Saturday, 28 November 2009

A great escape....

The lines have now closed, the votes have been counted and it's official...X Factor has taken over our Saturday nights. Gone are the meals out, evenings in with non X Factor friends and films at the cinema. Our weekends revolve around the television. Friends: "Do you fancy coming for a few drinks at (insert trendy surf bar) on Saturday?" Us: "Errrrr we haven't made plans yet for Saturday". TRANSLATION: "We have made plans and they involve pjs, watching X Factor and eating nachos."

At least today I feel a telly evening has been justified. I got up early to go to a vintage clothes sale in Newquay. It's run by an air hostess who takes two empty suitcases with her when she flies to LA. She fills them up with vintage clothes and sells them in London. It's the first time she's come down to Cornwall but hopefully not the last. We were the first ones through the door and I snapped up this fascinator and pretty handbag for £15! I'm off to a fancy wedding in Scotland in February so will wear the fascinator then.

Then we felt we should treat ourselves for getting such bargains. We drove out to the Lewinnick Lodge at Pentire. It had started hammering it down with rain so we ran inside with our coats over our heads. I had their famous fishcakes which were yummy...

And my friend had the biggest crab linguine ever. (This was yummy too because I stole some when she wasn't looking!)

This was the view which shows how close it is to the sea. (Although the photo is rubbish....I took it while running back to the car...coats over heads again!) One of the best things about living in Cornwall is people's we were driving out of the car park, a girl came sprinting after us, getting soaking wet, no coat, hair waiving wildly in the wind. She was sitting on the table next to us and noticed my friend had left her iphone. How kind was that?!

Then, as if I hadn't had enough fun, I headed back to Truro and The Great Escape. I had one of the best massages I've ever had. I love that place. It's run by a couple of girls about my age. It's about the most relaxing place you can go....

I'm off to a Thanksgiving meal's my first one! I can't wait to blog about it....

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Clotted Cream Diaries and Ash....

So I've changed the name of the blog so it is now offically the Clotted Cream Diaries!

My stupid insomnia meant I missed out on going to an Ash gig at Zennor Village Hall last night. Only about 80 people went. But I did send my lovely friend Gladders along instead and she made Tim record a message for me. She told him about the fudge we make and he said he'd like to make "sweet fudge" with me...yes please!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Fraggle rocks....

Hugh Fernley Wittingstall says "If you're tired of British teatime, you're tired of life." I'm still in love with afternoon tea but I am tired. I've had a bad sleep weekend and, after two years of insomnia, I've taken my first afternoon off. I'm trying acupuncture at the moment and had my first session last Friday. Friday night I had one of the worst nights I've had for a long time. The acupunctrist warned me this could happen and I should see it as a good thing as it means it's tapped in to the correct part of my brain.

It's hard to describe the impact lack of sleep has on you. It's not the tiredness...I've grow used to that (I've aged about ten years in the last twelve months!) It's the emotional impact it has on you. I've tried my best not to over exaggerate it but I've reached a point of despair. You lie in bed (or on the sofa/spare bed/hallway where ever really) and you feel as if you're the only person left awake in the world. I can't even imagine now what it must be like to lie down in bed and to fall asleep. Bliss.

So I'm at home this afternoon. Sitting on the sofa wondering if tonight will be a good night or a bad night? Will I be asleep at 1130pm or 5am? Will I stay awake all night listening to the sound of the fridge or getting annoyed with how loud my heart beats as I get more and more wound up. Will I miraculously fall asleep straight away only to be woken up 5 minutes later by a car beeping its horn sentencing me to another night awake? But also remembering that it's just insomnia. It's just staying awake. It's not worrying about whether a loved one will come home from Afghanistan or the fear of a friend worrying her cancer has returned.

One of the exercises a hypnotherapist taught me (that didn't work either!!) is to picture a happy place. My happy place is on Scilly on a warm summers day. I'm back at a time in my life where I spent my summer making cakes for the Fraggle Rock cafe. I made rock buns all the time because they taste yummy and can be made in about 5 minutes. Now the smell of cinnamon and burnt orange is wafting around my kitchen and I'm feeling a little more relaxed.........

