Cornwall’s Four Best … Women for International Women’s Day


“We have evolved but it seems our idea of gender hasn’t.” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Daphne du Maurier, writer (1907 – 1989)

Strictly not Cornish born but her name and works are written into the landscape and the sea around Fowey where she lived and wrote most of her fiction. The dream of writing and living by the sea was her reality and not always a happy or successful one. From secret liaisons with pirates (Frenchman’s Creek) to repression and new-found identity (Rebecca), a disabled General’s lover and nurse in the English Civil War (The King’s General), to victims of angry birds and forbidden love (The Birds and My Cousin Rachel), du Maurier’s women are always complex, often compulsive, sometimes confused but never conventional.

Kneehigh’s excellent adaptation of Rebecca is currently touring.

Ann Glanville (1796 – 1880), gig rower

During Ann Glanville’s lifetime, gig racing was big business dominated by men. Regattas meant a lot of money for the supporters and sponsors who bet on the races, but little of this was seen by the competitors. Famous in her home town of Saltash and across the country for someone who was rarely beaten, even by male crews, Ann was considered ‘champion female rower of the world.’ And after an ostensibly (and probably exaggerated) “thoroughly sound thrashing” of the male French crews at a regatta in Havre who were, “a little indignant in their own peculiarly irritable way that women should be matched against them”, Ann’s reputation became legendary and she was even recognised for her achievements by the Queen and Prince Philip.

Read more on Ann Glanville.


The Legend of Tamara tells the story of a beautiful sea nymph born in a cavern who loved sunlight and wanted to visit the ‘upper’ world. Her parents warned her against such temptation, but she took every opportunity to get a glimpse of the daylight. She was eventually targeted by two giants, Tavy and Tawrage, who both desired her and persuaded her to to leave the cavern. Her father eventually found her seated between her two lovers and when she refused to return, he was so angry that he turned her into a river that would forever flow into the sea. Tavy was so distraught that he requested his father to turn him into a stream so that he could follow Tamara into the sea. Tawrage too, turned into a stream but took the wrong direction, away from Tamara and so we have today the rivers Tamar, Tavy and Taw.

Rowena Cade

Visit the Minack Theatre and you might assume that a hand of antiquity had shaped the circular stone amphitheatre where the sea, the horizon and an occasional basking shark are as much a part of the scenery as the actors. But you would be wrong. Rowena Cade was born in 1893 in Derbyshire and after the First World War, she moved to Lamorna with her mother. She bought the Minack headland for £100 and built a house there where her family and friends staged their own theatrical productions and Rowena designed and made the costumes.

Planning for a production of The Tempest one year, she realised that there wasn’t enough seating in her own garden, and with the help of two Cornish craftsmen, built a simple stage with rough seating overlooking the sea. The initial prototype developed into granite seating and staging, hewn from nearby boulders and after the Second World War, she became ‘Master Builder’ of the project, adding a car park, an access road and a flight of 90 steps leading up from the beach. Rumour has it that she also dragged up twelve 15 ft wooden beams singlehandedly from a shipwreck on the beach to make the dressing rooms.

Read more about Rowena Cade.


The four best pasties in Cornwall (and how to make them)

There are a few pasty rules in Cornwall that must be followed. First rule: don’t eat a pasty with chips; second rule: swede in a pasty in Cornwall becomes turnip (this even confuses the Cornish); third rule: a high street pasty from a railway station or the high street IS NOT A PASTY; lastly: the Cornish pasty has protected PGI status which means even more rules.

There are more than four best pasties in Cornwall, but here are mine (and no-one can disagree with the last):

Aunt Avice’s Pasties, St Kew Services, Saint Kew Highway, Bodmin, PL30 3ED

This is one of the best pit and petrol stops you can make in Cornwall. Avice learnt her pastry making skills from her mother-in-law and has kept it a firm secret.  Generous, buttery but not flaky, these are the real deal. Get some of the egg and bacon pie if it hasn’t sold out.

Ann’s Pasties,

From mail order and weddings to gift boxes and unusual ingredients, Ann, and now her son Fergus, are fabulous diplomats for the Cornish snack (meal) of choice. With barely a crimp and more of a crispy fold, Ann’s pasties are crammed full of carefully sourced ingredients, including Davidstow cheddar and Cornish grass-fed beef. Get filling in that mail order form now!

Gear Farm Organic Pasty Company

Dave Webb developed the pasty recipe at this organic farm with his aunt, taking full advantage of the produce from the chemical-free fields around them. The farm has been certified organic since 1996 and, coupled with the sweet air of the river Helford, these are some of Cornwall’s finest pastry offerings as well as hugely popular exports.

My mum’s: the gravy forms a puddle in the corner as you eat downwards, the pastry is thin and crisp and the meat has to come from the excellent Liddicoats in Lostwithiel. Oh and only white pepper will do. Here’s how to make them at home:


  • 1lb plain flour
  • 6ozs fat (half lard, half butter)
  • Pinch salt
  • Cup of cold water


  • 1lb beef skirt (chopped to the size of a fingernail)
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes (thinly chipped in a bowl of water, in pieces approx the size of a 20p coin)
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • Turnip (optional, best finely chipped but grated will do)
  • Sea salt and white pepper
  • Butter

Preheat oven to 200°C. Breadcrumb the fat with the flour and a pinch of salt. Add cold water a little at a time, gently stirring with a knife until all the dry bits are picked up. Take the dough in your hands and gently squeeze, rather than knead, together to form a ball. Take a small lump about the size of a clenched fist and roll it out on a floured surface. Once about 2mm thick all over, place a side plate on top and cut round with a knife. Repeat with the rest of the pastry, using the off cuts for the last one.

Strain and thoroughly dry the potato chips. Place approx. 2 finger fulls of meat onto the top third of the pastry disc, sprinkle a little pinch of salt over the meat, then add a scattering of onion, a more hefty scattering of potato and some more onion. Season with salt and pepper this time and add a small knob of butter. Put some milk in a cup, dip your fingers in and run them around the edge of the pastry circle.

Now gently but firmly bring the bottom half of the pastry disc up over the filling and pinch together in 2 or 3 places, joining the edges. Shuffle the pasty slightly to encourage the filling to settle a little. Now pinch firmly all the way along the side of the pasty, so that about a centimetre is pinched all along. Then go back along, crimping as you go (folding the pastry between thumb and forefinger to form a little ‘hem’).

Rub milk lightly on the bulging surface, create a little vent in the top for steam to come out and put in the oven on a lightly-floured tray for approx one hour or until golden brown.

How to hold a Lobster Massacre dinner party in 10 easy steps.


I write about food but as I get more and more jaded with food trends (local and seasonal, eat the whole pig, oh you’re making gourmet burgers, how unusual, everyone but probably not their dog are making them, and you say that you make your own bread, well that is wholesome yes yes yes, stab me now), I am becoming increasingly aware that I am not necessarily a great cook. Or host come to think of it. Read More