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The next generation of Market traders set out their stalls Ed Smith helps answer the question: what am I craving? Elizabeth Haigh of Mei Mei on tradition, family and laksa
A celebration of 50 issues of Market Life
Snapshot Soft smiles and hard cheese at Kappacasein
Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
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Welcome to Market Life No. 50
Opening times Monday-Thursday: 10am-5pm Friday: 10am-6pm Saturday: 8am-5pm Sunday: 10am-2pm (produce only)
pp13 Asam ikan pedas (fish curry) pp26-31 Celery, fennel and egg salad with rye croutons
Chipotle tomatoes & sardines on toast
Borough Market Online goodsixty.co.uk/borough-market Borough Market 8 Southwark Street London SE1 1TL Underground London Bridge Train London Bridge Join the conversation: Twitter @boroughmarket Instagram @boroughmarket facebook.com/boroughmarket Published by LSC Publishing lscpublishing.com Editor: Mark Riddaway firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy editor: Viel Richardson email@example.com Deputy editor: Clare Finney firstname.lastname@example.org Managing editor: Ellie Costigan email@example.com Design: Em-Project Limited firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial consultant: Claire Ford Contributors: Angela Clutton, Kathy Slack, Ed Smith Photographers: Orlando Gili, Steele Haigh, Sam A Harris, Regula Ysewijn, Polly Webster
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Lamb chops with cacio e pepe white beans Cherry and apricot slab pie pp40-41 Crispy courgettes, hazelnut purée & caperberries
Even accounting for the way that time seems to have yanked free from its moorings of late, it feels like an eternity since an issue of Market Life last saw the light of day. A lot has changed at Borough Market since last April 2020, when issue 49 was published – a statement of the bleedin’ obvious, admittedly, but one that happens to be as true for this corner of SE1 as it is for pretty much everywhere else. Back then, as tourists and office workers all but disappeared, their place was filled, at least in part, by a wave of local shoppers who came to buy the high-quality ingredients that, with bars and restaurants closed, became the bedrock of so many people’s sociability and self-indulgence. It was partly in reaction to this shift that a significant change was made in June of this year: Borough Market started opening every Sunday, just for four hours (10am-2pm) and only for produce shopping, giving home cooks a window in the weekend in which to fully engage with traders and unhurriedly fill their bags and baskets. Sundays feel completely different now, and the evenings here are unrecognisable too. When indoor dining was restricted, the Market responded by turning the estate into an atmospheric outdoor dining area for the restaurants and street food stands. Every evening, after the produce traders have packed up for the day, the tables and chairs go out and Borough begins to buzz with the chatter of happy diners. The mood has been consistently warm even if – on colder nights – the extremities of less well-prepared visitors haven’t. Even as restrictions have eased, al fresco dining has remained as popular as ever. It’s doubtless here to stay. The Market’s digital presence helped fill the void for those no longer able to make it here in person. The Borough Market Online delivery service significantly expanded its reach and the range of produce available. The Borough Talks series, our Christmas celebrations, the Borough Market Cookbook Club – all moved online. The Market’s website was relaunched, and our new digital recipe collections were read by multitudes. Like everything else, this issue of Market Life is also slightly different. The same names are here, the same quality of writing, photography and recipes, but you’re absorbing it all on computers or tablets. It is also unashamedly nostalgic. At a time when nobody is entirely sure what we’re looking forward to, we’ve done a bit of looking back instead, with a special section celebrating the 50 editions published since 2012, when this magazine first poked its head above the parapet. We very much hope you enjoy it.
NEWS & EVENTS
Market Explorers To help turn a shopping trip into a fun, educational experience for your kids, download our Market Explorers booklets, which are designed for primary-age children and come packed with information and recipes. Alternatively, pick up a free printed copy from The Borough Market Store. New traders Borough Market has recently welcomed several new additions to its trader community, all of which have names that helpfully communicate exactly what it is they sell: Moishe’s Bagelry & Bakery, Humble Crumble and BOB’s Lobster. Juma Kitchen Congratulations are due to the brilliant Phil Juma, whose Juma Kitchen Iraqi food stand at Borough Market has been shortlisted in the best street food or takeaway category in the BBC’s highly prestigious Food & Farming Awards 2021. Edible Histories And on the subject of awards, our book Borough Market: Edible Histories, written by Market Life editor Mark Riddaway, based on his long-running food history column in this magazine, has made it onto the Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards shortlist for best debut book.
Broad beans Ready to be popped from their blankety pods in the high summer months, these are excellent paired with creamy goat’s cheeses.
Chanterais melon This stripy, French fruit is one of the most prized of the summer melons – and the one with the shortest season.
Wild rocket The full flavoured, distinctly peppery and nutty nature of these leaves makes them well suited for making into pesto.
Gooseberries A tart, summer berry that’s delicious cooked down with sugar and folded into fools or made into jam with elderflowers.
Sandy carrots Grown close to the beaches of Normandy, the sandy, sulphurous soil enriches these root veg with sweet depth of flavour.
Gariguette strawberries A sweet and fragrant varietal of this favourite soft fruit. Best eaten with a pot of Hook & Son raw cream.
Green walnuts Plump and soft thanks to being harvested early, these seasonal nuts are best pickled and served with cold meats or cheese.
Cornish sole Also known as megrim sole, this tasty flat fish makes for a sustainable and economical alternative to Dover and lemon sole.
Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
FIVE SUMMER SHELLFISH
Shellfish Furness Fish Markets Richard Haward’s Oysters Shellseekers Fish & Game
Cornish king crabs Come May, and continuing into the summer months, the shores of south-west England are crawling with Cornish king crabs, also known as spider crabs, thanks to their long, spindly legs. Packed with sweet white meat, these crustaceans are a cut above the more familiar brown crab, earning their regal status. Happily, they’re currently the more sustainable option, too.
Samphire Quickly steam or stir fry this verdant sea vegetable and use it to add crunch and salinity to salads, or simply stir into spaghetti.
Sandy carrots Turnips Green walnuts Food and Forest Mackerel pate Oak & Smoke Picanha Northfield Farm Dorset ’nduja Capreolus Vacherin d’areches Mons Cheesemongers La Adelita chipotle salsa Changarro
Dorset ’nduja This British take on the soft, spreadable, fiery Italian salame is handmade using locally bred free range pork. Cypriot halloumi Made with goat’s and sheep’s milk, this traditional cheese is bright yet mellow, with hints of mint.
Mackerel pâté Handmade with smoked fish from an Arbroath smokehouse, blended with cream cheese and a kick of fresh horseradish.
Vacherin d’areches A strong goat’s cheese with a rich, creamy paste and caramel notes, made in the Beaufortain valley in the French Alps.
Picanha beef Also known as the ‘rump cap’ thanks to its flavoursome lid of fat. Cook whole on the barbecue and slice into steaks.
La Adelita chipotle salsa A hot, smoky salsa with a touch of sweetness. Perfect on fish tacos or nachos, or as a dip for totopos.
Scallops There aren’t many things we can thank the awful spring weather for, but delaying the scallop spawning season is one of them. A late winter has meant waters have been slower to warm up, meaning scallops are still plump, juicy and ripe for the eating. Darren Brown of Shellseekers Fish & Game dives for his off the coast of Dorset, plucking them off the seabed by hand, ensuring quality is high and the seabed is protected.
Brown shrimp These tiny, delicately flavoured crustaceans have been fished in Morecambe Bay for centuries. Available at Furness Fish Markets fresh in the shell (or, thankfully, peeled), they’re ready to be cooked in butter, sprinkled with parsley and eaten on toast, or ‘potted’: an utterly delicious preservation method, involving boiling them in butter with spices before being packed into pots and sealed with yet more butter.
2345 Cockles Unlike many species of shellfish, cockles have – inexplicably – fallen out of favour in recent years. But to overlook these beautiful marine bivalve molluscs is to miss out on one of the most economical and sustainable of seafoods, their deeply ridged shells giving way to a pale pearl of tasty delicate flesh. Add them to a bouillabaisse or use them in place of clams or mussels in your favourite seafood dish. 5
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Clams Clams in all their myriad shapes and sizes can be found at Borough, ranging from the pretty, marble-shelled palourde – a good all-rounder, think spaghetti vongole – to the long, tubular, inky black razor clams, to the large, meaty cherrystone clams of southern US chowder fame. Though in our opinion, the latter are best bought fresh from Richard Haward’s Oysters and supped straight from the shell.
