Three Of The Best Cornish Cheese Companies

After a long week there’s nothing better than a cheeseboard and a glass of red wine!

Here are our pick of three of the best Cornish cheese companies to get you started…

food-drink-kitchen-cutting-board

Worthy Cheddar

Worthy Cheddar are the creators of two delicious cheese offerings. Take your pick of their mature yet creamy worthy cheddar, made with pasteurised milk or their greens unpasteurised Cheddar, rich and nutty tasting with blue undertones.

 

Allet Dairy Goats

Allet Dairy Goats are Cornwall’s only commercial herd and offer a range of seven different goats cheese varieties such as the Caerphilly style Bosvean with its traditional dry and crumbly texture and a slightly fruity taste.

 

The Cornish Cheese Company

The Cornish Cheese Company produce an award-winning sweet, mild and creamy blue cheese, handmade in the traditional farmhouse way. Designed to be eaten as a young cheese, Cornish Blue is a very different product from traditional English blue cheeses such as Dorset Blue.

 

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Three of the Best Cornish Pies

On a wet and windy afternoon nothing warms you up better than a delicious pie!

Here are our pick of three of the best Cornish pies…

 

The Little Gluten Free Pasty Pie

Tintagel

If you’re a pasty lover who is unable to eat Gluten you’ll be delighted by these savoury offerings from the Little Gluten Free Pasty Pie company. Each individual pie uses the finest local ingredients with flavours including traditional meat, cheese and onion or cheese and seasonal veg. Perfect for munching on the move or as a quick supper with salad. Now everyone can enjoy the true taste of a Cornish Pasty!

 

Crantock’s Bakery

Newquay

With more than 20 years experience in the baking industry Crantock’s Bakery pride themselves in making the finest baked treats, with one of the most popular being their pork pies. Made from delicious hot water pastry, the pies are filled with tender pork and seasoning before being ‘hand raised’ to form the pies distinctive shape. Flavours include Pork and Apple, Chicken and Ham and Cranberry Topped Pork.

 

Grumpies

Launceston

These gourmet pies from Grumpies are hand made in Cornwall using the best locally sourced ingredients, including local vegetables, Cornish ale and prize winning meats. Treat your tum to this tasty range and choose from Steak and Ale, Pork, apple and Cider, Blue Cheese, Mushroom and Walnut and many more.

 

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The Cornish and Mining in New South Wales

Join Chris Dunkerley, Kevrenor: Bard of the Cornish Gorsedh and Secretary of the Cornish Association of New South Wales as he delves in to the history of the Cornish in New South Wales.

The early history of the Cornish in New South Wales (NSW) is a varied one; but different in 3 key ways from their cousins in the other Australian colonies: Cornish immigration started early, from the First Fleet of 1788, well before mining became significant from the mid 1840s; Cornish pursuits were diverse – farming and urban trades were as prominent as mining;The Cornish were spread widely and more thinly – most of NSW now having between 2-3% Cornish ethnic strength and no large long-lasting major concentrations.

New South Wales

Byng Chapel and cemetary. Photo: Chris Dunkerley

‘The Cornish and mining in NSW’ would fill many magazines, so I look very briefly at just a few areas of Cornish mining in NSW (barely leaving the 19th century), skimming over many other places and details, and giving just three stories of people involved.

By 1829, a ban prohibiting settlers selecting land west of the River Macquarie (130 miles west of Sydney) was lifted. A Cornish farmer, William ‘Parson’ Tom, chose acres at the junction of Lewis Ponds Creek and Sheep Station Creek. Soon other Cornishmen settled in the area – Hawke, Glasson, Lane, Grenfell, Pearse, Thomas, Oates and Paull. It is no surprise to find that this area became known as Cornish Settlement.

By the 1840s the colony was expanding its quality pastoral industry to supply mills in the UK. The land expansion of European settlement was huge. Anything that was likely to depopulate the grazing properties, such as gold finds, had been hushed up. There was copper though in the hills around these Cornish folk we have just met. Cornish Settlement, now called Byng, became a small scale copper mining centre for 80 years (eg. the Carangara mine) but reverted to pastoral lands after the 1930s. Only scattered low level ruins remain.

And there was gold! Picture this scene: It is early 1851, the family of William Parson Tom and friends are assembled in the front room, watching a visitor putting together a strange device which he rocks cradle-like. A party of four men then set out from the Tom house: William Jnr and James (sons of William Tom), friend John Hardman Australia Lister, the son of a ships captain and the visitor (Edward Hammond Hargraves). They have heavily-laden pack-horses. After a difficult time, they return disappointed from their week’s search for gold. Hargraves had taught them to use a panning dish as well as the cradle, but took his leave and set out for other places.

A little later, the Tom sons and Lister set out again and this time they actually found gold only eleven miles from their home. William Tom Snr was going to Sydney and he took the 4 oz. of gold and handed it to Hargraves. William Jnr and James Tom did not hear further from Hargraves. They wrote again but no reply came.

