IT'S hard not to daydream about upping sticks, moving to the beach and opening a cafe - the thing is, Simon Stallard went and did it.

Eight years ago, the chef, who's worked in kitchens around the world since he was 16, quit his day job and took on the lease of a National Trust ice lolly kiosk on the Roseland Peninsula, Cornwall, with his wife Jem.

The little green shed, perched on a coastal footpath above sandy Porthcurnick Beach, was transformed into The Hidden Hut - a beach cafe and lunch spot with food good enough to match the gorgeous sea-view. It's gone on to become rather renowned, but now, thanks to its new eponymous cookbook, you don't have to roam the wilds of Cornwall to stumble across its food.

Stallard, who also owns Tatams in Portscatho (coffee bar by day, wood-fired taverna by night), says the Hut menu is unmoored from mainstream foodie trends, but does "follow the weather".

"Today it's raining," he says, as he looks out at the sea. "There's a chowder on, a daal; they're quite warming dishes, but as soon as the sun comes out, the grills go on."

The Hidden Hut is famed for its feast nights - legend has it, feast night tickets have sold out faster than Beyonce concerts - and the book features dishes from these events as well as classic daytime Hut recipes.

On Wednesday nights throughout summer, Stallard and his team get their outdoor grills and beach barbecues going and host dinner for 80-100 people on the cusp of the ocean.

The deal is, you bring your own plates, cutlery and booze, and they provide the food, "come wind, rain or shine". "They're a thing of beauty in their simplicity," says Stallard warmly. "If it's a sunny evening and you've lucked out, then you really have hit the jackpot."

Part of the feasts' appeal he reckons is the fact there's no choice when it comes to what you're eating. "It sounds really weird but there's always a big focus on huge menus [in restaurants], you've got to have something to please everyone - we've done the opposite."

They've traded a menu for a calendar, so there are multiple options, but they're available on different days. So, tonight it's windchime mackerel, next week summer sardines, the week after, lobster and chips.

"It's not like you're turning up thinking, 'Half the party don't eat shellfish and someone's allergic'. That's the night you're booking for; that's what's on," says Stallard firmly. It certainly an approach that cuts out food envy and dithering.

Some of his favourite feast nights are when the grills are loaded with shellfish. "We staple loads of newspaper to the tables and have massive great big shovels of shellfish and claws, hammers and picks. People just pick through it with a beer or a glass of wine, and hang out at the top of a beach - that's the bit that makes them mega."

He believes it wouldn't work if the Hut cooped people up indoors - the charm of it comes from cooking, eating and hanging out together under the Cornish sky. There's just nothing better, he says, than being outside: "Even if you're just having a sandwich and a bowl of soup in the rain under an umbrella, there's something so real about it.

"It actually stops and slows everything down, even just lighting the barbecue in your garden, it just feels really nice. Your mindset, everything, you change when you light the barbecue - it's all good, it feels right, and it tastes better too."

He admits he's something of an "anorak" when it comes to the art of grilling, from selecting the wood the Hut uses ("We basically have a wood library") to inventing his own grills. He has one made out of a tractor tyre and particularly admires ones crafted from washing machine drums, but it's his 'windchime' grill that sounds like actual magic.

"It's basically loads of stainless steel cable that runs backwards and forwards, right across these huge grill-beds that are on winches, so they can go up and down, then we use big metal clips to clip fish on like you would the washing on the line," he explains.

"The grill needs to be atomically hot and you have to peg 250 fish up in one go," he says, almost sweating at the thought. "But it looks beautiful."

He's adamant though, whether you're grilling on the beach or in your back garden, there's no real need to be afraid of cooking over fire.

"It's not a dark art, we've been doing it for thousands of years," he says. "You don't need much to be able to do it, you can make a barbecue or a grill out of almost anything, it's good fun - just befriend a good welder."

Soothing and delicious, this soup sings of spring.

Hidden Hut chef Simon Stallard describes this as "an enriching dish full of the flavours of spring".

"Wild garlic is abundant in local woodlands," he says. "They are small ground- covering plants with broad leaves and a little cluster of white flowers during the spring, and they are often found alongside bluebells. If you come across any wild garlic when you are out and about, this recipe is a lovely way to make the best of it.

