Warmest winter wishes,
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- Add cumin, turmeric, garlic and chillies and cook for a further 1 or 2 minutes until the aromas are released.
- 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.
- 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
- Serve the soup with the crispy pancetta on top.
This was a November retreat in a gorgeous house perched on a hill above the mouth of the Helford, and to be honest, we were wondering whether we might be rocked by gales and lashed by winter storms. We weren’t worried about such a scenario, just wondering – the more it rains, the more writing gets done, and the more inviting curling up in front of a log fire becomes – but we needn’t have given it a thought. The weather was crazily mild for the time of year. During the week, we spotted more than one guest enjoying eating their lunch on the splendid patio without the protection of so much as a jumper.
The gardens were looking glorious and the walking was spectacular as always. We did light the log fire in the evening, but on occasion I found I needed to simultaneously throw open a door or two.
Our theme for the week was Life Writing, a new retreat theme for us, and one we thoroughly enjoyed. A huge thank you to our wonderful guests, who all arrived with buckets of stories to tell and a whole host of fascinating projects to explore during the retreat. The week was filled with chatter, challenging reflections, and plenty of laughter.
Our mid-week author this time was Phillip Marsden, who was warm and kind, and incredibly generous about sharing his experiences and vast vaults of knowledge. His masterclass on bringing our settings to life on the page was both immensely pleasurable and satisfyingly challenging. There was more than one lightbulb moment going off around the table. For me, that came in the form of realising that I need to tackle my ignorance of the names of flora and fauna head-on, and quit employing avoidance tactics. Note to self…
Our guests made this retreat really special by sharing all their wonderful stories and projects with us, with such honesty and openess. Here’s to all of your ongoing journeys. We hope to see each of you again someday soon. Cheers everybody.
We 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.
We’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.
A 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.
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.
It’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.
- 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
- 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.
We’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
Many thanks to our retreat guest, Moira Fitt, who has given us permission to share this poem she wrote about what it means to write in the companionship of other writers. The poem was inspired by In the Room of a Thousand Miles at Mudita House by Billy Collins
Where Am I Now?
Where am I now?
This room of scribblers
Gazing intently at lines in a book,
A chin is scratched
A leaf is turned
A pen flies across the page.
Where are they now?
Miles away in a distant land?
Dreaming of spires or castles in the air?
A line is penned
A verse completed
A sigh of satisfaction tells it all.
Where are we now?
This room of scribblers
Filling our notebooks,
Welded by words
Humming in unison
Sharing the song of our souls.