Visit to Cornwell
16th to 22nd July 2007
The revival of the English food scene has been all about using fresh, local produce. My visit to family in the West Country, at the height of summer, was a great opportunity to check out some local regional fare I've listed a few highlights below.
No one can deny that the English grow good berries. While I was staying at my Granny's every night we indulged in fresh local raspberries and strawberries; sometimes with Cornish ice-cream and sometimes with thick, artery-blocking Cornish clotted cream. When visiting Pencarrow House, an old manor house with lovely grounds, we indulged in a little 'pick-your-own' raspberries. I was stuffed from the traditional 'two for the bucket, one for me' setup, but Granny showed amazing will power and claimed "I never eat, while I pick" and she really didn't!
The Farm Shop
Up the lane from Granny's house in the tiny village of St Cleer is the Taste of the Westcountry Farm Shop. Displaying an amazing selection of local produce the store really highlighted what the West Country has to offer. It was awash with delicious fresh local vegetables and fruit. Their meat selection was fantastic: lamb, pork, beef, venison, boar, quail, pigeon, duck, chicken, guinea fowl, pheasant, ostrich and kangaroo (though that wasn't local), plus a great selection of fresh and frozen seafood, my favourites though were definitely the local pork sausages and bacon. Walking around the shop I was overwhelmed by the huge amount of locally produced food, much of it organic or bio-dynamic. Their were shelves full of chocolate, preserves, crisps, biscuits, cakes, bread, wine, herbs, milk, cream, ice-cream, cheese, beer, cider, wine and of course hot Cornish pasties. Taste of the Westcountry is a great shop that highlights the fantastic produce available from the region.
Good Country Pubs
England has lots of pubs. Many are average, a few are terrible, but some are absolutely fantastic. The Racecourse Inn in North Hill is one of my favourites and for me is a true English country pub. The drive there is half the fun as you tumble down winding, one-car-wide lanes were you can't see more than two metres ahead because of the huge hedges. We enjoyed a great family lunch and I was impressed with the quality of local seafood; the scallop salad was an absolute winner.
Late Night Kebabs
My older cousin tends to lead me astray when ever I visit her. After exploring the pubs of Launceston an emergency kebab or burger is often in order. In Australia the kebab, is one of the most gourmet of all fast-food, in the UK it's not. For some reason (I assume it was probably the beer I'd been drinking) I decided a burger made with kebab meat and stuffed with fries was the order of the day ... I'm still not sure if it was a good idea.
Old wine left under Granny's stairs
A few years ago I unexpectedly moved from England back to Australia. One result of the sudden move was I didn't quite get to finish all the boxes of €2 wine I'd bought earlier the year in France, (despite a couple of huge attempts). A Saturday night with my cousin, brother, aunt and assorted partners was a great opportunity to sweep the cellar and get stuck into these old bottles. For the price I paid for these wines I was happy with how good they were at seven to eleven years of age. The Chateau Girarde Bordeaux 1996 was beginning to show its age, but was still drinkable and well-structured. The Chateau Mesmard Minervois 1999 (bottle no. 12569) was OK, though the fruit had fallen away and left it a little dry and unbalanced. The definite favourite though was the Chateau Labadie Minervois 2000, a fantastic, delightfully drinkable drop. I was impressed with how well these cheap old wines held up, though it was disappointing that two out of six were corked.
Home-cooked roasts, pies and bakes pork at my Granny's; what could be better?