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saffronbunny - food - blogger - cornwall

My mum once wrote a notebook of recipes for one of my brothers when he went to university. One of these recipes was entitled: Marmite on toast. Thereby making it a dish in its own right. Marmite on Toast. I laughed then. I wouldn’t now.

It should have read: Marmite on toast with Lots of Salty Full Fat Cornish Butter, and you’re almost there. Add in to the mix a strong brew and white bread and I am all over it. The ultimate comfort food so quintessentially British that our more sophisticated gastronomic neighbours would rather hurl themselves onto a burning pile of oily fish and ripe tomatoes than go anywhere near the filthy brown (unnervingly shiny) goo.

To add fuel to the fire, or rather olive oil to that already burning pile, have you ever tried spaghetti, butter and marmite? No? Do it. Nigella raves about it, referencing Anna del Conte as her source and justifying it as an Italian tradition derived from using leftover stock with spaghetti. No need for that. Put the spaghetti on in the normal packet way, chuck a knob of butter into a saucepan, a teaspoon of Marmite and some (a dessertspoon or two) of the pasta jus to lubricate, add to pasta and if you’ve got it, sprinkle a bit of Parmesan on top (or Cheddar, come on). Mangez. Mangia. ‘ave it. Etc.

I find that Marmite slips under simple dishes in a very satisfying manner, not unlike a special piece of well-fitted underwear: on toast under baked beans, under scrambled eggs (or any egg for that matter) or melted cheese for an English rarebit. Most useful of all is its ability to masquerade as a vegetarian stock; many a dish of mine brinkering on the I’ve-made-it-up-but-not-quite-pulled-it-off has been resurrected with a generous teaspoon of Marmite; gravies, glaze and other things not beginning with ‘g’ – rims of cocktails are being marmite-d, there are cakes, roast potatoes but as yet, no beauty treatment. It’s only a matter of time.

I have a huge amount of love for Marmite. I have chased its bulbous brown figure down the aisles of many a foreign supermarket with increasing success. It’s been welcomed back into the lives of the Danes after a three-year ban and now there’s even more of a reason not to shop at Tesco and to have voted ‘remain’. 

Get more about Marmite from the  Ministry of Marmite and there is also the very comprehensive Marmite cook book. Oh and it’s worth mentioning Ms Marmite Lover, a well-respected food blogger with a well-respected name.

A Tale of Two Giants: The Bolsters

This story started off as a writing exercise: a re-writing and updating of a Cornish myth, the idea being to concentrate on the words themselves as the structure would be loosely based on the original story. And here it is, saffronbunny’s first foray into fiction:

1 (5)This was wide country that fell into the sea, shaped by shipwrecks, hemmed by gorse and laced with arterial shafts that bore down deep. A canopy of sky framed skittering clouds and dotted like hope on shining waters, fishermen waited. There was a stillness where the herring had once swarmed; a silence where the mines had groaned with men, and only the shadows of gigs ran the waves.

In this piratic region, the Caercouches farmed still: scrubby sheep that smelt of the salt of the sea. There was Eileen, old Don (ald), his son (and hope) Goron who was married to Portreen, and their beautiful daughter, Agnes.

Next door to the Caercouches lived the Bolsters. Their love over the years had been weathered grey like the cladding of roofs. So long had it been since Mrs Bolster felt the softness of her husband’s touch that she was sure it had always been that way. The giddy slide of the wedding ring onto her finger 30 years ago was now a granite quoit around which her flesh had learnt to grow and fit, distorted and pale.

Mr Bolster would fling his supper onto the floor if he couldn’t taste the salt. Agnes thought his taste buds had probably died with the love he no longer showed his wife. Tonight it had been pepper. She’d forgotten to sprinkle white pepper into the pasties and he’d thrown them right back at her, shattering the kitchen wall into shards of shortcrust and grey brick.

“Get up that hill and take them there stones with ‘ee!”

1 (6)

Mrs Bolster bent to the stones as if harvesting food or flowers and filled her apron until it bulged in a foetal round and she could carry no more. She dragged the body of stones to the top of the beacon, unloading them one by one with a gentle care, like little children. Out of view of her husband, she stalled a little, shifting the stones tenderly until each pile was the same height and roughly the same distance apart. Catching her balance, she looked back down at him, his mouth opening like the yawn of hell, emitting vowels that flapped on the wind like a lost soul: “…in ..eee…ere…o”. She grabbed at a nearby cloud, stuffed it into her mouth and sucked the rain from it.

The wind changed direction and his words flew up at her: “Get back down that bleddy hill woman! That’ll learn ‘ee, to think that you could forget the pepper in a pasty, you ain’t Cornish, woman, I sweared you was born on the other side of the Tamar! Bleddy English!” he bawled, scattering fishing boats and sending herds of sheep over the cliff with his anger.

Mrs Bolster sighed and the trees bent away from her, caught in a tempest of halitosis.

