Wednesday, 17 June 2015

POTATO CAKES - proper old Cornish fare!

There are so many examples for these little gems and after much studying of my 1920s Cornish recipe book I was still none the wiser!  Some recommend baking in the oven while others suggest using a griddle or pan - one even says you can use a biscuit tin lid over the open fire!!! But after several efforts I can emphatically tell you they are best when done in a pan or griddle. Trust me!

It is amazing how a few ingredients can have so many methods! So I am plumping for the most obvious - to me anyway. The flour and fat should be rubbed together, [like shortcrust] before adding to the potato, you are making a “cake”, after all.

6 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled, then mashed with a little milk or preferably buttermilk.
Season. By now you must know my preference for Sea Salt flakes [Kosher salt] and freshly ground pepper. [I always use a mix of black, red, green and white]

6 oz plain flour
3 oz butter 
Seasoning, as above.

Allow the mashed potato to cool completely. While that is happening, rub the fat into the flour, then add some finely chopped parsley if you wish.

“Modern me now adds, that a touch of fresh grated Parmesan would be great too!!”

I love herbs!! And so did our forebears. So I am sure they would often have added parsley, maybe even thyme or chives. Bring everything together, by adding the flour to the mash, then combining the both. Gently roll to about between ¼ and ½ inch thick, on a lightly floured surface, then using a cutter “make” the cakes. I used a 3 inch, plain cutter and this quantity made 12 cakes. After cutting out the first batch, re roll the potato mix and cut once more. Use a slice to lift them from the surface to the fry pan as they will be a little soft.

Heat a large pan with half oil and butter. Then start cooking the cakes. The pan needs to be hot. I reckon the cakes take about 6 or 7 min each side but turn the heat down if they are too brown. How did they manage this on a biscuit tin lid?

They freeze so well. When they are cold, place on a flat tray to freeze, then, separately,  bag them up. Reheat in a medium oven for a 10 - 15 mins. They are so versatile and so tasty.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


This is my favourite, easiest, yummiest fruit cake recipe. The milky smell is so comforting and feel good. It was given to me by an elderly lady, who lived in Ponsanooth about 25 years ago and I have been making it regularly ever since. You can adapt the basic recipe to add whatever you want, making it invaluable in my kitchen!

You can chop and change, in any way you want, date and walnut is good, cherry, blueberry [but not while you boil, add when cool],  instead of the sultanas. Add spices, or chopped apricots. Coconut too… you name it…. You can also change the sugar, altering the colour and taste again. Try muscovado!  If you omit the fruit you have the basic mix, then just go ahead and invent. I guarantee you will love it as much as I do.

This is a boiled cake mix and uses just one medium saucepan. I find it cooks best in a 2lb loaf tin which is easier to slice too. I line the lightly oiled tin with parchment, to help lift out the finished cake.

In a medium to large saucepan place, using proper measuring cups:

1 cup of sultanas
1 cup of caster sugar
4 oz butter
1 cup of milk [whole is best, but whatever]

Gently heat then bring to the boil. Leave for a while, until cool enough to add:

2 cups of Self Raising Flour
2 medium beaten eggs

Mix well and tip in the prepared loaf tin. Dredge generously with demerera sugar.
Bake in a preheated fan oven, 160 Deg C for about 1 hour.  ABSOLUTELY Delicious.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


Well! I was walking through the main street in St Ives last week and saw some of these in a bakery window, beside saffron buns. I didn’t note which bakery it was, but I thought “That’s a brilliant idea - I can make those!” They had a funny, unnatural colour, not made from real saffron strands?! Perhaps colour enhancer? I went home and devised this recipe. Totally natural and Cornishy to boot!

Take a very large pinch of saffron strands and fold it in some parchment and place in a warm oven for about 10-12 mins. Then, using a rolling pin, crush it until it is powder like. Add a few more strands, so you have a mix of powder and strands, depending on how saffrony you want the buns. See note.

In a large bowl, or your mixer with a dough hook, place:

1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
8 fl oz tepid milk, with the saffron mixed in it.
pinch salt
1 large egg
3 oz caster sugar
2 oz very soft butter
1 sachet easy bake dried yeast [7gr]

Knead for about 8 minutes in a machine, maybe a little more by hand. If kneading by hand add extra flour very sparingly. The mixture is quite soft. The softer the mix, the softer the bun. Shape, then put to rise in a warm spot until well doubled in size. Probably about an hour or so, depending on the room temperature, of course.

Tip it out onto a lightly floured surface then knock back. Carefully roll and stretch it out to a rectangle, about 12 x 8 in., with one of the long sides in front of you. Dab the bottom of that edge with a little water to stick it to the worktop, holding it in place, to help you roll.

