Wednesday, 30 November 2016


The iconic, traditional recipe from the West of Cornwall, around Mousehole, celebrating Tom Bawcock’s Eve on December 23rd. He was supposedly a fisherman of the 16thC but in reality there is little evidence that he existed. But it makes a good story none the less, and the dish is steeped in history and legend. It is generally accepted that the original Pies used herring, but then moved to any of 7 fish, including pilchards, sardines, mackerel, herring etc, keeping in line with the legend! Probably it was whatever was available, depending on the weather and season.

I have read and researched recipes for some weeks and think I will adapt a mix of many of those I have read about, into something that seems about right to me and tasty by today’s standards. I have never made it before, or eaten it. I took lots of photos along the way and they are on my Blog. To serve, just remove the head and tails sticking out and you have the most delicious pie. Serve with a green veg. 

Basic ingredients:-

Fish [assorted], stock, mustard, hard boiled eggs, potato, cream, cider or wine. Cider surely? Wine would have been costlier for our forebears. Seasoning, especially Sea Salt.
Parsley? Maybe, but I will not use it.

Make some Rough Puff Pastry. 8 oz Plain Flour, salt, 2 oz lard or Cookeen, 2 oz butter. Rub in roughly then mix with a little very cold water. Rest in the fridge for at least an hour. 

I intend to fillet a selection of fish. Sardines, Mackerel, Herring. Then clean some of the heads and tails for the decoration, discarding them before serving.  I have 3 large sardines, several herring and 2 mackerel. All cleaned and filleted and rolled or cut into large bite size pieces. I am prepping for a medium size pie. My pie dish is 9” in dia and 7 “ at the base. 2” deep.

Hard boil 2 or 3 eggs and when cold, chop. Chip [or dice?] two or three medium potatoes and par boil for 2 or 3 mins. I decide to dice for a change!

Make a sauce.
1 finely chopped shallot 
scant tablespoon plain flour
1  heaped teaspoon of English mustard
Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 oz butter
¼ pint fish stock [stock pot is fine]
¼ pint cider
¼ pint cream
In a small saucepan, quickly fry off the shallot in the melted butter, then add the flour and mix to a smooth paste, off the heat. Very gradually add the stock, whisking all the while. Add the remaining ingredients then replace back on the heat and bring slowly to the boil, continuing to whisk. Cook off for a minute.

Place the chunks of fish in the pie dish, and tuck between them the potato and chopped egg. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley, if using. Pour over the sauce and carefully fork through so everything is evenly distributed. Seasoned well. Allow to cool for 15 mins. Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out to fit the pie dish. Brush the edge with a little egg and place the pastry on the top. Cut little slits for the heads and slip the heads into them with their head looking towards the stars, with opposite slits for the tails. [see photos] Brush the top with beaten egg.

Bake for 45 mins at 210 Deg C. Turning down to 200 after 20  mins. Remove the heads from the crust before eating.

It was a lot of work, I admit. From starting it, to popping it into the oven was close to 2 hours!!! A bit mucky at times too!! But the finished result is stunning and it was absolutely delicious. I am quite pleased with myself!!!!

Saturday, 26 November 2016


After the Pastissets, I bring you the second post of Menorcan baking, showing off the island’s other favourite sweet dish. More specifically, all the Balearic islands love Ensaimadas. 
Anyone who has visited these islands will have eaten one of these light and delicious sweet breads over breakfast or with a morning cup of coffee, after an hour’s shopping in Mao or Cuitadella. The recipe origins go back several hundred years, when pork fat was used instead of butter. The recipe below is easily doubled for one huge one, or divide the dough after the first rise for little individual Ensaimadas.

At airports you will see large Ensaimadas in hexagonal boxes piled up for folk to take back. So, instead of that, I set about working out how to make it myself.

It does take time to make, but very little actual hands on. Mostly you are waiting for it to rise! Get on with some shopping or gardening! The final rise is for several hours, so start in the morning.

In a jug place:

2 teaspoons active dried yeast
4 fl oz warm milk, preferably whole

Leave until it starts working, meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your mixer, with a dough hook, place:

12 oz strong plain flour
large pinch salt
3 oz caster sugar

combine well, then add the warm and frothy milky yeast mix. Then add:

1 large beaten egg
3 oz very soft butter

Knead well until soft and smooth, then cover the bowl [I like using a shower cap!] and put to rise in a warm spot until double in size. This will take well over an hour because of the high fat content. The dough is pretty wet, so if kneading by hand you might need to add a tad more flour.

Knock back on a well floured surface then, by stretching and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out as thinly as possible into a large rectangle [see photo on my Blog]. Don’t worry, it does not have to be too perfect.

Brush the entire surface with very soft, but not melted butter [probably about 2-3 oz]. Roll the dough into a long sausage shape, trying to keep it fairly tight, lightly cover with a tea towel then leave to rise for another hour.