A paragraph appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 May 1851 stating that Hargraves had found the first payable gold in Australia at Ophir, near Orange, with William Jnr, James (William Tom’s sons) and Lister assisting. After many years of lack of recognition of their find, a Select Committee of the NSW Legislative Assembly was appointed on 25 August 1891 ‘to inquire into and report upon the claims (if any) of William Tom, James Tom, and J.H.A. Lister for remuneration as the first discoverers of gold in Australia.’

New South Wales

White Engine House c.1930. Photo: Courtesy of Margaret Morris

The Select Committee submitted their report and it was published on 2 September 1891. It reads as follows: ìYour Committee having carefully considered the Report referred to them, find as follows: That although Mr. E.H. Hargraves is entitled to the credit of having taught the claimants, Messrs. W. and J. Tom and Lister, the use of the dish and cradle,  …your Committee are satisfied that Messrs. Tom and Lister were undoubtedly the first discoverers of gold obtained in Australia in payable quantity.

Following the discovery of gold at Ophir new areas opened up in the quartz belt. The Cornish flocked to them with their hard rock mining skills. The Hill End and Tambaroora gold fields to the north of Cornish Settlement attracted local and immigrant Cornish. John Tom, eldest son of Parson Tom, was first President of the Tambaroora Association of Alluvial Miners. His brother James found alluvial gold in the Turon River at the junction of Oakey Creek

Another nearby centre, purely mining, Cadia, is today part of a massive open-cut mining operation which can be seen from planes flying from Sydney to Adelaide. A massive load of copper, with gold, and other metals, to the south of Mt Canobolas in the Orange District, attracted Cornish miners to Cadiangullong Creek.

The first NSW Government Geologist Samuel Stutchbury reported in July 1851 that there were copper lodes in the Cadia locality 160 miles west of Sydney on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range. A stream known as Oakey or Cadiangullong Creek runs through it from north to south.

Around 1860, owners of a property on the west side of Oakey Creek began sinking and driving, reporting a lode 70 feet wide, composed mainly of red oxide and green carbonate of copper. In July 1861, the Scottish Australian Mining Company (SAMC) leased the Cadia property and began operations at their Oakey Creek Copper Mine, later Cadiangullong Copper Mine.

In August 1861, Captain Josiah Holman (born in Gwennap, Cornwall in 1821) was appointed as manager of the Cadia mine, after gaining wide experience all around the World. A shaft was sunk to 23 fathoms (42 meters)and construction of an engine house was begun. A 25 inch Thomas engine from St Austell designed for a mine at Yass was moved from Sydney to Cadia in February the following year.

A year later the lode proved to be poorer at depth and exploration was directed to a lode a half mile to the south. A new mine was developed called West Cadia (later called White or Big Engine Mine). In 1865, the 25″ rotative engine was moved to the new site and erected. Because copper prices were low, the Company closed the mine two years later, after 2,000 tons of ore averaging 12.5% copper had been produced. Captain Holman leased the Cadia property from May 1870 for sixteen months, working the mine on a small scale with only occasional use of the beam engine.

Captain Holman was away in Queensland from 1871 to 1876, but from August 1876 until September 1878, the mine produced another 1,020 tons of ores of nearly 11% copper. Typically he had taken up farming, only periodically working the mine for copper.  Holman died at Cadia on 18 February 1893. The headstone to Captain Holman and his wife originally stood approximately 1 km south, near a road culvert, constructed using the old engine boiler shell.

With the renewal of very large scale open cut mining operations by Newcrest Mining Ltd in recent years, it was found necessary to move all the buried casks from the old Cadia Cemetery, to a new site on the ridge above the site of the White Engine House. The headstones and the casks were moved to this new Cemetery. The Holman headstone was also moved to a prominent place in the new cemetery.

New South Wales

Stamps at Sunny Corner. Photo: Chris Dunkerley

The search continued. Gold was found at Sunny Corner west of Lithgow and then in 1881 a reef of silver. The Cornish were at the forefront of miners there, many staying on again to farm.

Adelong on the Southern Slopes in 1875 had 13% Cornish born population looking for gold. By the end of the century it had fallen to just over 1%. From Adelong, a short gold boom occurred at alpine Kiandra around 1900, and then at the Araluen gold fields. The Cornish and their descendants had moved east to the coast to take up newly opening pastoral land left by the loggers.

The north of the state had a similar area in the Emmaville/Torrington tin mining fields just north of Glen Innes. As late as 1990, the area had small tin mines run by Cornish descendants, the Toys, with the only continuously active ‘Cornish buddle*’ but most had moved west or east to farming.