IN PRAISE OF EMPANADAS FROM PORTEÑA Words: Mark Riddaway Image: Polly Webster
My grandad, like many of his generation, wasn’t someone who felt a natural affinity with the people of other nations. I don’t blame him for that: he grew up in far less cosmopolitan London than the gloriously global city of today and his cross-cultural experiences in the years immediately after 1939 weren’t particularly fun. Not that he felt any deep animus, he just didn’t know anyone who wasn’t British and felt no real urge to change that. And he was very, very suspicious of ‘foreign’ food. He wouldn’t eat anything spicy or texturally challenging. He wouldn’t even eat rice or pasta. I can imagine him eyeing a baguette with great wariness, unconvinced by the idea that bread could be long. After he passed away, the excitement with which my nan ate the very first curry of her life, accosting the waiters to tell them with goggle-eyed glee how amazing it all was, was a beautiful thing to behold. To my grandad, Argentina would have epitomised ‘foreign’. Everything he knew about the country came from perfidy in World Cups and conflicts over distant islands, all ingested with the brashly xenophobic seasoning provided by his tabloid. And yet I can’t help but think that if the circumstances could have been engineered for an Argentinian man of a similar age to sit him down with a batch of Porteña’s exemplary empanadas (best at first not to call them empanadas, better to call them meat pies) 6
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and a football match on TV, the barriers between them would have fragmented like so much flaky pastry. How could any mistrust survive the sharing of something so generous and moreish? The love of a crisp but oily crust with a salty, savoury filling is baked into the British and it’s baked into the people of Buenos Aires too, regardless of how much Atlantic water lies between us. There’d have been an awkward moment when each insisted forcefully that the other have the last one on the plate, but with that resolved they’d have turned back to the game and begun to share the odd word about centre forwards and grandchildren. The handshake on their parting would have been twice as firm as the one when they met. It would be naive to suggest that sharing good food can magically make us more open, more tolerant, more willing to break out of our tight little huddles. But it’s never a bad place to start.
A VIEW FROM THE BOARDROOM Ten insights from Adrian Bunnis, chair of the trustees of Borough Market
1. It was the historic setting that first attracted me to Borough Market, the blending of the old with the new. But the longer you’re here, the more you realise it’s much more than just a set of buildings. The buildings are just there as a backdrop – it’s the traders who create the atmosphere and make it such a success. 2. The Borough Market trust is a charity, and the Trustees are the caretakers for the Market. Our job is to make sure that it survives and thrives. It’s very much a strategic role, so it’s all about looking at the direction in which the Market should be heading. 3. In the late 1990s, the Market was transformed from being a fruit and veg wholesale operation to what it is now. Many of the traders who started back then are still present. I think it’s fair to say, they stole a march on everywhere else—it was all very novel and new. Others have done a certain amount of catching up since then, but we keep trying to push things forward. 4. Shopping trends have changed hugely during the last 21 years and the Market has had to move with those times. The challenge for the trustees is to make sure that what we offer stays relevant to what the customers want today and how the traders want to operate. At the same time, we must
WHAT IT TAKES CARVING JAMÓN Eva Garcia of Brindisa on the craft of the ‘cortadora de jamón’ Interview: Viel Richardson
maintain that unique relationship between the traders and the customers – that shared love of food and the way they’re brought together by it. That connection is what I think Borough Market’s all about – all in a very historic setting, which in many ways is a bit quirky, but is all part of the charm. 5. The pandemic brought about some big changes. In particular, it led to the Market moving a lot of the communications to digital platforms and ramping up online sales. I think it’s inevitable that online sales are only going to go one way, and that’s up, so one of the challenges is going to be how we meet that demand while also encouraging people to enjoy the personal connections that are made at a market . 6. During Covid, it became clear that as the volume of visitors dropped, local people in the community started to use the Market more. People have been spending more on produce, because they’re cooking instead of going out to restaurants. That’s something we are keen to maintain. Indeed, one of the main aims of the launch of Sunday produce-only trading is to encourage those who want to avoid the Saturday crowds to come to shop on a Sunday. 7. A key role of the trustees is to further the charitable objectives of the Market: the work we do to distribute surplus food via Plan Zheroes being a good example. During the pandemic we were involved in an initiative called Feed the Frontline, which delivered more than 40,000 bags of fresh fruit and veg to seven hospitals. When the Green Market was empty, Turnips staff were busy packing bags and delivering them – they really put their backs into it. It was a great effort on their part, as well as a real help to NHS staff. 8. One of our challenges throughout the crisis has been giving people the confidence to come to the Market. We imposed social distancing measures early on and subsequently made the wearing of face masks mandatory, even in the outdoor spaces. The staff and traders showed real creativity and resilience in changing the way they approach things to deal with the restrictions. 9. I buy a lot of fish at the Market. I find that you can’t replicate that freshness anywhere else. 10. What makes shoppers return again and again to the Market is the opportunity it gives to purchase food from people who are passionate and knowledgeable about what they sell, and often have produced it themselves. The fact that you can go to Shellseekers Fish & Game and you know that Darren has taken the scallops off the floor of the sea by hand; the fact that at Northfield Farm they look after all these rare breeds and your meat is delivered to the stall direct from their farm. It’s a special experience. 7
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Is the tradition of carving important to you? Yes. I am a proud Spaniard, and this is a very traditional Spanish craft. In Spain, being a ‘cortadora de jamón’ is a respected career. At every wedding, christening, celebration and festival event you will find someone carving jamón. It makes me feel good to be doing something that connects so deeply with my cultural heritage. But this has traditionally been a job reserved for men, and there were some men who did not approve when I said I wanted to carve jamón. One even said: “Are you sure you’re a woman?” Luckily that is changing and there are more female carvers in Spain now. I believe anyone should be allowed to see if they have the skill and the passion, not just men and not just Spanish people. The man who trained me is Colombian and a very gifted carver. What is the main aim of the carver? Achieving the perfect slice on a consistent basis in a way that gets the most out of each leg. Each leg is different, so it is not a case of following a set plan. People think the slices have to be as thin as possible, but that’s not the case. Each slice needs to be about the depth of a credit card, around two fingers wide and at most two inches long. This size allows you to experience best the combination of flavours and textures. Is a jamón leg complicated to carve? Yes. You really need to understand the structure of each leg, where the different muscle groups are located and what their properties are. The same leg can have four or five different flavours. For example, the part called the ‘jarrete’ doesn’t have a lot of meat. This means as the salt penetrates the leg it develops a more intense flavour than other parts. My favourite part is the ‘caña’. It’s by the tendon, closest to the hoof.
The texture is not the best, but for me the flavour is amazing. Then we have the ‘maza’, the ‘punta’, the ‘babilla’ – all these areas have different textures and it is my job to present each one at its best. You talk about the jamón with real reverence. Yes, out of respect for the animal and the producers. A jamón leg takes time and care to make well and you need to respect the time and skill involved. You do this by getting as much product out of each leg as possible while maintaining the quality of each slice. Nothing is wasted. Do you need any special equipment? Your most important tool is your knife. It has to be long and flexible, and you have to keep it extremely sharp. You will use different sections of the blade to carve different parts of the leg. Keeping the blade parallel with the floor is critical for getting slices that are the same thickness all the way across, and this can be tricky as the leg is a shape full of slopes and curves. Positioning your body, arms and hands is also extremely important for safety: a warm jamón leg can get a bit slippery. What qualities do you need? It is physically demanding. I noticed a lump on my hand and the doctor said it was muscle that had built up through carving for several hours a day! But to do this job well, I believe you also need a love of people. Carving ham has some theatre about it. Engaging with the people you are carving for can make the job so much better. This is one of the things I love most about it. You can see the joy it brings people and the interest it generates about your culture. People are so interested in the jamón: what breed it is, where it came from, how long it was aged for, the best way to enjoy it. For me, that connection is priceless.
