The Stable, Falmouth

Earlier this year, I was very kindly invited to review a new pizza and cider restaurant in Newquay called The Stable.

The concept was simple but executed well – an extensive and unusual pizza menu featuring lots of local produce, with names related to local landmarks, and a cider menu with 80 bottled and draught ciders, included several local brands.

IMG_2358_edited-1

If you read my review you’ll see that I was very impressed, and so when I heard that a new branch of the South West chain was going to be opening in Falmouth, I was more than happy to say yes to an invite of the launch which took place last night.

One thing all of the Stable restaurants has in common is being located in interesting and special buildings and locations. While the Stable in Newquay has stunning panoramic views of Fistral Beach, the Falmouth restaurant has taken over the old custom house overlooking the harbour, and is a building with real character. The Stable team have spent a year restoring the building to have it ready for opening, and the time and effort spent on it definitely shows.

IMG_2443_edited-1

Along with some hungry and thirsty friends, I arrived last night and headed straight into the upstairs restaurant to try out some of the ciders.

If you’re indecisive like me, the tasting board is ideal – five 200ml glasses for £7.50, with a card explaining which is which. As I was driving, I shared the board with my friends, and their opinions were split on which were the best – one was a  fan of the Apple Slayer, while another preferred the sparking ciders, especially the Stable Drop Gold.

We were also big fans of one of the local bottled ciders on sale, Cornish Orchards Vintage – it’s a 7.2% cider, more commonly known as ‘night wrecker’…

Pizza was being handed out on boards by waitresses (and very young children) walking around the room. Between us, we tried the West Country Porker, with chorizo, mozzarella and rocket; the Lamb Roast with lamb, sweet potato and goats cheese; the Hawaiian with ham, pineapple and avocado; the Red Ruby Rustler with ground beef, chorizo, mushrooms and ham and the Smithick Scorcher, with chopped pork and Naga chillies.

Our group favourite was the Lamb Roast, but all were good with lots of toppings on thin and crispy bases – as I said before, a lot better than you’ll find in any other pizza chain around here.

The launch evening was extremely busy, with a band playing in the downstairs room which also houses the impressive cider display behind the bar – seriously, try choosing from all of these!

The Stable in Falmouth opens to the public tonight, and I’m sure it will be a great success – the one in Newquay is ALWAYS super busy, and with the same quality of pizza and cider I’m sure the Falmouth one will be the same.

Advertisements

Blueberry Bluebird Cake

While I haven’t been doing a lot of general baking recently (brownies, cupcakes, cookies etc) I have done quite a few cakes for special occasions, which I’ve really enjoyed as not only does it mean they’re out of my kitchen and I can’t eat them all myself, but it’s also given me a chance to try out some different types of decorating.

Back in June, the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club held a meeting in Truro, the town where I live, at a small cafe/cake shop called The Baking Bird.

The theme, naturally, was ‘free as a bird’, which could either be interpreted as being free to make whatever you want, or as I took it something with a avian link.

It took me quite a while to decide what to make, but in the end I decided to go for a bluebird theme, with a blueberry flavour to match.

I didn’t write down the exact recipe, but I based it on several ‘blue velvet’ cake recipes I found online, with fresh blueberries added in to the batter, a lime sugar syrup brushed over the sponges, and a layer of cheesecake in the middle (that came from this recipe).

To finish it off, I made a white chocolate buttercream and decorated it with fondant icing cut out birds, in three different shades of blue using templates I drew and cut out myself.

The blue velvet sponge didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped – I think I had the wrong shade of blue food colouring and it was more green than blue – I really loved the flavours and the addition of the cheesecake layer, and I thought the decoration worked well too – people could at least tell it was meant to be birds!

I have quite a few more fancy cakes to post, which I’ll try to do interspersed with actual recipes, but hopefully the photos will help if you need some decorating inspiration!

Gingham Chicken fudge – review

Sometimes, people surprise you with their loveliness.

Hazel Parsons is someone who I don’t really know, but have met though my housemate as they both work in the wedding industry in Cornwall.

A little while ago, she posted some photos on Twitter of some Gingham Chicken fudge which was being used for wedding favours. I commented saying that I’d heard their stuff was good but had never tried it, then the next thing I knew I had a tasty parcel waiting for me at the delivery office!

There was absolutely no reason for Hazel to send me the fudge – she doesn’t work for the company, wasn’t trying to promote it – she just did it to be nice. How lovely is that?!

I figured the best way of justifying the eating of an entire box of fudge was if I then reviewed it for the blog – so here goes.

Gingham Chicken is a Cornish fudge company, based in Liskeard. I first heard about them through Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, but hadn’t seen the fudge on sale anywhere so never got around to trying any.

The flavour I was sent was sea salt and pecan nuts – a flavour combination I haven’t seen in fudge before but sounded like it could work well.

