Archives for posts with tag: Borough Market

Did you know that there are more hits on Google if you search “food” than if you search “sex”!

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It only goes to prove that we are increasingly interested in all things food. We read about it, watch it on telly, idolise those involved in the industry and of course shop it every week, if not every day. In 1998 Henrietta Green decided to replicate the US farmer’s market that she had visited and site one in Borough Market, Southwark. Now it is one of London’s top tourist destinations, setting the pace for literally hundreds of other markets that are popping up all over the country.

And then there is the food fair or festival. I currently work on Laverstoke Park Farm and if I had asked for my salary to be upped by £1 for every event we get asked to support, then I would be a very rich lady. It seems that every school, entrepreneur, local council and general foodie is creating an event to bring together beautiful crafts and foods from around their region. Not only do we have events celebrating seasonal, local and artisan fair but also some that celebrate iconic products that we produce UK-wide: the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival, The Dorset Seafood Festival, The Great British Beer Festival, The Cromer and Sheringham Crab & Lobster Festival and not forgetting the Galway Oyster Festival, to name but a few.

Cheese

My focus last week was on cheese. I volunteered my services to help the farm’s Dairy Manager and expert cheese maker promote our cheeses at a fair in Melton Mowbray. It must be said that British cheese really is up there in world class stakes with varieties like Cheddar, Stilton, Single Gloucester and Lancashire putting the areas they come from on the world cheese stage. The British Cheese Board state that there are over 700 named British cheeses produced in the UK and we host both the World Cheese Awards in Birmingham and of course the ‘cheese Oscars’: the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich of all places.

So our little jaunt up to Melton Mowbray was not to be sniffed at. It was home to the Artisan Cheese Fair hosting over 40 cheese makers alongside other specialists including, of course, the eponymous Pork Pie. Driving up early on Sunday morning, I was struck by just how wonderfully British this all really was. The countryside around there is so pretty and with the sun shining and the early yellow hues of rapeseed cropping up I arrived with a positive spring in my step despite the early start.

M serves up some samples

M serves up some samples

Laverstoke Park Farm really is one of the most incredible farms in the UK. We are organic and biodynamic and specialise in buffalo which combine to be pretty unique and so we were showcasing our wonderful Buffalo Mozzarella amongst other things. Our Dairy Manager and supreme cheesemaker, M, is one of life’s beautiful people. She has previously been an opera singer, a model, a music therapist and ultimately an award winning cheese maker. She has a connection not only with the buffalo themselves but also with the production process which results in the making of wonderful things in the dairy. Our ice cream, yogurt, cheese and butter all benefit from the natural properties of buffalo milk which is creamy and rich because it has a high ratio of solids and many people who are dairy intolerant find that buffalo milk is OK for them, which is good because it makes everything taste so scrummy. So our little stand was very popular and the 7 hour stint flew by.

Montgomery's cheddar

Wandering around this fair in the old Cattle Market of such a traditional town, you can’t fail to be overwhelmed by the sense of British food heritage. Here are third, fourth and fifth generation cheesemakers who have been running their dairies and supporting their local trade through the ups and downs of centuries. Swaledale cheese dates back to the 11th century in Yorkshire and Keen’s unpasteurised Cheddar was established in 1899. Dairies such as Colston Bassett and Cropwell Bishop have spearheaded the blue cheese tradition and Keen’s are joined by the likes of Lincolnshire Poacher and Montgomery’s in making Cheddar from the early 1900’s.

M also introduced me to some of the newer cheese makers who were there that day. We fall into that category with our mozzarella and my favourite of the others was Lyburn and the lovely Mike Smales. He makes a cheese which is like a Gouda. The Old Winchester is just yummy and deserves all of the many medals it has received. I will definitely be going back for more of that.

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In the afternoon, our experience of British traditions was increased with the morris dancer display which took place just by our stall and also a local band who entertained us with a variety of classic tunes which we jigged along to. The sun thankfully shone and by 5 we were packed up and on the road.

I couldn’t resist popping along to say hi to some great friends who live not far from there in Leicester armed with pork pies and cheese. What could be better? wonderful food, fabulous friends and the sun setting over the great British countryside.

I recently hooked back up with an old friend of mine. That’s not to say that either of us are old per se (!) but that we were friends at school and as ever lost touch when our lives took different paths, but thankfully now those paths have merged together and it is lovely to be sharing experiences again.

When we first caught up, my friend told me that her youngest daughter got to the finals of Junior Masterchef and when I went online I was able to catch up on the wonderful exploits of Amber. This girl is special. There is no doubt about that. Her drive and determination to be a successful cake shop owner will undoubtedly come true and I am sure there will be lots of other success to follow her.

Once I met her (and tasted her incredible carrot cake) I really wanted to help out in whatever way I could and as I am more experienced in the food field, I suggested showing her around some of the places in London that I admire and today was the day we were to do that.

Melrose and Morgan, Hampstead

I obviously started at the wonderful Melrose and Morgan, showing her the original Primrose Hill shop and then the newer Hampstead one. Ian was working hard as ever and later on we caught up with Nick who was full of good advice for a budding new baker. Whilst in the NW area, we also popped into Maison Blanc, Ginger & White, Gails and Primrose Bakery.

Then we made a detour from the cake route to experience Chin Chin Laboratorists ice cream in Camden.