A TIP OF THE CAP While autumn is the season in which mushrooms spring most readily to mind, Angela Clutton is determined not to miss out on months of glorious summer fungi Image: Regula Ysewijn
“Pan-fry in plenty of butter.” Are those the sweetest words in recipe writing? They just might be. They also go a long way towards explaining why mushrooms turn up in my kitchen so very often. Mushrooms, with their sponge-like qualities, enjoy little more than soaking up the glory of a melted pool of top-notch butter and, to be honest, I totally get where they’re coming from. It’s usually in autumn that I get to thinking about mushrooms. Perhaps there’s something about kicking fallen leaves that evokes the woodiness of flavour so many mushrooms share. Perhaps it’s something not nearly so romantic and is just that autumn is when we’re used to seeing them on sale. But waiting until October – or even September – means missing out on months of fabulous fungi from the varieties that begin to appear through the summer and lend themselves just as much to the cooking of that season too. And the only foraging skills required to enjoy them are those you bring to the market stall. Chanterelles are among the 8
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most glorious of summer-blooming mushrooms. You know the ones: a gorgeous yellow colour with a hint of apricot aroma and flavour, shaped like a trumpet, or an umbrella that has blown inside out in the summer breeze. They’re sometimes known by their French name, girolles (confusingly, in France the name ‘chanterelle’ is used for a different species of fungus), and while they are prolific growers in French woods, they also enjoy the Scottish climate and grow plentifully in the woods there too. They grow right by the trees, sharing minerals – and therefore flavour – with the tree roots. A chanterelle growing in the shadow of, say, a chestnut tree is going to take on its chestnut flavour, which means that when you come to cook it you’re going to be releasing those same chestnut notes into your food too. It’s a give and take that is fundamental to how useful mushrooms are in the kitchen. While taking care not to toughen your chanterelles by overcooking, you might like to sauté them for omelettes or scrambled eggs; they’re great with anything in the rabbit / chicken line of things, and with shellfish too. Simplest – and summeriest – of all, try them raw, the slices tossed in a vinaigrette of walnut oil, sherry vinegar and herbs, then served with a goat’s or blue cheese. There’s an elegance to chanterelles which I find entrancing. But I would be failing in my mushroom duty not to ’fess up that some summer mushrooms are a little bit less on the elegant side and closer instead to one of the more visually unusual characters in Dr Who – many of whom, as Dr Who fans will know, are the good guys. And so it is with these more characterful mushrooms, like the puffball. The name echoes the 1980s skirtfashion I was just too young to enjoy at the time and haven’t had the guts to try since. I’m not sure I’d have the guts to try a puffball mushroom, either, if I came across one without knowing of their wonderful flavour. Round or pear shaped, growing on a short stem and covered with tiny soft spines which sometimes grow to look like little pointed warts (I did warn you), they’re best when young, firm and bright white. Ideally no bigger than 25cm or so in diameter, which is still pretty bloomin’ big. There are different varieties – some without a stem and others with a long one, some maturing into a skin that cracks into scales and flakes. And they’re all completely delicious. Try your puffball peeled, cut into thick slices, dipped into beaten egg and breadcrumbs, then fried in butter. Griddle them like a steak. The larger ones can even be stuffed with whatever mix you fancy of cooked rice, loads of herbs, some lemon, maybe some dried fruit and spices, then wrapped in foil and baked. Parasol mushrooms come late in the summer and look pretty much exactly as you’d imagine from the
name, with a long, thin stem (which you don’t eat) topped by a broad shallow cap that opens up like, well, a parasol. The cap is covered in brown scales and according to Jane Grigson, who knew a thing or two about mushrooms, is “one of the most delicious mushrooms to eat”. Like the puffball, they can be sliced, dipped, fried, stuffed, or else cooked with bacon for the best of breakfasts. There are still more summer mushrooms to talk about here, but let’s pause first to revel in their names. Puffball and parasol we’ve covered. Space is going to run out before I can get to shaggy cap, lawyer’s wig, jelly ear and lion’s mane, but we should appreciate how brilliantly evocative each of them is. As is the fairy ring, also known as the mousseron, which is very likely the French linguistic root of our English word mushroom. Mousserons are at the other end of the size scale to puffballs, barely 2-5cm across their cap and standing about as tall. Fairy size indeed, but not lacking in flavour whatever their stature – these are wonderful mushrooms for soups, stews, or adding into a mixed mushroom tart. Mushrooms Elsey & Bent Stark’s Fruiterers Tartufaia Ted’s Veg Turnips
I mentioned right at the beginning that mushrooms have a sponge-like quality. It means they yearn to absorb the moisture around them and in so doing will take on flavour. Butter, yes, but also garlic, fresh herbs, wines, vermouth or marsala, vinegars: all are good for the simplest, most impactful cooking of mushrooms. What you might notice, though, is that mushrooms can also give away a lot of moisture when they’re cooked. Sometimes too much to simply bubble off without over-cooking the mushrooms. If that happens, simply drain off the liquid – be sure, though, to reserve it for cooking with elsewhere. It will be packed with richly umami-laden flavour. Those umami qualities are why drying mushrooms is such a good idea. It’s as easy as anything, especially with the mousserons. Just leave them on a tray overnight in a low oven and then store until you’re ready to rehydrate and bring their flavour to all manner of other dishes. I’d always rather do that with a perhaps over-plentiful supply of good mushrooms than try to store them for too long. Mushrooms tend not to like hanging around. Somewhere cool and dry is best. In the fridge can be tricky as they are keen to absorb other smells, but if you need to then go for it using a paper bag that’s left open at the top. Never in plastic (as if you would...) as the mushrooms will sweat unpleasantly. Really the best thing to do with mushrooms is enjoy them as soon as you have them. Throw then into simple pasta dishes. Use to stuff summer’s courgettes. Bake them into a tart or pie. Or, of course, pan-fry them in plenty of butter and pile them up on toast. You simply can’t go wrong.
Fairy ring mushrooms, also known as mousserons
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THERE IS THIS AMAZING CUISINE,
AND IT NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN DOWN.
LET’S NOT LOSE IT. Elizabeth Haigh, chef-owner of Mei Mei, on why traditional Singaporean recipes are in danger of extinction, the challenges of getting her mother to share her beloved recipes, and the importance of eating as a family Interview: Ellie Costigan Portrait: Steele Haigh
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Elizabeth Haigh established herself as a chef to watch back in 2011, when she competed on MasterChef aged just 24. As its inaugural head chef, she helped east London restaurant Pidgin win a Michelin star, before setting out on her own with a mission to bring her heritage Singaporean cuisine to the masses. “There are not enough SingaporeanMalaysian restaurants,” she says. “Everyone can name a Chinese restaurant, an Indian restaurant, a Vietnamese restaurant in London. How many Singaporean restaurants can people name? Not enough. Representation matters.” Mei Mei is her answer to that: a Singaporean ‘kopitiam’ in Borough Market Kitchen. If keeping a new restaurant afloat during a pandemic wasn’t enough – successfully pivoting to meal kits and online retail – Elizabeth has also been beavering away at her first cookbook, Makan, which presents many of the recipes of her childhood alongside colourful anecdotes offering fascinating insights into Singaporean-Peranakan culture. What’s your strongest early memory of food? As far back as I can remember, we would eat round the dinner table as a family. We would be eating so quickly that we wouldn’t be having a conversation, but it was just the nicest thing – being together, having this tradition every night. We would usually eat quite late, because my mum worked late, but she would always prepare fresh food. That’s why I named the book Makan; it means ‘let’s eat’ or ‘dinnertime’ in Malay. It’s something I’m trying to continue with Riley, my son, who’s three. There’s a lot of distractions now – TV, YouTube – so I really push the importance of having that time together. You say that there’s no such thing as ‘typical’ Singaporean cuisine. What defines it for you? It’s like trying to define what London food is: you can’t. The best thing about the food from Singapore – and London – is that it’s a combination of many different cultures. Everyone brings their own influences and knowledge. What I love about being in Singapore and the cuisine there is that there’s an undeniable respect for everyone’s background. Something that’s definitely common, though, is chilli – not blow-your-socks-off chilli, but heat. There are a lot of aromatic ingredients such as lemongrass and galangal – that’s very common right across the country. Galangal is called blue ginger back home. It’s as aromatic as lemongrass but with slightly more fragrant notes. It’s distinctive to our cooking. As is pandan, a leafy green with a unique flavour profile – savoury and sweet at the same time. It’s a key ingredient in the Hainanese chicken rice. In a Singaporean’s eyes, there’s also never enough garlic. When did you discover your passion for cooking? My mum never let me cook at home. I studied architecture at university, so it was 18-hour days studying, working from home mostly. Before that, if I was feeling a bit down my mum would say: “Let me make you that herbal soup that makes you feel better.” I found I was really lacking that instant comfort and the luxury of someone cooking for me. I tried to recreate some of the dishes, but I didn’t have the knowledge and didn’t have access to the ingredients, even though I was in London. I’d go into Chinese supermarkets and think, what is all this? I don’t know what any of these things are! I would pester her on the phone: “Mum, how do I make that crispy roast pork?” She’d say: “You just prick the skin, put it in the oven and cook it.” I’d be like, there’s probably a bit more to that?! For her, it’s second nature, so to ask her to quantify things was so hard. There’s a Malaysian phrase, ‘agak agak’, which means ‘your ancestors will tell you when it’s enough’, so basically measuring from the heart. Jamie Oliver westernised it with a swish of this, a slosh of that. It’s about going with your gut. That’s what my mum was trying to teach me.