Two NSW exceptions, disproving the ‘no major centres rule’, are the large scale mining centres of Broken Hill and Cobar. Both started late in the 1800s, but the ‘Barrier’ mining area at Broken Hill is really an extension of the Cornish mining experience in South Australia, not indicative of NSW.

The copper finds around Cobar and Gilgunnia, nearly 400 miles west of Sydney, has a slightly different story. In 1870, three well and bore sinkers had stopped at a waterhole. They had admired the beautiful blue and green colours on the sides of the ‘Kubbur’ rock-hole, well known to local aboriginal people as a valuable source of water and as a place where material could be gathered for painting themselves for corroborees.

New South Wales

Henry and Sidwell Kruge. Archive photo: Supplied by Chris Dunkerley

On their way south, the three met up with two friends who ran a general store and wayside inn at Gilgunnia, Henry Kruge and his wife and Sidwell. Sidwell (nee Woolcock) had been a ‘bal-gal’, or bal-maiden, probably aged 14 or 15, in Cornwall before travelling to South Australia in about 1850. She identified the samples as containing copper, and Henry smelted it.

This find was huge – millions of pounds/dollars of mineral wealth have been extracted to this day from the region.
There are dozens of NSW localities I have not mentioned, where they were proudly
Cornish and used their mining skills – but truly wherever the Cornish were and are,
there are many more stories to be told.

This article is a compilation of material that draws very heavily on work by others, especially Dr John Symonds; plus the late Pat (Lay) McCooey, and late John Rule.
For more reading: http://www.celticcouncil.org.au/cornish/nsw.htm

*Buddle: A device for concentrating tin ore. In the mid-19th century, these usually took the form of a circular pit with rotating brushes. The tin from the stamps was fed into the centre or side of the pit and graded by gravity, concentrating the heavy ore near the inlet point. These were often mechanically worked. Earlier buddles were trapezoidal in shape, and manually operated (Cornish Mining World Heritage Site: www.cornish-mining.co.uk)

 

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School of Rock: Camborne School of Mines

myCornwall traces the history of the Camborne School of Mines, discovering that some things never change.

Under a mizzle-filled sky at the Tremough campus in Penryn, a lesson on rock blasting is coming to an end. It may not be on every school’s curriculum, but for the class of individuals sat in this small room it will potentially take them across the globe.

The students are in their third and final year studying various degrees from Geology, to Mining Engineering at the Camborne School of Mines (CSM). Many have already travelled hundreds of miles to embark upon a career in their chosen field, and when the exciting day of graduation finally arrives they will be the latest in a long line of students to join over a century of history.

Camborne School of Mines

A survey class of 1908

“It’s not just chalk and talk”, describes Dr Andrew Wetherelt, senior lecturer at CSM. Hailing from Redruth, Andrew has lived the typically nomadic life of a modern mining engineer having worked in what is now Zimbabwe and on the Channel Tunnel. He has been there, done it, and now teaches it.

The value of being able to educate with such “real world” experience was advocated over 100 years ago by the school’s first principal, J.J. Beringer. He was one of many who recognised a need for the technical education of Cornwall’s miners. This was also recognised by the MP Sir Charles Lemon who proposed to build a mining college in Truro as early as 1838.

However, it wasn’t until Beringer delivered a lecture to the Miners Association in 1887 that the Camborne School of Mines was formed in the following year, with Beringer as it’s founding father and principal of some 28 years (a role in which he is said to have been in a class all his own).

Had he any idea of what CSM would grow to become, Beringer would have been a satisfied man.

Today, the school is internationally renowned and the class of third years I am amongst are a typically mixed bag of nationalities, including Bolivian, Omani, Nigerian, Zimbabwean and Botswanan. The atmosphere is filled with a buzz that would no doubt have been felt in the first few lectures of Beringer’s day, and this signifies one constant in a century of great change since CSM’s beginning: the students.

This is pleasingly apparent in the CSM magazine. In an issue published in 1900, W.R. Bateson writes from Concordia Mine in Argentina, which was over 12,000 ft and a three day mule ride from the town of Salta;

“This is the loneliest place possible, 120 miles from a town. Still I can be very happy here with plenty of work to do, otherwise it would be a bit lonely even for me, because the country around is practically a wind swept desert.”

Camborne School of Mines

J.J.Beringer: Camborne School of Mines first Principal and Founder. Photo provided by Camborne School of Mines

Among the reports back from far-flung posts abroad, is the local news. In 1921 three CSM students were convicted for “using explosives and causing damage to property”. However, these lucky individuals were let off when they promised, no doubt sincerely, “to carefully avoid doing anything of the kind in the future”.

Of almost equal importance it seems to the Camborne School of Mines (CSM)  agenda is sports. Every February the ‘Bottle Match’ takes place against long-standing rivals, the Royal School of Mines in London. The first was in 1902, making it the second oldest rugby varsity match in the world.

