An autumn feast

It’s aThe Old Sawmills few weeks now since we were at our autumn retreat in the gorgeous Old Sawmills on the Fowey River. This waterside venue was a first for us; not only further east than we’ve been before but completely away from the world in a house that can only be reached by water or foot. Transporting ourselves and a week’s worth of provisions was an adventure, as was escorting our guests along the autumnal wooded path that leads from the nearby village of Golant to the little tidal creek beside which the Old Sawmills stands.

The peace and quiet was complete. Each day we saw the trees turn more golden as the nights drew in a little more. Our little writing community of eight got down to work and the house hummed with ideas. Outside, wading birds picked their way along the shore; we looked for otters but didn’t see the shy creatures.

45837046_1950414651713946_4413627845000036352_nAs usual on our retreats, the mornings were devoted to workshops and writing, the afternoons to more writing, and one to ones in which we heard a wonderful selection of drafts, stories, memoirs and plans. Our guests never fail to amaze us with their creativity and skill. As the week continued, everything seemed to grow; a short story turned into an outline for a novella, an opening was reworked, a work of non-fiction was mapped out and became achievable in the mind of its author. We were reminded every day why we love hosting these weeks.

Evenings were our time to gather round the dinner table, full of lively chatter, accounts of the day and excitement about the rest of the week. On the final evening, we asked which recipe everyone had enjoyed the most; debate ensued, was it Kath’s brownies, Jane’s soup, the venison sausages in redcurrant sauce or the stroganoff? In the end the chicken cider casserole won. Here it is, with ingredients for six people.

Ingredients:

  • 6 large chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • About 10 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 4 leeks
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • A bag of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • I large pot of crème fraiche, half fat
  • 2 teaspoons of English mustard
  • 2 bottles of Rattlers apple cider
  • New Cornish potatoes and green beans to accompany the chicken

Method:

  1. Lightly flour the chicken and brown in some olive oil and butter on all sides. Set aside
  2. Add the garlic, leeks and mushrooms to the pan and saute until lightly brown
  3. Add the chicken pieces, toss together, add the cider and braise until cooked through (about 30 minutes)
  4. Turn the heat up to reduce some of the liquid
  5. Add the crème fraiche and mustard, stir and warm through. Check for seasoning
  6. Just before serving, add a handful of chopped parsley. Stir gently to combine all together
  7. Serve with baby new potatoes and green bean.

It’s a lovely warming dish for autumn, best eaten with delightful retreat company in a waterside conservatory after a day of writing, reading and staring at the inspiring views outside. Enjoy.

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Mini retreats on summer Sundays

Roaring fires, cosy interiors, starry nights; most of our retreats so far have taken place in the autumn and early spring, when the days are still short and our inclination is to hunker down indoors. But for a long time we have wanted to do something in the summer months. The snag: our favourite venues are full up for the holidays. So, what to do?

We have found the perfect solution close to home on the coast near Falmouth. Mylor Yacht Club enjoys a spectacular situation right at the water’s edge in Mylor Harbour, across from the Roseland Peninsula and the Carrick Roads, some of the most beautiful sailing waters in the UK.

We are offering a series of three mini day retreats on summer Sundays: 10 June, 8 July and 5 August, a chance to learn new skills and spend time writing in good company, with our trademark delicious food. Our themes are Personal writing (10 June), Turning life into fiction (8 July), and Pure fiction (5 August).

Each workshop runs from 9.45am (arrive in time for coffee before a 10.00am start) and finishes at 4.00pm. During the day you will take part in practical writing sessions around our theme, enjoy a tasty lunch of summer soup, salad and Kath’s famous quiche, writing time in the afternoon, and a final round up over cream tea.

 

Each workshop is £40.00 per person including lunch and all refreshments. You can book here, and there is a discount if you book a place for the full series of three.

We can’t think of a better way to spend a summer Sunday beside the water.

 

In the soup – our favourite recipe for autumn

Towards the end of every retreat there is a heated debate about which menu our guests enjoyed the most during their stay with us. We pride ourselves on our food, home cooked with recipes from Kath and Jane’s repertoire, and served up with help from our kitchen angels who come to help out each day. LUNCH

We always offer to share a recipe on this blog, so guests can enjoy their favourite dishes again when they go home. This time, on our 31 October-5 November Life Writing retreat at Bosloe,  it was a tough choice. Would it be Kath’s stupendous beef Bourgignon, Jane’s spectacular Pavlova, or something else?

In the end the ‘something else’ won. The one favourite everyone could agree on was the lentil and bacon soup (and its veggie version), served up for lunch mid-week.  If the words ‘lentil’ and ‘soup’ in the same sentence make you think ‘bland’, think again. This is soup to stand a spoon up in, soup to put hairs on your chest, soup to fortify you for an afternoon of robust writing.Soup

It’s Jane’s favourite of Kath’s soup recipes (we divvy them up between us), a triumph of home-style cooking, and perfect as the autumn days turn to winter. Eat it with crusty bread, ideally by an open fire after a long country walk.

