Buffeted by sea storms whipped up in the south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by the cold waters of the Irish Sea, Cornwall is a place ‘where the sea meets the sky; where the weather changes from moment to moment: and where the coastline is beautifully rugged and where surf breaks on endless shores’. For chef Emily Scott, these emotions and landscape are home, her place and inspiration. It’s where she developed a passion for simple, seasonal cooking and what inspires the food she loves to cook and share. Put another way, she says, “ … my way of cooking and my ethos of beautiful pared-back cooking’.
And this past Friday, June 11 evening she shared her food with seven of the most powerful people on earth, leaders of the G7 group of the world’s wealthiest democracies including US president Joe Biden, German chancellor Angel Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and their host, British prime minister Boris Johnson.
In pictures across the next morning’s newspapers, you’ll have seen Emily in the middle of this group holding a copy of her first book, SEA & SHORE: Recipes and Stories from a Kitchen in Cornwall. The book’s premise is having ‘Cornwall at its heart’, through, pared back, seasonal dishes creating a tangible sense of place and flavour.
Sea & Shore brings together the coast, the ports, the harbours and Emily’s home kitchen, through over 80 simple and delicious recipes. Taking you through ebbs and flows of the seasons; from Spring tides and Summer Seas to the Cornish Autumn, the choice of dishes sees Emily using the ingredients sourced from the sea and land surrounding her restaurant’s doorstep. She is head chef at the glamorous Watergate Bay Hotel, in surfer and visitors ‘down-from-London’ hotspot Newquay.
Early June was a busy time for Emily, for the book was only published the day before the G7 dinner on June 10.
But what about her cooking, and her new cookbook? Would I be interested in either or both of those had she not found herself in a global culinary and gastro-diplomacy spotlight?
Well, let’s see. But before that, some very basic research finds me scrolling through her Instagram feed @emilyscottfood where I see a hand written note by the world’s most powerful man, US president Joe Biden. He writes; ‘You are as lovely as your cooking. Come visit in Washington’. Well, that’s quite an offer.
Sea & Shore is a distillation of foods, folklore, cooking and a respectful understanding of ingredients found along the Cornish coast and inland. This knowledge sit comfortably alongside culinary skills gained through time spent living in France, in Provence, Burgundy and Bordeaux. It’s how she developed her signature cooking, through a passion for simple, seasonal cooking with beautiful ingredients.
This is a very personal book, dipping in out of her family life, early days settling into Cornwall, specifically Port Issac and summer days unfolding in her family’s kitchen.
The first haul of recipes are all sweet and puddings, which immediately piques my interest; cakes, flapjacks, Crème Chantilly and to kick it all off, Spiced Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese. Recipe headlines are straight to the point, with useful tips about the recipe and joyful snippets about how the recipe earned its place in the book and what it means to her, on an emotional and personal level. Usefully, she includes weights and measures in metric, imperial and cups. No need to hit the Search button for, how many cups of caster sugar relates to 250 gm?
The book is split into three sections opening with her thoughts on Cornwall, and how she kits out her kitchen and essential recipes. The mid section holds the recipes split into seasonal outings – Winter Seas, Spring Tides and High Summer, and ending with a suppliers list and a short bio that brings us up to date with her move to lead the cooking at Watergate Bay Hotel.
But what about the recipes; the food? Emily’s time spent in France is evident with dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon, Chestnut Mushrooms, Lardons with Winter Herbs; Chicken with Orange, Cream and Tarragon, and Pain Perdu (Lost Bread Pudding).
She writes of her ‘little’ obsession with lemons, as I have, and her love of Helena Atlee’s must-read book ‘The Land Where Lemons Grow’. Again, a favourite of mine.
Christmas is obviously a big deal in the Scott household with a whole chapter devoted to meals, craft and entertaining – think Vulscombe Goat’s Cheese and Caramelised Red Onion Tartlets; orange clove pomanders, and smoked salmon pinwheels.
Several recipes are familiar, Cornish Crab Linguine with Chilli, Lemon and Parsley, but accompanied with beautifully lit photography and a succinct, warm, enticing writing style makes me want to rush out of the house and our fish monger to stock up on crab. Emily suggests accompanying her Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Smoked Paprika, Garlic and Thyme with Damson Jam, a very tempting thought.
Cornish Fairings are a spiced ginger with a particular chompy texture and popular with Cornish locals and seasonal tourists. Emily suggests adding desiccated coconut to boost the crunch. Delicious – I am already planning a trip to Cornwall!
One of my favourite sections is headlined Summer Seas (Gone Fishing) and here she describes idyllic days of sailing, lobster trapping and cooking line-caught mackerel over a small fire on the beach as dusk approaches. As I said, idyllic.
Photography is a mix of Cornish views, moody landscapes, and cleverly photographed food shots, reflecting the sentiments of the season; bright for Spring, warm for Summer and cool blue for Winter.
So what did Joe Biden eat at that day that so entranced him at the G7 dinner at the Eden Project? Well, the menu for that day included Spiced Melon, Gazpacho, Coconut and high note herbs, for the starter, followed by a main of Turbot Roasted on the Bone with Cornish New Potatoes and Wild Garlic Pesto with Greens from local Padstow kitchen gardens.
A Cornish cheese course featured Cornish Yarg and Helford Blue, while for dessert there will be Strawberry Pavlova, followed by Petit Fours of Clotted Cream Fudge and a Mini-Clotted Cream Ice Cream Cone with Chocolate Earl Grey Truffles. With that running order of essential British flavours mixing with some tropical notes as you might expect in the Cornwall, a place where palm trees thrive in the long summer days and lush grass produces the creamiest milk.
So, yes, I would certainly have reached for this book, whether of not Joe Biden had personally applauded the chef’s work.
PORT ISAAC MACKEREL WITH A RAW SALAD OF COURGETTES, CHILLI, NASTURTIUM FLOWERS AND ROCKET
1 courgette (zucchini), cut into ribbons
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 lemons: zest and juice of 1; 1 thinly sliced
4 whole mackerel, gutted, cleaned and scaled
a few sprigs of rosemary
olive oil, for drizzling
100 g (31/2 oz) rocket (arugula) leaves
6 nasturtium flowers
Cornish sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the grill (broiler) to high.
Place the ribbons of courgette into a bowl, add the chopped chilli and lemon zest, season with sea salt, and set aside.
Season the cavity of each fish and fill with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices.
Rub the skin with a little oil, salt and pepper. Grill (broil) for about 6 minutes on each side, turning occasionally, until the skin is crisp and charred and the flesh is opaque.
Add the rocket leaves to the courgette salad, drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze or two of lemon juice. Gently tear the nasturtiums through the salad and toss to combine.
Place the whole mackerel on a plate with the courgette salad.
This recipe can also be cooked outside on the barbecue or baked in the oven for 10 minutes at 180°C (160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4).
SEA & SHORE by Emily Scott (Hardie Grant, £26). Photography: Kim Lightbody
Recipe courtesy Emily Scott