Several staff have also stood out in the CSM history books. Willie Thomas, the eldest son of renowned Mine Captain Charles Thomas, was reputed to have been a charismatic character who would often disagree with the authorities in the way things should be done. He was also a budding photographer, and was instrumental in developing King Edward Mine (KEM) as a valuable asset to the school’s education in 1897.

It was here that students developed skills in surveying and ore dressing in combination with the rest of the study which took place at the main campus building in Camborne. At this time there was just one course being taught – a 3 year diploma in Mining Engineering – but even then the school was internationally recognised. For example, an advert featured in a paper during the early 20th century calls for a mining engineer position in Spain and ends quite simply, “Camborne School of Mines man preferred”.

Slight misfortune struck in 1921 however, when Grenville Mine was shut which, being interconnected with KEM, flooded its underground workings and put a stop to mining of the Great Flat Lode forever. All surface work and study resumed in much of the same way until after World War One when the school was forced to employ a part-time principal, R.A. Thomas due to financial difficulty. Further problems arose in the wake of the Second World War, when student numbers decreased dramatically with a meagre 12 students graduating in 1944. A past student was even killed when a plane he was in was shot down over Lisbon.

However, numbers soon resumed at the war’s end and by the 1970s it was time for a new chapter in CSM’s history under the leadership of Principal Dr Peter Hackett. The School said goodbye to the building where Mining Engineering had been taught for over 70 years, and moved to the Trevenson campus in Pool where new degrees and diplomas in geology and mineral processing were introduced, as well as the lessons in mining and surveying once taught at KEM.

Camborne School of Mines

Camborne School of Mines Staff c1900

This made King Edward more or less redundant, but practical study continued at another nearby site – Holman’s Test Mine. Once a quarry supplying granite for Truro Cathedral, the mine does not contain any valuable ore (and never has), but as the name suggests, was the testing-ground for Holman’s latest and greatest inventions. The evidence of this can still been seen in the thousands of drilled holes peppering the myriad of tunnels that make up the mine.

Nineteen-year-old Bob Evans is one of many CSM students who have recently been honing their skills at the site in the run up to the forthcoming International Mining Games. “I come from generations of Cornish miners”, he explains, “and joined the School because there is so much opportunity”. Still in his first year, Bob has high hopes for the future and a clear idea of where he wants to be when he graduates; “Australia!” he says without hesitation.

Mine Captain Gus Williams tells me that this country in particular is popular with students. A former miner at South Crofty, he’s a humble man when it comes to his role, “‘Mine Captain’ was a great Cornish term in my mother’s day – they were pillars of society”. Nevertheless, Gus still has a great responsibility in running the site and, unlike the captains of old, has an additional role of helping students attain PhDs. “It’s a fantastic job”, he says, “being able to pass on knowledge – there’s enormous variation”.

Aiding Gus at the test mine with his hard-earned wisdom is Mike Osman, a man who, having retired in 1991 when South Crofty shut, jokes that he “should be at home collecting stamps!”. And yet it seems that a lifetime spent underground isn’t easy to leave behind. “I still miss it 20 years on”, he says, “there was great satisfaction and you almost felt self-employed. It was the best job in the world”.

Mike’s words are easy to believe considering that the students he is helping to train for the forthcoming games are doing so in their spare time. Most techniques that will be displayed at the games are in actual fact out of date and students such as Rachael Livsly say they do it simply because, “it’s fun!”

Camborne school of mines

Filling a wagon, probably on the 40-fm level Flat lode – about 1904

According to retired Mining Engineer, Tony Brooks, this is nothing new, “there’s always been a great working relationship between the lecturers and the students and a real sense of identity which is very important at CSM”. Having been both pupil and teacher at the school, Tony can speak from experience. He set up the CSM’s Past Student Association in an effort to link an international community that currently has over 800 members, and this has at times made the world seem very small. In Malaysia, he encountered a former pupil whose immediate question was, “is Tyacks Pub still open?”

That Tony can travel half-way around the globe to be asked such a question is a testament to the school’s level of influence. Geothermal analysis, laser 3D scanning and other such advance techniques not only put it at the forefront of a booming industry, but also show that it has clearly come a long way since J.J. Beringer first gave his lecture in 1887.

Nevertheless, the key ingredient to CSM’s success is, and always has been, its staff and students and these have always remained the same thanks to a strong identity and evident passion. The golden age of mining in Cornwall may be long gone, but the Cornish miner is still here and is still helping to carry the CSM motto across the world, to “Work hard, play hard”.

 

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‘School of Rock: Camborne School of Mines’ is taken from our February/March 2012. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.

MEET THE CHEF: Paul Stephens and Ian Trevaskis of Bustophers Bistro

This month we joined Head Chef Paul Stephens and Junior Sous Chef Ian Trevaskis of the kitchen team at Bustophers Bistro in Truro where we talked childhood memories, famous foodie influences and the appeal of this bustling bistro.

