Coombeshead Farm, near Launceston, Cornwall, opened in summer 2016 and has become nationally renowned for its farm-to-fork ethos and stunning food made using ingredients grown or reared on the farm (or very near by). A year after opening, Head Chef and co-founder Tom Adams won the coveted OFM Young Chef of the Year Award. We caught up with Tom, one of our local food heroes, to talk about farming, salt and the people who have inspired his stellar career.
How long have you been using Cornish Sea Salt?
Around 3 years; we wanted to use an extremely high-quality salt that is produced responsibly and as locally as possible to the farm.
In a few words how would you describe the flavour of our salt?
Cornish Sea Salt has a very rounded salinity. There is none of the harshness or overt salinity you get from overly refined commercial salts.
If you could ask us to create a bespoke salt for your kitchen what would it be and why?
We often make herb salts from our garden herbs but through spring and summer, hogweed seeds are abundant and incredibly aromatic. They have a slight numbing effect, not dissimilar from Szechuan pepper. Hogweed salts would be a very fine thing.
Is there anything specific you’d like us to focus on in any collaborative work?
Utilising what’s best and in season at the farm.
What would you say are the Coombeshead Farm ‘golden rules’ when it comes to the provenance of your food?
Working with good people who we feel are doing things in a responsible and sustainable manner. Ideally sourcing from the farm itself, and a close network of farmers in the area. There are no real golden rules per se, but we make almost everything from scratch so we only really ever source raw products, in their original state. This helps us have full control over what is being produced. Everything has to make sense, and work harmoniously. We won’t source anything that creates unnecessary waste.
Who are you heroes (food, or non-food based)?
Simon Hopkinson, Jeremy Lee, Darina Allen, Charles Dowding, and Nathan Outlaw, to name a few.
When you are cooking seasonally and preserving food from your farm, would you say that salt is an essential tool?
Yes, vital. We ferment vegetables on a weekly basis using salt brines, and make different types of miso, of which salt is a vital ingredient. Similarly, with curing meat, salt is the only other ingredient to whatever it is we cure. Without salt, preservation would be very challenging!
Have you got any top tips for curing or pickling using our salt?
We use a 3% salt brine for pickling and fermenting most of our vegetables.
It has been a couple of years since you set up Coombeshead Farm; have there been any surprises along the way?
Plenty! And they keep coming! But it’s been a brilliant learning curve and will continue to be I’m sure. It’s the first time we have been responsible for growing and rearing much of our own produce and that brings with it a lot of surprises, as you learn what is and is not suited to our farm and the way our weeks work.
Do you have a traditional cookery method using salt that you think needs bringing back into the mainstream?
British hams. A classic British ham is a beautiful thing, and often gets forgotten about. All one requires is a simple salt bring and a leg of pork can be transformed into the ultimate farmhouse fayre.
What is it that you love most about what you do?
Fresh air and the outdoors. Having worked in a city for the past ten years, I feel very lucky to be able to wake up in the middle of nowhere and spend a day in the garden and on the farm. It keeps us sane.
Visit the Coombeshead Farm website here for more information, or follow them on Instagram to keep up to date with farmyard goings on.
Photography credit: Charlie McKay