Regular fudge can be too sweet, but the salt balances it nicely, and Gingham Chicken have got the balance just right. Add pecan nuts, which I love and snack on all the time, and it becomes delicious fudge heaven!

Texture wise, it was perfect for me. I think fudge lovers can be divided into two camps – crumbly or soft and buttery. I’m in the crumbly camp, and that’s exactly what this was – although the one downside to this is that it didn’t fare brilliantly in the post and there wee quite a lot of crumbs left at the bottom of the box.

I would 100% recommend this fudge, and I can’t wait to try more Gingham Chicken flavours soon. And should anyone be in a generous mood, leave a comment and I’ll send you my address…

 

Tropical desert island cake

Sometimes I have an idea for a cake that in my head is completely and utterly amazing, but I don’t quite have the skills to turn my vision into reality and I’m left feeling a little deflated.

Luckily, this cake was one of the rare occasions when the finished bake turned out EXACTLY as I had imagined, and I was very pleased indeed!

It was made for my first Clandestine Cake Club of the year, which took place at the gorgeous St Michael’s Hotel in Falmouth. The theme was ‘ship shape’, and my thought process was basically ships – sea – shells – island = tropical dessert island cake.

I knew what I wanted it to look like before I had decided what flavour it was going to be, but it had to be tropical in both taste and appearance, and a nautical cake has to include some form of rum…

So, I decided to use a Dan Lepard rum-soaked coconut sponge recipe, which I’d previously used for a coconut and chocolate cake, paired with a white chocolate mousse filling and buttercream icing both flavoured with a homemade mango and lime curd.

The ‘sand’ was made by throwing all the scraps of cake leftover after levelling the layers into a food processor and blitzing into crumbs, which were both the perfect texture and colour.

Blue icing flecked with desiccated coconut for the waves and white chocolate shells with a slightly marbled yellow effect completed the desert island look, and I think it ended up being a pretty attractive cake!

I got great comments from the people who tried it cake club, and from my housemates, so I think I can safely say it was a success. The cake itself was light and managed not to be too sweet even with the mousse and buttercream, and the flavours worked really well together.

Now all I need is an excuse to make it again!

Tropical desert island cake (loosely based on Dan Lepard’s coconut cake)

  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of one lime and 2 tbsp rum to drizzle

Start by heating the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the desiccated coconut and stir in the rum and vanilla bean paste, then leave for at least half an hour to soften the coconut (I actually left it overnight).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold a third of it into the batter. Stir in half the coconut mixture, fold in another third of the flour, the remaining coconut mixture and then finally the last third of the flour.

Divide between three 7″ round baking tins and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 25-30 minute, or until golden and springy. Leave to cool completely, then level off the tops, keeping the offcuts for the sand. Squeeze the lime over the tops of the sponges, and then drizzle with the rum.

For filling and icing:

  • 200g (ish) mango and lime curd (I used this recipe but used less sugar)
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • desiccated coconut to sprinkle

To make the mousse, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Whisk the cream until soft-medium peaks form. To try and avoid the chocolate seizing when it’s added to the cream, I start by adding a spoonful of cream into the chocolate bowl to loosen it, then add that back to the cream and fold in. Add about 4 tbsp of the mango curd and give it a quick whisk – not too much or it will start to thin. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, then divide into two to sandwich the sponge layers, and put the whole cake back in the fridge to stop the mousse spilling out the sides.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then sift in half the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, then finally add the mango curd – I think I used about 4 tbsp again, but you’ll need to use your judgement of the consistency of the buttercream – too much curd and it will be too runny to ice with.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread about 3/4 of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides so there’s a good layer of icing all over. Use a cocktail stick to draw out the pattern of the waves all around the sides of the cake.

Throw the cake offcuts you saved into the food processor and blitz to make crumbs, then gently press these into the icing on top of the cake and down the sides as far as the top of the waves. Add a little blue food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel in Ice Blue) to the remaining icing and beat until fully mixed in, then use this to spread or pipe onto bottom half of the cake to fill in the waves. Finish by sprinkling a little desiccated coconut on top of each wave to look like the foam.

Finally, decorate the top of the cake with shell-shaped chocolates – I made my own using a cheap mould from Hobbycraft, but you could definitely use some of the Guylian-style praline filled chocolates if you want.

And there you have it, a tropical desert island cake, that tastes as good as it looks!

Vintage Clandestine Cake Club

Vintage black forest cake

After several months of no Clandestine Cake Club action, as soon as Cornwall’s September event was announced I knew I wanted to go, but the fact it was to be held at a winery made it 100% essential that I did.

Knightor Winery is the only winery in Cornwall with it’s own restaurant, which was our venue for the morning. Sadly with work to go to I couldn’t sample the wines, but I’ve heard extremely good things, especially about their sparkling wines – a must-try for the future for sure.