Bustophers aims to preserve their rustic, down to earth approach to both their traditional bistro food and the atmosphere that welcomes clients. As well as the restaurant the establishment also welcomes passers by for a morning coffee using freshly ground Cornish coffee beans or an evening tipple after a long day in the office, or for the more intimate occasion there is a private wine cellar and separate conference room available for private parties and functions.

Bustophers Bistro and Bar

What makes Bustophers so appealing?

Paul- I think it’s a combination of both the atmosphere and the quality of the food, we have reverted back to more classic bistro style dishes to get more families who might be tempted by more affordable prices.

Ian – Bustophers has developed a strong reputation between diners and local businesses in Truro. It’s been here a long time and has a strong client base.

Do you think you work well as a team and is this important?

Paul – It’s important to work well as a team in the kitchen and create that balance of professionalism and friendship. We spend a good 14 hours a day together so if you don’t get along that would create issues.

Ian – You spend more time with your work colleagues than you do with any of your friends and loved ones so a good working relationship is key.

How do you decide on new dishes?

Paul- Generally we take a moment to find out which ingredients are in season and then we all sit down as a team and discuss possible options. New dishes are then presented via our specials board to test the water and see which dishes deserve to be incorporated in to the menu. None of the dishes remain static we’re always making little changes to keep them fresh and different.

Bustophers Bar and Bistro, Truro

Where would you say your passion for food stems back to?

Ian – My passion for food really traces back to my time working abroad, I used to work in New Zealand and cooking was always an enjoyable hobby for me. I’m generally just a foodie and love both cooking and more importantly eating.

Paul – My passion developed from more of a work point of view, and I didn’t initially have any interest in becoming a chef. The idea came to light following a food photography project, which involved going in to the kitchen and getting up close with the chefs as they worked. I enjoyed the atmosphere and so started some shifts as a chef and gradually grew to love it.

Who would you say is your main clientele?

Paul – In terms of clientele we generally find that it varies and that we tend to get more families at the weekends and couples and businesses during the week. Although slightly set back from the centre of Truro we find that we are extremely central for businesses.

Bustophers Bistro and Bar, Truro

Which dishes from your menu are the most popular?

Ian/Paul – We find that are most popular dishes are either the burger or the lamb shank. People generally choose the burger as a safe option and the lamb is always good at this time of year as a warm, comforting dish. We also have a new range of fish dishes on our specials board everyday, so this tends to sell out a lot of the time.

Do you source all your ingredients locally?

Paul – We try to source all of our produce from local suppliers. I have meetings with our vegetable supplier and obviously look at what ingredients are in season.

Ian – For our fish specials we have a conversation with our fishmonger every morning to find out what they have fresh that morning from the market. So what we serve that evening is freshly caught that morning.

How would you describe each of your cooking styles?

Paul – We all have different skills and come from different backgrounds, so we try to incorporate all of these together. I have been trained more in fine dining where as our Sous Chef, has been trained by Gary Rhodes, also I have worked in many bistros in London so there are a number of skills and experiences to combine. I would never want to pigeon-hole myself in to having a particular style.

What are your earliest food memories?

Paul – My earliest food memory would be when I was eight or nine and I decided to experiment with cheese. I would put it on a plate and melt it in the microwave and then roll it up and eat it.

Ian- When I was growing up I remember my mum always baking buns and little cakes and me and my brother used to fight over who would lick the wooden spoon.

Bustophers Bistro and Bar

Who are your biggest influences in the food world?

Paul – My biggest influence in the food world would be Heston Blumenthal, although we don’t use many of his inventive ideas in our menu I enjoy his experimental technique.

Ian – Mine would have to be Gordon Ramsey and Tom Kerridge who is the owner of two Michelin star, Hands and Flowers gastro pub in Marlow.

Are you looking to make any changes to the menu?

Paul – We’re working on a new menu now, which is more of a Bistro style with comforting dishes like hotpots.

Recipe

Venison, red cabbage slaw, parsnip and red wine sauce

Bustophers Bistro and Bar

One of favourite dishes at the moment, very seasonal with the game and it has a nice temperature contrast with the coleslaw, which is served cold. Serves 2.

Ingredients:

2 Venison steaks

1 small red cabbage

1 cartons apple juice

Mayonnaise

1 apples, grated

4 parsnips

1 onions, diced

Knob of Butter

1 bottle tonic water

Thyme, picked and chopped

Double cream

100ml red wine

100ml port

1litres venison stock

1 litre chicken stock

1 onion, sliced

1 star anise

1 packet candied beetroot

Method:

To make the slaw, slice the red cabbage, removing any stalk, and place in a pan. Cover with apple juice and cook on a low heat until the cabbage is soft. Remove the cabbage and allow to cool. Reduce the liquid to syrup. Once cooled, add the syrup to the cabbage with enough mayo to blind. Finish with the grated apple.