Roll the dough up into a loose coil and place onto a large round baking sheet as you go. Leave a small amount of room between the rounds for the rise though. Cover the coil with an upside down large mixing bowl, making sure it is big enough so that the dough will not touch it. 
Leave to rise for a third time for 2 - 3 hours in a warm spot.

Pre heat your fan oven to 175C and bake for about 30-35 mins. When it comes out of the oven, quickly brush a little more very soft butter across the top, cool for a bit, then dredge with icing sugar. If you like, add some vanilla seeds to the icing sugar the day before to take the flavour to another level.

Yes, it does have a very high butter content!! Just absolutely wonderful.

Note: Ensaimadas can also be sparingly filled with a light custard, or similar before rolling up. Equally delicious.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


With this post, [and the next] I leave Cornwall, as I do every summer, for the wonderful island of Menorca, which is our most favourite part of the world AFTER Cornwall! You see these delicious biscuits made in the shape of a flower everywhere on the island. [cutters easily available on Amazon] We often have them as a welcoming gift in our hotel room, a little stack tied up with cellophane and a ribbon. As with Ensaimada, the other favourite Balearic sweet, they are dusted with a generous amount of icing sugar. Traditionally they were only eaten at Xmas, but these days, all year round. They also used to be made with lard and they do make a wonderful gift.

Just 5 simple ingredients that taste wonderful!

Pre heat your fan oven to 180C and very lightly butter baking sheets. I used a small 2” cutter, making about 60 biscuits. Easily halved, or you can make larger ones. But you may have to slightly adjust the timings.

In a medium mixing bowl, place:

14 oz plain flour
7 oz very soft butter [but not melted]
7 oz caster sugar
3 egg yolks
zest of two lemons

Make a ‘volcano” of the flour, then add the other ingredients, kneading the whole until you have a smooth dough. Tip onto your floured surface, then cut in half, making it easier to handle.  Roll out to thicker than a £1 coin [maybe a scant third of an inch]]. Cut them with your flower cutter and bake for approx 13-15 mins. The mix is quite delicate and I use a small spatula to lift from the worktop to the baking sheet.

When just cold, generously dust with icing sugar.

Just lovely.

Of course, you do not have to use a flower cutter! I do, to bring a touch of Menorcan authenticity.

Simply scrumptious biscuits.

Friday, 18 November 2016


A real old Cornish favourite, easy to make and if you wish, these days you can use bought pastry. Our ancestors did love leeks and used them so much. I do too and they are one of my favourite veggies. This is not a “new fangled quiche”, it is a real old fashioned flan and this old method was conceived long before we had ever heard of them.

I quickly knocked up some rough puff pastry, the same as for pasties.  I used an 8”, but a 7” flan tin would be good.
For this tart you will need:
6 oz plain flour, 1½ oz butter, 1½ lard or Cookeen [my new fave], seasoning and a little cold water to bind after you have roughly rubbed in the fats. Chill for half an hour or so.

approx 1lb of the white part of leeks
2 oz butter
5 - 6 oz chopped bacon
about 6 sliced mushrooms, I used chestnut
1 oz plain flour
½ pint whole milk
1 large egg
1 heaped tablespoon grated cheese
plenty of seasonings of your choice - being Cornish I always use parsley!
a little nutmeg

Line your tin with pastry, rolling it as thinly as you can, then pop it into the fridge while you assemble the filling. I quickly blind baked it at 180C for 10 mins when really chilled. But the old recipe did not suggest this [I do not want a soggy bottom] Turn up your fan oven to 190C.

Slice the leeks and cut up the bacon. Melt the butter in a medium fry pan then add the bacon and fry without colouring, add the leeks, stir together and gently cook for about 15 mins until nice and soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 mins more. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well.

In a saucepan bring the milk to the boil and pour quickly over the leeky mix. Season well, not forgetting the nutmeg. Place back over a very low heat and cook for a further 10 mins or so, gently stirring now and then to stop it burning. Remove from the heat to cool a little then stir in the beaten egg. Pour into the pastry case, dot over a little more butter and sprinkle over the cheese.

Bake for about 30 - 40 mins  mins.

A real old fashioned method to cook this classic dish. We found it absolutely delicious and far better than any quiche I have ever had. It is equally good hot or cold. It came from the WI ladies, of the 1960s.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Pam’s Granny’s Baked Bread Pudding.

Another recipe that was given to me by my friend Pam, who lives in Joppa near Hayle. It has been in her family for generations and she calls it Granny’s Baked Bread Pudding.  Her grandmother came from just outside the town of Looe in East Cornwall, so I am guessing this recipes hails from that area. Pam uses it for special occasions, especially Xmas.   It is very easy to make and delicious! My husband absolutely loved it! Thank you, Pam. It will be on my dessert menus from now on.

¾ lb stale white bread, cut into large cubes - no crusts

Soak for a few hours, then squeeze out the water. [This is easier in smaller amounts]
Beat until smooth ish.