1 oz melted butter
4 oz sultanas
2 oz currants
2 oz very finely chopped mixed peel
2 tablespoons of soft light brown sugar
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
grated zest of a large orange

Brush the dough with the melted butter, then scatter the spice and zest, then the fruits,  and lastly the sugar, evenly over it. There is a photo on my Blog. Leave a small border.

Starting at the other long edge, start rolling it tightly towards you, until complete. With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 9 even slices. Each slice should be between 1¼ -1½ inches thick. I always think a clean ruler is handy for jobs like this. I marked each one before cutting through!

Butter the parchment of a lined 8 x 8 inch tin, making sure some hangs over the sides to help you lift the buns out, then evenly place the slices in the tin, cut sides up. See another photo on my Blog. You want them to end up touching each other, so you have lovely soft sides, when you tear them apart.  Cover with oiled cling film and allow to rise once more for about 45 - 50 mins. This will depend on the room temperature again.

Pop the buns into your preheated fan oven 190C for about 20 - 25 mins.

While they are baking, in a small saucepan place 4 tablespoons water and 2 oz caster sugar. Heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved then boil rapidly for about a minute, until syrupy. Brush over the buns when they come out.

I know Chelsea buns do not originate in Cornwall, but these ain’t bad! In fact they are just delicious. Eat them while warm!!

Note: I always buy saffron online. It is way less than half of the supermarket price. It might not be Valencian, often Iranian, but it is very good and about a third of the price.

Saturday, 6 June 2015


I love to make savoury cakes as well as sweet ones! This is just perfect with a salad in summer or for a picnic. The combination of the cheese and onion and fresh herbs along with the toasted oats make this a special cake! I have has this recipe for many years [although I have changed it a bit!] and found it in an old magazine - but as I only have the yellowed clipping, I have no idea from where! It is very easy, so delicious - so enjoy!

Butter and line the base of an 8” cake tin, preheat your fan oven to about 170C.

1 lb of sliced onions. I use a mix of white, red and shallots
scant 2 oz butter and oil
1 crushed clove of garlic - optional
1 teaspoon stock from a concentrated veggie stock pot or an Oxo veggie cube
splash of Worcestershire sauce
8 oz medium porridge oats
6 oz of any good mature cheddar, grated - but if I were you, I would use Davidstow! 
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs. I used parsley, thyme and chives
3 medium eggs, beaten
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
4 oz finely sliced floury potatoes
2-3 medium ripe vine tomatoes

Melt the fats in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic for about 15 minutes until soft and just starting to colour. Stir in the veggie stock, then tip this into a mixing bowl. 

Place the oats on a large baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 15 mins. But keep checking after ten, as you do not want them too brown. Cool for a bit.

Then stir the oats into the onion mix along with the grated cheddar, seasoning and fresh chopped herbs of your choice. Mix with the beaten eggs.

In the base of your prepared cake tin, place a neat very thin layer of sliced potatoes, then press over half of the cheese and onion mix, making sure you don’t disturb the potato pattern! Then add a layer of sliced tomatoes followed by the remainder of the onion mix.

Pop the cake into your preheated oven for about half an hour, then invert onto a serving plate and brown the potato under a hot grill. Keep an eye on it!

You can just taste it! So good. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


The simplest delight! When I was asking around about recipes that some of my more senior Cornish friends remembered from their childhood, almost all spoke of Jam Buns. I don’t recall ever eating them but my husband did and after my first attempt, he scoffed four before they were cold. I think I may have to keep making them! Nowadays it is all rich cupcakes and heavily decorated fancies, so it is refreshing to see such a simple and delicious bun. It is all about the ingredients. They are very easy to make [perfect for children to cut their baking teeth on] and I used a basic Victoria mix.

Prepare an ordinary bun tin, lined with cases. Turn your fan oven on to 190 deg C. Makes 12 buns.

4 oz butter
4 oz castor sugar
4 oz self raising flour
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
Jam of your choice.

Everyone I spoke to, said it was usually homemade Blackberry Jam that their mother used. As I have mentioned before, that fruit was free and it was in common use for jams and tarts. I used homemade Apricot, mostly because that was already open.

Cream the softened butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy then gradually whisk in the beaten eggs. Then gently fold in the flour.

Using a couple of dessertspoons, half fill the bun cases, then carefully make a little well in each. Pic on my Blog. Place half a teaspoon of jam in each well, then cover with the remaining mix. Make sure it is sealed so that the jam does not run out. Do not fill the cases more than about three quarters of the way up or they will pour over the sides when rising.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden. When cold, I dusted them lightly with icing sugar. Lovely. Simple. Easy. Yummy.