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So do Mei Mei’s dishes reflect your mother’s recipes? We don’t try to recreate them, but we treat the recipes with respect. It’s not going to be authentic, because we use chickens from here in the UK, not ‘kampung’ chickens, which means village chickens. We don’t use the same lemongrass and chilli – the chillies over there are vastly different from the Dutch chillies we have here. Even the lemongrass and galangal – everything is a lot fresher there, because obviously these things have to travel to get to the UK. We try to adapt it so that it works in Britain, while being respectful of tradition. I think we have achieved it, because we do get a lot of people telling us our food reminds them of home. We had a customer here last night for dinner who said: “That barbecue makes me feel like I’m back in the hawker.” That’s exactly what we wanted. How did you go from training to be an architect to becoming a chef? I did four years of my architecture course before I realised I wasn’t entirely happy. I was spending all my time cooking and watching MasterChef, and I just felt more satisfied doing that than I did studying or working in the studio. My friend dared me to apply for MasterChef and I got on. I did well – or well enough; I didn’t win it – and I enjoyed being around people of all ages, all with that similar passion for food. I’d never considered a career in cooking until then, because I was pushed into the university route. I wish I’d had the guts to follow my true passion. The design and creative process of architecture really fascinated me and I think that translated easily to being a chef. There’s also a lot of time management, money management, people management – you need to understand people, listen to customers and clients, so becoming a chef wasn’t too hard a transition. The hardest thing was giving up evenings and weekends, birthdays, holidays, weddings. Your social life, basically. But in exchange, I’ve gained all this invaluable knowledge and skill. It was important to me to start my own business so I could pass on that knowledge. One of our chefs, Julio, is from Puerto Rico and he’s cooking the best Hainanese chicken. Helaine is from the Philippines and she makes the best teh tarik [tea with condensed milk]. That brings me a lot of joy. Did you always want to open your own restaurant? When I left Pidgin, I wanted to open a restaurant. I had many failed attempts – it’s a lot harder than you might
think. But we’ve always wanted a restaurant and I had a very distinct vision of what it should be. I wanted to have an open-plan kitchen, so you could see all the chefs cooking, working away. It’s a very visual thing. It feels like you’re in a hawker – or ‘kopitiam’, as I say. Mei Mei is far better than we could’ve imagined it. We managed to survive a pandemic, for one. We only had four months of being open before Covid hit. It’s been a hell of a ride. Tell us more about the kopitiam concept. What’s the cultural significance? ‘Kopi’ is coffee, ‘tiam’ is shop. Kopitiam: coffee shop. They are integral to the culture of Singapore. In every community, in every area, you will have a kopitiam. I will go down in the morning in my vest and slippers, have my teh tarik, order my kaya toast – both of which we serve at Mei Mei – and sit there. No one will interrupt you. The aunties and uncles will be chatting happily. One thing to know about Singaporeans is, we are loud. Very loud. In Singapore, you will go out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, tea, elevenses – rarely will people eat in or cook at home, unless you have an au pair or a grandmother who cooks, because it’s so affordable to eat out. You start off in a kopitiam and then you might
Recipe from Makan: Recipes from the Heart of Singapore, by Elizabeth Haigh (Bloomsbury Absolute) Image: Kris Kirkham
Asam ikan pedas (fish curry) Serves 4
This classic Nonya dish has lots of gravy with hot and sour notes, so you need a fish that can stand up to this. In Singapore we would ask our local wet market man to cut a couple of steaks from a large Spanish mackerel, but there is an array of other amazing fish that you could use. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a white or oily fish, as long as it can hold its shape. For white fish, go for hake (cod is too flaky) or use whole sea bream, slashed twice on each side to allow the juices to penetrate. Whole mackerel (UK sized) or salmon steaks work well too. — 4 tbsp cooking oil — 3 aubergines, cut into 2cm chunks — 5 sprigs of laksa leaves — 4 lime leaves — 1 quantity tamarind juice (45g pulp soaked for 10 mins in 500ml boiling water and strained) — 8 okra, cut into bite-sized pieces — 1 medium-sized tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces — Caster sugar, to taste — 1.2-1.5kg sea bream or mackerel For the rempah: — 2 candlenuts or macadamia nuts — 3cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled — 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed and stalks roughly chopped — 4 banana shallots, peeled and roughly chopped — 2 garlic cloves, peeled — 20 dried, medium-hot red chillies — 10g belachan (fermented shrimp paste) — Grind all the rempah ingredients together in a blender (adding them in the order listed) to make a paste. If the paste becomes too thick, add a little water. Set aside. — Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat then quickly fry the aubergine until golden brown all over. Remove the aubergine pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate covered in kitchen paper. — Keeping the pan on the heat, sauté the rempah in the oil, stirring constantly, until a richly coloured oil starts to seep from it – about 10 mins. Add the laksa and lime leaves, and continue to sauté for about 30 secs or until fragrant. — Add the tamarind juice and bring to the boil. Add the fried aubergines, okra and tomato. Add sugar and salt to taste. — Lay the fish in the sauce and simmer for 10 mins or until the fish is cooked. — Remove the laksa stalks, pull off the leaves and tear the leaves roughly into pieces. Sprinkle on to the gravy. Serve with steamed white rice.
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go to a hawker, which is a little collection of stands, each of which specialises in one dish. Maybe in one hawker there will be an uncle that does the best coffee. Next door to him there’ll be the best fish ball noodles. Next door to him will be a spot that does the best barbecue stingray and satays – a giant open charcoal barbecue with racks of food. They will be masters of those recipes because all they focus on is doing that one dish. They’ll put in 10,000 hours to master it. That’s why we specialise in the Hainanese chicken rice – that’s our hero dish and it’s one of Singapore’s national dishes. It’s also the one dish I can eat at any time of the day and not be sick of. We’ve been here nearly two years and I’m still eating it every day. It’s very nourishing: chicken poached lightly, served cold but you have a hot soup with it, so it works well in winter and summer, then you have the spicy chilli to wake you up. Rice is the most important bit. It’s cooked in the chicken broth and fat with ginger and garlic. We like to think we’ve put our 10,000 hours into that dish. Definitely 10,000 chickens! Is there a risk that these recipes and skills won’t be passed on to the next generation? That’s the scary part: there’s a generational gap. Running a stand or restaurant is hard. They get up early – three, five in the morning – work all day, then get up and do it again. They don’t want that lifestyle for their children, or the kids don’t want to pick up the baton. When I told my mum I wanted to be a chef, she was like: “What?! Really?! But you’re doing well in architectural school!” I had to really prove myself. Also, the point of entry is so difficult. Everyone is expecting to get the same dish for only a few dollars but rent prices have gone up fivefold. In Singapore they’ve started building apartments without kitchens, which is efficient but bonkers. That’s why Makan was important to me. In Singapore there is this amazing cuisine – the Nonya Peranakan cuisine – and it needs to be written down. Let’s not lose it. Let’s not lose the love for cooking. Were you mindful of making sure the recipes in Makan were accessible to the British public? I’m a Singaporean living in the UK, so I’ve had to adapt certain dishes. I haven’t put in stir-fried morning glory with Chinese egg, because it doesn’t make sense – I put in British asparagus with wok-fried egg. One of the key elements of Peranakan cuisine is cooking with the freshest, best ingredients you can get hold of then adding a bit of spice, adding some chilli. It’s the same thing. I’m really lucky that I’m at Borough Market and I can get hold of pretty much anything I want, with Spice Mountain down the road, Turnips, Ted’s Veg. I did have that in my mind that I didn’t want to put in too many things that are obscure. But actually, you can get almost anything you need if you go to an Asian supermarket and have a good look. I think people are daunted by going to those places because it’s so unfamiliar, but I would say one of the only good things to come out of lockdown is that everything is now online and deliverable. At the click of the button, you can get just about anything. If you had to pick a favourite dish, what would it be? Singapore laksa. If I had to sum up Singaporean cuisine in one dish it would be a laksa. It’s spicy, it’s fragrant, it hits you around the face with heat, but in a good way. You can dial it up and down as much as you like – if you want it less spicy, add more coconut. If you want it spicier, go nuts with the sambal. I love that you can put whatever you want in it. I make ours with a prawn or chicken stock, but you could make it vegan with mushrooms, which will give it that rich umami flavour. It’s very adaptable. It’s also one of the national dishes – we have many, because we’re greedy – and it’s the one dish that I always go to straight away when I’m home. I have strong memories of being back in Singapore when I eat it. They make the laksa in a charcoal pot over roaring flames, which penetrates the dish with this lovely flavour. When I’m back home and the smell hits me, even though it’s so humid, I think, I need that bowl of noodles. It makes you feel very nourished, though you’ll be feeling that chilli pain for days!
