Written and curated by Lucy Studley from Cornwall Content.
Some seminal recipe books have come out of Cornwall over the years, from Gourmet Cornwall by Carol Trewin (an important early advocate of the Cornish food scene who is sadly no longer with us) to David Griffen’s The New West Country Cook Book, which celebrates the relationship between creative cooking and food photography.
Though digital cookbooks, like the beautiful Plant Kitchen Comforts by Madeleine Olivia and Ali Green, might be the thing of the future, most of us still love to draw our inspiration from a shelf packed with actual books – replete with dog-eared pages, squiggles in the margins and grubby fingerprints!
The appetite for food inspiration from Cornwall is unwavering, with The New Yard Restaurant’s foray into the world of publishing selling out rapidly over the summer (The Modest Kitchen Journal by Jeffrey Robinson is set to continue, with further seasonal volumes planned) and Emily Scott’s first, eagerly-anticipated cook book ‘Sea and Shore’ due to be published by Quadrille in May 2021.
However, I’ve whittled it down to a handful of recommendations to inspire you this year. Some have been around for a while, but no fan of Cornish food should be without, others are newly published this year. There’s even a digital cookbook which you can purchase right now, giving something back to the hospitality industry which has suffered so badly this year – more on that at the end of this list…
Good Value Food With Good Values, by Ben Quinn
Very recently published, this book neatly encapsulates chef Ben Quinn’s take on food, community, and the importance of making and sharing food together. The first in an ambitious series of five titles, Ben and his team ran a successful Crowdfunding campaign to get the book printed; it’s now hot off the press and available for just £10.
The Canteen ethos has always been about making good food affordable, and there are achievable, wholesome recipes in here for the non-cooks among us (this would be a great present for students on a low budget looking to make friends through food!) Promising big, bold, playful and honest dishes, you’ll be reaching for this for years to come.
British Seafood, by Nathan Outlaw
Out of all of Nathan’s books I’ve chosen this one (his first, originally published way back in 2012) because I think it’s still the best compilation of seafood cooking around. Nathan has an instinctive understanding of how to prepare every type of fish and shellfish imaginable, make each irresistibly delicious.
He’s always cooked the less fashionable kinds of fish (gurnard and whiting for example) as well as those which rightly come with a premium, like turbot and Dover sole, appreciating that the sustainability of the fishing industry relies on us enjoying a variety of species.
If you love fish but are slightly mystified when it comes buying and preparing it, then this book is for you. It’s not everyday cookery, but for a special occasion I’d always reach for this.
The Artisan Kitchen, by James Strawbridge
This book is a real 2020 handbook! Slow cooking and traditional techniques take centre-stage, as chef and sustainable living expert James teaches readers how to ferment, preserve, smoke, cure and slow-roast over live fire.
Make your own cheese, build your own smoker, create your own sourdough starter and culture your own kombucha; if there ever was a time to appreciate slow living and self-sufficiency, that time is now!
Porthminster Beach Café – The Cook Book
This self-published book is a food love story set in St Ives Bay. The hyperlocal food of Porthminster Beach Café is something we’ve eulogised about on the Journal before; this sun-drenched cook book allows you to recreate some of the restaurants’ signature dishes at home.
From Crispy Fried Cuttlefish to Tempura Courgette Flowers, Monkfish Curry to Deconstructed Pimms, the pages of this book will transport you to summer in St Ives and a table for two, perched above the glistening water.
The Hidden Hut, by Simon Stallard
Simon Stallard published this colourful and inspiring recipe book in 2018, much to the joy of the legion of loyal Hidden Hut fans. The rustic, flavoursome food which has bought thousands of people trooping across a remote Cornish beach for the famous feasts over the years, translates beautifully here into achievable recipes for all occasions.
Though seafood features heavily of course, it’s often Simon’s plant-based recipes we keep returning to; his samphire frittata with a warm, lemony courgette salad is a family favourite in the warmer months.
Prawn on the Lawn: Fish & Seafood to Share, by Rick & Katie Toogood
Released in 2018, this recipe book features lots of the signature POTL dishes served at both London and Padstow restaurants. Some are simple, others more elaborate; choose a selection, prepare carefully and restaurant-grade entertaining could be within your grasp.
The dishes are zingy, eclectic and visually stunning. The freshness of the produce and the flavours jump off the page!
The Comfort Cookbook, by Gabriella Dyson, Lucy Studley & Ali Green
A shameless piece of self-promotion here, but for a good cause! Surely the most impressive cook book ever to be born out of a global pandemic, The Comfort Cookbook was created in around 6 weeks during lockdown #1. It features a plethora of amazing chefs from Devon and Cornwall who shared inspiring recipes from their home kitchens, and has so far raised over £6,000 for Hospitality Action.
At a time when lots of hospitality professionals are facing a winter without a job, many with families to support, the work of national charity Hospitality Action has never been more important. You can download The Comfort Cookbook right now when donating any amount, large or small, to help fund this vital lifeline for people who work in the beleaguered restaurant, hotel and bar sector.