Being in Cornwall can have its drawbacks, namely the distance to the ‘real world’ of the city, and therefore the four hours on a train it takes to industry highlights such as the trade shows, a variety of great restaurants and fantastic wine tastings means they can easily be missed.
But who am I fooling? A key highlight of Cornwall is the distance to the ‘real world’ of the city too. What Cornwall lacks in the central trade shows and large-scale industry networking, it completely overcompensates for in location, intimate connectivity between the small businesses, and perhaps most importantly, astonishing produce.
Nathan is currently featuring a dish that encompasses just this example; Brill, Crab and Porthilly Sauce.
With brill from the day boats working from Cornish coasts and crab from the fishermen in Port Isaac, it seems hard to go wrong. Yet really it is also the accompaniments I personally love about the creation.
The beautiful hamlet and bay of Porthilly, two minutes down the hill from Rock and clearly visible from the restaurant window, is so much more than the perfect location for casting off. Indeed, it is also the home of fantastic shellfish and sea-vegetables. This particular dish includes two of Porthilly’s finest little creatures; silky mussels and clams, with individually such an amazingly generous flavour for so small a mollusc. With the Marshall family raising them just down the lane and keeping a meticulous eye over them as they grow up on the shores, you can consume them happily in the knowledge of their exceptional and sustainable up-bringing.
To balance this dish, two members of the goosefoot family, marsh samphire and purslane, again from the estuary, are blanched and compiled. These two ‘troopers’ bear the brunt of the Cornish coastal winds and waves, with samphire’s hardy stems creating a lovely crisp texture and the paper-like scales of purselane deceptively acting as a barrier, while absorbing fantastic minerality from the shores that is carried through in their flavour.
Now, I could happily write an entire blog on the sauce itself, but I will spare you this time by just highlighting the prime elements, namely the use of brown crab meat from which an incredible aromatic depth in taste is acquired. This is an often overlooked element of the crab being discarded as unfashionable or ‘indelicate’, however, while the white meat is perfect for a prime component of this dish adding texture, the brown meat gives a remarkable complexity to the sauce, especially when the roasted brill stock is added. Finally, the addition of truffle-like seaweed brioche and mussel butter gives a rich and silky eruption of flavour, and acts as a terrific mop for the sauce!
This is truly a dish to be savoured. So as you walk through the beauty of Porthilly and other such bays (these unsuspecting hidden gems of the seafood world), perhaps remember the underdog of the food-sourcing habitats, as they are often the perfect location from which to showcase the amazing gifts from our coastline.