Posts Tagged ‘Cornwall’

“Troubles come not single spies but in battalions…” (Claudius in Hamlet)


Russian actor Nikolai Massalitinov as Claudius with Olga Knipper as Gertrude, fully braced for “troubles”; in the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet–a few years ago!

First it was the TV–no picture from the UK– satellite dish has to be larger now to receive the BBC; then the temperature control on the oven called it a day and now neither of the keys will open the car doors electronically.

And to cap it all in this catalogue of woes (or self pitying monologue), three recipes I was hoping to write up turned out to be duds!

Not exactly a battalion of troubles compared to this horror the folks in Cornwall have been facing.

But enough to tickle the imagination and set off a search for alternatives.

French TV or a good book/internet stuff by the fire? No contest for much of an evening.

No oven? no matter…

Top o’the stove to ye all me ‘arties!

Last night I remembered the spicy dal in the fridge from a couple of nights back–firm enough to form little patties to fry lightly in olive oil.

I had spotted some locally grown endive yesterday at Castres market–those torpedo shaped lettuce that intrigue, but can flummox too. What to do with them other than add to salad?

This recipe from my new book,  Healthy Eating for Life, suggests cooking them in the oven. But no working oven!

I excavated  one good fennel bulb left in the fridge too.

This recipe for pot-roasted fennel from my first cookbook, Delicious Dishes for Diabetics, sautés them slowly on top o’ the stove.


Solution: cook ’em together–on top!!

Sweet fennel, plus the faint bitterness of the endive, finished with squeeze of lemon.

I halved the prepared endives lengthwise to shorten the cooking; then browned them in two fluid ounces of olive oil on a medium flame, uncovered, with the fennel (sliced top to bottom in 8 pieces) and garlic (unpeeled), for ten minutes.

Added four fluid ounces of water to the pan and cooked the mix–covered–for a further twenty minutes–until the vegetables are tender.

We dined last night reflecting on how lucky we are to live in a rectory between a church and cemetery, on a rise where the rain runs downhill bypassing us.


We say it often: The ancients knew a thing or two about where to build their sacred spots.

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We were filming the second series of Poldark in spring 1977 and were based for a while near the seaside town of Padstow on Cornwall’s north coast.
On May 1st the town is taken over by the ‘Obby ‘Oss (Hobby Horse) Festival–an excuse for a day of communal good natured madness and merriment, with obvious origins in traditional fertility festivals that pop up everywhere at this time of year.
This is the account of it I wrote in my book Making Poldark .
 We’d finished filming the expedition to France,

"Operation Rescue"!

 and it was May Day;  a group of us decided to go to Padstow for the Festival.
We arrived at about 7 pm, and from far away we could hear the beat of the drum and the music.It had been going on for at least twelve hours and the atmosphere was “jolly” –you might say. We rounded the bend and came into a square and there it was! The umpteenth parade of the hobbyhorse in full swing.
The drumbeat was mesmeric and the man inside the hobbyhorse never stopped moving–round and round he went, tempting and teasing the circle of young maidens. A pagan ritual full of fun and danger. Not English at all.

Someone in the crowd recognised me and although George Collins, my dresser, insisted I was his cousin Fred, and not Poldark,  they weren’t convinced!  So we moved on quickly to a pub down the hill.
The beer and the cider were flowing freely, and it happened again and again.
I was bought pasties and pints everywhere. 
A man in one of the pubs came up and said, “You’ve put Cornwall on the map. Thank you.” I was amazed and flattered, a  little embarrassed and by this time somewhat stewed.
We settled down in a corner to listen to the accordionist. We sang and we danced and everyone forgot about Poldark. It was a great night.
I suppose I was naive to think I could go to a big Cornish festival like this and remain anonymous–television is a powerful and popular medium–but as for “putting Cornwall on the map”– on the evidence of this particular evening–it later occurred to me that it might be the other way around.

The Poldarks enjoying a previous 'Obby 'Oss fayre?

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This cherished treasure of the far west of England has achieved special status.

The European commission ruled yesterday that the Cornish Pasty has won Protected Geographical Status or PGS; in other words, it’s officially  Pretty Good Stuff!

The EU ruling states that a genuine Cornish pasty has to have a distinctive “D” shape, and be crimped on one side, not on the top.

“The texture of the filling is chunky, made up of uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef (not less than 12.5%), swede, potato, and onion with a light seasoning.” Not good for type two-ers!

I know something about this great local delicacy. I spent an entire morning’s filming inside the coach that completed Ross Poldark’s return from the American War, the first scene of the series, having the intricacies of pasty making explained to me, between takes, by a delightful lady extra called Elizabeth Coad.

I also learned from a former miner the reason these beauties have an indented ridge over the top. Apparently during a day’s work at the tin or copper face, often two to three thousand feet below the surface, a miner’s fingers would become impregnated with poison from the metal and the ridge of pastry was what he held  the pasty by, to be discarded afterwards. The pasties often contained a two course meal–the meat and potato in one half and apple in the other! Miners used to leave a small portion of their pasties down the mine after their shift for the ghosts of old miners, the Knockers they called them.

Real Cornish miners having a pasty break.

"Miners" in costume.

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