Lovely by Lauren Hairston


St Nonna's Church Altarnun

St Nonna’s, Altarnun

After our visit to Lanhydrock, Paul and I decided to drive out over Bodmin Moor. Yes, I’ve probably read Jamaica Inn too many times (and other things by Daphne du Maurier and other books set in Cornwall). Anyway, the village of Altarnun naturally stuck out at me on the road map so I made Paul pull off the road and stop so I could get a look. It’s no surprise Daphne du Maurier wanted to use this village in Jamaica Inn. It’s tiny, and except for the occasional car, it really could be the early 19th century. Since it was a Wednesday evening, I didn’t expect to get to see inside St Nonna’s, so I contented myself with taking photos from outside. That is, I contented myself until the Altarnun Bellringers started arriving for practice and invited us in!

Altarnun Bridge

I just want to take a moment to say how amazing the Altarnun Bellringers are. They were so friendly and welcoming and took the time to let us in the church and even up into the bell chamber to show us how change ringing works. I’d read The Nine Tailors on a previous trip to England, but I really had no idea. If you keep scrolling, you’ll see that Paul and I got to ring the bells ourselves. We really couldn’t have asked for a better evening. To top it off, Paul even got to geek out about the enormous lock on the church door–we’re really weird, what can I say?

St Nonna's Interior and Churchyard

St Nonna’s has a proper churchyard with the most gorgeous headstones. Everything about St Nonna’s is completely different from churches in Wichita. Here, the bells are automated or–shudder–recorded, if there is even a bell tower at all, and people are buried somewhere else, in hideously homogenous cemeteries where the headstones are flat so groundskeepers don’t have to mow around them. If that’s efficiency, I don’t want any part of it. I like beauty and things that have been around a long time. Altarnun offers that in spades.

Paul Altarnun Bellringers

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Cauliflower, Pancetta, and Mustard Gratin

Cauliflower, Pancetta, and Mustard Gratin

It might sound all fancy–oooh pancetta! oooh gratin!–but Cauliflower, Pancetta, and Mustard Gratin is really just a spiffed-up Cauliflower Cheese. Yes, there are pancetta-laced breadcrumbs on top and there’s whole-grain Dijon in the sauce, but it’s still comfort food. Plus, the Shallot and Chive Boursin is basically just classy French Onion Dip. Yum yum! All you need with it is a nice green salad.

Very important: don’t skip drying out the cauliflower. If you just let it drip though a colander for a minute, you will have a watery gratin and who wants that?

Cauliflower, Pancetta, and Mustard Gratin

1 1/2 lbs / 700 g cauliflower (weighed after trimming), divided into florets (approximately two heads)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 ounces / 100 g pancetta, cut into lardons
4 ounces / 100 g breadcrumbs
1 lemon, zest only
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 ounces / 45 g cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 ounces / 3 tablespoons / 35 g butter
2 tbsp all-purpose / plain flour
2 cups / 450 ml milk
1 tbsp wholegrain Dijon mustard
150 g shallot and chive Boursin

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower florets, bring water back to boiling, then back off heat, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Drain well and lay florets out on kitchen towels to dry completely.

To make the crunchy topping, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook pancetta 5 minutes then add breadcrumbs and cook another 5 minutes, stirring. Breadcrumbs should get toasted and golden; turn down heat if they start getting too brown. Leave breadcrumb mixture to cool completely then stir in zest, seeds, and cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/gas mark 6. Grease a large shallow gratin dish or casserole and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it bubbles, whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, continuing to stir. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the milk, a bit at a time. Return to heat and bring to a boil, whisking. Continue to cook and whisk until mixture reduces by about a third. Mix in mustard and Boursin and remove from the heat.

Place cauliflower in the bottom of the gratin dish and top with the sauce. Sprinkle the topping over and bake 25 – 30 minutes, or until nicely golden.

Serves 4

Adapted from Good Food Channel.

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Coffee and Walnut Cake

Coffee and Walnut Cake

I originally published this recipe on The Past on a Plate, but it’s such a good one it’s worth repeating. Coffee and Walnut Cake is a classic tea-room treat. You’ll find it in hipster cafés in London, terraced tea rooms at National Trust properties, and everywhere in between. The coffee and walnut are a brilliant combination, the buttery flavor of the walnuts tempering the bitterness of the coffee. It’s quite complex for a cake! Try it; you’ll like it.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

1/2 lb salted butter, very soft
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon very strong coffee*, cooled
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Grease two 8″-round cake tins and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, then add the eggs and beat well. Stir in the coffee.

In a smaller mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add in a couple of additions to the butter mixture, stirring well to combine. Stir in the walnuts and divide between the two baking tins.

Bake in the middle of the oven about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and springy. A cake tester inserted in the middle of each layer should come out clean.

Cool layers in their pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then turn out to cool completely before frosting.

6 ounces very soft salted butter
2 tablespoons very strong coffee*, cooled
1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Walnuts, to decorate

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the coffee. Beat in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it’s at a consistency that will spread easily.

Spread half of frosting on one layer, top with next layer then spread rest of frosting over top of cake. If you have walnut halves, arrange them around the outside edge of the cake. If your walnuts are chopped or broken, pile some in the middle of the cake or place around the edges for decoration.

Serves 12

*I brewed three tablespoons of coffee for four minutes in just enough boiling water to cover the grounds. Then, I strained the coffee and set it aside to cool. I then measured out the tablespoons for my cake from that. You could use a shot of espresso or some very strong instant coffee instead.

Adapted from Jane Brocket’s Vintage Cakes, p. 45


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Lanhydrock Courtyard

These photos are from last summer’s trip to Cornwall. We had a magnificent time and I’d love to go back. There are so many places I love in England and so many places I haven’t seen yet–Paul needs a lot more vacation! I love a country house and Lanhydrock, located smack-dab in the middle of Cornwall, did not disappoint. Normally, Paul and I are pretty slow tourists. We are not itenerary-makers and we frequently leave places without having seen many of the top tourist attractions. We tend to take it easy and, on top of it, we usually rent a house or apartment, so we spend more time grocery shopping and fixing meals than the average sight-seer. However, after a morning of driving down bridle paths (I kid you not, there were many traffic diversions) to get to King Edward Mine  so Paul could geek out over steam engines and mills and smelting and what-have-you, we found ourselves with no plans for the afternoon. So, we hopped in our trusty rental Renault and drove out to Lanhydrock. For me, it had double appeal in being a) free from mining equipment and b) free.*

Lanhydrock House and Church

Isn’t it gorgeous? Lanhydrock may be mostly a Victorian post-fire rebuild but they did a good job matching it up with the sections from the 1620s that escaped burning. How I love a 17th-century house! I was ready to move right in. I wish I had photos of the inside but we didn’t arrive until late in the afternoon and had tea and cake in the café and I take forever to take photographs so we decided we’d better move our butts through the house before closing time. Plus, I like to look at things and talk to the volunteers and not just have my camera surgically attached to my left eye (the good eye).  I took these photos of the glorious exterior as the house was closing for the night.


In the giddy rush that followed our sightseeing, we even made an evening drive through Bodmin Moor and stopped in the village of Alternun before heading back to Truro for a very late dinner courtesy of the Marks & Spencer ready meals aisle.

Lanhydrock Gate

*Lanhydrock is a National Trust property, so it was included in our Royal Oak membership–totally worth it.

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