Then just add all the other ingredients:
6 oz mixed dried fruit
2 oz each of dried chopped dates, glace cherries and dried apricots
4 ½ oz light soft brown sugar
3 oz melted butter
2 medium eggs
Grated lemon rind, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg - all to taste
Optional extras - marmalade or golden syrup. I plumped for the syrup and put in a large dash. In fact I added it when I beat the bread.

Mix well. That’s it. Easy peasey.

Tip into a buttered baking dish and bake for 1 hour at 190 deg C

Note: Leftovers can be frozen in portions to take out and nuke. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016


My friend Pam, who lives in Joppa, near Hayle gave me this unusual, absolutely delicious, moist fruity cake recipe. She has had it for decades, but cannot recall where she got it from. Whatever, it is very very good. Trust me, you will love it too.

You will need a 8” spring form cake tin, greased and lined. Pre heat your fan oven to 140C

A can of Apricots, drained. Set the juice aside, but don’t discard yet, then chop the fruit roughly.

4 ½ oz butter
5 oz caster sugar
7 oz SR flour
6 oz dried mixed fruit
4 oz cherries, halved or quartered
2 large eggs
topping of chopped nuts and /or some demerera sugar

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, the add the beaten eggs, then the flour. Mix well, then add the dried fruits and the chopped apricots. I thought the mixture a little stiff so added a couple of tablespoons of the fruit juice.

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin, sprinkling over some chopped nuts [I used roasted hazelnuts] and/or demerera if you wish.

Bake for about 1¾ hours until firm to the touch. Leave in the tin for a few minutes then cool on a rack.

Optional - make an icing if you wish, with some of the apricot juice and icing sugar. But it will not keep so long if you do this. As you can see from the photo, I topped the cake with a mix of nuts and demerera.

Just scrummy. Thanks Pam x
My next post will be another of Pam’s recipes, this time from her grandmother who came from Looe

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Nutty Oat and Meringue slices

I found this recipe in a very old book [I collect them! and love trawling through second hand book shops].  It is quite unusual, so right down my street. I have made a couple of minor adjustments to bring it up to date but I guarantee you will love this recipe! So easy too.

Butter a 8” x 12” tray bake tin. I lined the long side with baking parchment, hanging over the sides to help you lift it out. Pre heat your fan oven to 160C [initially]

9 oz medium oats
6 oz soft light brown sugar
6 oz melted butter
3 egg yolks [you will need the whites in a mo]
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

Combine the oats and sugar in a medium bowl then pour over the warmed butter and fork it through until all the oats are buttery and leave for about 5 - 10 mins. Stir the vanilla into the egg yolks then mix these with the buttery oats. It smells wonderful at this stage! Press this into your prepared tin, getting it as level as possible. [back of a spoon is handy for this - see photo on my Blog]]. Bake this for about 20 mins.

When this comes out of the oven, turn it down to 130C


3 egg whites
4 oz caster sugar
4 - 5 oz roughly chopped hazelnuts or any nuts. I used half hazelnuts and half chopped whole almonds and pecans.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff then add the sugar and continue whisking until thick and glossy. At this point you can also stir in some finely chopped roasted hazelnuts, like I did.

Spread the meringue over the oaty base that has cooled a bit, then sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts. Bake until the meringue and nuts are golden - about 25 - 30 mins.

When cooled a little, slice and Enjoy! So scrummy. Just a wonderful recipe.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


These are just brilliant for nibbles and party food, as the festive season approaches. The recipe comes from the 1960s WI Ladies of Cornwall. Not sure how Cornish it is, but after making them, I can assure you they are very good and very moreish. I love old recipes!!! But then, you all know that. You can vary the size according to the cutters you use. I decided to make them bite size with a 1½ cutter.  The quantity below made about 40 [ i.e. 20 fondants]  My husband just ate one after the other!

Pre heat your oven to “moderate” ie 160C fan. Lightly butter a large baking sheet.

4 oz SR flour
5 oz grated Parmesan and strong cheddar mixed
5 oz butter
4 egg yolks
a little beaten egg
4 fl oz whole milk
Salt, Pepper
Pinch Cayenne pepper [or large pinch if you like the kick]

Sieve the flour into a medium mixing bowl and rub in 3 oz of the butter, then add 3 oz of the mixed cheeses, along with seasonings. [not parsley]. Add enough water to make a stiff paste then roll out onto a floured surface. I had no guide as to the thickness, so I guessed about the same thickness as a £1 coin. Cut into small circles, with a plain or fluted cutter. Re roll the offcuts and continue.  Place them onto your baking sheet and brush the tops with the beaten egg. Bake for about 20 mins, then cool on a rack.

Make the filling.

Beat the yolks, along with the milk and season with a little salt and plenty of pepper in a glass basin and place this over a barely simmering saucepan of water, stirring continuously until it thickens [like a custard].
Remove from the heat and add the remaining cheeses and butter, beating well to combine. Allow to cool completely then use this as a sandwich filling for your cheesy biscuits. Sprinkle a little, very finely chopped parsley over the top of the filling before popping the lid on, or on the tops.

Just delicious. So simple too. What a find.