Fraggle Rock Buns....

8oz self raising flour
1tsp mixed spice
2 eggs
3oz caster sugar
5oz mixed fruit
3oz butter

Put the flour and the mixed spice into a bowl and rub in the butter. Once it looks like a crumble mix. Add the eggs and sugar and mix with your hands until it looks a bit like a dough.

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3 and line two small baking trays. Spoon rough teapoons on to the baking trays. Bake in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes and serve with butter.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The devils wore parma....

I've never been good with secrets. But I've got one and it's a goody. I wish I could share it with you but it's one of those secrets that you've got to keep to yourself because if it goes wrong it's worse if you've told people. But as soon as I am given the thumbs up you will be the first to know...and I will go on and on about it and you'll wish I never told you.

We've just finished a lemony roast chicken and I am stuffed! While I made the gravy I added my usual teaspoon of marmite and I wondered if anyone else does this? My friend's mum used to use it instead of gravy browning and it made it so much richer and strangely meatier....maybe you add something even stranger?

During the next few weeks you'll be getting a lot of two types of recipes; canapes and sweets. I love them both and strangely enough I only make them at Christmas. Perhaps because I make a year's worth in one month and can't be bothered for the rest of the year. This one is the most basic and easy and great before a roast dinner. I love the salty crispy bacon cuddling the squidgy sweet prune. So easy and always appreciated! I've never tried soaking them in brandy before Nigella style....they were delicious...and powerful!

Boozy Devils on Horseback....(serves 4)

8 dried prunes
2 tbsp brandy
4 slices streaky bacon
In a tub pop the prunes and the brandy then place them in the fridge and forget about them for the rest of the day. When you're ready wrap them in bacon and hold in place with a cocktail stick. Nestle them in between the roast chicken tray and the roast potato tray for about 15 minutes!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Eating out and a crunchie cake.......

Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world. I meet so many interesting and inspiring people. At the moment I am putting together some programmes for the 5th anniversary of the tsunami and have been taking to a lot of Cornish people who lost family members or were there when it happened.

Yesterday morning I went down to the Shelterbox HQ at the Water ma Trout Industrial Estate (I love that name!!) in Helston. If you don't know who they are they are a charity which responds to natural and manmade disasters by delivering big green boxes full of aid. Some of the people I spoke to yesterday recalled how they heard about the tsunami, booked plane tickets ad went straight out to places like Thailand and Sri Lanka. Then they called Shelterbox when they arrived to see of they needed help. Can you imagine what it's like to be that kind of person? To have that overwhelming need to help and just to go and do it. I couldn't believe how selfless they all were. At work one of our presenters always says that Cornish people are the most generous in the world and it really felt like that yesterday. Cornwall is the poorest area in the UK....with very low wages and high house prices and yet people, like the Shelterbox volunteers, just book their flights and go and help people....amazing.

(AND I seem to remember reading somewhere that they were praised because they give a huge amount per pound donated. If you are thinking about giving to a charity this Christmas then they are an amazing cause....

OK charity bit over! Last night mum and dad took us out for dinner at a new restaurant in Marazion. We drove about 50 minutes to get there in the howling wind and rain (I hadn't bothered to wear a coat..AGAIN) and met up with some friends who live there. We went to Ben's Cornish Kitchen and it was fantastic!

I had a game salad to start...pigeon, duck and partridge with a cider and star anise dressing. Debloominglicious. Then pork belly with black pudding dauphinoise and apple sauce. I always measure my restaurants on how crispy (a big) is my portion of this one should get a Michelin star!

For pudding I had blackberry and apple crumble with local raspberry ripple ice cream...a great way to end the meal. So if you're in Marazion go along and support this new business. It's worth a visit!

Anyway.. the other half made one of his first attempts at making a cake on Wednesday....I was impressed!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Pepper pot....

