Last weekend it was my Mum’s 60th birthday so we all headed down to Cornwall to see my sister. We decided the best way to celebrate was to cook her a feast. I persuaded my sister that it had to be Elizabeth David so we dissed Elizabeth’s advice and cooked a bouillabaisse outside of the Mediterranean. We managed to bemuse the Newlyn fishmonger with her list of suggested fishes, the only one they had was a John Dory, but we chose a selection of five fishes and some big prawns. After a blissfully sunny spring afternoon on the beach it was home to cook. We made an onion and cream tart as a starter with green salad, then the bouillabaisse. Elizabeth advises just slicing the scaled and gutted fish, but we decided this would be to bony and fiddly for us English. The fishmonger filleted the fish and I made a stock from the bones and off cuts. A base for the soup was made from onions, tomatoes, garlic, fennel sprigs, saffron and a good glug of olive oil. To this we added the fish then the stock and boiled for ten minutes. “It is upon this fast boiling that success depends.” The soup was then served over an oven dried piece of Wild White bread. I couldn’t believe how simple and quick this was and can’t wait to revisit with a Nailsworth version. We served our soup with an aioli which I hope didn’t bastardize the delicate flavours.
For pudding we cooked from Skye Gyngell’s book. She is my current day favourite chef of Petersham Nurseries fame. From her we made a blood orange and rosemary jelly with a chocolate tart. We finished off this feast with some very fine Cornish cheeses.
Not only do I love cooking for people but planning a well balanced meal. It always has to have vegetables or a salad, to contain complementary or similar flavours and leave diners feeling full but not roll out the door stuffed. And of course it goes without saying it has to be seasonal and unless in Cornwall sourced from our great local independents of Nailsworth. Bon Appetite!