Sea Salt Differently- Cornish Sea Salt’s Simple Seasonings Range

Any friends close enough to come near my kitchen will know that I’m not the most accomplished of chefs (I can hear my mother snorting just at the thought of my describing myself as a ‘chef’). But I love food- I dream about it, write about, travel for it- and while I may not possess the most impressive knife skills, or be able to whip up a banging curry in half an hour (isn’t that what chef-boyfriends are for?) I like to think I’m pretty up-there with my general food knowledge. Most my MA was spent eating and then writing about it, and co-running a restaurant with my other half means that most of our evenings are spent talking about food, reading cookbooks or watching re-runs of Masterchef.

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Cornish Sea Salt- The best water means the best salt

So, when Cornish Sea Salt asked me to try out their flavoured sea salt range I jumped at the chance. Any hack to make home-cooking just that little but easier is a winner for me, and I LOVE salt- it’s savoury over sweet any time in our kitchen. The quality of the salt is important, though, and Cornish Sea Salt is the best there is, hailing straight from the beautiful A-grade waters that surround us in the South West. It has over 60 minerals in its make-up, making a superfood that you add to every meal, and its strong saltiness means you can add less for a fuller flavour.

Salt is also pretty necessary- not just for our bodies, but for our cooking. I’m a fiend, and am often wrist-slapped for automatically delving for our pinch-pot before I’ve tasted  supper, and I’m trying my best to control my addiction and really taste what I’m eating before my automatic feedback is just ‘more salt’. That being said, sea salt is still my favourite thing in our cupboard, and Cornish Sea Salt’s Simple Seasonings range makes brightening up your home-cooking quicker, easier and tastier- so you can impress dinner guests with just a pinch. It’s also great for picnics or BBQs if you want to diversify the flavours you’re cooking with and make the preparation super simple. But after much recipe development (aka using them on everything for the last couple of months) I’ve chosen my favourite way to use each Simple Seasonings flavoured sea salt, so you too can cheat yourself one step closer to that chef life.

 

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Make picnics more exciting with Cornish Sea Salt

That’s start with my favourite- the Salt & Peppery. It sounds simple- but Cornish Sea Salt’s blend of four peppers make this a seasoning powerhouse, and it’s great for pretty much everything you’d usually season with good old salt and pepper. My favourite way to use it is on homemade crisps- simply chop up a wrap, however big or small you like, and layer into a baking tray. Drizzle with rapeseed or olive oil, sprinkle with the Salt & Peppery and bake on a high heat for 20 minutes (or until as crispy as you like them).

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Fresh & Zesty, with its tangy blend of lemon and thyme, is great with all seafood- especially prawns- and saves the hassle and waste of zesting your own lemons. I think it’s perfect for roast chicken, infusing flavour, crisping up the skin, and allowing you to skip the whole lemon-up-the-bum saga.

Okay so let’s talk about garlic. I can’t think of a dish that I don’t chuck a clove or to into, so Really Garlicky is amazing for speedy seasoning without the lingering smell on your hands. Sprinkle (liberally) over fresh salmon fillets before baking for a crispy, garlic-infused skin. Serve with tender stem broccoli and soy-sauce laced rice noodles for a tasty weeknight supper that everyone will love (and that only took you 20 minutes).

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Hot & Fiery- the best for avocado on toast!

Probably the most popular of the Simple Seasonings range is the Hot & Fiery– a punch-packing blend of chillies, garlic and tomato that’s perfect for if, like me, you tend to go a little too heavy on the old chilli and end up leaving your dinner guests gasping for air. The blend of Santa Cruz chilli blend and jalapeno pepper gives an intense but balanced heat, and is perfect for your avo on toast- team with mild and creamy feta for a delicious (and speedy brunch).

This range is perfect for anyone who loves food but doesn’t always have the time for complicated cooking- with an ever-increasingly busy schedule it can be so difficult to prioritise what you eat, but with Cornish Sea Salt you can add a sprinkle of flavour to any dish, and with the handy hand-bag friendly pots they’re great for on-the-go too.

I’m always on the lookout for cooking hacks- use the hashtag #SeaSaltDifferently so I can see all your wonderful Simple Seasonings creations!

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St Ives Food Festival

Cornwall and its food scene really is something to be admired.