Ladies and gents, we give you…

 

Kath’s lentil soup

This recipe serves 12.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 onion, diced
  • 8 x 70g packs pancetta cubes (leave these out for the veggie version, and add a couple of extra carrots)
  • 4 carrots finely diced
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 4 chilli, sliced
  • 8 low salt vegetable stock cubes
  • 1000g red lentils, rinsed

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions, half the pancetta (if using) and the carrots. Cook on low to medium heat for 10 minutes until the onions are soft.
  2. Add cumin, turmeric, garlic and chillies and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes until the aromas are released.
  3. Pour in 1.25 litres of boiling water, crumble in the stock cubes and add the lentils. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the lentils aren’t sticking.
  4. Meanwhile, fry the remaining pancetta in a small frying pan for about 10 minutes until crispy. You don’t need to add any oil as plenty will run from the pancetta
  5. Serve the soup with the crispy pancetta on top.

Philip Marsden joins us as guest author

philip_marsden_cr_gina_lundy2011__fullWe are delighted to announce that Philip Marsden will be our mid-week guest author for our retreat on Life Writing and Time to Write at Bosloe in early November. The retreat runs from Tuesday 31 October to Sunday 5 November and Philip will join us for dinner and an author’s talk on Wednesday, and return the next morning to run a workshop.

Philip is the award-winning author of a number of works of travel, fiction and non-fiction, including The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers, The Levelling Sea and, most recently, Rising Ground (Granta, 2014). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and his work has been translated into fifteen languages. After years of travelling, he now lives on the tidal upper reaches of the River Fal in Cornwall with his wife, children and various boats.

The Levelling SeaWe’ve recently read and enjoyed The Levelling Sea, his dramatic account of the history of Falmouth, awash with pirates, sailors, politicians and maritime adventurers. This brilliant read taught us much that we didn’t know about our home town; a walk along Arwenack Street and around Pendennis headland will now be even more fascinating.

Philip brings the perfect set of writing skills to our retreat; an understanding of ‘life writing’ and its sub-genres of travel writing, memoir, and creative non-fiction, and knowledge of ways we can use real life events as a basis for fiction. You can find our more about his work and read some of his excellent reviews here.

Our retreat is booking now, and there are some lovely rooms available. Bosloe is a very special setting in the autumn, with its sweeping views across the Helford, and its own gorgeous gardens just next door to the National Trust’s spectacular Glendurgan. Don’t miss out – you can find out more and book here. We will be delighted to welcome you to The Writing Retreat.

Soup du jour

A good breakfastA writing army marches on its stomach. At The Writing Retreat we like to send people home full of ideas, new skills, inspiration, motivation and – the essential fuel – delicious home cooked food. We both love cooking and, with the help of the Rosemerryn farmhouse kitchen and our fabulous kitchen angels Amy and Charlie of Cornish caterers White Radish, we serve a delicious menu every day.

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Breakfast is a help-yourself affair, with fresh bread, cereals, local farm eggs, juice, yoghurts and a fruit bowl piled high, plus fresh coffee and a variety of tea, from Tetleys to organic fruit tissanes. We break from our workshops mid-morning for coffee and cake – Kath’s flapjack and brownie, and Jane’s lemon drizzle cake were on offer at our most recent retreat. Then it’s onwards to lunch, and a spread of Kath’s home-baked quiche, platters of cold meats, pate, hummus and falafels on different days of the week. And, most importantly, the soup.

Each day we enjoy a steaming bowl of freshly made soup, with bread from the village shop at St Buryan. Cauliflower soup, tomato soup, parsnip and apple, and mushroom soup were all on the menu in March.

IMG_20170316_125808It’s amazing that we have such appetites for dinner… but that’s another story. To give you a flavour of those lunches, here, by popular demand of our March retreaters, is our mushroom soup recipe. It’s best served around the Rosemerryn kitchen table, where the chat is all about writing, reading, stories and how best to tell them… but we’re sure you can replicate that at home.

Here is the recipe. Enjoy.

MUSHROOM SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 30g butter
  • A sprig of thyme
  • A packet of dried porcini mushroom, soaked in enough water to cover them
  • 750g mushrooms, a variety of Portobello, large field mushrooms and smaller white or chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 large floury potato
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour 
  • 1.2 litres hot vegetable stock ( we use Kallo gluten free organic cubes)
  • 100ml double cream, plus extra to finish
  • A few gratings of nutmeg
  • A sprig of tarragon (fresh or dried)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

  • Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the enough water to cover them in a bowl, then drain, keeping the liquid
  • Chop the garlic and mushrooms and sautee with the butter in a large non-stick pan
  • When the garlic and mushrooms are softening and starting to brown, add the stock and the liquid from the porcini mushrooms
  • Grate the potato, skin and all, into the pan and stir well
  • Add the spring of thyme and shake of salt and pepper
  • Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for about 25 minutes or until the mushrooms and potato are soft
  • Add a few gratings of nutmeg and the tarragon and check for seasoning, adding a little more salt and pepper if you wish
  • Allow the soup to cool a little, then blend to a smooth consistency
  • Add the cream and warm to serve.

