Want to Eat Well in the West?

The view from the Metropole

The view from the Metropole

Reader dear, a friend read my pathetic appeal for writing help and came to my aid. Step forward Ms Karen and take a bow. I owe you a debt of gratitude.

To recap, bored witless with my own witterings, I appealed to the generous blog reading public to guest post for me. I suppose my ‘niche’ loose as it is, is writing and food. Karen and her partner are keen foodies – in the nice way, lately the term has become something that is less than complimentary, implying snobbery and elitism. That is certainly not true of my friends who are as at home in a Wetherspoon’s pub as they are in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Anyhoos, Karen wrote me a lovely piece on her culinary adventures in Cornwall, with reviews of some of the places she went to. The tourism industry is alive and well in Cornwall, which means there are many, many places to eat.

Some of those places take advantage of the hungry hordes and trade off well-established names (ahem!) whilst others go out of their way to provide delicious, exciting food and are happy to cater for special diets. Karen’s a coeliac (celiac my American friends; your spelling makes much more sense*).

Take it away Karen…

The Metropole Hotel, Padstow

After spotting an advert in the local paper, we headed to this wonderful hotel for a spot of lunch and ended up having a 3-course lunch for £10! Absolutely amazing value and wonderful food. So good in fact, we booked for the following week…

Second time round, we both had mackerel pate on toast. As I hadn’t specified I need gluten-free, I just skipped the toast, but the pate was just delightful – just the right amount of seasoning and a lovely taste of mackerel.

For mains, my partner had fish which was cooked perfectly and well-seasoned, while I had gluten-free pasta in cream sauce, which was delicious – if rather heavy for lunch. I did mange to finish it though…

We both had lemon posset with blackberry ice cream and home made short-bread for pudding. I had a wee bite of the short-bread as it wasn’t gluten free, and it tasted delicious and buttery with just the right bite. The lemon posset was a revelation – smooth, creamy and very tangy too. It worked so well with blackberry ice cream.

We would thoroughly recommend the place. It cost us only £10 for three courses and our bill on both days came to only £26.20 as we had water and coffee at the end of the meal. Service was excellent, efficient and very friendly – the hotel is a must is anyone is in Padstow. It is a special offer though – and only on a Wednesday.

No. 6 Padstow

To start with we had a couple of cocktails: Dirty Martini for my partner, which was almost pure alcohol, and I had a Dry Manhattan which was exquisite, very drinkable.

Starters: My partner had smoked haddock with Stornoway black pudding. This was what he had the year before and loved it, but this year he was a bit disappointed as the chef had changed it slightly… (why, why do they do that??) The poached egg on top was slightly over-cooked and it didn’t run out like it did the year before. The dish was over-seasoned, although that could have been down to the fish.

I had goose and pickles. This was goose liver parfait with clotted crème brioche. Smooth parfait, exquisite pickled veg which were small pieces of cucumber, courgette, cauliflower and just the right taste of pickling liquor. The brioche (not gluten free) was melt in the mouth fantastic, definitely worth the tummy ache the following day (and that was only because it was not gluten free).

Mains: My partner had saddle of pork (served pink) with scallop and pea puree, and medley of hazelnut spring (peas, asparagus, green beans and raddish), and pork scratching. He was advised on ordering that the pork would be served pink. He loved it.  The dish also contained slices of apple (paper thin slices) to complement the pork and it worked really well. The pork was delicious and cut like a knife through butter, very moist and tasty.

I had Moorland lamb with hogget** pie, broccoli and salse verde and lamb reduction. Oh that was a divine dish! The real revelation was the hogget pie. I’ve never had hogget before and it was gorgeous, so full of flavour and the pie had pieces of lamb kidneys in it which is not something I normally like, but these were so tasty and complemented the hogget beautifully. The lamb was served pink and was very tender. It was a wonderful main meal, one not to be easily forgotten…

Desserts: We both had Chocolate “Cake”. This was recommended to us by our taxi driver and he was spot on. It consisted of pistachio and chocolate slice topped with pistachio nuts, chocolate ice cream on a bed of chocolate soil. There was also a chocolate sponge with a disc of Caramac on top.

When he presented the dish, the waiter poured hot Caramac sauce onto the disc and we sat there and watched it melt into the sponge to reveal a gooey chocolate fondant inside.  It sounds rather heavy but it was not. Surprisingly it all worked well and was actually quite light, but a definite chocolate lover’s delight.

We ended the meal with a cheese board which had six British cheeses on it. Our favourite was the Tunworth cheese. This is an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese from Somerset and is full flavoured with a hint of cabbage overtones – sounds weird but it worked brilliantly.

