August, 2012

Aug 12

Gooseberry, almond and elderflower cake

The cake, just before it went in the oven

Ah, the British summer time. One minute it’s glorious sunshine, and then next, it’s grey, gloomy and pouring with rain. Recently, I managed to get out and about one sunny afternoon. To my delight, I stumbled across a gooseberry bush and managed to pick enough berries to make this cake. The elderflower bush looks rather unpromising. With a rather scruffy appearance, like an uncared for bush, and branches spiked with nasty thorns, it doesn’t look inviting. But lift up the branches, and you will find beautiful marble-like bright green gooseberries lurking below. I like to pick them when they are soft to the touch. Grab them by the handful whilst you can. They won’t be around for long.

This is a delicious, seasonal, summery cake, which an be easily adapted to suit any dietary requirements.

Gooseberry, almond and elderflower cake

Makes 1 large cake


  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g unrefined golden caster sugar, plus an extra handful for sprinkling
  • 6 large free-range eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp elderflower syrup
  • 100g plain flour (either wheat or gluten free)
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder
  • 400g gooseberries, topped and tailed


1)   Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 9” round springform cake tin

2)   Wash the gooseberries thoroughly and then top and tail them carefully

3)   Beat the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract and elderflower syrup.

4)   Next, add the flour, ground almonds and baking powder and gently fold in.

5)   Pour the cake mix into the prepared cake tin and smooth down the top with a spatula to make it level. Then, dot the gooseberries evenly over the top of the cake

6)   Place the cake in the oven and bake for approximately an hour. Test to see if the cake is cooked by sticking a cocktail into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. If it does not, return to the oven for a further 5 minutes and test again.

7)   Cool the cake on a wire rack. When it’s cool, enjoy on its own with a cup of tea, or with cream or ice cream as a dessert.


Aug 12

A foodie break to Cornwall at Budock Vean Hotel

The Helford Passage

Cornwall is a county renowned for its top quality produce, which includes fresh fish, traditional mead, sea salt and, of course, Cornish clotted cream, which holds the prestigious EU protected Designation of Origin status, and the Cornish pasty, which holds the Protected Geographical indication status.  Food and drink in the county of Cornwall is a £1.5 billion industry, providing a major source of income and work in this hard-to-get-to part of the UK, and is home to over 130 organic, 600 dairy and 2,500 mixed farmers.

Budock Vean Hotel

We stayed at the Budock Vean Hotel, located on the north side of the Helford Passage. It’s a charming independent hotel, run by Martin and Amanda Barlow, who have owned the hotel since 2000. Budock Vean attracted itself to us for a number of reasons; not only because it is a truly independent, family run hotel, but because of its stunning location, wide use of locally sourced food and a sustainable tourism policy.  The hotel itself is situated at the top of a 65 acre organically managed plot, which includes the hotel’s private golf course, and which leads down through stunning sub-tropical gardens to its own private foreshore on the Helford Passage.

The grounds at Budock Vean

Budock Vean's private foreshore

We stayed in a superior room, which was priced at £139 per person per night in high season, which includes breakfast and a four course dinner. Rooms are spacious and decorated traditionally. The bathrooms are small but very modern and well equipped with a range of Elemis toiletries provided. Dressing gowns, slippers and towels are also placed in the bedrooms for use at the hotel’s natural spa, swimming pool, sauna and hot tub, which we made the most of during our stay. The natural spa at the hotel uses Spiezia Cornish organic beauty products which are made locally using ethically sourced ingredients and is a company also owned by the Barlows.

Enjoying an aperitif on the terrace

We arrived at the hotel at around 6pm, which was in perfect time for an aperitif on the terrace before dinner in the hotel restaurant. The restaurant itself overlooks the glorious hotel grounds and down towards the Helford Passage. A local pianist played throughout service every night. Each room is assigned a designated table for the duration of their stay, for dinner and for breakfast. A four course dinner is served in the hotel every night using the best of local produce. The hotel are extremely accommodating to all dietary requirements, which was great to know. Dinner is a more formal affair at the hotel, which does impose a dress code during the evenings, and which is relaxed during the school holidays.

Scallops to start

Highlights for me were the locally smoked Scottish salmon with handpicked St Ives bay crab to start, followed by pan roasted Cornish wild turbot with spinach and a pancetta and basil butter sauce, followed by a Cornish cheeseboard to finish, featuring Cornish Blue and Cornish brie, supplied by Hawkridge Farm. We also enjoyed pan fried Falmouth Bay scallops served with chorizo and a chive butter sauce and a roast sirloin of locally reared beef on the Sunday night, followed by Roskilly’s ice cream and Tamar valley strawberries. Head chef, Darren Kelly makes a point of including a page in the dinner menu detailing all the local suppliers the hotel uses.

Breakfast at the hotel was very good too, featuring a wide range of good quality, well made traditional cook breakfast choices, local farmhouse yoghurt and fruit and an excellent generously portioned locally smoked Scottish salmon and scrambled eggs, and a smoked haddock option. Both of which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Although it is a very long drive down to this part of the county, it is certainly worth travelling every mile to get here.

Boats on the Helford Passage

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