The fact that a small, largely rural, county produces some of the best food in the world, as Cornwall does (my own restaurant may make this statement just a little biased…), comes as a surprise to some. But it shouldn’t: with a beautiful coastline, roaming fields and a booming tourism trade to please, not to mention the abundance of creative minds that call it home, Cornwall has an expectation to live up to.

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The Resolution Reading Challenge

This year, as ever, I set myself some ludicrous and probably entirely unachievable resolutions. The one I’m most excited about for 2018, though, was one that I actually failed to keep a couple of years ago: although I love to read, it’s something that in my current life climate (doing a Masters, working 30-odd hours a week, watching the entire backlog of Friends on Netflix…) I don’t carve out enough precious time for.

Two years ago I set myself the challenge to read fifty two books in a year- one a week. I knew it was tough, but I figured with all the TV and Instagram scrolling that I engage with daily, it should be easy.

In 2016 I read twenty five books. Less than half of my challenged amount.

But, that’s a hell of a lot more than I read in 2015. It spurred me on, and last year, although I didn’t keep count, I kept reading and I’m pretty sure I broke that twenty five book-barrier.

So I’ve decided to try again, but with some changes to my resolution.

In 2018 I want to read a lot (fifty books would be great). But more importantly, I want to share what I read with Ramajamn. So at the end of every month I challenge myself to write my monthly ‘Round-Up’- a summary of what I’ve read, and whether I think you should (or, as always, should not) read it too.

 

‘It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.’
Oscar Wilde-

I would love to hear about what you’re reading, any awesome books you think should be on my list this year, or if you fancy joining in on the challenge and sharing what you read too.

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Michael Kiwanuka in Exeter- One Year On

Last week Michael Kiwanuka, the enigmatic thirty-year-old London-born soul-pop singer/songwriter returned to Exeter almost exactly one year after his Phoenix gig. This time in the much bigger University hall, and with a larger entourage, Kiwanuka proved just how much success can change a young artist’s performance, even if he doesn’t fully realise it.

The inclusion of the three-piece gospel choir and the wind section (one guy deftly manoeuvring between tenor sax and flute at the drop of a bass note) was a great idea, but not necessarily well-played out. The singers were great, and accentuated Kiwanuka’s voice with harmonies that added depth and character to the more soulful numbers. The saxophone was far too loud, without being properly audible- a wall of sound seemed to emanate from the far-left corner of the stage, and the subtleties of the melody were lost to this sound design malfunction. And the fact that he was adapting between the two instruments so fluently mid-track meant that the sound was never going to be right for either instrument.

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Michael Kiwanuka at the Great Hall, Exeter

The rest of the band were as tight as ever- the lead electric guitar, keys, bass, drums and percussionist have obviously worked together for a lot longer than these new members, and it showed. The guitar especially was beautiful, and played with so much soul that at one climax I heard the person behind me say ‘reminds me a bit of Hendrix’ (perhaps a little hyperbolic, but we’ve all been in the hold of a decent guitarist on a Monday night in Devon).

Kiwanuka himself was on as good a form as ever: his naturally shy stage presence seems to evaporate the moment he plucks either his electric or acoustic, and his voice rings out with a truth that seems implausible from such a young musician. It was, again, only the sound design that let him down. You can tell a vocalist’s mic is caked in too much reverb when they try to tell the audience an amusing anecdote and it gets lost somewhere between him and the third row. Not much of a talker anyway, Kiwanuka’s occasional funny stories were only worthwhile if you were devotedly standing at the front of the hall. It seems strange to me that someone with a voice so naturally full of depth and feeling should need so much layered onto their vocal mic. This made the performance lose a fair amount of its effect, as you would expect only being able to hear half the lyrics would do.

The set list was mixed up a little from last year, with the inclusion of the 2012 top forty single ‘Home Again’. Slightly out of place amongst the plethora of soul-funk pieces surrounding it, this track seemed to hint at a weaker sense of Kiwanuka feeling confident enough to be able to do what he wants at his own gigs. Well received by his audience, it seems he may have decided to do what makes the people (and perhaps his manager?) happy.

And then there’s the encore. Having rounded up what seemed to be a generally well-thought-out and executed set (assuming the sound guys are in-house and not part of the entourage), Kiwanuka and band insisted on giving us, the people supposedly wanting of it, a dramatic and over-played encore. We knew it was going to happen- he was yet to play two of the most important singles of the 2016’s Love and Hate– but there was a small part of me holding on to the idea that the beautiful ending of the first set could be the way Kiwanuka wants to be remembered. I was, of course, wrong.

