Wednesday, 21 December 2011


There's a fantastic little market over the hill in Brockley which has become a bit of a habit of mine.  Every Saturday from 10am to 2pm you'll find a friendly bunch of local stallholders selling fruit and vegetables, speciality potatoes, flowers, free range chickens, game and a whole host of other meat, cheese, bread, cakes, handmade chocolates, fish, chilli plants, coffee and an ever changing array of food to eat on the go.

I like the fact that there aren't twenty odd stalls all selling the same produce, that the stallholders always have time for a natter and that I barely notice that I've easily whiled away a couple of hours browsing this tiny gem. First stop is always Dark Fluid Coffee, the newest artisan roastery and mobile brewer on the block, to top up my caffeine levels.  A short black americano to start my shopping with a warm tingly glow.  You may have to queue for 5 or even 10 minutes or more before someone is free to take your order, but good coffee takes time to make.

More often than not I trundle home laden with Kentish apples and pears from Perry Court Farm along with kale, leeks, cauliflowers and whatever else is in season to supplement my weekly Local Greens veg bag. I've been steering clear of the cheese recently (foolhardy I know...), but that hasn't stopped me gazing longingly at the Norbiton Cheese stall piled high with the likes of ticklemore, morbier, tunworth and epoisses.  Last Saturday it was a lovely whole Mont d'Or that spoke to me - a tenner's worth of pure cheese heaven. 

Now, if it's brunch or lunch on the hoof you're after, you'd have to go a long way to beat what Mike + Ollie have to offer.  Mike and Ollie are two young chefs serving up affordable street food. But you won't find the regular fare of burgers, falafel, burritos and such like.  Instead the ever changing menu reads like an encyclopedia of (often unusual) locally foraged foods that have been smoked, cured or preserved by Mike and Ollie themselves: fennel seeds foraged in Brockley, membrillo made from Crystal Palace quince, cobnuts, chestnuts picked in Greenwich, Brockley rosehip molasses...  You get the picture.

My homemade Lebanese flatbread was loaded with smoked aubergine, local fennel, babaganoosh, red cabbage slaw, Crystal Palace membrillo and a whole host of other herbs, spices and seeds too numerous to mention.  At first sight you might be mistaken for thinking that it's just a bit of everything thrown together with no thought but you'd be a long way from the truth.  From chatting to Mike, I have no doubt that every single ingredient has been well thought out and included for a reason.  It's an incredibly tasty work of art.

Every Saturday you'll find Mike and his amazing bike parked up at the market.  You can't miss the tantilising smells wafting across the entrance to the market.  If it's meat you prefer, there's plenty of that too: spiced slow cooked lamb, free range Suffolk pulled pork, middle eastern spiced lamb, potato and almond cakes...

Each Saturday Mike cooks up a soup (£3.50), a meat main (£5.50) and a veg main (£5.50).

Thank you to Toby Allen and Helen Graves for letting me use their photos of Mike at work and people enjoying the market in this post.

Brockley Market
Lewisham College Carpark
Lewisham Way
Saturdays - 10am to 2pm

Mike + Ollie
Wednesdays & Fridays - 9am to 4pm - Deptford Market
Saturdays - 10am to 2pm - Brockley Market

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Cranberry & Orange Mincemeat

Homemade mincemeat knocks the socks off anything you can buy in the shops.  Fact.  Luckily for me, in the past I've been gifted lovingly made jars of the stuff by friends and family.  But this year as December approached the cupboards were bare.

So I set off in search of a recipe.  The sort of tried and tested one that can't go wrong (but that I would inevitably end up playing around with because I can't help myself).  I thought Delia might hold the key, but melted suet?  What's that all about?  Not for me. 

Whenever I need what I'd refer to as a staple recipe (you know, things like simnel cake, shortbread, lemon curd...) to work from there is a handful of food blogs I tend to turn to. One of them is Gin and Crumpets written by fellow South East London dweller, Jassy.  She writes recipes that work and ones that I want to cook. 

