On a recent trip to London, I managed to squeeze in a visit Borough Market. Long known as one of London’s top foodie destinations, Borough Market never fails excite your interest. Here’s a photo-blog of my visit showing some of the best bits.
Neals Yard Dairy started life in 1979 in Covent Garden and has grown into one of the foremost cheese makers, stockists and retailers in the country. They are always more than happy for you to try the cheeses on sale before you choose which ones to buy. I bought some creamy Kirkham’s Lancashire and some flavoursome Hawes’ Wensleydale.
The market is always busy and can seem quite confusing if you’ve never been before. It’s best to just walk up and down each aisle so you don’t leave anything out. The market covers a large area in different buildings so make sure you visit them all. I try and leave plenty of time to look around as I’d hate to think I’d missed some great little food stall because I was in a hurry. Here’s a map of the market if you’re planning a visit.
Borough Market has its fair share of pretty stalls selling packaged goods but it’s still a traditional market where the traders sell raw, unprocessed food. In the picture above you can see cuts of wild boar and venison in the chiller and a selection of rabbits hanging ready to be skinned.
Of course, some of the best food also comes from the sea and the Furness Fish stall has pretty much everything you could ask for. I’m particularly fond of the Morcambe Bay brown shrimps showing in bottom left of the photo.
It’s not every day you find such a variety of glorious fungi in one shop. So what would you make with these? Soup, an omelette, maybe a stir fry? Lots of fresh herbs too.
Just look at the variety of lovely ripe tomatoes on offer. Quality produce, attractively presented. It makes you want to go and make a fresh tomato salad garnished with some of those herbs.
The Exotic Meat Company sell ostrich and other unusual meat like kangaroo. Their stall was also cooking thin slices of ostrich steak, grilled and served with relish in a bread roll. As it was lunch time, and as I’ve never eaten ostrich before, that’s what I decided to eat. Absolutely delicious it was too.
I was feeling a bit thirsty after walking round the market for a couple of hours so I made my way to one of the pubs just outside. As luck would have it, I spotted a Youngs’s pub, the Bunch Of Grapes, and retired there for some refreshment. I’ve always been a fan of Young’s beer so a pint of their ordinary bitter did the trick and I was on my way again.
Here’s a great little film about KERB and the thriving street food scene in London. Warning! Do not watch this if you feel hungry…
It’s summertime and the festival season is well under way. All over the country there’s a festival taking place every weekend that’s sure to suit someone. Fans of pop music, opera, theatre, you name it – they are all catered for. Every festival is different but the one thing they all have in common (apart from the Portaloos but we won’t go there) is food. Festival goers need feeding.
I recently spent a very pleasant day at the High Voltage rock festival in Victoria Park, London. Now, I haven’t been to a rock festival in over 30 years so I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the catering has changed. No longer is it just fatty burgers and dodgy hot dogs like in the old days. There is such a wide choice of appetising food that it is pretty hard to decide what you’re going to eat. The British really do demand so much more quality and variety in their food these days and that’s quite heartening. I took a tour of the food stalls in the main catering area and counted at least 25 selling savoury products plus numerous others selling all manner of sweet food, freshly ground coffee and ice creams.
If the fancy took me, I could have enjoyed a little culinary trip around the world and eaten Mexican, Greek, Caribbean, Italian or Spanish food but, curiously, no Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. The lack of Bangladeshi food is even more surprising when you consider that High Voltage is held in the London Borough of Towers Hamlets which is also home to the famous Brick Lane and its scores of Bangladeshi restaurants. Still, no matter, there were plenty of other spicy offerings to sample.
Flame grilled meats were much in evidence and I could have sampled regular burgers, upmarket Aberdeen Angus burgers, lamb burgers and even ostrich burgers. There were hog roasts and a whole host of kebabs made not only from the expected chicken and lamb but also from Haloumi cheese and from salmon. If you were hunting for the ultimate sausage you would have found traditional English bangers, Cumberland sausages, Spanish chorizo, smoked Polish sausages and many others. But it wasn’t all meat. There were a couple of very appetising looking vegetarian kitchens as well.
Was there any typically English food on offer? Well, there was a “gourmet” fish and chips stall which some some friends of mine used and said was excellent. Ginsters, the Cornish piemen, had a large unit selling Cornish pasties and their so-called Cornish bara which they describe as “if the sandwich and the pasty had a love child”. I passed on that one. As I mentioned already there were plenty of English sausages on offer and also some nice looking toasted cheddar cheese and onion sandwiches (with or without Marmite if that’s to your fancy). Another very popular stall was selling half chickens cooked on a rotisserie and served with potatoes roasted in the chicken fat. I’m not sure if that’s specifically English as I last saw one of these rotisseries in a market in southern France but roast chicken and roast potatoes is enough like a Sunday roast to qualify as English for me.
Apart from Ginsters, most of the mobile kitchens seemed to be run by small specialist companies. I have a strong affiliation to the people running these event catering businesses. I ran one myself for some years and I know how much hard work it is and how your fortunes are so dependent on the weather and whether you’ve negotiated the right amount of money for your pitch. Fortunately, the weather at High Voltage was warm and sunny and all the caterers seemed to be doing decent business.
So what did I choose? Well, I had a bacon bap mid morning, a beef, bean and cheese burrito mid afternoon and a delicious Greek flatbread curled up and filled with grilled haloumi cheese, spicy Greek sausage, olives and salad for supper. And why was I there in the first place? To see a favourite guitarist of mine, Joe Bonamassa, play with the rock supergroup Black Country Communion (and mighty good they were too).
I must confess I didn’t get over-excited about the Royal Wedding but I was interested in what the guests were given to eat. The Queen gave a lunchtime reception at Buckingham Palace for 650 guests who were served a selection from about 10,000 canapés which had been prepared by a team of 21 chefs led by Royal Chef, Mark Flanagan. As you might expect the list of canapés is long and highly varied but a few particular examples stood out to me as interesting variations on classic British themes:
Pressed Confit of Pork Belly with Crayfish and Crackling –the crackling sounds difficult to eat gracefully but the pressed confit of pork belly sounds luscious.
Grain Mustard and honey-glazed Chipolatas – ahhh, good old British bangers even though they are dressed up for the occasion with a mustard and honey glaze. I expect they looked good though and tasted even better.
Miniature Yorkshire Pudding with Roast Fillet of Beef and Horseradish Mousse – now that’s about as perfectly British as you can get. And making a mousse out of the horseradish sauce gives it a nice modern touch.
Bubble and Squeak with Confit Shoulder of Lamb – bubble and squeak is the traditional way to use up leftover vegetables from a Sunday roast dinner. It seems a little austere for the Royal Wedding but maybe that’s a sign of the times.
Cornish Crab Salad on Lemon Blini – blini are more classic Russian than classic British but lemon blini with Cornish crab sounds like a marriage made in heaven (much like the main event if you were to ask the Archbishop).
Smoked Haddock Fishcake with Pea Guacamole – I think Chef Flanagan is having a little joke here. This sounds like he’s playing with a fish and chip shop offering but with the mushy peas cunningly disguised as “guacamole”. Still, full marks for ingenuity.
Wild Mushroom and Celeriac Chausson – OK Chef, you got me here. I had to look up “chausson” but, guess what? It’s a little pasty (and, curiously, the name of a camper van). To keep with the British theme there had to be some sort of pie on the menu, even if it does have a French name, and this veggie offering does the job nicely.
And to finish….