The theme was vintage, either as in wine or as in retro, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to attempt to recreate the stunning cake demonstrated by Charlotte White at the Cake and Bake Show.

Burlesque Baking with Charlotte White

Compared with Charlotte’s it was far from perfect, but overall I was definitely pleases with the result, especially considering it’s only the second time I’ve properly attempted a full iced and decorated cake like this.

Inside were three layers of chocolate cake, sandwiched with a cream cheese icing and my special cherry jam, given to me by one of the host families I stayed with in Romania earlier in the year.

It seemed to go down pretty well with the other cake-clubbers and there wasn’t a lot left to take home at the end of the day which is always a good sign!

There were some super tasty cakes on offer, I think my favourite was the coconut and berry, or maybe one of the coffee and walnut… although the two red wine chocolate cakes were delicious too! Here are some of the treats I had to choose from:

DSCF4242

Thanks again to Ellie for organising, and to Knightor Winery for hosting – can’t wait for the next one!

Avocado chocolate fudge cake (vegan)

Avocado chocolate fudge cake

As this was the final cake to be made with my lovely vegetables from Riverford, I was glad to have the opportunity to take a couple of slices to Lynn and Steve, the couple who run the Cornwall Home Delivery franchise, so they could see what I’d been doing with their produce.

I was a little nervous, as when I was making this it seemed impossible that I would end up with anything even half resembling a cake .

It may well be the strangest recipe I’ve ever tried – when I was at the point of having a mixing bowl filled with what was essentially sweet green water, that apparently was going to become a beautiful sponge cake, it was quite hard to keep the faith, but by some sort of magical baking chemistry it actually worked!

The sponge was a little different in texture to a regular sponge, slightly more chewy, but definitely edible and for my first vegan sponge I was very happy. The icing was a revelation – swapping butter for avocado creates an incredibly rich, fudgy, almost saucy chocolate icing that I’m sure is healthy enough to just eat by the spoonful…

Lynn and Steve seemed to like the cake, and I definitely think we should strike some sort of deal where they give me vegetables and I return with cake – that’s a fair swap I think?!

Lynn very kindly agreed to a short Q&A so I could find out more about the home delivery service, and her own experiences of baking with vegetables. This is how it went…

Q. So, you’re from Nottingham originally – what made you decide to up sticks to Cornwall? (Other than it being the best county in the UK of course…)

A. We moved here to take on the business, but we did already have a love for Cornwall as we both used to holiday here every year.

Q. How did you first discover Riverford, were you a customer before you took on the business?

A. Yes, we were Riverford customers for about 8 years and we were really interested in their business, so it was a natural choice to choose Riverford when we were thinking of running our own business.

Q. Have you ever had veg boxes from any other companies, and if you have how do you think Riverford compares?

A. We tried a few other box schemes local to where we used to live, but found that the breadth of choice of produce was extremely limited and the quality just wasn’t as good.

Q. And how does the home delivery service in Cornwall differ to a regular order from Riverford?

A. We’re extremely lucky, as we’re be based so close to our head office and main growing farm in Devon so have access to all of the produce from there, but we are also able to supply both veg and meat directly from Cornish farmers, so our customers are getting more very local produce.

Q. Ok, let’s talk veg – what’s in season right now, what should people expect to see in their boxes in July?

A. Over the next couple of months we’ve got strawberries, kohl rabi, Cornish new potatoes, UK salads, and homegrown herbs – lots to look forward to!

Q. And have you done any baking with vegetables, or do you tend to stick savoury dishes?

A. I use beetroot for beetroot brownies, the Riverford recipe is my favourite (and I’ve tried a few, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and BBC Good Food), I’ve also made lots of different carrot cakes, and chocolate courgette cake in the past.  That’s probably as far as my baking skills go, but it does surprise me how many sweet recipes there are using veg.  It can make something a little bit naughty into something a little more healthy – great for kids.

So thanks once again to Lynn and Steve for my lovely box of veg, and I hope you enjoyed the cake!

Avocado chocolate fudge cake (vegan) (adapted from Joy the Baker and Blissful Eats)

  • 90g avocado (approximately 1 medium)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 20ml white vinegar
  • 30ml vegetable oil
  • 375ml water
  • 35g natural yoghurt (edit: soy yoghurt if you need it to be vegan!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 270g plain flour
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:

  • 90g avocado (approximately 1 medium)
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • pinch sea salt

Start by mashing the avocado into a smooth puree – I found a stick blender was the best for this. Whisk the sugar, white vinegar, vegetable oil, water, yoghurt and vanilla extract into the avocado, until it’s well mixed and looks like slightly scary swamp water. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarb and fold whisk this into the wet mixture, stopping when no lumps remain. Pour into two 7″ greased and lined cake tins and bake at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, puree the avocado as with the cake, then gradually sift in the icing sugar and cocoa powder, beating until smooth. Add the brandy when the mixture starts to get too thick to beat, then continue adding the sugar and cocoa powder – you should end up with a thick, fudgy frosting. Add salt to taste, then spread a thick layer of icing onto the top of one of the cakes, then sandwich with the other. Finish with a dusting of cocoa, then slice and serve.