Mr and Mrs Bolster were chimney stack tall, freaks from a tribe that had long ago died out in these lands. As Mr Bolster stared at the swinging backside of his wife eclipsing the sun from his face, the clouds and an occasional bird raced across his body like a projected film. The only narrative he knew was livestock and slaughter, the whole bloody circle. He was god of the bovine beating hearts that filled his fields and lord of the land that ran until the sea began. While his height was legendary, his intolerance of his wife was mythical.

The castigation was rarely violent, although he had it in him – a deep knotted red that could spill out through his arms in an arc of destruction, relentless, Greek, gargantuan.

His grasping, Nosferatu fingers twitched to pull her down again and teach her a proper lesson but he grew bored before she reached the bottom. What he desired was much, much smaller. Petite. Tiny Diminutive. He’d grown sick of being tall: the constant stooping; the crushing of a sheep in a footstep, the rattling of a buzzard caught in his ear: the earth in a bell jar. The woman he wanted couldn’t be heard across oceans, she whispered with the piskies and hid behind tiny doors; she could pluck flowers with fingers as delicate as a spider’s leg.

He turned away from his wife.

“Agnes! Agnes!”

Agnes paused, holding both hands up as if in devotion to the skies but instead of religion in her heart, she held two clothes pegs and a damp shirt that moved body-less to the breeze.

It was him again.

The clothes would wait and besides, it looked like rain. She began to cram them back into the basket, not bothering to fold them this time and as she did so, his fingertip, as tall as she was, traced the length of her body. She stumbled forwards, speaking with care, for he could crush her with just a flick of his forefinger.

“Mr Bolster! How be we on this wet and windy day? What can I ‘elp ‘ee with?”

“Help? You talk of help? Help me with your eyes, your lips, body, arms, help me Agnes!”

A familiar nausea rose up inside her until it became an ache in the back of her head, hardening her a little more each time she saw him.

“But Mr Bolster, you have a wife! It isn’t right to keep on to me in this way! Think of her, what must she be thinking?”

“Don’t think on her Aggie, she is nothing, I feel nothing for her and haven’t for years, don’t let her come between us!” His breath was hot and licked her whole, so that her limbs, no more sturdy than the trembling legs of a new-born calf, wavered at the horror of it. His gash-red mouth was near now, opening at the taste of her, warming the air around her.

She dropped a shirt and it whipped past his ankle like a mote of dust. Flailing her arms in a cobweb of desperation, her own helplessness hardened the resolve deep inside her tiny heart.

“Prove it!”

He faltered at the open invitation.

“If you love me, I want you to show me before I can love you back.”

“Anything Agnes, anything so I can hold ‘ee, taste ‘ee… ,” his words were lusting gusts now, pulling her hair back from her temples. She had to think quickly. He would surely kill her by accident in the heat of his desire. She led him to the gorse-studded belt of cliff at Chapel Porth where a hole as big as his hand ran black into the earth.

1 (7)

“Fill it!”

“Why ‘tis easy to fill my little love!” and he rammed his wrist deep inside, “Now can you love me?”

“No. You must fill it with your blood.”

He stared at her, then at the sea which winked back at him, flashing slices of light that amplified the beauty of her.

He pulled out a knife that had known the broken limbs of dying sheep, the umbilical cords of lambs and he flicked it along the ley line of his vein, turning the wrist downwards so that the redness was captured in the earth. Again he looked at her, his eyes softening with the rush of blood away from him, but it wouldn’t be long now and he wanted her.

She smiled but he couldn’t talk.

“Come for me on the beach when it’s filled. I’ll wait for you.”

He watched as her tiny nut-like head traced the contours of the coast, until he could see no more. She hit soft sand and saw it: the sea incarnadine with the life of the giant. There was no-one now to slow her down with love. She kicked at the sand, smiling at the grains that sprayed back at her and breathed in the distant line of the horizon.

The hole led not into the finite confines of the earth but into the ceaseless sea; the same sea that whitened the bones of the dead, wiped clean the trajectories of ships and now slowly sucked back and forth the spool of red that spilled from a thwarted lover’s heart.

1 (8)2 (2)

The hole at Chapel Porth retains the blood colour of the giant’s love for Agnes.

 St Agnes’ church takes the name of the woman who defeated the giant.

 An alternative, more popular version of the tale is celebrated every year in St Agnes on Bolster Day (May 1) which presents the giant as a child-eater who is eventually challenged to a fight to the death by Sir Constantine, a local knight, but Agnes, who he is in love with, is the only one to defeat him.

Images by Nicole Jones.















An exercise in writing


Most mornings I try and do ‘my pages‘. For those of you not in the know – you sit down in front of a blank page and just write. Sounds easy? It’s phenomenally difficult to do properly.

The idea is that you move the pen across the page with as little ‘conscious’ thought as possible in order to peek beneath the rational, the self-editor, the inner critic and just let the words go.