To make the puree, peel and dice the parsnips. Put in a pan with the diced onions, thyme, a couple of knobs of butter and the tonic water. Cover and cook on a low heat until the parsnips are soft. Add a splash of cream and blend until smooth.

To make the sauce, caramelise the sliced onion with the star anise. Add the wine and port and reduce by 2 thirds. Add the stocks and reduce to coating consistency.

Season the venison steaks, and cook in oil in a hot pan for a couple of minutes on each side. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. The steaks should be served very pink, if cooked anymore the meat can become though.

Quarter the candied beetroot and warm slightly under the grill.

To Serve:

To assemble the dish swipe the parsnip puree across the plate, and place the coleslaw on top. Fan the beetroots alongside the puree. Slice the venison and place on top of the coleslaw. Finish with the red wine sauce.


 

Bustophers Bar Bistro

62 Lemon Street
Truro
Cornwall
TR1 2PN

01872 279029

www.bustophersbarbistro.com

 

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‘MEET THE CHEF: Paul Stephens and Ian Trevaskis of Bustophers Bistro’ is taken from our February/March 2013, Vol.2 Issue 16. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.

Port Navas Oysters

The artist and former Oysterman Stuart Hodges, who died in 2010, had the reputation of packing oysters faster than the eye could follow and could hold a cluster of 30 oysters in one hand.  Jill, Stuart’s wife writes about the industry and the lives of the remarkable Oystermen.

Port Navas is a small hamlet in the parish of Constantine just off the tidal estuary of the Helford River.  It’s quaint Cornish cottages have barely altered since they were built except perhaps in ownership.  At the end of the village down the road beside the creek lies a hidden gem.  This is the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm.

Sorting through oysters

In the mid 1950s the building, or depot, was replaced as the original premises were made of wood and corrugated iron sheets allowing the sea to flow under the building.  It was preserved with tar and red lead and as a result it lasted some forty years despatching many millions of oysters to the UK markets.

The new building is like a cross between a boathouse and a bungalow.  It was managed by four generations of the Hodges family from 1890 until 2005.  Len Hodges was the last manager until he retired, Len along with his brother Stuart working with him was later joined by his son Lindsey.  The Helford River, on which the Oyster Farm sits, was originally owned by the Church of England before the Duchy of Cornwall took it over in 1908.

Fresh oysters

Oysters were originally considered food for the poor but as times and food fashions changed they developed into the food for the wealthy. Oysters were transported each day by train to London with the result that 75,000 Cornish oysters were distributed to famous London restaurants every week.

Despite the Helford Estuary being free from pollution the Oysters are sensitive to weather and riverbed conditions.  In the winter of 1963 easterly gales raged for weeks and silted up some of the oyster beds suffocating half of the oyster stock.  In 1964 three quarters of the oysters were natives of the Helford River with the remainder being brought from Portugal at two years old and left to fatten for another three years.

Once they were collected Oysters were separated into five grades depending on weight with grade one being the largest. Despite the Helford oysters being on the small side they contain quite a lot of meat compared to the size of the shell and are therefore thought to be better than the larger oysters.

During the time the Hodge’s family members managed the oyster farm dredgers chugged up the river to the mouth of the creek that is called Pedn Billy. The boats would travel towards Calamansac, The Pool, Pill Bar, Frenchman’s Creek, Tremayne Quay and Groyne Point where the colonies of oysters lay on their beds.

The only indication that beneath the blue-green waters there were oysters at a depth of four to five fathoms (24 to 30 feet) when the tide is high werer the thin stakes that stood out ten feet above the waterline.

The boats drifted while the triangular dredge attached to a stout hemp rope was cast.  The boats would chug along for a few minutes then stop to drift again while the dredge was hauled up by hand and emptied on the deck.

The good oysters were then put into trays and the seaweed, stones and shell debris, and the oysters that were too small were tipped back into the sea.  The size of an oyster was determined by a heavy brass ring specially designed for the purpose.  If an oyster slipped through the ring it was considered too small and was therefore returned to the river.

Oyster Shell

At spring tides the oyster boats went out at full or half tide so that the men could go ashore at low tide to ‘trig’.  This involved picking up oysters by hand off the shore and maintaining the beds before the tide came in again.  Beds were levelled off by shovels to make them flat and clear of mud as oysters could be lost on uneven beds.

Oystermen were often coopers as they had to know how to knock up a barrel or a box and also had to make nets for the dredges.  These days the boxes are already made.  An Oystermen also had to know how to hold twenty oysters at a time in their hands and pack them deep shell down.

When the letter R was not in the name of the month – May to August inclusive – it was time for boat repairs and painting, dredge repairs, painting the oyster farm, and maintaining moorings, oyster beds and oyster bed markers.

