“Cornwall flaunts a lifestyle that goes hand in hand with a simple, back to nature way of cooking”
So reads the blurb on the back of Muse Media’s new Cornish cookbook. So said Nathan Outlaw when we interviewed him back in March. There’s a buzz around food in Cornwall that sweeps the nation, and has earned my county the crown of foodie capital. Having scooped the ice cream for scores of thousands of tourists in the nineties, til I had freezer burnt knuckles; and having breathed in caustic waves of citric acid on fish suppers since I was small: it’s been a joy to see Cornwall grow up.
Some places have always been well known for their foodie contributions to Cornwall. Yet, the Saltwater Cookbook looks beyond those; uncovering Cornwall’s incredible street food, and every day eateries who are doing it right!
The idea behind this cookbook is simple: to get all of the the great producers Cornwall has to offer together, and showcase what they do and how they do it. To take the very provenance of Cornwall and infuse it into homes up and down the country.
And I swear down when I said I’d review a copy I didn’t even know that one or two of my clients had a couple of pages in there. I’ve been battling with that for a while. But Cornwall is an intricately woven web of connections, much the same as other communities, and so review it I shall. These companies had arranged their inclusion before I came to work for them.
You see, within its pages are recipes from people I’ve met through twitter, and at food fares, people whose cafés and restaurants I love, people who share the same ethos as me, as my work. Not chefs from the well known restaurants on the north coast, but every day people doing their best to carve a niche for new Cornwall.
One of the best things about this cookbook is that it is actually much more than a cookbook. It’s a storybook as much as somewhere to find recipes. It’s a lifestyle guide, albeit one that conveys only one side of Cornish life.
Delving into the lives of the people behind great Cornish food, the Saltwater Kitchen cookbook tells stories of the sea, and of the people who have chosen Cornwall as their way of life. Having travelled sometimes to places where I couldn’t communicate in words, I have always found cooking tells stories. It tells of family and love, it binds us and it speaks a history of landscape.
This is what makes the Saltwater Kitchen Cookbook such a joy to read. Part culture guide, part recipe collection, and also part directory for sourcing fine ingredients, I particularly enjoyed the sections highlighting food culture around the world.
So, back to the recipes:
Unsurprisingly, my favourites were largely fish and seafood recipes, from chefs such as Neil Haydock from Zacry’s at Watergate Bay, Matt from The Gurnard’s Head and Caroline from Fat Hen, although every page of Saltwater Kitchen Cookbook was a joy to read, and inspiring for a food writer in Cornwall.
That said, I have a naughty passion for all things sweet, and have enjoyed the recipes for gluten free and Paleo cakes from Jam Jar, Strong Adolfo’s and The Laid Back Coffee Co, as well as knowing only too well the delicious gooey-ness of Good Vibes’ brownie, and their awesome coffee, ground just up the road in Argal Home Farm.
Saltwater Kitchen cookbook focuses on people primarily. It also breaks Cornwall up into its various regions and towns, capturing the essence of the people within them. For example, the south coast where I live gets almost no waves, so is less a surfer’s town than Newquay. It has a friendly, arty vibe, and some excellent artisans doing inventive things.
Nuff said, or I stray into self serving territory.
West Penwith, where The Old Coastguard and The Fat Hen Cookery School are, is a largely untouched peninsula, with world class fish landed daily and a profusion of wild ingredients crowning the cliff tops.
This is an accomplished guide to food in Cornwall in a much broader sense than being a recipe book. With a list of top food joints for views, swish fish, or coffee, anyone who lives in or visits Cornwall will benefit from having a flick through.
Those with a love of narrative, of tales of the sea, of people and the psychogeography of food, of the stories food creates and passes on, will savour the pages of this book, and make it their mission to visit each and every place within its pages. Searle and Spurway have worked together with some of the most passionate and artisanal foodies in Cornwall, and created a book that celebrates our rich food scene.
Saltwater Kitchen cookbook is available online through the www.saltwater.musemedia.co.uk website or in various shops and retails at around £17.99