Rick Stein has a chance to enjoy Christmas in his beloved adopted county of Cornwall, where he joins in the ancient festival of Wassailing and cooks his own goose.
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BRASS BAND PLAYS SILENT NIGHT
'I think we all feel that Christmas is a time
'to tighten the fabric that keeps the community together.
'In Cornwall, even the big places are small enough
'for people to easily enjoy a sense of belonging
'and Padstow would never be called big.'
I really like the Christmas lights in Padstow, even in the rain.
I particularly like the sort of
Loch Ness monster. It's our own version.
Whenever that gets lit up every year, I think Christmas is here.
I think a small place like Padstow,
just because it's so small and you know everybody,
it just feels really Christmassy
as soon as the Christmas lights are switched on.
There's something very sort of convivial
about people meeting in the streets,
having a mince pie, a bit of music.
I'm there, I'm ready for Christmas,
I'm full of fun and excited about it.
I love spending time in Cornwall at Christmas
and creating dishes that celebrate the best the county has to offer.
This year, I'm being joined by a few close friends for a lunch
that highlights the culinary treasures of Cornwall.
All the dishes are made with my favourite ingredients
that are caught or grown in and around the county.
And talking of Cornish treasures...
Well, as you might probably know, this is Jethro.
We go back a long way, cos we used to play rugby together,
didn't we, Jethro?
Yeah, we was a very good side and we beat most people
until they introduced the ball, and that finished our game completely!
-It was good fun after the games.
-We had some fun, we really did.
Talking of fun, I tried things I hadn't done for years,
without much success, I have to say!
I'm going to have a seasonal tour around the county
before getting together with my pals...
..for a celebratory banquet at Little Petherick village hall.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
'For the banquet, I'll be working with my son Jack,
'who's now a chef at my restaurant in Padstow.
'He came up with the dish of hake with a Cornish seasonal salad.
'And very festive it looks, too.'
I've never asked you this, Jack, so it seems a good time,
but why are you doing this - to please me,
take over the family business? Do you like cooking?
Yeah, to get your undivided attention, mostly,
and because I love working weekends and late nights.
And also... No, I've always loved watching you,
like the way people respond to good food
-and everything like that.
I'd like to do that myself. It's a great experience and a great honour.
'Blimey, that's an accolade from number-two son!
'Hard to believe it, I know,
'but it really does snow sometimes in Cornwall.
'And as luck would have it,
'it arrived right on cue to add an even more festive touch
'to the annual wassailing ceremony at Cotehele,
'something celebrated with huge enthusiasm by all concerned.
'And even the apples apparently love it.'
Green Man, would you tell us about wassailing?
Well, wassailing comes from Saxon times, I believe
and it actually is just celebrating the earth
and celebrating the fact that these trees bring forth fruit
every year, time after time and paying them back a little.
This gentleman in a moment will put some juice back into the earth,
which symbolises the full cycle of nature
and that's we're here to celebrate. Yes.
It is customary at this time of the year
to stand on the ancient land
and celebrate the earth's cycles,
the renewal of life
and the hopes for a good harvest
of food and other produce in the next growing season.
We wish you all a happy new year and a wonderful wassail!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Old apple tree, we wassail thee and hope thou will bear.
We wassail thee and hope thou will bear!
Three-score sacks full.
Three-score sacks full.
Holler, good folk, holler!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
'And a good splash of this year's cider
'makes sure we get gallons of the stuff to drink next year.'
Well, this programme's called A Cornish Christmas.
How much more Christmas can you get than this? It's snowing!
There is a God! And this is so wonderfully atmospheric.
I mean, I just love that horse. I mean, that...that...
that in itself is enough for me.
It's just that sense of sort of medieval life
in this beautiful house and blessing of the apples.
I mean, that's what Christmas is, really,
it's a sort of time to cheer yourself up
in the dead heart of the season and think about the new season to come.
One of the great things about cold, snowy mornings at Christmas time
is the recovery period, which at this time of year should mean
a good, hot punch to get the heart started again
and the gastric juices flowing.
This is a good one. It's called Smoking Bishop -
citrus fruits studded with cloves
and gently roasted until they're softened.
