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Cornish Sea Salt Company

September 29, 2015 No Comments

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The story of Cornish Sea Salt starts on the windswept coastal paths of the Lizard Peninsula and the exposed remains of an Iron Age salt works. Tony Fraser, Cornish Sea Salts founder, was exploring the site when somewhere in the back of his mind a light bulb went off. So with little experience, but determination, a great idea and a little investment, The Cornish Sea Salt Company was born.

11 years after their first production and sales, Cornish Sea Salt is going from strength to strength. They’ve new products in the pipeline – not all of them food based – are selling in Waitrose, are exporting to 16 different countries and are looking to break into the American market next. We even spotted their eye catching logo on the shelves of a tiny deli near Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District.

We here at Cornish Holiday Cottages were lucky enough to be invited on a tour of Cornish Sea Salt’s factories last week and found ourselves fascinated by an industry that hasn’t been present in Cornwall since the mid 1800s.

Director Philip Tanswell was our guide for the day and is a wealth of knowledge on all things salt: from the beginnings of the company, the content and purity of the water, the engineering involved in salt’s extraction to the minerals in, and the taste of, their products. We’re not going to lie, some of the more technical aspects may have flown over our head, but we’re now considering ourselves bonafide experts on all things sodium chloride.

The salt works are a 20 minute drive from Helston, down some of the smallest country lanes on the Lizard, winding down to the coast. As we arrive, we pass an old MOD building which is where they used to test torpedo speeds during World War II and the now defunct Dean Quarry.

As we pull up to the plant, a mere 8 metres from the sea shore, Phil explains to us the unique qualities of the salt extracted at the site. With currents coming in off the Atlantic and the cleanliness of the water, the salt is naturally white: there’s no bleaching in the Cornish Sea Salt process. Water is pumped into the factory from a small pump nestled into the coastal rocks and from there is sent through a series of pumps and into the salt extraction units. This bit is hush hush and is the main difference between Cornish Sea Salt and their competitors.

From there we donned hairnets and boiler suits – plus a very flattering beard mask for myself – before we were ushered in to the evaporation room. Here there are trays of briny water evaporating away for salt extraction. There are several different types of salt extracted here: on the surface you get the light, fluffy gourmet flakes, which are perfect for sprinkling over your food; next you get the more cube-like crystals, soft and perfect for crumbling into recipes and as a table salt.

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One of the unique selling points is the natural and environmentally friendly nature of their product. The company has a very good idea of the mineral content of the waters they extract from and as it’s an unrefined product it’s all in the tub, along with the salt. This means that it retains over sixty naturally occurring trace elements such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.

One of the tanks had turned a milky colour. It’d been over-evaporated and when this happens the salt is useless or bittern. It happens occasionally. Phil tells us to dip our fingers in: the flavour is incredibly bitter and, to paraphrase, is akin to horse-urine. Not that any of us on the tour have any experience in that department. In comparison the rest of the tanks have a mild, smooth saltiness to them – much like the final product.

From here we were driven to their mixing and packaging plant.  A farm building that is close to bursting at the seams with activity. It’s a sign of a company that are good at what they do – and getting better. They have a passion for all things salty. They also have a community spirit and are looking to make connections with other local businesses, such as the Cornish Seaweed Company.

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Although they aren’t open to the general public, a coastal walk along the coast from Porthallow to Coverack will take you right by the factory, as well as the towering port walls of and abandoned quarry port.

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To sample some of Cornish Sea Salt wares and taste what all the fuss is about head to almost any local deli near our holiday cottages, Waitrose, or maybe even you own local deli.

 

New Yard Restaurant – Trelowarren

December 13, 2014 No Comments

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You don’t end up at the New Yard Restaurant by mistake. Set deep in the heart of the Trelowarren Estate, on The Lizard, you’ve got to either want to be there, or be extremely lost. Cornish Holiday Cottages were there by no accident.

The sprawling and beautiful estate once spanned 20,000 acres – now a meagre 1,000 – and has been in the Vyvyan family for 600 years.  From the Helford River to the cusp of Goonhilly Downs, there’s a lot of history to Trelowarren, some beautiful woodland walks and an archaeological treasure in an Iron Age fogou.

The New Yard Restaurant is housed in an old coach house, but the restaurant itself almost has the feel of a Raymond Chandler novel. With large black and white tiles on the floor and repurposed anglepoise lamp heads hanging from the ceiling, there’s a monochrome, but sophisticated ambience.

The current menu reflects this fashion savvy interior, but somehow retains the sense of heritage that comes with an English Estate. Head Chef, Max, is a keen forager and the restaurant is well stocked from the larder of local produce: there are oysters from the Helford River; fish and shellfish caught by local dayboats; game from the estate; fruit and herbs from local farmers, too. Everything, including the bread, is freshly made on site.

