Cornwall calling

So, one of my many excuses for not having blogged recently would be that I’ve managed to avoid the kitchen for a whole week … almost. Yes, I kinda missed it, but God, it was nice to eat out for a whole five days in a row! Every year for the past four years, TOH and myself have taken ourselves to some field in a corner of the UK for a few nights under canvas. I’m a relatively recent convert, having only ever done DofE camping at school before this – and I cried on that occasion. This year we decided to finally nail the one bit of Cornwall which really interested us, and unfortunately for us, it is also the furthest bit possible, around Land’s End. However, we’ve found Oxford to be very handy for getting around the UK in the few months we’ve lived here and yes, true to form, it only took us about four and a half hours to get down there, which wasn’t too bad.

In my opinion, one of the bonus points of camping – and believe me, there aren’t many – is that you get to eat all three meals out. Some may think this is erring more on the side of glamping, rather than true camping, given we don’t travel with a camping stove or billy can, but if they’d seen our tent, they’d agree that there has to be some pay-off for living in what could easily be described as a glorified shopping bag for four nights. The pop-up wonder which we call home every year flies open in just two seconds and is duly stuffed with blow-up mattress, pillows and duvet. If Gordon were there he’d stare it down and shout “Home – done” at it. Cooking wise, I can’t help but feel that veggie meals don’t really ‘work’ in the great outdoors, as I really do believe that caveman style living lends itself to caveman style food. No room for halloumi on my trips, no Sir-ee. So it is that a ‘cheap’ camping trip turns into an ‘not-so-cheap’ gastronomic tour while we trawl the lands for the best pub, best brekkie, best café and best beach hut that money can buy – save on accommodation, splash on food, that’s our motto.

Not strictly food related, but I just wanted to show off the beautiful local beach we found ourselves camping near, the stunning Sennen Cove.

Reining ourselves back in from the beach and coastal paths where we mostly entertained ourselves, it would be fair to say that our stay in Cornwall was both varied and ever-improving. We’d woken up at 3.30 to try and get ourselves into a particular campsite which didn’t taken bookings, so our first meal on holiday was taken at said campsite while we nervously awaited our fate. Sadly we didn’t get in, and the lukewarm croissant wasn’t much compensation. Other lows on our culinary rollercoaster included a Wetherspoons breakfast, when we were so hungry after driving from place to place to place, that we just. needed. to eat. Another thing I’m ashamed to admit is my lack of love for the humble Cornish pasty. I always have one when I go to Cornwall, figuring it’s the right thing to do – like bungee jumping in New Zealand – but they’re just not very nice. Sorry, Cornwall, but there’s room for improvement there. Even a long walk along the South West Coast Path with a pause for said pasty, still warm from the oven even after two hours walking, couldn’t muster enthusiasm. Shame.

But it has to be said that there were more places of note, and more successes, than failures and, as the weekend went on, we seemed to hit our stride, culminating at the fabulous (if somewhat cliché, I admit) Stein’s Fish & Chips in Padstow. It was nice to be able to sample some Stein seafood in Steintown … sorry, Padstow … and sitting on the harbour wall in the Cornish sunshine it was a lovely way to end the holiday. It needs to be said, though, that the only let down with Mr Stein’s chippie was that all the deep fried fish was done in beef dripping which was ace for me, but not allowed for TOH, who had to have sunflower oil fried fish goujons and chips instead, which we both agreed was not the full chippie experience. Come on, Rick, think it through.

Mostly, I tried to stick local with my menu, having as much fresh, local produce as possible and choosing Cornish seafood options where available. On the first evening, I had some lovely, massive, local mussels at The Bakehouse in Penzance. They were delicious, and well worth the 20 minute wait for a table. I also managed to fit a local Newlyn crab salad in, which, while very fresh and tasty, was a bit uninspiring being just leaves, tomatoes and crab. On the Friday night, we went to The Minack Theatre to see Much Ado About Nothing. It’s worth a visit, and definitely a bargain at £8 a ticket. The theatre itself is an amphitheatre type situation cut into the cliff at Porthcurno where you’re exposed to the beautiful weather (if you’re lucky) and stunning, I mean stunning, scenery. We were lucky and, although it got chilly, we managed to have our picnic on the cliff face while we watched the sun set. Sometimes you just can’t beat a baguette stuffed with jarlsberg and bloody mary crisps, washed down with a paper cup of red wine – lush.

The jewel in the gastro crown of the holiday was, rather surprisingly for me, St Ives. In itself, the town was a massive disappointment. I pictured an artsy, boho seaside town, full of former fishing glory, not unlike how I found Padstow (even with the hordes of Stein zealots). What I was confronted with was a run-down, dirty, seedy coastal town, full of holiday lets and overpriced shops. Anyway, we managed to escape to the two beaches on either side, both of them with amazing beach cafés which it was hard to choose between. Porthmeor Beach Café has a lovely setting, right next to Tate St Ives, overlooking the beach and with little cubbies under the boardwalk where you’re welcome to shelter under a heater and fleecy blanket in cooler climes. The menu has a kind of Antipodean feel to it, with boiled eggs and vegemite soldiers featuring of the breakfast menu. We didn’t manage any more than a cup of tea there this time around, which was a shame, but it’s on our ‘got to find a reason to go back’ list. However, one of the main attractions of the whole holiday for us was a meal at the Porthminster Beach Café, which has been rated as the best beach café in England. There, it has to be said, I had one of the best puddings of my life … ever. I had a Deconstructed Pimm’s which comprised: strawberry and blackcurrant leaf bavarois, Pimm’s and elderflower jelly, apple and cucumber sorbet, white chocolate and mint ice cream, sherbet and candied orange. It. Was. Amazing. Each of the components on its own was delicious, and would have stood the test of time alone, but once you loaded up a big spoon with a dollop of each … well, it was just like Pimm’s! Honestly, it was indescribable.

And so ends another holiday, and it’s back to the desk and kitchen with me. I might start small, get myself back up to speed, but I might also work on those Pimm’s pudding components …

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