"Homemade stock really is better made with the whole bird, so buy a whole chicken and joint it. Use the carcass and legs for this recipe and freeze the breasts. To make the soup more substantial, cook 200g dried rice noodles and put them in the bowl before adding the soup, if you like."


(serves 4-6)

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for roasting

  • 1 large chicken, jointed (you can ask your butcher to do this) and breasts reserved for another recipe

  • 3 celery sticks, roughly diced

  • 1 onion, roughly diced

  • 1 leek, roughly chopped

  • 1 large garlic bulb, cloves peeled

  • 100g wild garlic leaves, roughly sliced (keep the flowers if you have them)

  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal

  • A small handful of mint leaves, ripped

  • A small handful of coriander leaves, ripped

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan oven) gas mark 7. Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan over a high heat and add the chicken legs, skin side down, along with the wings and the carcass (you may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan). Fry over a very high heat, to brown all over. Transfer to a roasting tin and coat in a little more oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 15-18 minutes until a deep golden brown.

2. Add the vegetables to the same pan (there should still be some oil in there) and put it back over a medium heat. Sweat the veg for two minutes or until starting to soften but not colour.

3. Once roasted, return the chicken to the pan and pour over two litres cold water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for one and a half hours. Strain the soup and return the broth to the pan. Take the chicken from the sieve, remove the skin and shred the meat from the bones, discarding the bones and skin. Leave the meat to one side.

4. Divide the wild garlic among serving bowls and top with the spring onions. Divide the shredded chicken between the bowls and add the herbs.

5. Taste the broth and check for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Ladle it over the chicken and greens in the bowl, and sprinkle over the garlic flowers, if you have them.

A perfect summer afternoon pud.

"Everyone loves a lemon tart, and this one is made even more special by using a toasted-hazelnut pastry, a caramelised bruleed top and finished with a sprinkling of lavender flowers," explains chef Simon Stallard, owner on The Hidden Hut in Cornwall.

"Make sure you buy edible lavender, which hasn't been sprayed with any chemicals before you use it."


(Serves 6-8)

  • For the pastry:

  • 25g hazelnuts

  • 200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

  • 110g chilled butter, cut into cubes

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • For the filling:

  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 125g caster sugar

  • 150ml double cream

  • Juice of 4 lemons and the zest of 3

  • Icing sugar, for dusting

  • Dried edible lavender flowers, plus extra sprigs, to decorate


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan oven) gas mark 5. Spread the hazelnuts over a baking tray and cook in the oven for 7-10 minutes until the skins have darkened and the nuts are golden underneath. Turn off the oven. Rub the nuts between two clean tea towels to loosen the skins. Pick the hazelnuts out from the skins. Leave to cool, then grind them to a powder in a food processor.

2. To make the pastry, put the flour and butter in a food processor and blend until you get a breadcrumb texture. (Alternatively, rub the flour and butter together using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs). Stir in the ground hazelnuts and enough of the egg to make a smooth dough. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is large enough to line a 23cm round tart tin. Lay the pastry over the tin and press it into the edges and up the side, then prick the base all over with a fork, trim the edges and chill in the fridge for another 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven again to 190°C (170°C fan oven) gas mark 5. Line the pastry case with a piece of baking parchment and add enough baking beans to cover the base. Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and return the pastry case to the oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes until light golden.

4. Meanwhile, to make the filling, put the eggs in a bowl and add the sugar. Beat together using an electric beater until the mixture leaves a thin ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted. Stir in the cream and lemon juice. Strain the mixture into a jug and stir in the lemon zest.

5. Turn the oven temperature down to 170°C (150°C fan oven) gas mark 31/2. Carefully pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 30-35 minutes until the filling is set but is still a bit wobbly. Dust the top of the tart with a layer of icing sugar and, with a kitchen blowtorch or in a preheated grill, brown the top until the sugar melts and caramelises. Scatter a few lavender flowers over the top and decorate with a sprig or two of lavender. Serve warm or cold.

The Hidden Hut by Simon Stallard is published by HarperCollins, priced £20. Photography Susan Bell. Available now.