We started our lunch-time meal with a miso broth, seaweed, wild mushrooms and tofu. There was no tofu though. The friendly, informal waiting staff apologised for this but they really didn’t need to, as it was delicious without it. The broth had a warming saltiness to it and a hint of seaweed added a certain sweetness to the flavour.

For our main course we had Cornish Crab, pumpkin and parmesan macaroni, which did a fantastic job of blending the lightness of the crab and pumpkin with the rich parmesan.

We also had slow roasted pheasant leg with a pheasant black pudding parcel, from the specials board. The bird must have been sourced onsite as I even found a piece of shot. That in no way detracted from the dish though, as it was an outstanding and original dish, served with creamed leeks and baby onions. I can’t express how delicious the black pudding parcel was.

From there, we at Cornish Holiday Cottages, just managed to squeeze in a dessert between two of us. A hot chocolate pudding with figs and home made honey ice cream. It was a beautifully decedent lunch. One that would be best coupled with a long, long walk in the woods.

The Chocolarder

December 6, 2014 No Comments

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We must tell you about Chocolarder. We can’t keep them to ourselves much longer; not that we’d want to, of course. Their profile and reputation are quickly gaining ground, due in part to Chef and fan Michel Roux Jnr, who has been tweeting good things about the Cornish chocolatier of late.

Chocolarder have been making artisan bean to bar chocolate for 3 years in Cornwall. From machinery to recipes: their founder is a true innovator.

A chef who turned his hand from Michelin star pastry chefing to manufacturing Cornwall’s only bean to bar chocolate is takes pride in the county’s prolific produce. Having previously invented a signature chocolate dish of a chemically tricky chocolate steam, the creator of Chocolarder is nothing short of fanatical about real chocolate. One of only 7 producers of authentic, bean-to-bar chocolate in the UK, Chocolarder grind beans using machinery invented on site, and forage ingredients from Cornish hedgerows to experiment with flavour.

As well as a near perfect pure chocolate bar there are some wonderful and scintillating variations being concocted: there’s the wild gorse flower bar, made from gorse picked from the wild cliffs of Kynance; the Cornish honeycomb, made from the honey of Lizard bees; and seasonally, the Frankincense and Myrrh bar.

When we say machinery invented onsite, we mean it. “The grinder I’m using at the moment was an India Dosa batter grinder originally,” says Mike Longman, the chocolatier himself, “Whilst it does the job brilliantly; the motor that was in it was only made to run for 4 hours, so I had to replace that. The wheels were made of a softer stone, like limestone, so I had to replace them with Cornish granite.”

Longman’s passion for chocolate is worn on his sleeve. While we can’t get enough of his 100% chocolate bar, he is still searching for that perfect flavour: “I’m always creating unusual chocolate flavours, but my biggest challenge is getting a 100% chocolate bar I’m happy with, as it comes down to the finest details of sourcing the perfect beans and roasting them in exactly the right way. Being involved from bean to bar opens up a whole world of flavours; we are currently looking at collaborating with a seaweed company to make chocolate with seaweed in it, and one of my current experiments is a guinea pepper chocolate.”

If, having read this, you are hankering for some artisan chocolate, fear not. There are many retailers stocking Chocolarder products around the county, but if you can’t find them then head to The Rebel Brewery where they sell chocolate bars in their gift shop. Failing that, there’s chocolarder.com.

After first encountering the Chocolarder at a craft fair, we made the mistake of only buying a small packet of salted caramel balls and it was agonizing trying to eke out their existence for as long as possible. We’ve not made the same mistake since.

Children’s books based in Cornwall

November 14, 2014 No Comments

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As adults we all know the joys of getting stuck into a good novel when we’re on holiday. One of our fondest holiday memories here at Cornish Holiday Cottages is getting lost in The Kite Runner whilst sitting on the floor of a cramped train in Italy. We also know how a story linked to the place you are staying can add to the atmosphere of a place. It can help you see your surroundings through the imagination of someone else, especially as a child. It is so easy to get lost in a story as a child and to be able to live parts of that story in real life can give you both a reason for reading and a reason visiting.

 

Another thing we know is how hard it can be to get children to read sometimes, so we’ve done our research, delved into our own childhoods and most importantly, asked our own children what their favourite Cornwall set books are. Here’s the list we’ve come up with.

 

The Mousehole Cat – Antonia Barber.

 

Reading The Mousehole Cat has almost become a rite of passage for Cornish children. One of my fondest memories of primary school involves being read this book by my teacher. Beautifully illustrated by Nicola Bayley, The Mousehole Cat tells the story of one brave – and in reality, very foolish – fisherman taking to the stormy seas with his loyal black and white cat, Mowzer to catch some fish. The sea is drawn as a ginormous storm-cat toying with the tiny mouse of a fishing boat. Mowzer purrs the ocean into submission and everyone celebrates their return by gobbling down Star-Gazey pie.

This book is most suited to joint reading with younger children and will set up a trip to Mousehole and Newlyn quite nicely.

