Is it wrong to enjoy Gu millionaire's flapjacks with clotted cream? Well, on Friday night, I discovered, no, it's not and it's extremely good.
Having come down to Cornwall for the weekend, it was only natural that clotted cream came into the equation somewhere over the next 48 hours - I just wasn't expecting it to partner a flapjack, already made quite naughty by the addition of chocolate... and caramel. But there it was, sitting on the table alongside the unsuspecting flapjacks... it just had to be done. And you should too.
So, yes, I'm down in Cornwall for the weekend and I write this post from Lanner where I'm staying with my friends Jo and Sonya and their daughter Zelah (also my guide daughter - explanation another time...). I tend to cook a lot when I'm down here - I think it represents an unsaid 'thank you for having me', my way of giving something back that will be remembered. It's hardly a chore though - I love cooking for others, and am thankful to be able to bring happiness through something I take such pleasure in (makes me think of the Mexican novel and film, Como Agua Para Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel - about a woman, Tita, whose cooking imparts all her emotions on those that eat her food - so much so that a dish she makes for a wedding with rose petals leaves everyone who eats it in tears. Tita was in love with the groom and a tear drops into the mixture as she's preparing it... a great film). Thinking about it, it's definitely the giving of joy (not tears!) to others that makes me love cooking so much and certainly a reason why cheffing in restaurants has never really appealed.
Anyway, back to Lanner - I tend to spend most of my time eating when I come down here. With an almost-three-year-old in the household and their need to graze throughout the day, I end up mirroring this eating pattern - ultimately never feeling hungry, but still nonetheless, finding room for whatever gastronomic delights may be going spare.
Thursday night, Jo treated me to an aubergine and courgette curry courtesy, I am told, of Leith's vegetarian bible - and it was rather good. Although, Jo realised after the event that the cumin seed the recipe called for were gezumped by fennel seed instead - a fairly easy thing to do since both look very similar... until you pop one in your mouth.... nonetheless the dish tasted really good and it was enjoyed with some spicy lime pickle - if only there was some plain yoghurt in the fridge.. No, i didn't plump for clotted cream instead.
Zelah, bless her, likes to start her days as early as possible to cram as much in as she can - painting, rides in the car, trips to the beach, Peppa Pig watching... it'as a busy life as a nearly 3 year old. This juxtaposes with my desire for a relaxing weekend in Cornwall, maybe catching up on a little sleep while I'm at it. As you can imagine, Zelah wins and I'm up at 7. Yippee! I say this all in gest of course, there is nothing that makes me happier than waking up to Zelah's happy little face in the morning.
After a satisfying breakfast (my favourite - toasted sourdough, olive oil, avocado, salt, pepper, lemon juice) we trundled off to the local organic farm at Cusgarne, only a few miles away from Lanner. The owners already ran an organic veg box business and were slowly building up the retail side to the farm. I was given a guided tour, taking in leeks, beans, lettuces, beetroot, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages...), chickens and much more picking up a variety of goodies as we went along. Unfortunately the cavolo nero wasn't quite ready yet for the picking - I sneaked in a little taste though, getting a hit of that strong pepperiness from those deep rich crinkly dark green leaves.
Next we went on to Newlyn, near Penzance, to buy some fantastic fresh fish for dinner. Sonya had already made the request for cod with chilli and lemon that I've been making for years. Even so, it was so hard to make a choice with such a fantastic array of fish to choose from. They had some great John Dory this time which I found hard not to snap up too...
Sonya, Zelah and I then slept in the car as we made the journey back to Lanner - poor old Jo, left to drive the car with no-one to talk to... I knew i'd be working hard later though so I didn't feel guilty. Back at home, I then assisted with the making of a cardboard train engine before heading into the kitchen to get everything ready for the evening meal.
First it was Zelah's - she's a fan of pesto, so a bit of bulgur wheat mixed with pesto, some pan fried cod, a few peas and some carrots - went down a treat. Thumbs up from the little one. Next!
I usually bring down my set of knives when I come to Cornwall. Otherwise, I have to try and make do with the equivalent of butter knves. But this time, I forgot. So there I was, struggling with a rather large cod fillet that needed its skin removed... I did manage eventually to find soemthing that could pass off as a fish filleting knife. Albeit completely blunt, it had some flexibiity which was essential for the job in hand and I was amazed that the end result was not a pile of butchered shreds of cod.
Cod with chilli and lemon
4 decent size cod pieces (about 1kg in total or a bit more if you're hungry)
EV olive oil - to cover the base of your pan
Crushed chilli - about 1tsp
Garlic - 4 cloves crushed
A few nobs of butter
juice of 1-2 lemons
Salt and pepper
This dish is incredibly simple to make but extremely delicious. Simply heat up the oil in a non stick frying pan. Throw in your chilli and garlic (feel free to add more chilli if you like a kick, or less if you don't) - when the garlic starts to turn golden, add your fish fillets to the pan and turn the heat down (by the way you can also do this with squid). Cook the fish gently for a couple of minutes on one side and then turn the fillets over, leaving them to cook on the other side until ready (the Cornish hob didn't work so well - a halogen thing - argh. So, I ended up putting the pan under the grill). Just before they're done, squeeze over the lemon and add the butter, creating an emulsion and give the whole lot a season with salt and pepper. Make sure you just cook the fish just until it starts to flake but still has a glassy look about it.
I like to serve this with a lemony bulgur wheat. Cook some shallots, chopped dried apricots, chopped sundried tomatoes, cumin seed and some pistachios in butter for about 15-20 minutes till the shallots are very soft. Add some lemon zest, stir into cooked bulgur wheat and then squeeze in loads of lemon juice - season - it's superb.
I also cooked a seared fresh tuna starter with an oriental salad. Make a dressing with a little sesame oil, olive oil, crushed garlic, grated ginger, a little fresh chopped chilli, lime juice, soya sauce, fresh coriander leaves and some finely sliced spring onion.... just taste it at the end and adjust the balance with a bit more lime or soy - you want the right level of acidity and saltiness and a good kick of garlic and ginger. Toss the dressing into some salad leaves and some chunks of cucumber and serve your tuna on top. I'd avoid the overkill on the poker dots if I were you....