A celebration of 50 issues of Market Life Imagery: Tom Bradley, Orlando Gili, John Holdship, Kim Lightbody
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Tatar shurpa by Olia Hercules, photographed for Market Life by Kim Lightbody
The chefs who turned Borough’s beautiful ingredients into beautiful recipes for Market Life
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Zoe Adjonyoh Dhruv Baker Brett Barnes Rosie Birkett Adam Byatt Jenny Chandler Felicity Cloake Angela Clutton Clarissa Dickson Wright Ursula Ferrigno The Galvin brothers Hayden Groves Roopa Gulati Anna Hansen Luke Hawkins Ching He-Huang Olia Hercules Lesley Holdship Tom Hunt Emily Lampson James Lowe Beca Lyne-Pirkis Luke Mackay Tim Maddams Saliha Mahmood Ahmed Allegra McEvedy Paula McIntyre Gill Meller Jeremy Pang Urvesh Parvais Rachel Phipps Nicole Pisani Kay Plunkett-Hogge Luke Robinson Tony Rodd Juliet Sear Kathy Slack Ed Smith Meera Sodha Richard Turner Regula Ysewijn
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The big five-oh Market Life editor Mark Riddaway looks back at almost 10 years of producing Borough Market’s award-winning magazine
Being somebody who tries to make a virtue of learning from mistakes, looking back at past deeds tends to be an excruciating experience: the mistakes, long since learnt from, scream out like the dying Nazis at the end of that first Indiana Jones film. Pulling together this little celebration of 50 editions of Market Life meant flicking through magazines produced almost a decade ago, and the prospect of that gave me no pleasure whatsoever. So what shocked me, trawling back through the years, was just how happy an experience it proved to be. Sure, there were a few missteps along the way, a few budget- or deadline-induced compromises, a few cringy mistakes, a few clever concepts that didn’t quite stand up. I found it hard to look at the cover of issue 3, on which, in the runup to the 2012 Olympics, we tried to bring to life the international nature of the Market’s traders by creating a typographic globe from their names. It didn’t really work. Our vaulting ambition crashed hard into the bar. For issue 4, we went for a nice portrait instead. Always learning. For the most part, though, those old issues of Market Life were all I could possibly have hoped they’d be. Sure, the magazine got slicker as time went by, but it was always stylish, colourful, gently erudite and gloriously good fun. For the most part, it all worked beautifully – and that’s not because of any staggering genius on our part, but because the potential of the material we were working with was so good that only a bunch of real idiots could have screwed it up. The whole estate is a photographer’s dream, the trader community is bursting with charisma, knowledge and punchy opinions, and the Market’s
Inside stories The first interview I ever did for Market Life was with a (now departed) Borough trader called Philip, from Wildes Cheese, who made amazing cheese in a small unit in Tottenham. Fresh out of journalism school and very eager, I couldn’t believe my luck that I’d landed a job that found me legitimately drinking coffee and talking about (and, better yet, eating) cheese of a Tuesday afternoon. I wrote a Facebook status about it. My friends were as incredulous. It was brilliant. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly how the article turned out, and I’m not sure I want to look back to find out. It was probably rubbish – nerves, excitement and inexperience not making for the best interviews. I’ve done many extraordinary (and hopefully better executed) things in the name of work since. I’ve visited a farm in Exeter. I’ve slurped giant oysters with Anne Willan. I’ve interviewed some of the country’s best chefs and most impressive food campaigners, writers and academics (whose impression was such that I ended up studying for a master’s in food policy in my spare time). But what stands out for me about that memory is, it’s a feeling that in the seven years I’ve worked with Borough Market, hasn’t faded – that feeling of, wow, is this really my job?! It’s been an absolute privilege. Meeting passionate people who spend day in, day out, extolling the virtues of good food is contagious too. I’ll never eat supermarket cheese again. Ellie Costigan, subeditor, writer and all-round vital cog whose multifarious contributions ended up being summarised under the unfairly dull job title of ‘managing editor’
Small bites from the Edible Histories series When the Visigothic king Alararic invaded Rome in 408AD, he demanded 3,000 pounds of black pepper as part of his ransom for not massacring its citizens. Issue 19
reputation is such that from the very start we were able to attract interviewees of serious profile (the Galvin brothers in issue 1, Raymond Blanc in issue 6). So, on reflection, that Market Life has been consistently good shouldn’t surprise me. What remains astounding about the whole venture is that a market should seek to create a magazine of such breadth and ambition in the first place. Context is everything: when the magazine was launched at the start of 2012 (or relaunched – a more parochial version of the publication had been around for a while), Borough Market was entering a new era. That summer, Three Crown Square was due to reopen after
Aztecs used to secretly feed their enemies turkey wattle mixed in with hot chocolate in the belief that it would make them impotent. Issue 23 In the late 18th century around three-quarters of Britain’s tea intake was imported by smugglers and sold on the black market, much to the delight of violent criminal tea gangs. Issue 24 A misguided belief in ancient Roman medicine led to the tomato being completely shunned by the British for about 200 years after its arrival in Europe from Mexico. Issue 27 A vital role in the development of the moderrn strawberry was played by an 18th century French spy whose surname was Strawberry. Issue 33 Britain’s extraordinary wealth of apple varieties once included such memorable names as the Bastard Queene, Leathercoate, Cat’s Head, Cowsnout and Old Wife. Issue 40 Sigmund Freud spent a considerable portion of his early academic career dissecting hundreds of eels in a vain search for their testicles. Issue 43 London’s 19th century street traders were initially convinced that ice cream had no future, but after being proved wrong, their ‘penny licks’ turned it into an epidemiological nightmare. Issue 44
The headlines that betray our love of pop music Cooling the gang A guide to summer drinks (issue 3) Love me tender The qualities of spring lamb (issue 7) Bitter sweet symphonies Chocolates of Borough Market (issue 7) Lay lady lay A beginner’s guide to eggs (issue 31) My cherry amour A love affair with cherries (issue 38) Born to be wild A visit to a bison farm (issue 41) The family stone A paean to peaches and plums (issue 45) Beet surrender The charms of the beetroot (issue 46)
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several years of highly disruptive infrastructure work. After a period of looking inward, there was an appetite for the Market to re-engage with people, an understanding that Borough needed to be talking not just to its customers, which the traders had always been adept at, but to the world at large. The Market’s core message – that food matters, and that where your food comes from matters – was starting to resonate more widely, and Borough was packed with impassioned experts who could be part of that conversation. Market Life was an early step forward in a burgeoning engagement strategy that now incorporates books, digital content, a social media behemoth, Borough Talks, Cookbook Club and much more besides. From the Market’s side, the new magazine was a labour of love for Kate Howell and Claire Ford, who chose as their collaborators my team at LSC Publishing. We’re the publishing equivalent of a Borough Market trader: a small local business that, sometimes to our detriment, cares more about quality and integrity than about profit. The design and format of the magazine have evolved over the years, but the team behind it has barely changed: Kate, Claire and me; Viel Richardson, who’d previously worked on the chorizo sandwich stall at Brindisa before becoming a full-time writer; Clare Finney, who joined us as a wideeyed work experience girl and is now one of the country’s leading food journalists; Mike Turner, our brilliant graphic designer. Even the ‘new girl’ – subeditor-turnedmanaging-editor Ellie Costigan – has somehow racked up seven years of service (25 per cent of her entire life). The early issues were packed with promise, but we definitely grew in both confidence and competence as time went by. We started commissioning recipes from a wide array of amazing chefs, with stunning photography
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Inside stories I can remember the precise moment I realised that for once in my life, I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. The place was Bra, north Italy. The moment was when I found myself confronted by a leaning tower of hard Swiss cheeses, each cart-sized wheel cut open to reveal how the 50 IS SU colour and textures vary according to age. The Bra Cheese Festival is the highlight of any serious cheesemaker’s calendar. For one precious month they leave their dairies and livestock in the care of family and colleagues and come from around the world to share ideas, experiences and, crucially, cheese. I was there to cover it for Market Life; to soak up the atmosphere (and the odd glass of wine) and speak to cheesemakers, including a large contingent from Borough. Of many memorable conversations, it was one with Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, USA, that stands out, because it reminded me so much of the philosophy of Borough Market and, in turn, of our magazine. If you’re here in Bra, he told me, it means you are “participating in work that is at the end of the day bigger than you and your team – work that’s about the land and expressing the land. In some ways the cheese is incidental. We are all of us working on our land, for our communities.” A OF M RKET
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to go with them. We began to stretch our wings by producing long features that took us deep into the hinterland of the traders, with budget trips being taken to visit food producers across these islands and sometimes far beyond (exclusively by Clare; quite how she managed to get all the plum overseas gigs escapes me). We also started winning awards – for the magazine as a whole, for FE the graphic design, for the LI writing. Our rollcall of regular columnists ended up reading like a food awards shortlist all of its own: Sybil Kapoor, Rosie Birkett, Bee Wilson, Thom Eagle, Angela Clutton, Kathy Slack, Sue Quinn, Daniel Tapper, Jane Parkinson. Ed Smith showed up for the first time in issue 10, and he’s written for us ever since. Back then he was something of an ingenue, having only recently given up lawyering for cooking and writing; now he’s a best-selling cookbook writer with an Instagram following so large he’s virtually a Kardashian. Regula Ysewijn, whose beautiful still-life produce photos have been appearing since issue 25, has gone on to become roughly the third most famous Belgian. One thing is clear: we may have made occasional mistakes in our layouts and subediting, but we were pretty much flawless in our choice of the people we worked with. It’s been a blast. We’ve met or spoken to some of the most fascinating and impassioned people you could ever hope to come across, many of them standing behind the stalls at Borough Market. We’ve been to some amazing places (well, Clare has), and eaten lots of mouthwatering food. And if along the way we’ve persuaded a few people to shop at Borough Market, or even just think for a moment about what they want to eat and what the implications of their food choices might be, that means we’ve done everything we set out to do. And we’ve loved every minute.
