author. Lily Burford


Claire Ptak, a chef originally from California, graced the Flower and Fodder tent on Friday to demonstrate some recipes from her new cookbook 'The Violet Bakery Cookbook'. 

I must admit, my first thought when walking in is how majorly impressive it is that there is a fully functioning kitchen in a simple marquee! Although that may have just been my easily pleased mind at work. Surrounded by fellow festival foodies, everybody's mouths started to metaphorically water when Claire began to describe what she was going to bake. First up being 'butterscotch blondie', a sort of brownie-come-sponge concoction, which smelt absolutely divine. The aghast audience when Claire said she couldn't give the blondies out, proves just how good they looked.

The main thing I noticed about Claire, aside from the fact she was cooking up a storm, was how genuinely enthusiastic she is about her recipes. Like most of the artists here at Port Eliot, she really emitted a genuine care for her art and obviously wanted to bring the audience in on her passions. It was an extremely light hearted hour, with plenty of audience questions and many Blue Peter styled "here's one I made earlier" jokes. 

"How can I enjoy cooking more?" was one question from an audience member which really got Claire's enthusiasm rolling. She advised us all to use our instincts when baking, such as our sense of smell etc, and not to simply be slaves to a recipe book. It is obvious that she gets true joy out of her baking achievements, and it is by no means a begrudged day job. 

The recipes had a nice American foods meet British vibe, made up of Claire's favourite American treats and the habits she has picked up whilst living here for the past ten years. Like most things being displayed this weekend, 'The Violet Bakery Cookbook' is gloriously individual; including sugar substitute recipes, gluten free goods and ways to make the most unusual sounding ingredients taste divine (if the demo is anything to go by). Claire's ethos seems to be about how indulgence every now and again is key, and to me that is one of the main things that Port Eliot festival stands for. People gathering together in this gorgeous setting to celebrate their own indulgent art forms. 

(Also, hint: an ice-cream scoop is a great way to portion out muffin mix).