A good sprinkling of sugar and lashings of wine and port
with a stick of cinnamon, all left to steep for a while.
Then squash the fruit to get all the juices out, strain it,
warm it and serve it.
'I was introduced to this drink by Xenia Irwin.
'She's a master of wine with a speciality for rustic drinks
'that go back in time in Devon and Cornwall.'
So what's this called?
This is a Smoking Bishop
and it's a recipe that I found in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
-It's a traditional Cornish recipe.
Well, not necessarily Cornish, but it's a very traditional recipe.
-And it's sort of an old-fashioned punch.
It's quite weird, quite interesting.
Very grapefruity. I rather like it.
It's a little sweet.
You're applying your wine taster's skills there, I note, to a...
You've got to slurp!
You've got to get the air in to get the flavours out.
-It's quite bitter. The grapefruit comes through very strongly.
Possibly, I underspiced it.
Maybe more cloves to make it more traditional.
Well, it smells of cloves.
Sniffing and drinking this,
I'm thinking Dickens, I'm thinking Victorian, rosy-cheeked people,
probably through too much punch...
-..by the coal fire there.
I'm thinking of putting my boot up by the fire
and calling for one of those long clay pipes
and maybe bring on the serving wenches!
'Xenia's a girl who knows her drinks,
'and her next suggestion was a sort of Cornish Kir Royale
'made with sloe gin and a local sparkling wine.'
My own sloe gin,
made by my own fair hands.
What, from hedgerows and...?
Local hedgerows, local hedgerows, a lot of sugar, a lot of gin.
Picked the berries, froze them,
beat them up with a rolling pin,
put them in a large one-gallon container
with a lot of sugar and a lot of gin and a vanilla pod
and then put them in the boot of the car
to roll around in the dark to really macerate.
Everyone says you should shake it every day. Much easier
to stick it in the boot of the car for a month. Let's have a taste.
That is very good. I must say, I thought it would be
a lot sweeter, but actually it's quite austere,
-but it's quite astringent.
-It's quite lean and racy and dry and...
Lean and racy, yeah.
And it's quite elegant.
It's got that sort of plummy, plum-stone taste as well.
-It has, it has.
-I mean, a great fruit, sloe, isn't it?
It's also...surprisingly alcoholic
-and it gets in the...
-Oh, not again!
I'm really sorry about this.
-That's why it's called a heart starter.
-We need a spittoon.
-It's Christmas, we're not doing spittoons.
-And of course, the wine's Cornish too.
-The wine's Cornish,
and the English should be making sparkling wine.
We've got the right climate, the right soil
and we're really, really good at making sparkling wine.
And I think we can beat the Champagnoirs at their own game.
-And what I like about Cornish sparkling wine is,
it's got that real cool freshness
that comes from wet hedgerows full of elderflower.
You're poetic. I like this, I like this.
POSH ACCENT: It comes naturally, darling!
THEY LAUGH Put Dame Edna away!
Firstly, I'd like to welcome you all tonight
to another Dickensian evening.
THEY PLAY THE FIRST NOEL
As well as great food and drink,
Christmas has come to be synonymous with Dickens.
In Lostwithiel, they really know how to celebrate the great man,
who came to Cornwall with his artist friends in the 1840s.
If you know your Dickens novels,
you should be able to spot each and every character
in this annual Christmas ceremony,
which brings the whole community together.
Everyone joins in the spirit of Christmas past.
There's free mince pies and mulled wine in almost
every shop you choose to visit up and down the high street,
but for serious foodies, the local delis provide
plenty of Cornish festive fare to stock up your larder.
I love Lostwithiel!
Cornish Christmas, quite simple.
It means good food, family, friends and fun really
and we have all those things in abundance in Cornwall.
We've got great producers, great suppliers
and put all those things together with a bit of festive cheer,
But if Dickens is not your style, that's fine.
Some characters seem to have escaped from other authors, but who cares?
There we go! Happy Christmas... from Captain Pugwash.
I'll be on my way now.
'In years past in Cornwall,
'the joy of Christmas was that it was a short respite
'in the day-to-day struggle to put food on the table
'and in those days the choice of food was very limited
'for ordinary working folk.