Clare Finney, lead features writer, head of global travel and senior vice-president of talking about cheese
For issue 44, Clare Finney and photographer Tom Bradley joined Ratan Mondal of Tea2You at a tea plantation to watch the harvesting of first flush Darjeeling: an unforgettable experience and the source of some of Market Life’s most memorable photographs
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agroforestry (issue 38); a flying visit to a remarkable Swedish apiary that supplies honey to From Field and Flower (issue 40); and a jaunt out on the water with the Cornish oyster farmers of Wright Brothers (issue 22)
Market Life has transported its readers to some beautiful locations in Britain and abroad. Clockwise from top: a tour of an Isle of Wight tomato farm (issue 20); a trip with Charles Tebbutt of Food and Forest to the hills of Andalucía, southern Spain, where farmers have been adopting the precepts of
Inside stories Given the unfathomable trauma sparked by the terrorist attack on Borough Market in 2017, the challenge we faced in how best to commemorate it was hardly a significant one, but it still caused us a lot of soul searching. In the passageway beside the Borough Market Store, on a big blackboard with a Love Borough logo in the middle, thousands of people had been chalking their messages of love and support. Mike, our designer, floated the idea that we photograph that and use it as an additional wrap-around cover, enveloping a regular edition of Market Life. I snapped a picture of it on my phone and sent it over to him to try out. Everyone liked the mockup, so with our print deadline looming, we booked a photographer to go and shoot it properly. The morning the shoot was due, a panicked call came through from the Market: an over-zealous cleaner had chosen that very moment to sponge down the chalky memorial, leaving the blackboard sparklingly clean but somewhat lacking in the emotive power we’d been counting on. Out of time, and with no plan b in place, our only option was to run with my rushed-off test shot. I’m a terrible photographer, so it’s a good thing that, just when it mattered, my hand was steady and the light was good. In the end, it worked out well: sombre, but hopeful. My career as a cover photographer ended there.
Mark Riddaway, editor, accidental food historian, crossword writer and bottomless pit of only slightly exaggerated food-related anecdotes
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Memorable front covers
Market Life’s covers have evolved in format and design, and have featured a wide range of people, produce, animals and dishes. Clockwise from top left: issue 6, issue 25, issue 37, issue 46, issue 34
Borough Market’s traders are generally more comfortable behind a stall, in a kitchen or on a farm than they are in front of the camera, but they tend to make for striking subjects nonetheless. Clockwise from top left: Dominic from Borough Cheese Company (issue 35); the eponymous Trethowan Brothers (issue 47);
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Giuseppe and Francesco from De Calabria (issue 40); Kath from Ted’s Veg; Sandhya and Gaurav from Horn OK Please (issue 43); and Thea from Alpine Deli (issue 8)
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The stars of Market Life aren’t always people. Clockwise from top: one of the small herd of dairy cows tended to by Steve Hook of Hook & Son (issue 8); some magnificent cattle at Northfield Farm (issue 37); a quizzical-looking pig in South Wales (issue 33); and one of the happy tenants of a North Downs goat farm (issue 25)
Inside stories In the early days of Market Life, the centre spread of the magazine was given over to cutout shots of produce. There was nowhere at the Market where we could easily shoot the pictures, so Mark used to bring the ingredients over to my design studio and we’d photograph them here. That was fine when the theme was bread. The cheese and chocolate also worked out well. The problem came when we decided to tackle shellfish and crustaceans. For a start, while bread doesn’t move, live razor clams and lobsters definitely do. That said, the trickiest customer was a completely inert langoustine. If you lay a langoustine flat on its side, its legs and claws look all shapeless and tangled. We spent ages trying to get it to look right, but the set-up just wouldn’t work. Eventually, we came up with the idea of suspending it from the ceiling. Genius. Except that however carefully we threaded the little blighter, it wouldn’t stop spinning. So, we hung it from two threads looped over two different light fittings, and it stayed steady just long enough for us to fire off a few blur-free photos. Working on Market Life for 10 years has taught me a lot about sourcing and cooking food, but it has also taught me how best to photograph longlegged crustaceans, and you just never know when that kind of knowledge is going to come in useful again.
Mike Turner, graphic designer, passionate advocate of tightly gridded layouts and master of the esoteric visual pun
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These magnificent bison were photographed by Orlando Gili for a feature about the Rhug Estate farm in north Wales, for issue 41
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The science is clear: food is one of the biggest sources of climate change gas emissions – meat particularly. Less meat but better quality is the rule we would all benefit from living by. Food is the biggest driver of the loss of biodiversity. Food is the biggest risk factor affecting premature death. Diet is one of the key indicators dividing rich and poor. In other words, to use price as our main criterion is shortsighted. Food can be cheap, but expensive in other ways.
Punchy stuff Some of the typically strong opinions shared through our pages
As Michael Pollan pointed out in one of his books, we say that poor people need cheap food, but we have a system that doesn’t pay people enough, which is why we require it. Supermarkets and other food companies employ people on minimum wage, and then those people require universal credit to supplement their income because they’re paid so little. We pay for that out of our tax budget.
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Tim Lang, professor of food policy (issue 34)
Sheila Dillon, presenter of The Food Programme (issue 38) It’s not just transparency that we need, but clarity. If you are told about something but are unaware of the context or meaning, it’s no good. Chicken is often advertised as having been corn-fed, as though it’s an obvious reason to buy it – but is it good for chickens to be fed on corn? Labels shout about the products being ‘organic’, but what does that actually mean? Most people probably couldn’t tell you. We need something that helps us better understand the provenance of what we’re buying. We need clearer, more standardised food labels. Abi Aspen Glencross, co-founder of The Sustainable Food Story (issue 39) 24 Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
Between the turn of the 20th century and today, we’ve switched our dietary fats from 80 per cent animal and 20 per cent plants, to the other way around. If you look at where those dietary fats come from, it’s palm oil, soya oil – which is genetically modified and causing a huge amount of soil erosion in South America – and crops like almonds, which everybody thinks are very good, but if you go to California, you’ll find that it’s a disaster, in terms of desertification. We need to think very carefully about where all our food comes from, not just meat. Patrick Holden, founder of the Sustainable Food Trust (issue 42) Our food system is dominated by mega-corporations. They say, “Oh, we’re all for corporate social responsibility,” but at the end of the day they are still making mega profit, while there are farmers supplying them who work for less than a pound a day. And still, people can’t even afford the cheap processed food these corporations are producing – some can’t afford anything at all, by the time they’ve paid rent and everything else. Food is now a commodity, something to be bought and sold. Whereas if we value food for what it is – something that gives us life, as something that’s part of this universe and this earth, something we are connected to – then we will think differently. Deirdre Woods, community actionist and cook (issue 45) The founder of Impossible Foods, which makes plant-based meat substitutes, has said that his mission was to put animal agriculture out of business totally. But I love meat and I respect the farmers in Scotland and France and many other places where animal agriculture has been an integral part of
human culture, forever, so when I hear him say that, it bothers me. It seems to be so cold and unwilling to confront historical reality. On the other hand, I think what he’s doing is great because it gives us one more option to deal with a huge problem. People should start out by recognising that they don’t have The Answer – capital T, capital A – and that the more people who are seriously engaged with the issue, the better. Harold McGee, food science writer (issue 48)
Above: Deirdre Woods Right: Sheila Dillon
Trader talk The worst serving suggestion
The most eye-watering anecdote
The essence of being a Borough Market trader
“When I was at school, I went on an exchange trip to Tokyo. We had been well drilled in things you should and should not do in order to be respectful, including never turning away food. On the first morning, I was taken downstairs for breakfast. I was 15 years old, jetlagged, and they made me a plate that was absolutely stuffed full of prawns. At the time the concept of seafood was just alien to me. I took one of the prawns, which were unpeeled, and stuffed the whole thing into my mouth with a loud crunch. The whole family reached forward shouting: ‘No, no!’ I panicked a bit about insulting them, so my reaction was to say: ‘This is how I like them.’ I cleared the whole plate. It was awful, but the response I had from the family was one of awe, respect and wonder.”