The Laboratory that is Chin Chin

I took Amber there to try and show an original idea as that is what she is capable of bringing to the already cluttered cake market. If someone said they wanted to create a retail environment that looked like a lab and displayed food in flasks and test-tubes, then they would probably be treated as ever so slightly mad, but this is exactly what works at Chin Chin.

Laboratory toppings

Vanilla ice cream with salted caramel sauce – my fave!

We chose a simple but favourite combo of mine, but I have to make special mention of the other flavour I tried which is this week’s special: cigar smoked caramel. Clearly this is not one for the kids, but as they say… “salted caramel, yawn! We smoke milk with Cuban cigars and then turn this into a rich, peppery, smokey caramel that’s strictly an adult’s only indulgence!” and indulge you should. It is genius.

Hopefully Amber was suitably inspired to think differently and so it was time for that classic outlet, Ottolenghi. Clearly the gods were looking down on us as the sun broke through the clouds and a parking space appeared right opposite and so it was we entered Yotam’s holy grail.

Salads the Yotam way

Now I know we were on a cake tour, but even this irresponsible temporary Mum couldn’t just purchase cake all day and what better alternative to offer than Ottolenghi salads. These give new meaning to the definition and whilst many have tried, the original really cannot be bettered. We both selected our favourites for a takeaway box to avoid the queues and realised that these offer much better value than the plated version anyway. It sufficed for my lunch and dinner and leftovers after that!

Cakes galore

Then we had the impossible choice of which cake to take with us. Everything was as fabulous as ever.

So replenished and inspired, we got the tube to our final destination for the day: Borough Market. I really couldn’t leave that out even though Saturday is not my ideal day to visit. Amber took to it like a pro, purchasing some choice goodies for the whole family to indulge in and really embraced the market experience.

Borough in all its glory

We watched raclette being scraped over potatoes, pufferfish guarding the fish counter, wonderful arrays of Summer berries and of course piles of chocolate brownies. We sampled salty fudge, smelly cheese, spicy sausage and lots more.

So tired, stuffed and happy we trudged back home to Mum to share our day and our purchases. And the highlight for Amber? well that would be the Fleur de Sel fudge and the innovative Chin Chin Labs.

Amber is a girl after my own heart. She will, I am sure, create something unique and wonderful to bring to the cake world when she is old enough to do it and until then, I am looking forward to sharing some inspiration and discovering new places with her in the very near future.

London town

I have some friends staying with me who are visiting from New York and given the high standard of food over there I have been feeling the pressure of trying to showcase the best of London eating in my recommendations.

It is always difficult to suggest places as opinions differ but the truth is that cream always rises to the top and some things are just great whatever your personal preference. My friends arrived on Thursday whilst I was working away from home so fended for themselves in the most impressive way. I am not sure if it is their youth or their enthusiasm but jet lagged or not, they hit London full on from the moment they arrived.

Afternoon tea at Sketch

In terms of food, they wanted to embrace the best of British and really couldn’t have come at a better time with all the Jubilee and Olympic activities going on. So far, they have eaten fish & chips, authentic Indian, afternoon tea, Modern British, Borough market and casual street food at Pitt Cue with Heston’s Dinner coming tomorrow night before they get on the train to Paris. How good is that?

Today, I finally had a day to show them some of my happy places and as it was a Sunday, it was clear where to go. We started with the bacon sandwich at St John Bread & Wine which is a great value hefty breakfast made to fill you up all day. Gloucester Old Spot bacon chargrilled to perfection and sandwiched between two hunky slices of griddled and oiled sourdough bread. To be honest, this is a sandwich for sharing as it really is too much for one and it’s only £5.95. Brilliant. It demonstrates wholeheartedly why we can edit choice. Why offer anything else when there is something this perfect on the menu?

The best bacon sarnie … ever

Then we perused Spitalfields market before embarking on the long trek up Brick Lane. Once home to the Jewish population with Beigel shops lining the streets, it is now dominated by the Bangladeshi community and some of the best examples of Indian food. The colours and smells are fantastic. Not to mention the markets, vintage clothes and just great photo opportunities.

At the top we wended our way through Hackney homes to the bottom of Columbia Road and the flower market. This is a must on a Sunday morning for many reasons. It is vibrant, full of flowers, music, people and lined with unique retail shops. I love the stall holders yelling “two for a fiver…get your tulips ‘ere”…. could this be the nearest we now see to East End life?  It is definitely a battle to progress down the centre of the stalls but worth it for the armful of flowers you can walk away with.

Two for a fiver

After that we made our way back to Shoreditch and Leila’s, Pizza East, Albion, The Boundary (sadly the roof garden doesn’t open til August) and then onto Foxcroft and Ginger at Boxpark. We all agreed that the shopping there was more trendy male than anything else but the Nike ID is one to look out for. Such an incredible retail experience.

Then it was a bus trip through the city past the Gherkin (or Pickle as my US friends named it!) and the impressive St Paul’s then onto Regent Street and beyond. I took them through the calm of St Christophers Place and up into Marylebone High Street which so often gets overlooked by tourists – thankfully. That meant it was a calm escape from the bustle of Oxford Street and we could peruse La Fromagerie, Ginger Pig, The Natural Kitchen and Rococo chocolates without any issues at all. This has to be my favourite street in London.

By now, I was pooped so I left them to finish off in Selfridges before their Indian meal tonight.

They just got back and crashed to their beds. Knightsbridge/Kensington tomorrow before St Pancras and that magical train journey through the tunnel. London really is a great city.