A truly brilliant meal, well worth a visit. Paul Ainsworth has a great knack of putting ordinary ingredients together and turning out sensational flavours and mouth watering meat dishes.  Our bread was home made potato and rosemary and then onion bread (gluten free was not an option on that night as I didn’t want to miss out on anything). Bread was lovely and served with Cornish butter and cod roe, mmm

So there you go. Should you ever be in the Padstow area, you’ll now where to go and when. I like any place that serves up six different kinds of cheese for a cheese board, so pennies and time permitting, my next culinary destination may well be Number 6.

 

 

*Read Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series for his explanation of the missing ‘u’ from American spellings of flavour, neighbour etc. It’s hilarious…

**Hogget is the name for a sheep between lamb and mutton stage. A teenage sheep, I guess.

Grateful Thanks and a Writing Plea

Gimme a 't', gimme a 'h' etc etc

Gimme a ‘t’, gimme an ‘h’ etc etc

Once upon a time, I worked for a company whose unofficial motto was: “Never Knowingly Original”.

I have tried to stick to this ethos throughout my blogging experiment, shamelessly ‘borrowing’ ideas from other much more experienced and knowledgeable folks and this evening is no exception.

I’ve recently signed up to follow a gent who blogs a 300-word piece of flash fiction EVERY SINGLE DAY. A marvellous idea certainly, but it is not this one I’m, er, nicking. (Though I do think it might be an interesting and educational exercise if I were to embark on such a process. For your sakes dear readers, I would keep such scribblings private.) No, said gent thanked the newbies who have recently started following him – c’est moi and others – and I thought to myself, “Aha! What a jolly good idea.*”

I THANK YOU

So to all those who have recently ticked the ‘follow’ bit on my blog, thank you ever so much. And to all those who have been following me for a while, thank you too ever so much. I am very grateful and I hope I bring a tiny bit of something to your life, even if it’s only a sigh of irritation as a ‘new blog alert from highheelsandpinkglitter’ hits your inboxes. (Does anyone know the correct plural of inbox, btw?)

As I have bored myself witless over the last few months with my own musings (the situation has been exacerbated by my work situation which means I spend a great deal of my time on my own speculating aloud on topics such as the weather and feeling hurt when the cat doesn’t want to be in the same room as me) I would welcome guest posts with OPEN ARMS.

RE-BLOG, RE-BLOG, RE-BLOG

Fellow bloggers may think to themselves, “Lordie, lady laziness, why don’t you just re-blog something??” I know, I know – but I’d really love some dear person to think up something which would fit with my very loose set of topics… Actually, scratch that, write about anything you like and just throw in the odd reference to anything I’ve written about – even if it’s just one word. ‘The’ will do, to be honest.

Best case scenario – I am flooded with enough guest posts to keep me in thrice-weekly blogs from now until Christmas. Worst case? No guest blogs at all… Reader, have mercy on me.

 

 

 

*For some strange reason, blogging brings out the Nancy Mitford in me.

Picture courtesy of nursingworldnigeria

Cakes, Sausages and Quality Street: You Know it Makes Sense

If I knew you were coming, I'd a baked a cake, baked a cake

If I knew you were coming, I’d a baked a cake, baked a cake

Granted that most of us in the developed world eat for many reasons – few of which are hunger and the necessity of refuelling with nutrient-dense food – my family decided to use food as the basis of celebration and remembrance today.

My nephew came up with the idea of a ‘grandpa’ foods day, as today is the third anniversary of my dad’s death. I suspect that the motivation behind ‘grandpa’ foods day may have been the idea that it was a licence to eat Dairy Milk chocolate all day. My nephew is eight after all. Nonetheless, a meal which showcased all of my dad’s favourite foods was greeted enthusiastically by everyone, including those of us considerably longer in the tooth than eight years old.

The menu was thus:

My own contribution was the Coffee and Walnut Cake. Here’s the recipe:

  • 225g Stork margarine*
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 75g walnuts, chopped finely (the Pampered Chef vegetable chopper makes this really easy)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 50ml boiling water and allowed to cool

ICING:

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 100g cream cheese
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 2tbsp boiling water and allowed to cool.
  • 8 walnut halves

1 x 20cm loose-bottomed square cake tin, greased and lined with baking parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Cream the margarine and sugar together with an electric hand mixer for five minutes. Add a tbsp of the flour and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. You can add in one or two extra tbsps of flour to make this easier. Add the vanilla extract, the cooled coffee and the flour and mix well to combine. Add the finely chopped walnuts and mix with a wooden spoon until distributed equally throughout.

Spoon into the prepared tin and cook in the oven for 40-45 minutes (if you insert a skewer into the cake, it should come out clean). Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes, until turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool thoroughly.

For the icing, cream together the butter, cream cheese and icing sugar for five minutes and then add the cooled coffee mixture. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Ice the sides and top of the cake and decorate with the walnut halves. Serves 12-14.