'For much of the year, their diet consisted of little else than pilchards,
'fresh when the shoals were running
'and when the fish had moved on, it was yet more pilchards,
'this time dried or preserved in brine. There was no escape from it.
'Some time ago I was able to go out and catch some for the Cornish Pilchard Museum,
'but these days pilchards have a new image.'
'Rebranded as Cornish Sardines, they're very popular.
'I love it when previously humble food becomes the height of fashion.
'In this Newlyn pub, I met up with a few local lads -
'Nick Howell, Laurence Hartwell and James Hicks - who know what it was like in the bad old days.'
So, um, what sort of things have they, you know, in times gone by...
I mean, it's a pretty poor part of the country, really,
what would they have had around Christmas, do you think?
-I think poor's the word, isn't it?
-Poor's the word, yeah.
Whatever you could preserve during the good times, really.
If you're a bit drier, just like, just further south in Brittany
here's the... This is sun-dried as opposed to salted.
Now here, you've got salt conger, salt pollack,
little pollacks, they are.
-Salt conger again.
Goodness knows what it tastes like, not much of a smell to it.
No, I mean, if you said...
-..you could eat this, you'd say...
-Soak it and...
-No, it's a piece of wood, you can't eat that!
I mean, how would you go about, you know, cooking something
maybe that I could, maybe sell in one of my restaurants?
I think one of the things
if you listen to some of the meals that people talk about,
it's incredibly simple because,
especially this far south away from a lot of trade, I guess,
the basic ingredients are what's growing outside
or what's swimming around out there,
and the simplest one I know of is literally the fish, the potatoes,
and using sea water rather than fresh water.
-You mean you just take...?
-And if you had the money, an onion.
What you've also got to remember
is one of the most famous things in this area -
my family comes from Mousehole originally - is Tom Bawcock's Eve.
He was the fisherman who went out
and caught the fish to feed the families of Mousehole
after a period of storms and it still goes on to this day,
it's quite famous and it was really pilchards and potatoes.
What else went in it, I don't know.
Another thing is,
Henry VIII, one of his favourite meals was Stargazy Pie.
-And he found it somewhere, they used to send them to...
-Well, he looked well on it.
-He looked well on it, yeah, like me.
-'A few years ago'
'when I was a young lad with more hair
'I went with a film crew to Mousehole, or Mouse hole as the locals call it,
'on Tom Bawcock's Eve to sample for myself the famous Stargazy Pie.'
# A merry place you may believe
# Was Mousehole on Tom Bawcock's Eve... #
'I wonder if Tom Bawcock would recognise this version.
'It was a pastry base filled with mashed potatoes
'cooked with cream and parsley
'and, of course, the pilchards
'popping their heads through to gaze at the stars.
'No doubt Henry VIII would have joined in with no trouble at all.
'It was a great night
'and a very lively start to the Christmas good cheer.
'Good lord, I did have a lot more hair in those days!
'While Tom Bawcock's Eve dates back into the mists of time
'a new kid on the Cornish block by comparison is the Eden Project,
'visited by tens of thousands of people from all around the world.
'Here too, they've embraced the Christmas spirit
'and with a strong environmental message regarding waste.
'Very apt, I thought, just like Ted Hughes' The Iron Man.
'Remember all those wonderful pictures of people skating elegantly
'on frozen ponds on Christmas morning?
'Well, you can't say I didn't try.
'Once upon a time, I was quite good at skating, honest!'
# So let's celebrate
# All that is great
# In our green and pleasant land... #
You can do it!
Well, I could,
these guys want to make fun of me.
I haven't done it since '63,
the bad winter on the lake just near Uppingham School.
# ..To you a joyful new year. #
'Well, all that skating gave me a bit of an appetite
'so I joined the founder of Eden, Tim Smit, for a bite to eat.'
Oh, this is very nice. It's sort of vegetarian Christmas dinner.
It is, yeah.
-Yeah, and chestnuts and small mushrooms.
Everything is local.
Probably 83% of everything we actually sell across Eden is local.
You're obviously rather romantically inclined towards Christmas, Tim,
cos just coming in tonight and just looking at those enchanting
sort of Christmas trees,
that lovely shimmering Christmas tree and all the others
and the ice-skating rink, I mean, it must mean a lot to you.