I'm trying so hard to resist Christmas. Trying to hide under a cushion when the overly cheerful festive adverts come on, to step away slowly from the Marks and Spencer's Christmas sandwich aisle and to stop following in my mum's footsteps by buying 85000 tonnes of satsumas to "get me through the Christmas period".

But I still can't stop humming "Holidays are coming" under my breath as I walk through Truro and last night it all came to ahead and the yuletide excitement came bursting out like a Jack in the Box. To me nowhere (apart from Scilly which always wins "best everything") is as Christmassy as West Cornwall.

Penzance is the sausage in the pigs in blankets of festive places. The multi coloured lights on the promenade blowing in the force 4 gales, the anticipation of driving to Mousehole for the world famous Christmas lights. (If you've never been you should but also stop by at Angarrack near Hayle which is just as good).

I think it's because we always had to stay in Penzance the night before flying home to Scilly for Christmas...stuck in a chilly guest house knowing that just thirty miles away mum was waiting with hot water bottles and mince pies. We would sing "Driving Home for Christmas" on the five hour train journey and it still makes me cry whenever I hear it. Once we were mid verse on a busy train just outside Bristol and a commuter stood up to get off the train, smiled and sang the rest of the chorus at us and it made our Christmas.

So while my mood is as upbeat as a glittery advent calendar I thought I might as well make this. A dish which has no turkey or spices or brandy. But is has deep reds, greens and gold elements tinged with glimmering pink seeds like baubles on a Christmas tree....

Roasted Red Peppers with a Broccoli and Pomegranite Cous Cous Salad....(Serves 2)

For the peppers

2 red peppers
3 tomatoes (I still have some left over from the summer!)
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced like paper
1 very small chilli
Olive Oil

For the Salad...

5oz/150g cous cous
1 pomegranite
1 handful long stemmed broccoli
Olive Oil
1 lemon
1 tbsp chopped parsely
Slice the peppers in half length ways and scoop out the seeds. Chop the tomatos into quarters and stuff them inside the peppers with the garlic slices and the finely sliced chilli. Drizzle over some olive oil and pop in the oven for 45 minutes.

For the salad. Put the cous cous in a bowl and pour cold water over it (so it comes about a cm above the cous cous.) Slice the pomegranite in half and tap the seeds out with a wooden spoon. Pop the broccoli into a boiling pan for three minutes. Then drain it and pour cold water over it to refresh it.
Make a dressing out of olive oil and lemon. Fold through the cous cous. Serve with the peppers.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Clutternut Cheese.....

Bad day? If there is one thing that cheers me up on a gloomy November Thursday it's a steaming hot plate of cauliflower cheese. When the rain becomes too much and your fingers start to ache because of the cold there's only one dinner to serve up.

Apparently cauliflower production has gone down by 35 per cent in the last ten years because we like broccoli more now. But broccoli looks uncomfortable in a cheese sauce. Cauliflower looks as comfortable as me in my pjamas and slippers hugging a hot water bottle.

Clutternut Cheese (serves 4)


1 cauliflower
1 small butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2oz (55g) butter
2oz (55g) flour
1 pint milk (450ml)
5oz (140g) Davidstow cheddar
1 tbsp Cornish wholegrain mustard

Preheat the oven to 180'c. Peel and chop up the butternut squash into finger sized pieces. Put in a roasting dish and drizzle the olive oil over. Roast for 25 minutes.

Pull the chunks of cauliflower apart and drop into boiling water. Boil for 4 minutes.

In a saucepan melt the butter. Whisk in the flour. When it's thickened add the milk and keep whisking until it looks like custard. Whisk in most of the grated cheese and mustard.

Add the cauliflower to the roasted squash. Pour the cheese sauce over it and sprinkle the last of the cheese over the top.

Pop in the oven for 15 minutes......

We had them with the last sausages from the Cornwall Food Festival....

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Nuts about flapjack......

There are not many people who high five when they find out their shift has been changed to a six am start. But when you're a chronic insomniac an early morning is always a good's one less hour to lie in bed feeling like the whole world is asleep when you are not.

