This site uses cookies to improve your experience.

By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. 




Cornish Beach, photograph by Stella Stewart

From our factory in the Highlands, Cornwall is at the other end of the country yet the landscape and the food are very similar. You will find traditional scones and cream, pasties and buns as well as fresh seafood from the rich waters that surround this most southerly British county, just like in Easter Ross.  This week I discovered that Cornish people traditionally resourceful, ingenious and hugely successful in sourcing, farming and preparing food and ingredients. They were blessed with rich waters and fair weather during the summer months this paired with ingenuity with ingredients makes their food of today so diverse and delectable. 

The widely acclaimed Cornish Pasty.
The pasty that is eaten today is very similar to the ones eaten hundreds of years ago. Traditionally the pasty was marked with the initial of the would be consumer, since the contents of pasties varied, and still vary today, to suit all tastes.  Often filled with either pork, rabbit, fish, eggs, vegetables such as turnips and potatoes, and even jam or fruit.  The initial end was always eaten last so that, should the pasty not be finished, it could be reclaimed by its owner. The proper pasty, however, filled with potatoes, turnip and a little meat, was a meal in itself.  For this reason it was most convenient to take into the fields or down the mine for consumption at ‘croust’ time.  Hard enough, so it is said, to be dropped down a mine shaft without breaking! 

Fish and Meat
Cornish pilchards were caught and salted down by the tens of thousands in the autumn.  They were prepared and served a dozen or more different ways, many of which would be considered unpalatable today.  The meat from the ubiquitous Cornish pig was widely eaten.  Almost every part of the animal was used, resulting in such Cornish specialities as Grovey Cake, Hog’s Pudding and the dubious pleasures of Muggety Pie.  Where necessary - and when the required salt could be afforded - portions of the carcass were preserved immediately after slaughter, for use during the coming year in the form of ham, bacon or pork. 

It is unlikely that many visitors leave Cornwall today without having tested its most delectable cream. Yet in former days the enjoyment of this delicacy was reserved only for those of comfortable means. Poorer families had to content themselves with skimmed milk or occasionally even this cream or ‘dippy’ but, given the chance, like their betters they too would enjoy dollops of clotted cream, not only with splits and sandwiches, fried eggs and brandy snaps, pies and pasties, but even with pilchards and potatoes. 

Looking through an Old Cornish cookery book, full of traditional recipes, it is not uncommon to find ingredients lists that contain hugely expensive and at the time difficult to come by spices, fruit and nuts.  It is clear that the positioning and the trading of Cornwall had a big effect on the cuisine.  One that is most traditional is Saffron.  As early as 400BC Saffron was traded for Cornish tin.  It remains a hugely expensive food that is uncommonly used in British cuisine. Apart from in Cornwall, where rich and poor have made and eaten the fruit tea loaf, Saffron Cake.


Back to Top