Yeah, I love the idea of Christmas.
I know that for many people, it's a terrible pressure of expectation,
it's a bit like the gold-embossed party invitation
which can never live up to the real thing,
um, but what I do adore about Christmas
in the build-up to it is that sense...
It's the imagery that comes to you, isn't it?
Here we've got candles on the table.
Why is it that candles make you want to talk?
Why is it the glint of a wine or cider or something through a candle
makes you feel the tremendous sense of wellbeing and want to share it?
It's a lonely... You'd be a lonely old sod to do that on your own,
and I think, for me, the Christmas thing is about...
Um, it's an often-used word, "community",
but someone taught me about a year ago
what the word "community" actually means.
It comes from the Latin word, two words, "com" and "munus",
"com" meaning together and "munus" in gift.
And I thought, "That's gorgeous!"
You suddenly understand that why we've lost so much in our society
is because we thought of community as being a line on a bloody map
as opposed to actually about the relationships of those people
who are within the line on the map
and, you know, I think you get that sense here
when we have all those torch-light processions and everything,
a sense... It feels a bit pagan, but Christmas is a bit pagan
in terms of emotions about it
and I love that sense of a larger togetherness than just the family.
Tim mentioned the pagan element of the celebrations
and that's certainly true today
a bit further down the Cornish coast in Penzance.
One of the organisers is Chris Nixon,
who told me a bit more about the Montol celebrations.
We're in Penzance at the moment on 21st December
and we're celebrating the winter solstice,
and people have been celebrating solstice since time immemorial.
But I suppose, over the years, things have, um...
The old traditions have, um, waned if you like
and what we're doing is we're reviving what used to happen here,
in some cases until quite recently.
In other cases, you know, several hundred years ago,
but everything we do now is based on a core tradition, if you like.
And all the Guise dancing, until quite recently,
within people's living memory, people did this Guise dance.
Basically that's how you see us dressed up in black, masks, tatters
and people dancing in and out of people's houses, in the streets.
This is what people did.
It's an interesting time of year, it's a time of change,
with the death of the old year, birth of the new year
and it's a portal, if you like.
Er, um, it's a time of topsy-turvy, misrule.
They don't actually have a wicker man here,
but although everyone is having a great time,
there does seem to be something slightly sinister about it all.
Throughout tradition, this represents the end of the old
and the beginning of the new.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
There's a tangible sense of mischief and it's not altogether comfortable,
but I suppose this is how it was back in pagan days.
Or maybe it still is.
Back in one of my favourite Cornish pubs,
Christmas is celebrated in a more traditional way.
This is the centre of the village,
our local reverend would love to have this many people in his church.
I mean, we have carol services
and we have the charity auctions, whatnot over Christmas,
the local school comes in for our carol service.
It gets busy, which is good for me and, er, for them.
It is, we're into Christmas here, it's a happy, great time for us.
This pub is particularly well-known for its speciality game pie
and it's made by Mike Jones, the landlord.
Game pie is the food of the season.
To me, it's a mixture of all the birds, all the animals,
the ground animals that we shoot,
and it's a great favourite, it's a wonderful product
and I love it, it's always been happening forever.
It takes an awful long time to make,
you got to be a bit passionate about the thing,
you have to feel good about making it
and everyone can make mistakes a bit,
but when it comes out right, it is the best thing,
it's just fantastic food.
At least you don't have to be landed gentry any more
to enjoy this sort of stuff.
I suppose you could make it yourself,
but wouldn't it be better to take yourself off to the local pub
and join in with a lot of other people beside the roaring fire
and enjoy it with a pint?
Good conversation and a slice of pie with pickles, you can't beat it.
After all, that's what Christmas should really be all about.
I'm not going to cook goose for my Christmas banquet,
but I don't want to ignore it either.
And I've cooked it before. About five years ago,
I remember cooking the best roast goose ever.
I remember it for very different reasons.
The goose and all those wonderful trimmings were perfect.
The stuffing took ages -
it had chopped onions, fresh white breadcrumbs,
zest of lemon, chopped sage, parsley and an egg.
It took a long time to get these things right.
It started to rain
and I sensed the crew were desperate to get to the pub.
