when we are told that our ‘procession’ becomes an illegal rabble and should we wish to follow the leader to the Admiral Benbow on Chapel Street, it was entirely at our discretion, but it was not a parade (it still technically being forbidden). The video below shows this from 2012.

Last year we traversed town via Alexandra Road and past Penlee Park, making even louder noise up Alexandra Road as that is where the disgruntled resident is said to have lived.

This year we carried on down Penzance Promenade, much to the delight of large numbers of bank holiday tourists and locals, stopping their walks to take photos, waving at us from the hotels and bed and breakfasts and generally touched by what they were seeing as we skipped and danced, warbled, whistled and percussed our way towards the Jubilee Pool. There we stopped and did some Guise Dancing. Even I had a go!

Guise Dancing at Penzance May Horns, Promenade.

Guise Dancing at Penzance May Horns, Promenade.

Then it was up Chapel Street to the pub. Outside the Admiral Benbow which traditionally gives over the upper floor, all decorated with green boughs and flowers, we were greeted by more tourists who were so happy to see us they welcomed each of us into the pub with a smile and a ‘welcome’! And then came upstairs to join the impromptu sing-along that followed.

It’s events like May Horns, like St Piran’s Day, Golowan and Montol, that feed the spirit of towns like Penzance. At a time when many townspeople feel a bit down, whether it’s about shops closing, the cost of houses or the spectre of unwanted development, traditions and customs is what truly keep a community nurtured and help retain our distinctiveness. And you could see that spirit rubbing off on those that cheered us along.

Bring on Golowan 🙂

 

For more, see Lee J Palmer’s amazing May Horns 2013 photographs.

You were listening to an impassioned rendition of Big Head Pirate Cat of Cornwall, a new folk song sung to the tune of Bound for South Australia. Part of the sing-song and general jollities at the Admiral Benbow following the May Horns of Penzance.

Old Big Head is a pirate cat heave away haul away

A treasure chest and a tricorn hat

The pirate cat of Cornwall.

 

 

A Cornish Nowruz

 

Cornish Nowruz celebration table laid out on our dresser.

Cornish Nowruz celebration table laid out on our dresser.

Nowruz is probably the most ancient spiritual-religious-cultural celebration in continuous practice. It is a New Year celebration mostly celebrated by Iranians (Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians alike), Zoroastrians (Parsis and other new and diaspora communities), people of the Central Asian republics, Armenia and parts of Afghanistan.

It is alternatively known as Nauruz or Navrose. It is celebrated from the precise moment of the Spring or Vernal Equinox which this year fell at 11.02 GMT on 20 March.

The Nowruz festival lasts for 13 days and today is the 13th day, otherwise known as 13 Bedar. Unlike other cultures, some (including the Chinese) view 13 as an auspicious number, and it is my favourite number.

I have been celebrating Nowruz all my life, having been brought up in a Parsi Zoroastrian household. But I started celebrating the occasion more purposefully after I left home and have ensured that Nowruz is an important part of my own household’s calendar since the last 12 years.

Part of the Nowruz preparation is to lay a celebratory table traditionally called the Haft Seen table, with various symbolic items related to all the things you pray, wish and work for for the coming year and to give thanks for the things you value. Haft means seven in Farsi or Persian, and Seen means S-es i.e. seven things beginning with S (in Persian).

Before the Islamification of Persian culture (when the predominant religion was Zoroastrianism) it was known as Haft Chin and related to seven crops, including wine which Iran used to be famous for (Shiraz, for example). In addition to the seven s-es are items such as coloured eggs, a mirror, a bowl of water with an apple or orange floating in it (see below) and a dish of sprouting seeds or lentils.

Over the years I have varied my Haft Seen depending on mood and depending on my frame of mind. In the last year or so I have taken my duty to support my locality and environment (including my economic environment) very seriously.

And I wanted this year’s Nowruz to reflect my passion for Cornwall and Cornishness. It is in the DNA of Zoroastrians to adapt to their surroundings wherever they may be, rather than expect their environment to adapt to them.

This mentality is summed up beautifully in this ancient Avestan salutation, called Homage for the Four Directions:

Nemo aongham asanghamcha, shoitranamcha, gayoaoitinamcha maethananamcha…

Salutation unto these places, the towns, the pastures, the homes…

The homage continues to honour our drinking water, sea, rivers and streams, the soil, the trees, the landscape, the sky, the wind, the stars, Moon and Sun, natural light and all truth-loving women and men.

So this year it came to me that my Seven S-es should reflect my devotion to Cornwall and (I hope you don’t think this is in anyway contrived) I chose those seven S-es in Kernewek. So this is what was on my Nowruz table and each item’s symbolism:

Sagh, a bag, salla, salt, sarfven, serpentine.

Sagh, a bag, salla, salt, sarfven, serpentine.

Seyth-S

  1. Sagh – sack/bag. Symbolic of our support for local Cornish shops, markets and produce.
  2. Seth – vase. A symbol to be receptive and accommodating. This vase is made by Tintagel Pottery and is a special blue version of their famous dragon design, bought in Tregeseal, near St Just.
  3. Skeusenn – photograph. To represent a place dear to us, a photograph of Restormel Castle where we got engaged.
  4. Sabenn – an evergreen. Represented by this palm. Symbolic of course of vitality and life throughout the long, drawn out cold… (and perhaps a hint of the balmy days to come).
  5. Safron – saffron. Not Cornish, from New Zealand, but there to represent something that to me is typically Cornish, a hopeful symbol of personal and our common wealth.
  6. Salla – salt. Cornish sea salt, an apotropaic symbol to avert evil, lies and the deeds of wrong-doers.
  7. Sarfven – serpentine. To symbolise the very special ground and geology that makes Cornwall so very special and different, and from where every other aspect of its distinctiveness stems. Represented here by a small hand-turned bowl from the (then) only working serpentine craftsman on the Lizard.
A moment of beautiful sunlight falling on the Cornish daffodils, vase (seth) and evergreen palm (sabenn).

A moment of beautiful sunlight falling on the Cornish daffodils, vase (seth) and evergreen palm (sabenn).

Other items

  • A bowl of sprouting wheatgrass. On the 13th day of Nowruz (today) it is cast into the sea, each shoot carrying a wish or hope for the coming year.

    Sprouted wheatgrass sacrificed to the sea with all our hopes.

    Sprouted wheatgrass sacrificed to the sea with all our hopes.

  • A bowl of water with an orange. This is placed on the table before the moment of the equinox. It is said that the earth is kept spinning on the tip of one of the horns of the Cosmic Bull and each Nowruz the globe is tossed from one horn to the other. At this moment you should see the orange wobble in the water… (This studio pottery bowl was made by a local Penzance potter and its vital green glaze made it the perfect addition to the Nowruz table).
  • Flowers. New life, a sign that the Spring Clean has been done. These are local daffodils.
  • Coloured eggs. Very tasty praline chocolate eggs wrapped in blue and gold foil, bought from Archie Browns, as thanks for its excellent produce sustaining a large part of my diet over the last year!
  • Mirror. It’s good to take a look in a mirror once in a while. Not to adjust lippy or make your hair behave but to give yourself some appreciation and also to remember to reflect on your actions and aspirations.
  • Candle. A candle burned for the whole of Nowruz day. Bringing natural light from a flame into the house is symbolic of inviting the new sun, the lengthening days, into your life in the hope of a productive year ahead.
Nowruz candle.

Nowruz candle.