Kiwanuka thanked the band, one by one, before they took leave of the stage to the roar of the crowd (especially Hendrix-junior). The keys player was the last left standing, beautifully repeating the final two bars of the melody the band had spent fifteen minutes gradually stripping back. Finishing on a cliff-hanger, without satisfying us with the final note to make the perfect cadence, our keys player stood up unconfidently and walked the long way off-stage, without once even looking up, as if rehearsal in the garage was over and his mum had called him for in for his tea. It was beautiful. Celebrating the true nature of good live music, without charm and charisma, just showcasing that one guy at the back who’s a fantastic musician but kind of just forgets the crowd is there, this was a perfect end for a show like this. It was only when the house lights didn’t ping back on that I realised we were now going to stand here for ten minutes waiting for them all to trope back on and give us another two numbers.

Why, Kiwanuka, why?

Please, be confident in your own performance so that it doesn’t warrant this frankly ridiculous notion that you’re not an established and well-loved performer until you’ve made your paying audience scream your name at you because we cannot stand the idea that your hour-and-a-half set is over. Aside from some technical stuff that probably comes together with the venue (which didn’t suit the set-up as much as the much smaller hall from last year), this was a great gig. If only two-album pop stars would realise that they can do whatever they want, without playing up to the audience’s expectations, and that the true Devonian fans will still be there to pretend they understand any of the racial-tension that they pour so authentically into your lyrics.

How to Write About Female Musicians

Writing about female musicians is obviously very important. We’re incredibly under-represented in the media, as we’re constantly reminded by all the media coverage of how not-present we are. Therefore, it’s important to know, once you’ve decided to take the plunge and attempt to represent the minority, what language to use to talk about those enigmatic females that are, bless them, trying to make their way in the man’s world.

 

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First of all, be sure to state as often as possible the fact that they are ‘female’. When discussing a male singer, one might simply describe him as the ‘lead singer’. However, if you’re lead is female it is important to qualify this phrase with as many gender-signifiers as you can squeeze into your word count. For example, ‘frontwoman’ or ‘female vocalist’, or maybe even ‘female frontwoman’ are all good. This is especially helpful to the reader if you’re dealing with, god forbid, a female guitarist or, shock horror, drummer. Make sure to be clear to the reader that they needn’t worry, the female drummer managed to keep up and yeah, she was actually quite fit and even added a touch of sex appeal to the gig.

When reviewing a female artist’s album or single release, be sure to comment on the adjoining video also, as it is important to have as many avenues as possible with which to explore her ever-so-important physical appearance. Say that you think the video director is AWFUL for insisting that she wears that extreme outfit, that it’s horribly sexist, that women should be able to wear what they like the same as men etc. etc.… (in the same review, you should also bring the reader’s attention back to that awards night two years ago that the artist in question turned up to in jeans and a jumper- couldn’t they have at least been a little smarter? Didn’t they care that people voted for them to win the very prestigious and important award?! Honesty.)

Once you’ve made a brief judgement on the superficial appearance of the woman you’re reviewing, the comparisons can begin. Everyone knows that the only way to write about female musicians effectively and in a way that the reader will understand is to compare them to every and any other female musician that has previously been successful or caused some controversy. Whether they are alike or not, this comparison is an important part of letting your reader know what kind of character the woman is. Madonna and Bjork are two easily relatable favourites to use as part of your argument. If you believe the female musician you’re reviewing really IS just like one of these artists, however, you MUST call them out on it, naming them a fraud and accusing them of having no originality (something that must NEVER occur, in the pop industry especially).

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If you feel that there are already enough women just like the one you’re reviewing you can state this by calling her old news, because despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of male musicians that churn out the same old pop-rock dribble every year, it’s important that women stick to their quota of ‘one per genre’ at all times, no excuses.

After you’ve written your review you may be able to follow up with an interview (they’re probably not busy, let’s be honest). When interviewing a female musician remember to act completely differently, with an entirely different set of questions, than when interviewing men. Be aware that women ALWAYS want to talk about what they’re wearing, the colour they’ve died their hair or why they do/don’t want to get their boobs out. They’re also good at having a unique and in-depth response to the question as old as the music industry itself so be sure to ask: how have you managed to make it as a musician when you’re also a girl? Lean forward in your seat at this point, in order to give the impression of intent listening, but also make it clear that you don’t really care that they’re a woman, you’re just asking for the readers, who are just concerned about the whole situation and are totally on your side.