As the hours passed by at my desk I kept spinning around on my chair looking out of the window at a beautiful day just screaming out for a walk. In my head I knew exactly where I wanted to go...straight down to Swanpool Beach (it's just outside Falmouth). In the summer it's one of the best places to sunbathe....but it's not the sheltered cove or the amazing views or the free cup of tea you get when you park there (I know. Genius!) that tempt me down there. It's the hedgehog ice creams at the Swanpool Cafe. Large scoops of Cornish vanilla ice cream, wrapped in a poncho of clotted cream and rolled in honey toasted hazelnuts. It's the much more pleasurable modern day version of being tarred and feathered...You can guarantee you will put on three pounds just looking at one.

(I stole the photos from here ) Go there and look at the lovely snaps...

But that dream was shattered into a million wafer shards when I threw open the work doors to find puddles the size of the cafe's picnic benches. I couldn't get the hedgehog idea out of my head.....and I imagined what it would be like if it was 30'c and I had gone to Swanpool. I'd have bought a hedgehog ice cream AND a flapjack. As I'd shuffle back towards my beach towel I'd take a bite of my flap jack.....then a lick of my ice cream....then a bite of my....hang on a minute....inspiration hedgehog style.

Hedgehog Flapjacks....


8oz (225g) soft brown sugar
8oz (225g) butter
11oz (280g) porridge oats
2 pinches salt
3 tbsp golden syrup

4oz (125g) salted butter
1 tin condensed milk (14oz or 400g)
2 tbsp golden syrup
3oz (85g) light brown sugar

8oz (225g) dark chocolate

4oz (125g) toasted hazelnuts.

Preheat the oven to 150'c. In a saucepan melt the sugar, butter, salt and syrup. Bring to the boil. Take off the heat and mix in the oats. Pour into a lined tine and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Take out of the oven and cool in the tin.

In a pan melt the caramel ingredients together and simmer on a medium heat stirring constantly. Don't leave it for a second because it burns very quickly. Pour over the flapjacks and pop in the fridge for 15mins.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Pour over the caramel and spread evenly. Sprinkle the toasted hazelnuts over the top. Pop in the fridge until set. Chop into small squares and dream of the seaside!

Sunday, 8 November 2009


I've always marked Remembrance Sunday. I think stopping for two minutes wherever you are, whatever you are doing is important. To stop and think about the millions of people who have given their lives, their futures, their children and grandchildren so that I can say what I want, love who I want and believe what I want.

But this year has been even more poignant. On Monday my other half found out his friend from school had been killed in Afghanistan. He was thirty.

So this year the two minutes silence was even more important. We decided not to go to a Remembrance Sunday but head to the beach to be thankful for the freedom we have. But just before eleven we pulled over in a layby to mark the silence. Other cars did as well. While motorists roared past we sat by the A30 and reflected on the last week. On the brave family who have been left behind.

On the way home it rained and rained until we reached Chiverton Cross. In the sky was the most radiant rainbow I have ever seen. It created a glorious arc between Truro and the north amazing splash of colour on a slate skyline and I felt lucky to have seen it.......

The other half deserved a Sunday off from roasts. The layers of the rainbow inspired me to make him his favourite lasagne...with a little treat afterwards.....

Bramble Pudding and custard....

Remember that jam I made a couple of months ago? I still have jars of the stuff. This is the best way to start making a dent in the store cupboard....

3 tbsp blackberry and apple jam
2 eggs
5oz self raising flour
5oz brown sugar
5oz butter
1 tsp baking powder.
1 tin of custard. I can't be bothered to make my own...this stuff's just too yummy.

Preheat the oven to 180'c. Put the eggs, flour, sugar, butter and baking powder in a bowl and beat together. Pop the jam in the bottom of a heatproof dish. Spoon the sponge mix on top of the jam. Cover with foil and pop in the oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with hot custard. I like mixing mine together so I get pink custard...