You mostly get rubbish, what-I-had-for-breakfast, what’s-outside-the-window stuff, an essential exorcism of the inner monologue of clutter, but behind the crap and the clichés is occasional gold, you’ve just got to dig for it. Even if it’s just a juxtaposition of two words, a phrase or some sentences you like, even just an idea, for many writers it can signal the birth of a character or the beginning of a novel.

It also eventually taps into what you feel most passionately about – what pisses you off, makes you laugh, upsets you, interests you, and to write with passion is the start of good writing.

Whenever I do this with students and they read it back to themselves (aloud, which is essential), they can never quite believe it’s theirs or that those words in that particular order were waiting inside their head.

And that is the beauty of ‘pages’ or ‘automatic writing’ ‘stream-of-consciousness‘, ‘free writing’, whatever you want to call it: anyone can do, there should be no judgement, no-one else should read it and if you want to rip it up and bin it, do exactly that.

This is my 10-minute unedited effort (one side of A4) from yesterday morning:

Scritchy scratchy bleedy pencil is the weapon for today a day of sunshine and crumpets lunch in the woods and the little one at nursery. Today is a day of stepping into the mind of EB [Emily Bronte] again and rummaging a bit disrespectfully into her psyche her mind her family and why and how Today is a day of washing and nappies rushed food and coffee another day of missed sleep a day that sits parallel to my past life of satiated sleep hours what? Today is a day when politics has spoken once more and the white British priveleged [sic] male is dominant in a cabinet run by a woman today is a day of washing the sound of a rocket taking off in a bucket to be clean, sick free poo-liberated once more. The sound hums and buzzes in the back of the mind pushing and shoving the sound of birds the wind in the trees into the unheard corners of my ears where lost sounds are never heard the sound of my baby breathing deep in the night or the cry of a kitten abandoned on a highway (?) and dirty sounds pollute serenity crack at creativity and stamp on meditation I have to write about pasties goddam again innit 1,000 words for £100 – 10p a word mama mia but I shall do it for LOLs hahaha Today is a day when I waved at our neighbour but he wasn’t sure and instead flicked his hand rather than commit to a wave awks innit LOLs YOLO of course we only live once and sometimes precariously as childbirth teaches you! (taught me). Tea. 



The stuff of babies

babymobileFive months in and I’ve realised it’s an industry – a big creaking shameless guilt-inducing machine that will literally tear the babe from your breast in order to get your dollar.

Alongside death, birth is the great leveller, a mystery and a miracle, yet our neo-liberal, capitalist, free market society (call it what you will) peopled by Trumps and Johnsons (the one with the hair not the baby products) has succeeded in monetising the foetus from womb until early adulthood. Having a baby is big business.

The beauty of new parents is that they operate on fear and guilt, the holy grail of the advertising industry. As consumers have become more savvy to the ‘hard sell’, green mums and dads who are suffering from a lack of sleep and an absence of the social life they used to lead, will be far more susceptible to handing over money for peace of mind and a peaceful night.

There is no baby problem that can’t be solved by coins. Your baby doesn’t sleep? Then squash her into a cocoon-shaped pod for just under £100, oh and with that, you’ll need to spend £30 – £40 on specially fitted sheets for the cutesy lifeboat-shaped bed. We bought one, he didn’t even fit in it and it made no difference to our lives. It went back. He sleeps fine in a secondhand Moses basket that cost £25 from Gumtree. Sheets included.

Need to prove just how responsible a parent you are by buying the best car seat you possibly can? Then the seat and the fitting will cost you over £300 from John Lewis. We drove to Bristol especially to do this. So giddying were the prices and the choice of seats that both of us were reduced to a catatonic state, resolved only by coffee and cake. No sooner did we get home than some friends offered us their car seat and the new stuff was returned. We paid £100 for the seat and a secondhand travel system which included pram, cot and stroller. Don’t even get me started on pram options, there is not enough cake in the world to rescue me.

Think you don’t know anything about birth? A little nervous about pushing out a large head through a small hole for the first time? Then join the NCT for nearly £300 so they can traumatise you over a series of classes with step by step pictures of how your baby enters the world as well as providing you with anecdotal chat about the best pain relief and the colour of baby poo. A waste of money.

And so it continues. But there is another way. We have discovered that friends, family and especially parents of older children have donated most of what we use for our little one. Kingsley Village’s nearly new baby sales, roughly every month, also offer a stack of stuff for bargain prices and obviously Gumtree and Ebay are a tin mine of baby paraphernalia which makes gracing the steps of the likes of Mothercare and JojoMamaBebe a rare occurrence. Bodmin even recently hosted an event for mums at which baby stuff was entirely free. Yup, no money. Older relatives, in particular my mum, have also proved to be some of the best baby experts, you don’t have to pay to listen to tried and tested methods, even if they are not for you.

Am I a worse parent for it? Is he an unhappier child for it? Certainly not, I’m just a bit smugger and, I hope, a couple of steps ahead of the baby industry. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to shake a plastic bottle filled with dry pasta and for those first tottering steps. Priceless.




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, annspasties.co.uk

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