The Oyster Farm has changed hands since the Hodges family ran it.  It is now run under licence.  Like many industries it has changed over the years and is not as prolific as it used to be when it had 12 workmen.  When the family managed the oyster farm there were two oyster dredgers working at a time hauling and casting the dredges by hand.

These days it is now all done mechanically. To the Oysterman of the River Fal the mechanical approach seems highly irregular as River Fal Oysterman still use haul tow or sail boats.  The River Fal Oystermen see their methods as preserving the volume of stock and the hand dredging as a means to stop the suffocation of the oysters.

Click on page two for a piece written by Stuart Hodges before he died.

Three Of The Best Cornish Tea Companies

Put the kettle on and enjoy a cup of tea by one of these Cornish companies!

Tregothnan

Tregothnan is internationally known as the home of English tea. Inspired by a tradition stretching back generations, they began growing England’s first and only tea (Camellia sinensis) in 1999. Tea now thrives on the estate lining the tranquil waters of the Fal estuary and the range continues to develop. Today they are still as passionate as ever about tea and continue to experiment, create, and innovate, inspired by their exquisite botanical gardens.

The Cornish Tea & Coffee Co.

Located in the Pannier Market in Truro, The Cornish Tea & Coffee Co. pride themselves on stocking more than ninety types of loose leaf teas and herbal infusions as well as more than twenty types of freshly roasted coffees. Treat yourself to a range of teas including black, green, white and rare flavours.

cornish tea

Daymer Bay Iced Tea Co.

As warmer weather approaches the thought of a hot cuppa doesn’t always hit the spot and Daymer Bay Iced Tea Co. could have just the solution. They have created eight natural iced tea flavours ranging from peach, mango, lemon and sour cherry to apple, mandarin, spearmint and elderflower.

 

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HOTEL REVIEW: St Ives Harbour Hotel, Porthminster

myCornwall pack a bag for a night at the St Ives Harbour Hotel.

Clustered on the West Coast of Cornwall, the bustling town of St Ives attracts people to its shores all year round due to its vibrant art scene, sweeping beaches and chic boutiques.

Stretched across the striking landscape of Porthminster Bay, the luxurious St Ives Harbour Hotel and Spa is ideally situated to take in the beauty and charm of the surrounding town whilst being a short stroll from the soft sand of Porthminster Beach.

St Ives Harbour Hotel

On first impressions the hotel looks classically stylish yet unassuming and I am pleasantly surprised by the efficient plan for parking in the form of a building opposite the hotel and the clever use of a car lift. As I walk towards the entrance my attention is drawn to the stunning unspoilt view, sweeping down from the hotel and out to sea, a true picture of Cornwall in all its finery.

The reception is bright and inviting and the surrounding furnishings emphasise a sense of opulence that we later find to be continued throughout the hotel. Upon collecting our key, we make an early dinner reservation and head in search of our room.

As we pass through a number of doors and winding hallways we are given the feeling of belonging to a hidden wing of the hotel creating an appealing sense of privacy. Entering our suite we are immediately drawn to a luxurious four-poster bed, in a bright and spacious room, the furnishings are lavish and comfortable, but perhaps most impressive of all is an adjoining balcony providing us with a magnificent view down across Porthminster beach and out across St Ives.

Winding back through the belly of the building we pass through a vast lounge area complete with elegant sofa’s and catch a glimpse of the restaurant ahead. The food smells delicious and I can’t wait to taste the culinary creations on offer.

St Ives Harbour Hotel

We are led to a table by the window allowing us to admire the scenery as we tuck in to delicate dishes created using local produce. Both myself and my partner opted for the confit chicken balls with shallot and tarragon puree and beetroot syrup, a deliciously light dish that led us on to our main course. I chose pan-fried sea bass served with purple potato and a tomato compote while my partner decided on the grilled rib-eye steak, French fries, grilled tomato and peppercorn sauce, and no meal would be complete without a sweet treat to round off the evening.

It was an easy choice to make with my favourite desert on offer, a vanilla panna cotta with meringues and strawberry jelly and for my partner a divine dark, milk and white chocolate trio. The meal was a delight to the senses and full of subtle flavours.

We awoke the next morning to the sound of waves crashing on the beach and seagulls calling. After a delicious breakfast in the restaurant from a choice of continental and cooked dishes we headed to the hotel’s latest luxury addition, the onsite spa. With a cluster of four treatment rooms, an indoor heated swimming pool, sauna and crystal steam room the morning was sure to be one of pure relaxation. We were booked in for one of their most popular treatments, a back, neck and shoulder massage using divine holistic products and ESPA therapy techniques. Thirty minutes later and we both emerged feeling pampered and stress free. A truly beautiful space where the stresses of daily life are left at the door.

St Ives Harbour Hotel

The staff at the St Ives Harbour Hotel pride themselves in maintaining a luxury establishment and their passion for both their positions and the people who visit is clear for all to see. A slice of paradise not to be missed.