“For a while we experimented with getting rid of livestock waste in an incinerator on the farm. On one occasion one of our vans broke down filled with tubs of cattle bones, but we forgot to empty the van before sending it off to be repaired. The mechanics refused to go near it because of the smell, so we eventually had to go and pick up the tubs. Back on the farm, I opened one of the tubs and suddenly found myself 150 feet away with no recollection of how I’d got there. The smell was literally indescribable.”
“It’s very hard to leave Borough Market because working here is unique. I have seen people leave for other jobs but many of them return. It’s completely different to anywhere else. Each morning I spend half an hour getting through the Market and into work. I drop by to say hello to my friends from other stalls. Every evening, I leave from the other side, because I need to say hello to the people working over there. It’s a kind of routine: if I don’t, people will wonder what’s happened.”
Tony Kirwan of Utobeer (issue 19)
Jan McCourt of Northfield Farm (issue 30)
Germana Forlenza of Gastronomica (issue 46)
Inside stories “You seem like a nice sort of chap and I’m not that busy today.” Thus began one the most delightful, scandalous, outrageously funny conversations I’ve ever had. Clarissa Dickson Wright, who burst into the British culinary consciousness as one of the Two Fat Ladies, was a real force for good in British food. When I interviewed her for issue 8 of Market Life, our conversation ranged from her childhood in Singapore, London and Surrey to mine in the Caribbean. There were stories from her time as a barrister, through hilarious TV mishaps, to her battles with depression and alcohol. Hugely patriotic in the best sense of the word, she believed passionately that British culinary traditions were important and should be celebrated. At the same time, she insisted that people recognise how many of these traditions originated in ideas brought to our shores from across the globe. Perhaps because she had gone through such dark times, Clarissa never ceased to look for the humanity in others. She reminded me that while this job can take you to some wonderful places, the real joy is found in the passionate, talented people you meet. Hugely intelligent, searingly honest and genuinely funny, Clarissa was the kind of larger-than-life character everyone should be lucky enough to talk to at least once. I will always be grateful that my opportunity came while she was lazing on that sunny afternoon. Viel Richardson, multi-talented writer, interviewer, general fixer and occasional emergency photographer
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ingredients and market produce might well be the building blocks for a good meal. But the meal will only truly sing if those ingredients, and what you build with them, suit the moment. My instinct (and our instincts are kind of the point here), is that we can categorise our cravings into an admittedly imperfect but also not terrible shortlist of flavour profiles. These are: fresh and fragrant; tart and sour; chilli and heat; spiced and curried; rich and savoury; cheesy and creamy. It’s not a particularly rigorous or involved thesis, largely because the real point is that the recipes, the concept and the message are all about trusting our intuition. You probably do already cook what you fancy most of the time. My hope is simply to provide a bit of clarity, order and direction when we respond to our rumblings.
To help ensure his dinner hits the spot, Ed Smith has come up with a shortlist of flavour profiles that help answer the eternal question: what am I craving right now? Images: Sam A Harris
As anyone who has read and cooked from The Borough Market Cookbook will know, I am an advocate for cooking seasonally – using and taking inspiration from produce at its peak ensures you’ll end up with an objectively tasty plate of food. But that still leaves rather a lot of choice when it comes to deciding exactly what to cook and eat, doesn’t it? And will what you choose hit the spot? In my new cookbook, Crave, I suggest that the best way to work out precisely what to cook is to ask ourselves the very simple question: what flavour am I craving right now? By doing so, we very quickly cut through the sometimes paralysing number of options available, and narrow down our focus to recipes that will actually satisfy our subjective needs at that time. Seasonal
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So here we are, in the midst of The Great British Summer. What flavours are you craving? One of the biggest drivers of cravings is the weather (more so than season, in my opinion). On the sunniest days in July and August, something fresh and fragrant might be the answer. Think: herbs, salad leaves, fresh cheeses, steamed fish, lemon juice and olive oil, vegetables that snap and crunch and refresh. Perhaps the recipe here for celery and fennel salad with rye croutons (which you could make using bread from Karaway Bakery) will catch your eye? If, on the other hand, it’s muggy and grey – either outside or in your mind – then something tart and sour could be the thing. I’m talking pickles, ferments, berries, vinegars, magic ingredients like pomegranate molasses, tamarind and dried berry powders. These things are jolting, perky, and provide a pick-me-up. We’re not short of sharp fruits in summertime, but I also like how stone fruits such as apricots sharpen when they’re cooked. Should this flavour profile grab you, I suggest that you try the apricot and cherry slab pie recipe, paired with the lactic tang of a decent splodge of creme fraiche. Perhaps your cravings are prompted by things other than weather or mood – maybe you’re in holiday mode and daydreaming about travel memories or indeed future plans. I know when I’m thinking of warmer climes, my mind often takes me to places where chilli peppers reign: southeast Asia, India, Mexico, for example. A really quick way to quench a distracting desire for chilli and heat is with chipotle tomatoes and sardines on toast dish. It’s a particularly good cross between Mexican memories and market produce (you can get chipotle in adobo at Spice Mountain and sardines are swimming ever closer to our waters as I type). Maybe your cravings appear for no obvious reason. That’s fine too. Although I do suggest a rationale, your comfort food cravings will be different to mine. Really, Crave just offers a way to effectively plan your next meal, plus recipes to match the flavour you’re after, regardless of why. On which note, if on a balmy day you’re craving cheesy, creamy things rather than fresh and fragrant, then cheesy and creamy is what you should have. The cacio e pepe beans are a great place to begin, paired with some lamb chops from a Market butcher, of course. Eat whatever flavour you fancy!
Chipotle tomatoes & sardines on toast
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Celery, fennel and egg salad with rye croutons
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Celery, fennel and egg salad with rye croutons Serves 2 as a meal, 4-6 as a side
This crunchy salad is something I turn to when I need a reboot; it’s a crisp, punctuating dish that seems to reset palate and mind, thanks to the texture and temperature of the core ingredients working in tandem with their fresh flavour. Chopped egg and malty rye croutons add balance and ensure that this is perfectly good as a meal on its own, probably serving two people with reasonable appetite. That said, it’s also excellent alongside platters of cured meats, smoked fish, or cooked white fish too (lose the eggs if the latter). For best results ensure the fennel and celery are fridge-cold and use a mandoline to finely shave them (or do what you can with a very sharp knife).
Recipes from Crave: Recipes Arranged by Flavour, to Suit Your Mood and Appetite, by Ed Smith (Quadrille)
— 2 eggs, at room temperature — 160g 100% rye bread — 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil — 1 lemon, zested and juiced — 1 tbsp moscatel vinegar (or white wine vinegar) — ½ tbsp tepid water — Leaves stripped from 5 sprigs tarragon, roughly chopped — 1 tsp caster sugar — 1 tsp Dijon mustard — 1 small-medium fennel bulb, sliced wafer-thin to 1mm, fronds reserved — 4 celery sticks, very thinly sliced to 2-3mm, handful leaves reserved — Leaves picked from 15g (½oz) flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped — Heat the oven to 240C. Put a small saucepan of water on a high heat. When it’s boiling, lower the eggs in and cook at an energetic simmer for 9 mins. Remove the eggs and immediately plunge into a bowl of iced water or leave to chill under a cold-running tap. Peel and roughly chop. — Meanwhile, cut the rye bread into 1-2cm slices, then tear those into fingernail-size crumbs. Measure two tablespoons of the olive oil into a small baking tray. Roll the rye crumbs in the oil until glossy, then bake at the top of the oven for 7-10 mins, removing when the edges of the bread are just charred, but the insides are still chewy. — Measure the remaining olive oil, all the lemon zest and half the juice, the vinegar, water, tarragon, sugar and mustard, and whisk together to make a vinaigrette. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and taste again (and add more of whichever component you see fit). — Combine the fennel and celery in a large bowl with the vinaigrette, mix well then leave for 4-5 mins to soften a little. Add the parsley, celery leaves and rye croutons, mix again, then tumble the salad onto a platter. Top with the egg and fennel fronds.
