Real vegetarian food, served in an imaginary world...

Sunday 19 November 2017


I have always been drawn to the Poldark saga. I grew up watching the 1970’s adaptation with Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark. 
I love all the novels by Winston Graham and (although initially sceptical) have thoroughly enjoyed the recent incarnation of Aidan Turner as Ross.
It has become a family tradition for us to spend a week each November in a cottage at Mousehole.
Last year we indulged in A Meal for Pirates and Smugglers
This year, after visiting many of the local coves and beaches which feature in the TV series, I was inspired to create a Poldark-themed meal.
The Poldark novels are full of formal and family gatherings, where the appearance of status and influence was directly related to the fare served.

Most recipes for the landowning class in the Cornwall of the 18th Century, would use meat, and even the poorer people would have some access (even if not regularly) to fish. Therefore, the vegetarian diet is not usually represented in cookbooks of the time. So, for this meal, I have updated some old recipes to use current vegetarian alternatives, as well as including some of the long-established fare.

The Food
Hevva Cake

Any Poldark meal has to include pasties.

Although pasties have been made in Cornwall for hundreds of years, the recipe I used came from a book that my Mum used every Tuesday when I was a child. It is a 1960’s cookbook/ textbook for girls called Cooking is Fun. I still have her old, slightly singed copy. (And yes, I do mean just girls. There are fantastic anachronistic asides such as telling 4 girls how to prepare for a record party!) We used to eat meat back then so I have adapted it to be a just-as-tasty alternative.
And Mum was there to help cook them...

350g/ 12oz plain flour
pinch of salt
85g/ 3oz vegetarian cooking fat (such as Cookeen)
85g/ 3oz cooking margarine (such as Stork)
150g/ 6oz chopped up veggie burgers/ Quorn steak strips, chopped
4 medium potatoes
1 large onion
100ml veggie stock
20ml milk
1tbsp olive oil

Serves 4

Heat oven to 220C/ 425F/ Gas 7
Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently fry the Quorn pieces. Add the stock, a small amount at a time so that the Quorn takes in the moisture. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Dice the onion and potato and mix together in a bowl. Add the cool Quorn mixture and mix roughly.
Cut fats into small pieces and rub into the salt and flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
Add enough cold water to make a firm pastry.
Divide into portions and roll out into circles about 2-3mm thick. Reserve a little of the pastry.
Put filling on one half of circle. 
Season well and fold over. Crimp the edges to seal and brush with milk. 
Repeat to make the other pasties.
Use the reserved pastry to put initials on each pasty.
Place on a baking tray and cook in hot oven for 15 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 160C/ 325F/ Gas 3 and cook for a further 45 minutes.

For the remainder of the meal, I took inspiration from the novels and The Poldark Cookery Book (1981, Triad Granada), written by Jean M Graham, wife of Winston Graham, although I found more vegetarian-friendly versions elsewhere and adapted some as necessary.

Hevva Cake takes its name from ‘Hevva! Hevva!’ the cry the huer would make when pilchards were sighted off the Cornish coast. The significance of the arrival of the pilchards, and their importance to the poor people, is emphasised in the early novels. This cake would traditionally be served as the fishermen returned with the catch. The criss-cross scoring is said to represent the fishing nets.

It is also known as Heavy Cake, and features as such at Julia’s christening, in the second novel, Demelza (Book 1 Chapter V):
Then, having worked off some of their dinner, they were all invited in again to drink tea and eat heavy cake…

I am sure that most Cornish cooks have a version of it, but this one does not use lard so it is perfect for us:

500g self-raising flour
250g/ 9oz butter, chilled
350g/12oz mixed dried fruit
180g/ 6oz sugar
100ml/ 3½oz milk
+ 1tbsp milk and 1tbsp sugar for topping

Pre-heat oven to 190°C/ 375°F/ Gas 5
Line a medium square baking tin. (I didn't have one so I used an ovenproof dish.)

Cut the butter into cubes, then rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar and fruit and mix well.

Add the milk and mix again.
Pour into the cake tin and press down well.

Score the top with criss-cross lines.
Place in the middle of the oven and cook for 35-40 mins.

While still warm, bush with a little milk and sprinkle sugar over the top.


Syllabub was served by Demelza when she gave a dinner party in The Four Swans (Book 2, Chapter V). It was very popular in the Eighteenth Century and could use any alcohol which was available.

250ml whipping cream
100g caster sugar
60ml white wine
30ml fresh lemon juice
1tsp lemon zest
Fresh mint to serve.

Place the cream and sugar in a bowl and whip until it begins to thicken. Add the lemon zest
Then add the wine and lemon juice. Whip again until light and fluffy. 
Place in glasses and chill until ready to serve.
Serve with a sprig of mint.

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