Discovering the dark arts of chocolate making with Nicky Grant

Have you ever wanted to find out how to make the perfect truffle, or temper chocolate like a pro?

Making perfectly crafted chocolates is a lot harder than it looks, and the tempering process in particular can be especially tricky – getting the chocolate to the right state so that it will set with a beautiful sheen and a crisp snap is something which all amateur chocolate makers aspire to, but all too often fail to achieve.

I’ve certainly had my fair share of problems when attempting to make chocolates, so when I was offered the chance to have a lesson from Cornwall’s top chocolatier, Nicky Grant, I literally jumped at the chance.

Nicky is a phenomenally talented lady, based near Redruth in Cornwall, who as well as making gorgeous handcrafted truffles and chocolates creates amazingly intricate wedding cakes – who on earth would choose a fruitcake with marzipan and sugarpaste when you could have a pure chocolate delight like this?!

On a cold, wet and windy day earlier in the month, I joined five other lovely chocolate loving ladies  – Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, Rachel from Saffron Bunny, Sadie from Cornwall Food and Crash Bang Dollop, blogger and Cornwall Today writer Jessica and local journalist (and my part time colleague) Ellie – at Nicky and her partner Tom’s house for a morning of chocolate education.

It was a good job I’d scoffed down a banana for breakfast on the way, otherwise I might just have dived head first into the huge vat of melted Venezuelan 44% milk chocolate which was sitting on the kitchen table – so tempting!

Tom started by explaining the three things any good quality chocolate must have – a crisp snap, a smooth feel when rubbed on your upper lip, and a satiny sheen finish.

All five senses are involved when tasting chocolate – the sound, feel and look come first, then the aroma and finally the taste, which is what makes eating it such a pleasurable experience. We also learnt that 11am is the optimum time for tasting chocolate, when your taste buds are most active (which is coincidentally around the time most people start to flag while waiting for lunch – perfect!)

Tom then went on to explain the tempering process starting with the science. Chocolate is, using Tom’s favourite word, polymorphic, meaning it can exist in different states, and by its nature it is always trying to reach the next state. Perfectly tempered chocolate must be in Beta 5 state, which is chocolate’s only stable form.

To get it there, first you have to heat the chocolate to it’s melting temperature, which is around 45 degrees for dark but lower for milk and white. You then have to cool it to it’s working temperature, which for the milk chocolate Tom was demonstrating with was 30 degrees. The easiest way to do this is by seeding it with finely chopped, already tempered chocolate, stirring continually to encourage the chocolate crystals to lock together.

To test the temper of the chocolate, Tom showed us a simple method involving dipping a piece of greaseproof paper into the chocolate and laying it out on the work surface to set. If it’s tempered, it will set quickly, in about 3 minutes, and have a nice shine. Untempered, it will take a long time to set, and you will need to reheat the chocolate and start again.

Tom made the whole process look simple, but I will wait until I’ve had a chance to try it for myself before declaring myself a chocolate tempering expert – I will blog the results of my experiments soon!

After going through the tempering process, we moved into Nicky’s working kitchen to learning about making ganache for truffles. I’ve never had too much of a problem making ganache, but it was interesting to find out more about the technical aspects of it – for example I never realised that ganache also needed to be tempered, or that any add-ins such as spirits or liqueurs must be warmed to the same temperature as the ganache.

We had a not entirely planned demonstration of what to do if your ganache splits – either adding more cream or even milk or even just whisking with a balloon whisk can bring it back to a lovely, glossy, chocolatey bowl of heaven. You can see the difference between the smooth milk ganache on the left and the split dark ganache on the right in the photo below, luckily Tom rescued the dark one so it didn’t have to go to waste!

Nicky showed us how to make two different types of truffle – a dark ganache rolled in cocoa powder, and a milk ganache dipped in tempered chocolate and rolled in chocolate flakes. As much as I love dark chocolate, the milk was actually my favourite, and I’m looking forward to recreating it at home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my morning with Nicky and Tom, and left armed with plenty of top tips which I hope will help my chocolate making in the future. We were given recipe sheets for dark truffles and cardamom infused milk truffles, so I can’t wait to give them a go and put everything I learnt into practice.

Huge thanks go to Nicky and Tom for hosting our special bloggers’ lesson – please do take a look at their website, www.nickygrant.com, and if you like fine chocolate I promise you won’t be disappointed with any of their offerings!