 

Why the Whales Came – Michael Morpurgo

 

Most of Morpurgo’s novels are set in the South West to some degree. The former Children’s Laureate and War Horse writer has a knack for marrying the global effects of war to personal, small town stories and Why The Whales Came brings the first world war to Cornwall.

Gracie and her friend Daniel have always been warned to stay away from the Birdman and his side of the island. But then they find a message in the sand and discover the Birdman is not who they thought. They build up a lovely friendship with him, but when the children get stranded on Samson Island they don’t know whether to believe the birdman’s story that the island is cursed.

 

Dead Man’s Cove – Lauren St John

 

Given five stars by one eight-year-old reviewer on Amazon, Dead Man’s Cove has a twisty plot, quirky characters and a strong, young detective heroine in 11-year-old Laura Marlin.

This St Ives based story is fantastic for the 7-11 age group and is a great introduction to the mystery genre for children.

 

Ingo – Helen Dunmore

 

Ingo builds on the myth of the Mermaid of Zennor. Sapphy’s dad disappeared into the seas years ago and when her brother is missing after a quick swim, she discovers him talking to a mysterious girl in the water at a nearby cove. Does the same fate await him? Sapphy and her brother are drawn in to the world of the ingo (or mermaids).

Ingo is the first novel in a series and brings new life to old legends. It is unusual enough to interest fans of Harry Potter and will add an extra depth to your child’s trips to the beach.

 

Winter Damage – Natasha Carthew

 

Set in a near future suffering the effects of climate change, Carthew’s young adult novel is a dystopian antidote to the sometimes twee and romantic novels set in Cornwall. Living with her dad and brother on a frozen Cornish moor, Ennor knows things are taking a turn for the worse. In a bid to save her family, she packs blankets, a saucepan and a gun and sets off to find her mum and bring her home.

The book I’d most compare this to is Meg Rosoff’s How I live Now with its strong and robust central character. Winter Damage is a compelling and exciting read packed with suspense, humour and heartache.

 

Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz

 

Finally, here’s one just for the boys. Stormbreaker is the first book in the Alex Rider series and most of the action takes place here in Cornwall. Stormbreaker tells the story of a teenage spy whose first mission takes him into the the depths of Cornwall to take out multimillionaire Herod Sayle’s super ‘stormbreaker’ computers. Alex soon finds himself in mortal danger. Will his first mission also be his last?

In the mould of a James Bond thriller, Stormbreaker should interest even the most boyish of children on holiday.

Day trip to The Roseland

April 29, 2014 No Comments

I have lived down here for quite a while and never been across to The Roseland, I think because it feels so far away! My grandparents always used to holiday over there so while my mum was visiting we decided to go for a day trip.

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We decided to get the King Harry Ferry (in Feock, 15 mins from Falmouth) as it saved a lot of time on the journey and it made it feel like a proper holiday! We got there just as the ferry left so had a while to watch it working and enjoy the sunshine. It cost us £8 for a day return, good value for the time it saved us driving around.

Once over the river we decided to first visit the famous church at St Just in Roseland. We parked at the top of the hill and walked down through the stunning graveyard, more of a tropical garden, with carpets of bluebells and wild garlic. Set into the hill and surrounded by beautiful trees, you can’t actually spot the church until it’s towering over you. We were there at low tide, but the water can reach right up to the church. It was a beautiful calm place, somewhere my grandparents used to visit on their holidays in Cornwall, so it was lovely to see especially with it being a beautiful sunny day to sit and enjoy the peace.

 

I have heard lots about the Hidden Hut at Porthcurnick Beach, of their famous feast nights and their delicious food. So obviously now I was finally over there I planned our walk around eating lunch there! We decided to walk around from Portscatho, along the coast path, although on our way to the village we found a convenient car park at the top, it cost £3 for parking all day.

 

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We walked around the coast path, towards the Hidden Hut which was closer than I had expected, we got there a bit early for lunch but enjoyed a coffee and cold drink in the sunshine while we chose from the menu. They had a couple of soups and pasties, however we both went for the lamb and sweet potato curry with a flat bread. We could smell it being cooked outside so couldn’t resist, and it didn’t disappoint!

We bought a piece of cake to take away and carried on around the coastal path, the views were stunning and it was really quiet, we only bumped into a few other people who all commented on the beautiful weather. We carried on round to Porthbean beach (dog friendly), a beautiful sandy expanse and we were the only people there. The beach was covered in beautiful sea shells, we had never seen so many large shells on a beach before. We enjoyed our cake and just basked in the sunshine (we thought it was going to rain so had taken our raincoats with us!).

We spent hours on the beach, then wandered back along the coastal path and bought Mum an ice-cream (Roskillys gooseberry yoghurt flavour) before walking back up to the car.

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I would fully recommend a day trip to The Roseland for anyone staying in Falmouth. It was quiet and beautiful and felt like a mini holiday even though we were only out for a few hours!