Armed with her wonderful recipe for Apple & Lemon Mincemeat (and some advice along the way) I set about creating my own vat of mincemeat.  For that is what I made, a rather large quantity of mincemeat to see me through the festive season.  I haven't put mine into jars as I reckon it won't be in existence any longer than a couple of weeks, so it's currently residing in a large tupperware in my cupboard.  But you could of course sterilise some jars to store it in or to give away as gifts.


1.2kg mixture of sultanas and raisins (I used Waitrose vine fruit mix)
300g dried cranberries
500g bramley apples (peeled & cored weight - approx 5 medium apples)
300g vegetarian suet
300g golden caster sugar
zest & juice of 3 oranges
zest & juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
200ml brandy
1.5 tsp ground mixed spice
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon


Put the lemon and orange zest in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for half an hour.  This will help extract any bitterness.  I use a zester to remove long strips of zest, but if you haven't got one you can either grate the zest using a fine grater or pare the zest with a peeler (taking care not to take too much of the white pith which is bitter).

Mix the dried fruit (sultanas, raisins and cranberries) in a large bowl and pick over to get rid of any stems . 

Drain the lemon and orange zest and chop.  Stir the zest and all of the orange and lemon juice into the dried fruit.

Peel, core and coarsely grate the apples.  Add the grated apples, vegetable suet, sugar, brandy and spices to the dried fruit mixture and stir to mix thoroughly.  The apples go brown pretty quickly when peeled, so I did a few at a time, adding them to the dried fruits as I went along so that the lemon juice prevent them from going brown. 

Leave to stand for a few hours, covered with a tea towel, returning to stir the mincemeat regularly.

If you are just making the mincemeat to use over a couple of weeks then it will keep perfectly well sealed in a plastic container.  If you want to store it in jars to keep it for longer, then fill sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool dark place.

Use to make mince pies.

Huge thanks to Jassy of Gin and Crumpets for her mincemeat guidance.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Rigatoni with Crown Prince Squash, Cavolo Nero & Red Chilli

There's one thing I know for sure - pasta consumption in our house has rocketed since we started getting an organic veg bag again. 

Picture's 7.30pm on a week night, the baby has just gone to bed, the fridge is full of the random assortment of vegetables that you can only have when someone else is choosing your veg each week, your tummy is rumbling and you want to curl up on the sofa, sharpish.  What you need is a hearty bowl of pasta that's ready in no time and leaves you feeling (relatively) virtuous.

I think my love of the combination of kale and squash is probably inspired by Denis Cotter.  He cooks the sort of good (vegetarian) food that I want to eat every day.  Food that is a far cry from the apparently mandatory mushroom risotto or pasta served up as the meat-free option in many restaurants and pubs.

You don't need to use crown prince squash - any squash will do - I just happen to like the rounded, buttery flavour of the crown prince.  Butternut squash would be a more than adequate replacement.  The same goes for the cavolo nero (black kale).  Although cavolo nero tastes best, you could use the more widely available curly kale or any other dark green leafy vegetable.


150-200g rigatoni (depending on how hungry you are)
1/4 crown prince squash (or 1/2 a large butternut squash)
1 leek
10-15 large cavolo nero leaves
1 red chilli (finely sliced)
3 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
2 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp to roast the squash
salt & freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated pecorino or parmesan


Peel and deseed the squash.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Season the squash with salt and pepper and toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Roast in a medium oven (approx 180 C depending on your oven) for approximately 20 minutes until tender and beginning to caramelise at the edges.  You will need to check on the squash a couple of times and toss to ensure it roasts evenly.

Discard the outer layer (or layers) of the leek and then slice in half lengthways.  Slice the leek into thin semicircles and wash thoroughly.  Wash the cavolo nero, discard any thick stalks and slice the leaves into strips about 1cm wide.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Heat a wide based saute pan over a medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the leeks.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes and then add the cavolo nero.  Continue to saute until the leeks and kale are tender.  Lower the heat, add the red chilli and garlic and continue to saute for a couple of minutes. 

The pasta and squash should now be ready.  Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water.  Add the squash, drained pasta and 3-4 tablespoons of the cooking water to the leeks and cavolo nero, then season generously. 

Serve with plenty grated cheese.