 

People say the nicest things

IMG_20170318_090214We’re back from another wonderful Craft of Writing week at Rosemerryn with a lovely group of writers who came from as far away as Worthing and as close  as just down the road in Newlyn.

We always ask for feedback at the end of the week, so we can learn what has worked and what our guests have enjoyed about the week – also what suggestions they have to help us plan our future retreats.

Here is a selection of comments from our Rosemerryn retreaters. Thank you everyone for making our time with you so enjoyable and productive. We’d love to welcome you again.

“A wonderful week with excellent workshops, great advice and lovely new friends. I shall return home buzzing with new ideas for writing. I learned so much about the art of writing” Ann

“Really appreciated being able to enjoy all the wonderful food despite being gluten free – and with no fuss” Jil

“A space away from everyday life, crawling with imaginary characters and plots under (re)construction. Fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in a story while being doted on.” Camille

“It’s the perfect combination of gorgeous setting, beautiful accommodation, generous and welcoming hosts, fantastic catering, a nurturing atmosphere. Highly recommended.”Jil

“Relaxing atmosphere, interesting fellow students; I learned much of real practical value on the business of writing.” Anon

“The relaxed atmosphere lends itself to creativity and new ideas.” Ann

“The morning workshops had such excellent (and interesting) examples. I felt very encouraged to act on what I had learnt – such stimulation!” Anon

“Thank you for another wonderful week – my adventures in writing continue because of The Writing Retreat!” Jil

 

 

 

An orange cake for Christmas

Jane Moss describes the pleasure of cooking in the Rosemerryn kitchen and shares a recipe that’s perfect for Christmas.

One of my favourite moments in our retreats comes near the beginning, when Kath and I arrive and begin to make Rosemerryn our home for the week. It’s the peaceful morning before our guests arrive, when the kitchen is ours and the supplies for the week are all put away, ready to be used.

In those quiet hours cake-1we make preparations, so that later in the week our soups, stews and cakes can appear effortlessly, as part of the retreat magic. In November I baked a new dessert, to go with our lamb tagine evening meal; a Spanish orange and almond cake, completely free of dairy produce or flour. It sounds unlikely on the page – oranges, ground almonds, eggs and a little sugar – but I had tasted it before and knew it would be a delicious addition to our autumn menu.

Is there anything more soothing than the scent of two whole oranges, skin, flesh and juice, all simmering away for several hours in the warm kitchen? This is a recipe that requires time; ideally the oranges are cooked in advance of the cake being baked, so the flavour mulls and deepens before the oranges are mixed into the other dessert ingredients before the final baking.

It’s a pleasure to share this recipe. I shall be making making it again for Christmas and serving it with homemade ice cream and a dash of Pedro Ximenez dark sweet sherry. At Rosemerryn we served it warm with Cornish ice cream (of course) and, for our dairy-avoiding guests, Swedish Glace, a delicious alternative that tastes of rich vanilla and feels like velvet on the tongue. Sainsburys and Tesco both stock it.cake-2

Here is the recipe for Spanish orange and almond cake.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges, scrubbed and roughly chopped, with the skin on
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
  • 225 g (8 oz) ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • Sifted icing sugar to decorate

Method:

  1. Put the chopped oranges in a small saucepan, discarding any pips. Add 1 tbsp water, then cover and cook gently for an hour or until the oranges are soft and excess liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool overnight, then mash or blend to a soft pulp.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF, gas mark 4). Line the bottom and sides of a 23 cm (9 in) spring form cake tin with baking parchment. Finely chop the oranges in a food processor or blender, or with a large knife.
  3. Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until they form stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in half the caster sugar, then whisk for 1 minute.
  4. Using the same whisk, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar in another bowl for 2–3 minutes or until pale and quite thick. Whisk in the finely chopped oranges, then carefully fold in the ground almonds.
  5. Stir in 3 spoonfuls of the whisked egg white to loosen the mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites with a large metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and level the top. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
  6. Bake for 50–55 minutes or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check the cake after 20 minutes and again at 30 minutes, and cover lightly with foil if it is browning too quickly.
  7. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn it out, peel away the lining paper and transfer to a serving plate.
  8. Warm gently before serving, dust with icing sugar and slice into segments with a nice blob of Cornish (of course) ice cream.

cake-3Have a wonderful Christmas, from Kath and Jane.

Enjoy.