This year I opted to escape North London gloom for my birthday and spend a few days in Cornwall, the land of Poldark and Jamaica Inn. Driving from London we took the M4 then the M5. It took 7 hours to Portreath, including three stops.
Gwel an Mor is a resort with eco lodges and Swiss chalet style huts. We stayed in a spanking modern lodge, all shiny white surfaces and subtle aquamarine furnishings. There was no kettle, instead a hot water tap. Making a cup of tea or coffee couldn’t be easier but you tend to make it for yourself rather than it being a communal ‘who wants a cuppa?'(The electric kettle is so ubiquitous in the UK that when important TV programmes are on, we have to borrow electricity from France to cope with the demand during ad breaks.) There was also a wood burner and a jacuzzi on the private terrace outside my bedroom door. The insulation was so good that menopausal me had to sleep with the door open.
I had an hour’s massage in the attached spa and daily swims in the heated pool. Included in the lodgings is a two hour farm animal visit: we got to feed foxes, cuddle toads, handle owls (apparently they are fairly stupid) and find out more about reindeer (they have ultraviolet vision for seeing white on white, useful in the snow). This is where the cast of Poldark stayed during filming. The beach at Portreath is a 20 minute walk away.
At 11ºC in January, this part of Britain is a massive 25 degrees warmer than snowy Scotland. Walks to the wild coast, the hot tub under the dark starry sky, saffron toast and clotted cream made it a birthday to remember.
What to take on a self catering trip if you like to cook?
Cornwall has a fantastic range of food and drink- it even grows wine and tea these days. Thirty percent of all Cornish jobs are in the food industry. I was determined to use both Cornish ingredients (salt, butter, fish, potatoes) and seasonal citrus.
Self catering kitchens usually have just the basics. They virtually never have a food processor or a cake or loaf tin.
I took the following:
- a mandolin
- a microplane
- a good knife
- a decent peeler
- I was tempted to take my Vitamix but didn’t.
It’s an expensive drag to have to buy all the basics once you arrive. I like to bake so I always take a few ingredients for that. Use the pasta and tomatoes for the first night’s dinner after the long drive.
- hot chocolate (I use Mexican chocolate pastilles)
- a litre of milk
- small pack of caster sugar
- a couple of 7g sachets of yeast
- a kilo of plain flour
- baking soda
- a starter loaf bread
- a pack of butter
- pot of marmite
- good salt and pepper
- 1 bottle olive oil
- 4 lemons
- 1 pack of pasta
- 1 good tin of tomatoes
- bulb of garlic
- Spices and aromatics such as bay leaves, saffron, fresh chillies, curry spices.
I keep fresh ginger, turmeric root, galangal, lemon grass, in my freezer. Whenever needed, I grate them straight into the dish then return the rest to the freezer. This way I always have these ingredients to hand. I took some of these ingredients down to Cornwall already frozen and popped them in the freezer on arrival.
I recommend buying a kaffir lime plant: while you may not manage to grow limes, the plant is most useful for the fragrant shiny leaves which can also be frozen.
Food and drink to buy in Cornwall
I got a pre-ordered food box from the Cornish Food Box Company. They delivered directly to my self-catering fridge!
All things dairy including: Butter, Cream (clotted, double, single, fraiche), Yoghurt, Milk, farm eggs, cheese such as Yarg or gorgeous truffled camembert style cheese from Curds and Croust.
Saffron buns/loaf, local biscuits such as fairings
Cornish new potatoes and soft fruit
Another self-catering tip:
Take an HDMI lead to plug your laptop into the TV.
Bergamot cured mackerel, pickled mandarin salad, saffron potatoes
For the mackerel:
4 mackerel filets
Zest of 1 large bergamot
Zest of 1 lime
25g caster sugar
Bergamot or lemon zest to garnish
For the salad:
4 mandarins or clementines, sliced thinly
100ml white wine or rice vinegar
1 tbsp salt
60g lambs leaf lettuce
Juice of a half a lemon
Sea salt to taste
For the saffron potatoes:
1 kilo of new potatoes, skins on.
3tbsp sea salt
Large pinch of saffron
Large knob of butter
Wash and pat dry the mackerel filets. Mix the zest, salt and sugar together and spread over a baking tray. Place the fish flesh side down on the bed of salt. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Warm a small pan containing the vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Add the clementines/mandarins and leave to marinate until ready to serve.
Prepare the potatoes, boiling them in a large pan of salty water until just cooked. Then turn off the heat and add a large pinch of saffron to the water. Leave the potatoes to absorb the saffron for at least half an hour.
Remove the mandarins or clementines from the pickling juice and toss with the lambs lettuce. Squeeze the lemon juice on the salad. Season to taste.
Strain the potatoes and garnish with butter.
Preheat the grill. Rinse the mackerel filets well. Spread a little olive oil over the filets and grill both sides.
Serve the fish, garnished with zest, on a bed of the salad with a side of potatoes.
Thai fishcakes, coconut noodles, cucumber pickle
I was invited to stay in an eco lodge by Gwel an Mor.
Prices for a week long stay start at £545 for a Lowena lodge sleeping 4 or £659 for a 6 person Tregea lodge during off-peak season. Prices can range up to £3175 for a week stay at the height of the summer season for a Tregea Signature Deluxe lodge sleeping 6.
Short breaks (which comprises of a 3 night weekend stay or a 4 night mid-week break) start from £465 for a lodge sleeping four and £505 for a lodge sleeping 6.
Full tariffs including seasonal prices and accommodation options are available from www.gwelanmor.com along with current promotions and offers.