When asking a woman what instrument she plays, either in or out of an interview, be sure to react appropriately when she doesn’t tell you she’s a vocalist, pianist or cellist. If she plays an instrument that you personally find attractive, be sure to tell her, on behalf of the patriarchy, that she just got so much sexier, and that she must get loads of gigs because ‘she’s a girl who plays the sax’. Oh, on that note, it’s also probably necessary at that point in the conversation to point out how the word ‘sax’ sounds remarkably like the word ‘sex’, which is interesting because incidentally women aren’t often portrayed to be taking part in that, either. In fact, maybe that should be the theme of the piece you’re writing? I’m sure your boss will love it.

The Kitchen, Falmouth

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to The Kitchen, Falmouth’s coolest new hang-out. Serving small plates that use local ingredients in a way that celebrates the best that this country has to offer, with everything having been either foraged, shot or fished sustainably, it’s no wonder that the simple but tasty dishes coming from The Kitchen have already created a buzz that brings both locals and tourists returning.

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Cauli & Cheese

As I sit and soak up the atmosphere of an already-busy Friday evening in the courtyard, co-owner Rory joins me. I’m trying one of everything on the menu- far too much for one person, and this is food meant for sharing.

While we chat about everything The Kitchen is (and isn’t), plate after plate of delicious food is brought to the table. Whole artichoke baked with tarragon butter causes a brief pause in the conversation, as I delight in tearing apart the tender leaves greedily, fingers dripping in butter, grinning in the child-like pleasure of something so simple yet decedent. Next up is local Sea Trout, served with marrow and sea kale. Beautifully presented, perfectly cooked, and fresh. We continue to feast on ‘cauli and cheese’, squid (my favourite dish of the evening- lightly grilled and served with a chilli oil and bobby beans), charred padron peppers, rich pigeon with plums and a new potato and Gouda dumpling, and rabbit with peppery-caramel covered carrots. Each dish brings something new, surprising, and most importantly delicious.

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Sea Trout

It’s not just the quality of the food leaving the pass that The Kitchen’s duo, Ben and Rory, are passionate about: the source of the ingredients, the playlist, the art on the walls, even the countertop underneath the coffee machine has been made by a local artist, who was given the the measurements but otherwise a free reign. ‘We want to support local artists, as well as using local food. Everyone has a part of this thing’, Rory tells me.

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Chef at work- Ben

Considering he’s never worked in hospitality before, Rory has done a pretty good job of running his own restaurant. Alongside head chef and foodie mastermind Ben, who has  always wanted to run his own kitchen, Rory found the space and let the rest happen naturally. With the right ethos, passion and work commitment, The Kitchen has become a hub in Falmouth for food and atmosphere, offering something unique and appealing in it’s relaxed style.

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‘Like stepping into our living room’- Ben leaves his caramel coated carrots to set on one of the dining tables.

‘We want the restaurant to feel like stepping into our home- this is how we would treat you if you came over for dinner’, Rory tells me, before circling the tables to chat to customers and take dessert orders.

It certainly looks like a lot of people want to keep coming over for dinner, and I can’t blame them.

Follow The Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram. Rory & Ben don’t take bookings.

A Vegetarian Feast at Chacewater Market

After a fantastic evening of lobster and chips at The Old Market last month we were delighted to be invited back to Chacewater for the next evening event- a vegetarian feast. Two polar opposite suppers proved that Tony’s culinary skills and his enthusiasm for creating a comforting, community-building space (despite the British summertime weather) are genuine and refreshing.

The dish was a colourful amalgamation of veggie delights. Stuffed aubergines with walnuts and pomegranate, wild rice with chickpeas, dill and crispy onions, a delicious butternut squash, tahini and honey mash, tangy green beans and peppers, watermelon and feta, and a caraway seed flatbread. Bursting with flavour and ingenuity, this veggie supper was beautiful both to taste and to look at, and succeeded in bringing together and showcasing both local and middle-Eastern ingredients in an exciting and inspired plate of food.

 

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However, the thing to praise most about these evenings at the Old Market is the unique dining style. Bringing your own ‘tools’, taking a seat at a long communal table, and collecting your super when routinely called up to the food tent: Tony’s cleverly constructed picnic-style feel is refreshing, relaxing and fun, and allows feasters to meet people, have conversations, and share an evening that feels truly Cornish.

