We've just come back from an invigorating five day trip to South Cornwall. It was warm enough to enjoy a simple lunch al fresco at the ever-wonderful Tresanton Hotel in St Mawes. The slightly Agatha Christie-ish ambience of the upper terrace (with its ocean-liner metal railings, sea views and steamship loungers) remains unchanged: fans of "Peril at End House" (first published in 1932) will know what I'm talking about.
On Monday we dropped in at Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and enjoyed an intensely flavoured bouillabaisse (Cornish style) with crutons, red pepper aioli and grated cheese; roasted Hake (served in a piping hot earthenware dish with puy lentils) and a pretty concoction of lobster and crab wrapped up in puff pastry and served with a pinkish lobster sauce.
The Seafood Restaurant at Padstow has to be one of my all-time favourite restaurants and, in my 'umble opinion Master Copperfield, remains consistently excellent. The discreet service is of the highest professional standard: raise your eyebrow and in an instant there will be a helpful waiter at your side; tables are spacious and the atmosphere is relaxed. The food is unpretentious and utterly delicious. I can't recommend the place enough.
I've always had a thing about Cornwall- as a child, we used to spend our summer holidays at the charming sea-side town of St Mawes. It really is the most romantic destination:
Caerhays Castle: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..."
The Cornish lanes and hedgerows are full of wild flowers, (including violet coloured wild orchids) and at this time of the year, daffodils. A thought occured to me on our drive home over Salisbury Plain and past Stonehenge: the verges of Wiltshire's main roads are barren; and in the case of South Buckinghamshire, I regret to report, littered. Does an enlightened Cornish county council have an active policy to encourage wild flowers? Or is it that in counties such as Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, with large-scale and mechanised farming, wild flowers are killed by the spillover from intensive crop spraying?
It's the time of year to pick and use wild garlic (Allium ursinum). It can be found in damp woodlands and hedgerows, and gives off an evocative, garlicky smell which can't be missed. I love its subtle taste. Funnily enough, unlike the standard variety in which you use the bulb, with wild garlic you eat the green leaves. In London we have to buy it from specialist shops, the superior supermarkets (such as Wholefoods) or your local farmer's market.
I'm going to make a creamy and simple risotto, flavoured with my favourite wild garlic. If I chop up the leaves small enough, I'm hoping that this will make the risotto turn a pale light green colour.