And then I had to make the apple sauce.
Goose and apple sauce is a joyous combination.
By this time, the director was insisting I bought a jar
from the corner shop down the road.
And then when the time came to make the gravy, giblet gravy,
I sensed I had a revolution on my hands.
These were the days when the pubs closed at 3pm
and it was already an hour after opening time.
You can't rush good food.
And so I made the gravy with streaky bacon, goose giblets,
chopped onions, carrots and celery.
Then the water, of course, and bay leaves and peppercorns.
The director was quite serious about using a well-known brand!
You know the one with the label featuring those scruffy kids
smelling the aromas of a roast dinner and going, "Ahhh!"
But nothing was going to stop me
from making the best roast goose ever.
Back in Padstow, I thought it would be a good idea
to arrange a goose taste test, for two reasons really.
One, because it's increasing in popularity
as a choice for Christmas Day
and two, because it varies so much in price.
£25 will get you a frozen supermarket bird,
but you'd be lucky to see any change
out of 90 quid for a free-range organic.
'As far as we were concerned, there were four birds.
'One was the cheapest frozen supermarket version,
'another was wild, then there was a free-range bird...'
Goose A, right help yourself, have a look at the goose, have a...
'..and finally the free-range organic.'
Made with good fat, um, but a bit tough.
'Naturally, as we're all chefs here,
'we prefer to cook it slightly underdone,
'but which one tasted the best?'
Not as lean as the first one,
so I think this is a bit of a better bird.
OK, this is goose C.
That goose was very nice and it's quite tender, full of fat,
er, full of flavour.
Do you know what I think about this goose?
I don't care if that's the supermarket goose
because it is so much nicer than the other two,
if I lose, if it...
I mean, it is a bit of a loss to go for the frozen goose,
but if that remains the best one,
it's so much better than the other two, if it's a frozen goose,
it doesn't matter.
This is, um, goose D, so everything hangs on this, really.
Taste-wise, it was lacking a little bit,
um, I don't think it was as good as the last one.
Er, it's simply the best goose.
I don't want to know what goose is what,
I just want to know what the best goose is on the day,
so I just want to show of hands.
Who thinks that goose A was the best goose?
Who thinks that goose B was the best goose?
Two. Who thinks that goose C was the best goose?
Could somebody count, because I'm not very good?
And that leaves goose D.
OK, right, goose C. Anybody got their fingers crossed?
Well, I have a bit.
Goose C is...
the free-range organic.
Well done, everybody, your palates are absolutely tippy-top,
well, except for the, er...
And that came from Debbie and Simon Andrews,
from their farm near Golant.
We were so impressed,
we decided to have goose for our staff Christmas dinner
along with all the trimmings, of course,
and none of that packet gravy.
Is that great? That's a serious amount of gravy!
These are good times for me because it's the one occasion
I get a chance to spend time with most of my staff.
What a mellow sound.
I just thought I'd, um, say a couple of words
as this is the last time we'll all be together before Christmas
as you haven't got to work tonight
and, um, I would like to just thank you very much
for a sensational season.
Everybody, in all departments, has been excellent,
it's a real pleasure to be
sort of nominally in charge of such a professional group of people,
so thank you and as it's Christmas,
-a merry Christmas to you all. Glasses, please.
Fishermen's friends from neighbouring Port Isaac
will sing us out in a very Cornish way.
# Fear not, said he
# For mighty dread
# Had seized their troubled minds
# Had seized their troubled minds
# Glad tidings of
# Great joy I bring
# To you and all mankind
# To you and all mankind
# To you and all mankind To you and all mankind. #
-Merry Christmas, everybody.
The people of Cornwall are proud of the fact that they do things differently, and the Christmas celebrations in this beautiful part of England have their own unique flavours and sounds. Home for a while from his world-wide travel adventures, Rick Stein has a chance to enjoy Christmas in his beloved adopted county.
In this special programme he joins in the ancient festival of Wassailing, tries out the famous ice rink at Eden, enjoys the company of Port Isaac's Fisherman's Friends and cooks his own goose. With Cornish Christmas music and the occasional glass of Cornish beer and cider, this festive feast is guaranteed to get viewers in the best seasonal spirits.