 

St Ives Harbour Hotel – Porthminster, The Terrace, St.Ives, Cornwall TR26 2BN
01736 795221

 

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MEET THE CHEF: Daniel Dennis at the St Ives Harbour Hotel

myCornwall interviewed Daniel Dennis, Head Chef at the St Ives Harbour Hotel.

Daniel Dennis, Head Chef at St Ives Harbour Hotel has a lot to offer locals and tourists alike, who are looking for an exquisite dining experience to enhance their coastal visit. Set back in to the cliff edge, the hotel offers diners classic dishes whilst enjoying one of the best views in St Ives, the unspoilt stretch of Porthminster beach. So who is the man behind the mastery?

St Ives Harbour Hotel

I started cooking at a very young age and began my first job working in a kitchen at 14 through the ‘By Word of Mouth’ catering company in London. I then won a scholarship to Claridges where I worked for six years before moving down to Devon and working for Dart Mariner in Dartmouth. My next move took me to Salcombe Harbour Hotel and finally here at St Ives.

To be a good chef you have to have a certain amount of discipline and you have to really want to do it. The modern chef not only has to understand what their customers want but also what the business demands are and what ingredients are available to them. There’s no point me wanting English asparagus in the winter, you have to work with the seasons. You have to understand a lot of different elements and then tie them all together.

When seeking inspiration I tend to look to chefs like Heston Blumenthal and restaurants like El Bulli and Noma. All we’re doing is reinventing something that somebody did years before. We’re taking classic dishes and adding our own unique twist. That’s one of the Harbour Hotel’s unique appeals that they have the Harbour Classics, the owner likes and believes in those classical values of cooking and has a focus on using seasonal produce.

St Ives Harbour Hotel

A high percentage of our products are sourced locally and I’ve built up a rapport with many of our suppliers. We have a local dairy, Mounts Bay Dairy, as well as a local egg supplier, local butcher and fish supplier.  These local ingredients form the key elements of each of our dishes and the aim is to try and serve the best that you can and put a bit of love in to it.

My earliest food memories are with my granddad. He was a great cook and if we were cooking a Chinese or an Indian we would go to China Town or Brick Lane and buy all the ingredients from authentic shops. Nowadays most supermarkets stock the products but back in the 90’s you didn’t get soy sauce everywhere.

Simple ingredients like arborio rice for a risotto are underrated in cooking. You can make some truly fantastic things with it, it doesn’t have to be loaded with foie gras or truffles, you can make very cheap ingredients very tasty, and again if you put that little bit of love in to it then you’re going to get it back.

Choosing one food hero is no easy task. I trained under John Williams, who is now the Executive Chef at the Ritz, and is a great ambassador for the development of young chefs, but I also admire Martyn Nail the Executive chef at Claridges, and a great German chef called Eyck Zimmer. You have the big names like Gordon Ramsey but you also have the workhorses hidden behind the scenes. I couldn’t pick an obvious name, as there are so many.

Recipe

Monkfish with tomato, basil and olive compote and purple potatoes

St Ives Harbour Hotel

Serves 4

Ingredients

800g Monkfish

300g Plum tomatoes

100ml Extra virgin olive oil

100g Olives

1 Shallot finely diced

1 Sprig of basil

50ml Red wine vinegar

1 tspn sugar

1 handful of herb salad

500g Purple potato

Method

Start by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds and plunging them into ice water. Peel the skins off and cut in to four, remove the seeds and dice into ½ cm squares. Cut the olives in to quarters and mix with the tomatoes, olive oil, shallot, vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan. Boil the potatoes in their skins in salted water until tender. Remove the skins and crush with the back of a folk, add a knob of butter and season. Gently warm the tomato mix not allowing it to boil, remove from the heat and finish with basil and season to taste. Heat a non-stick pan with a little oil and place the monkfish in the pan. Colour on the one side until golden then turn, and add a knob of butter, place in a preheated oven at 180°c for 6 minutes. Allow to rest and carve into 4 before serving

To serve

Drain the monkfish on to a cloth and spoon the potato on to the plate. Add some spinach and place the fish on top. Spoon some of the compote around the fish and top with some dressed herb salad.

 

St Ives Harbour Hotel

Porthminster

The Terrace, St Ives, Cornwall

TR26 2BN

01736 795221

stives@harbourhotels.co.uk

www.stives-harbour-hotel.co.uk

 

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‘MEET THE CHEF: Daniel Dennis of The Bucher’s Bistro, Newquay’ is taken from our August/September 2012, Vol.2 Issue 13. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.

 

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We have grand plans for the myCornwall site, our aim is to become the home of Cornwall online.  Whether you are Cornish born and bred, live in  Cornwall, a Cousin Jack or Jill or would like to know more about Cornish history, we hope you will find something of interest from our comprehensive collection of articles, news, views and opinions that cover the globe.

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Mark Pugh
Editor

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