 

*I know, I know – purists would favour unsalted butter (preferably organic, preferably from grass-fed animals) but Stork is the baker’s secret. Light cakes every time! Don’t you reckon?

Clearing the Decks – And Trying Not to Puke

Words, words, words

Words, words, words

Recently, I heard someone opine that the first draft of a novel was basically a ‘word vomit’.*

Ooh, I get what she meant, but as someone who has just written the first draft of her first book, ‘word vomit’ made me want to cry. I must endeavour to toughen up if hearing some other person’s description of the writing process makes me react in such a pathetic way.  It was not a personal comment on my own attempts, for heaven’s sakes!

Having triumphantly typed out ‘The End’ almost 14 days ago, I have ignored The Book ever since. I didn’t dare look at it and, as I had really galloped towards ‘The End’ at the rate of knots, not caring about casualties such as spelling, grammar, credibility or sense, I certainly feared to view it again.

So, adopting my best school prefect voice, I said to self today – “You MUST look at this. You MUST read it again. You MUST change stuff if necessary.” So in between writing bathroom blogs and bugging the editors of air conditioning websites (yes, really), I read Book Part 3.

And, er, it was not quite as bad as I feared… Now, next week’s Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is reading parts 1 and 2. And perhaps putting chapters up on Readwave and asking for feedback.

Declutter – It’s Good For You

In another bid towards encouraging creativity (or putting off bidding for jobs online – you decide…) I finally got round to clearing out the spare room. I now have the dedicated office I promised myself way back in April. It’s a minimalist space where creative energy will flow, uninterrupted by endless tripping over of piles of washing in various states of dryness and dodging piles of paperwork. That’s the theory!

A women’s magazine I’m rather fond of (Woman & Home) had an article about de-cluttering in its latest edition. The aim, apparently, is to own no more than 100 things if you want to be free. Store all your music, books and pictures on your PC or online, go for a capsule wardrobe and the rest is easy. Idly, I wondered to myself, do ‘toiletries’, ‘skincare’ and ‘make-up’ count as three things, or should one count up the individual items? If the latter is true, I may well have reached the 100-item limit five times over. Woe!

Just to demonstrate that I can do a 100 limit, I did recently write a piece of flash fiction. It was for a competition. I didn’t win, or get mentioned or anything really, but it’s the taking part that counts, don’t you reckon? Here it is:

I’m a Deelan – Oh My Lord!

On Thursday I came home from work, disheartened.

My cat didn’t greet me at the door, but a handsome stranger was waiting in my kitchen. “Bobbee,” he said, “do you recognise me?” I shook my head. “Who has kept you company all these lonely months? Who has slept on your bed every night while you cried yourself to sleep?”

“You are Jazz?!” I exclaimed. “My cat?”

“I’m a deelan,” he said, “a human who can change into a cat and you are one too. Look!”

He clicked his fingers. I changed into a cat.

If any of you have your own examples of flash fiction, I’d love to read them so please feel free to post in the comments.

 

*LinkedIn – the writers and editors group. Very good for brain storming, and asking for advice on the creative and the more prosaic, such as ‘hey, what printer do you use and why?’

Inspiration and Exasperation… Along with Teacups

What has this to do with today's post? Read on...

What has this to do with today’s post? Read on…

I think, I think in blog these days…

Bear with me. I find myself in the kitchen mindlessly drying dishes. My brain – I would say ever alert, but that’s not always the case – flits from subject to subject, hits on a few flights of fancy and goes: “Aha! Light bulb moment! Next blog post coming up!”

And then words sort of start coming, sentences, phrases and some urge to remember them and write them down appears from nowhere.

“Do you know what, insomnia – so interesting!”

“Procrastination – I can spin a tale or two out of that!”

Cakes – there’s TONNES of material in them.”

Dear reader, you are the unfortunate victim of such sorry witterings. I apologise. Good lord, what the internet has unleashed on human kind…

THE NAUGHTY STUFF

What I also do, which is kind of naughty [HUH – you at the back there! Were you hoping for full-blown blue stuff? Not a chance my friend.] I look at everything that goes on around me and I kind of suck it up, [Grr, you at the back – STILL looking for the naughty stuff??] chew it up and use it. So a phrase, a story, a recollection I heard years ago will often resurface in what I write. I keep my fingers crossed that the originator doesn’t recognise the gem they told me that I’m now regurgitating.

Recently, I used two phrases/ideas I’d heard. One was about shoes. I was doing freelance work, writing about Louboutins. I ‘borrowed’ an idea to create an amusing intro for the article, where a woman I once worked alongside used to describe how she visited department stores and talked to the shoes she wanted to buy. “Hey girls, mummy’s going to take you home very soon.” That kind of thing.