For information about more upcoming feast evenings, or just to find out more about what The Old Market is about click here.

Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen- Bath

In May a friend and I were lucky enough to visit the renowned Acorn kitchen in Bath. Proudly holding Viva’s Best Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant award, Acorn are known for creating inspired plates of veggie and vegan food that show they care not only about animals, but about good food, wine and a cozy atmosphere.

Set just aside from the beautiful Bath Abbey, we were tucked away in a corner to discover the delights of vegetarian fine dining. Each course was paired with wine, and the relaxed service and cuby-hole feel of the seating made for a dreamy evening that exceeded expectations.

To start we had the Wye Valley Asparagus with a mushroom parfait, dill, hazelnut and a light pickle. Decedent and indulgent, especially considering it was both vegan and gluten free, this plate balanced flavours perfectly- the mushroom parfait was rich and creamy, the asparagus perfectly cooked, and the pickle gave a light-ness to the otherwise heavy elements of the dish that could become overpowering.

I chose the Calabrese Broccoli seared and dressed with truffle, with cauliflower panna cotta and pickled kohlrabi (pictured above). Broccoli is one of my favourite ingredients- and it was not let down in this equally indulgent dish. Almost caramelised when seared, and served with a perfect cauliflower panna cotta, you could mistake this veggie dish for a pudding were it not for the tangy morsels of kohlrabi that brought the whole thing together and gave a zing to each mouthful.

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After an indulgent starter things only took a more decadent turn. Smoked Winchester Agnoletti, with king oyster mushrooms, in a rich mushroom emulsion with celeriac and monksbeard- no meat needed for this flavour-heavy dish. Perfectly cooked pasta in a creamy mushroom sauce, oozing with smoked cheese and layered with more mushrooms… This is truly special pasta, full of the kind of flavour that makes you groan in disbelief with every mouthful.

For a more delicate (ish) option, the carrot and cashew pate with roasted onion, and ‘seven seeds and grains’. This vegan option was stunning to look at- a plate full of colour and texture that was (almost) too good to eat. The pate was smooth and full of flavour, and the grains weren’t too heavy, perfectly matching the other delicate details of the dish.

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To finish we shared a chocolate and coffee parfait, with a pink peppercorn crumb. Dense, as vegan desserts often are, this was maybe not the best way to end such a heavy and decedent meal- perhaps a lighter option would have been wiser, but the espresso parfait and chocolate ganache bar were executed well, and the flavours were balanced, if a little heavy (despite, like most things on this menu, being gluten free).

Overall, this was a truly brilliant meal, that in no way needs to be prefixed with ‘vegetarian’. For a special evening, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, or if you just want to celebrate in-season produce, Acorn offer the best.

To find out more and to book a table, click here.

 

Lobster & Chips at The Old Market, Chacewater

By day the Old Market at Chacewater is an abundance of organic produce, offering anything from exotic fruit and veg to local cheeses and artisan teas and coffees. Family run and loved by locals, the market is open 7 days a week, and is a treat to wander around- especially if you’re after something special for supper that you know has come from a great place.

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On special occasions, however, the market is transformed into a unique dining experience- Tony and his family put together communal-eating-inspired feast evenings that draw upon the best that the market, and Cornwall, have to offer.

Seated outside in the pretty gardens that are at the centre of the market, or in the picturesque greenhouse lined with trellis tables, guests are invited to sit, talk, and feast- the perfect way to spend a summer evening.

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Lobster and Chips may sound like a simple idea for a ‘feast’ evening- but done properly, as Tony ensured it was, these simple treats were a delight to enjoy in this family-supper-style dining experience. With a whole lobster per person, half stuffed with dressed prawns, the other with a tomato salsa, and served with a generous portion of (proper) homemade chips and salad, we were satisfied and grinning with greedy contentment as we drained our BYO bottle of wine and chatted easily to the people sat on the opposite side of the table.

Like a huge (very posh) picnic, we brought our own plates, glasses and ‘tools’ for eating with, and were served with a huge smile from Tony. In true Cornish style, dessert was strawberries and clotted cream- the perfect indulgence after a no-fuss lobster feast.

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For only £30 per person, including the BYO corkage charge (although very reasonably priced wines, paired with the food, are also on offer), this was a steal of an evening out, and surpassed our expectations by a mile.

For more information about The Old Market and to find out about upcoming Feast evenings check out their Facebook page.