We caught a glimpse of the anonymous genius behind our storytelling Christmas recipes.
This festive season, we’ve been inspired by our Cornish fairytales, so we couldn’t think of anyone better to bring us round our tables for foodie classics inspired by local folklore than The Cornish Chef.
Born and bred in our home county, he indulges in playful twists on well known favourites. His talent lies in stirring together Cornwall’s rich local produce and passed-down tales to create delicious recipes for us all to enjoy.
We asked him a bit about what inspires his cookery. We hope his creations help to bring a bit of Cornish magic to your kitchens this Christmas.
What influences will we find in your recipes?
Well, it goes without saying that Cornwall runs through everything I do, whether it be recreating a Cornish classic or simply using amazing local ingredients.
I intend every dish I create to use as many different Cornish suppliers as possible; some recipes combine up to 10 different local producers.
With each ingredient, a farming family, fisherman or a master of their craft is supported, and has their story told through the use of their ingredients.
This season we’ve been inspired by the myths of Cornwall. How does storytelling, folklore and legend find its way into your dishes?
Cornish history is incredibly rich, and many stories include a mention of food, most often fish or meats.
Some dishes I make are easily linked back to their mythical roots, and others are more loosely inspired – taking ingredients from tales and creating wholesome, rustic recipes that everyone can make and enjoy at home.
Why do you think food and folklore so often go hand in hand?
Storytelling and the enjoyment of food have always brought communities together.
From banquets to fireside exchanges, people came to share their stories and knowledge as a form of entertainment over a hot meal.
It’s only appropriate that each inspires another and that food, or the hunt, often became the subject of many dinner-time tales.
Can you tell us about the Cornish stories that inspired the recipes you’re sharing with us?
The Stargazey pie is the most obvious – many are familiar with the tale of the Mousehole cat and the fisherman Old Tom. The other two dishes that are a little less well known.
The Hevva cake is a celebration of the ‘huer’ of times gone by who stood atop the cliffs to spot schools of fish, whereupon they would raise the cry of ‘hevva hevva!’
My chicken dish is based on a story of a cockerel that had the job of waking the residents of Minions, a small village on Bodmin Moor.
Many of your dishes are Cornish classics with a twist – how do you go about reinterpreting old favourites?
I simply look for an old Cornish classic or traditional favourite and think of what Cornish ingredients I can use to give them a new twist. There are so many out there to choose from!
For example, my early project ‘scones – three ways’ was inspired by a favourite jam and condiment producer and trying to think of refreshing new topping combinations and how to spice up the scone they are served on to match.
Other times, I will have a conversation with a farmer or producer and then go away thinking of how I can shine some light on their product – my goat’s cheese and squash pasty came to be after spending the day with a goat farmer who had recently started making their own cheese in-house.
What are some of your favourite Cornish ingredients to work with?
Apart from our incredibly diverse seafood, it has to be the alcohol. From just about every flavour of gin, vodka, spiced rum, red and white wine, beers and ciders, there’s always a Cornish drink that can be used to add extra flavour to just about anything you’re cooking, with the added benefit of tasting your ingredients as you cook!
Add a splash of vodka to a tomato-y fish stew or spiced rum to a sticky toffee pudding and the booze can really elevate the dish.
We’re probably not the first people to call you the Banksy of Cornish cooking. Why have you chosen anonymity?
I’ve always wanted to put the food and ingredients first – I don’t need people to know or remember me, but rather the Cornish cheese they love that my recipe introduced them to, or the name of the farm where you can get the best venison Cornwall has to offer, or that new flavour of seasonal gin everyone is dying to try.
The Duchy already has a magnificent collection of amazing chefs doing their thing so I just want to focus on pushing the food and Cornish producers to the front.
You have a gift for creating dishes that marry Cornish culture and ingredients with global influences. Which of your recipes should we try, if we’re interested in this fusion style?
I would say perhaps my Cornish Croque Monsieur – it’s that time of year when a good cheese and ham toastie goes down a storm, and when a classic French dish meets six Cornish suppliers you know it’s going to be mouth-watering, simple and delicious.
For something a little more adventurous perhaps the Scandinavian favourite ‘gravlax’ but finished with a beautiful Cornish Tinkture Rose Gin.