Next, I was writing my own book and I’d recently seen this fantastic phrase on Facebook – “Who shat on her cornflakes?” Said lovely wasn’t looking too cheery in a pic. I saw the phrase and said to myself, “I’ve got to use that. It’s sublime.” And I did.

MOUTHS WIDE SHUT

I shouldn’t confess to this. My family and friends may resort to zipping their mouths shut in front of me in fear of their every uttering being sucked out and used up. I promise, dear all, to use only the occasional piece and I will thank you extensively, should I ever be fortunate enough to be in the position of writing ‘Acknowledgements’.

And finally… Lovely Sharon who blogs at sunshineandcelandines ran a competition recently, offering one of her gorgeous creations as first prize. I entered and won! The picture illustrating today’s blog is that prize. Isn’t is absolutely beautiful?

So THE END??

I don’t imagine too many of your thoughts are taken up by little ol’ me dear readers – my own mind, for example, has room for few thoughts that do not concern a group of imaginary folks, what I should have for dinner and if I have been attentive enough to family and friends – but perhaps you wondered to yourself today:

THE END

‘Do you reckon that daft blog woman who has yet to decide on her blog niche and who consequently witters on about any old thing has actually finished the book she is supposed to be writing…?’

Readers, I wrote this blog post in advance. It was to serve as a kick up the… well, you know what I mean. I would write a version where I finished the first draft of my book on the date I said I would with a vintage bottle of Veuve Cliquot acting as a carrot stick. Writing that I had finished it before I actually finished it would spur me on, I reasoned.

I closed my eyes, in best Paul McKenna stylee, and visualised what that would feel like. I tried to imagine what I would be looking at – a text document with THE END in bold black, I suppose – how I would feel (ecstatic with a faint sense of loss) and how I would move (away from the lap top immediately).

And then I wrote the version where I didn’t finish the first draft. It was a post filled with doom and gloom, fear and loathing, self-pity and hatred. Blimey, dear reader, the negativity radiating from that short article would have been enough to chill your very bones.

So without further ado… I FINISHED IT.

A little haste has perhaps crept in to my writing over the past week and there are plenty of ill-advised words and phrases sprinkled though out – not to mention bonkers plot lines, plot holes aplenty, inconsistent characterisation, more loose ends than the final The Returned* episode and weird happenings. I think too, that Uncle Fred (you remember, he was the poor guy who met with a freak, deadly ending thanks to a fruit bowl) may have resurfaced round about page 283, but finito draft one most definitely is.

[Thanks to the insomnia, I got up this morning at 5.15am and blasted out just over 7,000 words in pig-headed determination.]

And with one ending comes another beginning. It so does. I’m guessing all of the hard work now begins. I’ve got to take this monster of spelling mistakes, grammatical ghastliness and bonkers storyline and try to make it (oh please) publishable.

Hmm. Anyway, egotistical as I am, I wanted to end this post by inviting you dear, lovely and esteemed audience to share your achievements with me. In the words of the lovely Heather Small: “What have you done today [week] to make you feel proud?”

 

*Huh. I sulked for hours after the last episode of The Returned.

Pesto Power – Green Goodness from the Garden

Doesn't it look appetising?

Doesn’t it look appetising?

We invested in a greenhouse this year and, at this moment in time, it’s overflowing with green garden goodies.

I’ve been more of an observer than a player in the greenhouse business – I have sat back and let someone else do the hard work while enjoying the fruits (veg, mainly) of their labours. Ah well, we play to the strengths in our relationship. He grows, I invent recipes and cook.

Because we had so much sunshine last month, the basil and tomatoes came on in leaps and bounds. Fitting, seeing as the two go so well together, but I’ve now got far too much basil for us to eat so I decided to turn it into home-made pesto.

My version doesn’t really bother with amounts – hey, that way you get a slightly different sauce every time! – but I’ve suggested guidelines here. I use Borderfields cold-press rapeseed oil for a more home-grown feel, as well as sunflower seeds as they are TONNES cheaper than pine nuts. I also add parsley, seeing as we’ve got lots of that growing in the garden too.

You can go down the traditional route and toss it with pasta, but my preferred use for pesto is on griddled vegetables as an accompaniment to roast chicken*.

Home-made pesto:

  • 3 large handfuls basil
  • 1 handful curly parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 25g freshly-grated Parmesan
  • 25g sunflower seeds, toasted**
  • 150ml rapeseed or olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients (except the salt and pepper) into a blender and blend until you have a smooth-ish sauce (it’s better with a slightly granular texture). Taste, and add salt and pepper according to personal preference.

*Actually, in an ideal world, I’d greedily stuff hunks of the finest freshly-made artisan bread into pesto sauce and then my gob.

**To toast sunflower seeds, heat up a small frying pan and then add the seeds and turn the heat down. Shake the pan gently and toast for a minute or so. Don’t take your eye off them once OR THEY WILL BURN.