New World exotic veg at home

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Peppers, chillis and tomatoes came to Europe from South America and the Brits shunned them for ages. Now we take them for granted.

These capsicum peppers were locally grown in West Cornwall. The tomatoes were grown on a West Penwith allotment, a prize in the Penzance Guldize raffle. The red chilli is a cayenne, grown on our kitchen window sill.

The chilli was especially good as all those sugars had not converted to starch as it was used straight off the bush. Sweet and warming in the mouth with no burn.

I cooked my version of a spaghetti arrabiata (angry) with them.

 

Seaweed

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One of the delights of living near a pebbly beach is it is full of interest. Here a bit of seaweed has dried slowly enough to expose its cell structure.

 

The best cat food in town

A new fishmonger has come to Penzance, Mousehole Fish, launched by Pop-up Penzance. Now they have a longer term lease. Our Siamese cat Becket is the first beneficiary with this fresher than fresh sardine for 30p!

 

Newlyn prawn pasta

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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.

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Strawberries!

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Our first strawberries, grown outside on our decking. Utterly delicious!

 

Nasturtiums in hanging basket

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I bought these from a neighbour’s housefront stall. Three small potted nasturtiums. I planted them in a corn rope hanging basket making some holes in the liner for drainage. They came into flower this week. Welcome colour in our whitewashed courtyard and a peppery addition to our summer salads.

 

Cool pink dessert

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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

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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.