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Chipotle tomatoes & sardines on toast Serves 2
Canned sardines on toast are a favourite quick fix of mine. All the better if the sardines in that can are shrouded in a tomato sauce. And better still if that sauce is spiked with the heat of chilli peppers. This dish runs with the theme of that snack, though not too far or with much more effort, as it relies on another canned wonder – chipotle chillies in adobo sauce – to add fire and smoke to an otherwise minimalist cherry tomato sauce. You will use about half a can in this recipe – decant the rest into a small container, or an ice cube tray, and freeze to use at a later date. If you can’t find fresh sardines, then similarly butterflied herrings or fresh anchovies work equally well, or alternatively a fillet of mackerel, per person. — ½ x 200g can chipotle chilli peppers in adobo sauce — 350-400g cherry tomatoes — 150ml water — 1 tsp golden caster sugar — 1 tsp sherry vinegar — 6 fresh sardines, butterflied — Knob of butter, for frying — Juice of ⅓ lemon — Thick-sliced, well-browned toast (ideally sourdough, for the bounce and the holes), to serve — Empty the half a can of chipotle in adobo into a blender and blitz until smooth and silky. — Tumble the cherry tomatoes into a saucepan that fits them in mostly one snug layer, add the water and place over a medium-high heat. Bring to the boil and shuffle the pan occasionally as the water bubbles and froths over the tomatoes. After 6-7 mins, the tomatoes should still be spherical, but many will be splitting and shrinking. Sacrifice seven or eight of the most affected by squashing them against the side of the pan with the back of a fork. Leave the remainder, which should still be whole – albeit close to collapse once the sauce is cooked. — Turn the heat right down, add the chipotle purée, sugar, sherry vinegar and a very generous pinch of salt. Stir carefully and then simmer for around 3 mins longer. Add a touch more water if necessary (the sauce around the tomatoes shouldn’t be a paste and should be loose enough that it quickly covers up any gaps caused by dragging a spoon through it, but not as runny or plentiful as a pasta sauce or soup). Set to one side to cool for 2-3 mins more while you brown some toast and cook the sardines. — Fry the sardines in a little butter skin-side down over a medium heat until two thirds of the flesh has changed colour, remove the pan from the heat and gently flip the fish over, and then almost immediately transfer them to the tomato-topped toast (see below). Alternatively, arrange the fish on a baking sheet skin-side up and grill (broil) directly under the heat element for 2-3 mins until the skin is charred and the oils are bubbling. — While the sardines are cooking, line-up your toast on two plates and spoon over the tomato sauce so they’re set for the fish as soon as it’s ready. Once toast, tomato and sardines are plated, add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon, plus a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you wish.
Lamb chops with cacio e pepe white beans Serves 2
Many cheesy and creamy recipes respond well to glum mood and or glum weather. This one, however, seems to call to me whatever the weather, and whether I’m down or I’m bouncing. It’s just a base urge for the slight tang and umami notes of the pecorino or parmesan in a buttery sauce. I could psychoanalyse that. Or just accept it’s probably, simply, because of the deliciousness. Given such an urge can come at any time, it’s handy that this recipe provides something of a rapid, store cupboard relief, including pre-cooked beans from a can to suit the speed. Those beans go with lamb in any form (whether roast leg, slow-cooked shoulder, breast, rump or rack) but chops are appropriately quick to cook. Serve with something like purple sprouting or Tenderstem broccoli, curly kale, or a side salad of bitter or peppery leaves. — 4 lamb chops or 2 thick barnsley chops (about 400-500g in total) — 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled — 2 sprigs of rosemary — 1 x 400g can haricot beans, drained — 60g butter, cubed — 2 tsp ground black pepper — 60g pecorino or parmesan, finely grated — Blanched greens or bitter/peppery-leafed salad, to serve — Collate all the ingredients including the greens or salad, as you should cook both chops and beans pretty much simultaneously and neither take long. — Stand the chops on their fatty edges in a stillcold frying pan (skillet), large enough that it’ll still hold the chops once sat flat. Place on a low-medium heat and gradually warm up so as to cook the fat until it’s golden and soft – much of which will seep (‘render’) out. Resist cooking too quickly or at too high a temperature; it’s a gentle process that should take 5 mins or more. — While this is happening, bash the garlic cloves to flatten them then add to the pan (keeping the skin on to prevent burning), along with the sprigs of rosemary. Let those cook away for a few minutes to release their flavours into the ever-increasing pool of lamb fat. Then, once the fatty edges are golden and soft, push the chops onto their flatter sides, turn up the heat and cook for about 90 secs on each side, basting regularly with the flavoursome oil, until the chops are browned and buzzing with hot oils and juices. (If ready before the beans, remove from the heat and rest on a warm plate for a couple of minutes.) — Also, while the lamb chops are standing, add the drained beans to a wide frying pan or saucepan and set over a low-medium heat. Pour in 200ml water and let them warm gently – so the liquid begins to simmer but not boil, and therefore the beans remain intact. Scatter the cubes of butter over and around the beans and allow them to melt, before sprinkling the black pepper over the top. Shake the pan vigorously so the butter and cooking liquid become one, then add the cheese, again waiting for it to melt before shaking and stirring to emulsify everything. — Puddle the beans and their cheesy, peppery sauce in a bowl or onto a plate with a rim, add the lamb and greens and tuck in. 30 Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
Cherry and apricot slab pie Serves 8
I quite like a fruit pie; I really like a ‘slab’ fruit pie (because: the corners); and I love a slab pie filled with naturally sour fruits. Rhubarb and gooseberries are the obvious choice for fans of seasonal British fruit – and as it happens, 800-900g of either substitute perfectly in this recipe without any other changes. However, there’s something about an apricot pie that sucks me in, largely because of that fruit’s transformation from mellow and sometimes dull when raw, to always tart once cooked. Here I’ve added cherries for their dramatic colour and sweet flavour that pairs neatly with the cooked apricots, without diverting attention from the desired sourness. — 430g plain flour, plus extra for dusting — 200g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing — 100g icing sugar — ½ tsp flaky sea salt — 1 tbsp cider vinegar — 3 tbsp cold milk, plus a little extra as a wash — 700g apricots, pitted and quartered — 250g cherries, pitted — 100g golden caster sugar — 120g ground almonds — 2 tbsp demerara sugar — Crème fraiche to serve — Rub together (or use a food processor to pulse) the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt into a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the vinegar and cold milk and press into a ball of dough. Divide the pastry into two not-quiteequal pieces, push into rectangles about 3cm thick, then wrap both and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally longer. — The pastry is very buttery and can be tricky to handle, so roll out between two sheets of baking paper: the smaller one so that it’s the same size as your tin (this will be the lid); the other, big enough to line the base and sides; and both to 2-3mm thick. You’ll be able to break off bits that are not in the right shape and place them where they should be as you go. Refrigerate for at least an hour (again). — Combine the fruit in a bowl with the caster sugar and leave to macerate. After 20 mins, add half the ground almonds, stir and set to one side. — Butter a baking tin (this works particularly well in a 30 x 20 x 3cm tin), dust with flour, then line with the larger pastry sheet. Use a knife to trim the pastry so it’s flush with the top of the tin, using the excess to patch up any holes or thinner areas. Sprinkle the base with the remaining ground almonds then tip the filling in, ensuring an even distribution. Brush the edge of the pastry base with milk, then place the lid on top, pressing down firmly to seal the pastry together. Trim any overhang. Brush with milk, then add a liberal sprinkling of demerara sugar. Refrigerate one final time for at least 30 mins (the pastry needs to be cold and the oven fully to temperature). — Heat the oven to 200C. Place the baking tin on a larger sheet (to catch any spilled juices) and bake for 45 mins, until the pastry is hard and golden, with some of the fruit bubbling through. If after 35-40 mins the pie is looking very bronzed, turn the oven down to 180C but do keep it in for the full amount of time. Leave to cool for 10 mins before serving with big dollops of crème fraîche.
Rye bread Karaway Bakery Fennel Ted’s Veg Chipotle chillies in adobo Spice Mountain Cherry tomatoes Turnips Sardines Furness Fish Markets Lamb chops Ginger Pig Pecorino Bianca Mora Cherries Stark’s Fruiterers
Cherry and apricot slab pie Left: Lamb chops with cacio e pepe white beans
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From left: Richard Stark, Mary Topp, Richard Cartwright and Dom McCourt
The generation game Two decades into its evolution as a retail market, Borough now abounds with businesses in which the original pioneers are handing the reins to the next generation, who bring with them fresh ideas and boundless energy Words: Clare Finney Images: Orlando Gili
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33 Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
Maybe it’s the conviviality of it. Maybe it’s the camaraderie forged by long hours and hard work. Maybe it’s the fundamental sense of connection that comes with nourishing one’s fellow human beings. But there’s undoubtedly something about food and drink that lends itself to family businesses, be they husband and wife teams, parent and child teams, or teams that span the whole family. Borough Market is a place that abounds with family ventures. But as with anything at Borough – anything in food, come to that – there are as many differences between these businesses as there are similarities. Some children, like Leo McCourt at Northfield Farm, always knew they were going to follow their folks into food. Others, like Mary Topp at The Cider House, have almost fallen into it. “I wasn’t at school thinking one day I’ll take on the family business – but when the time came it seemed a natural thing to go into,” she explains. Some have found rubbing along with their parents comes easily; others have had to work harder at it by drawing clear lines between their professional and personal lives, leaving shop talk on the shop floor.
Esther Crouch, The Parma Ham & Mozzarella Company
Richard Cartwright, Cartwright Brothers Vintners
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Yet all of them have, one way or another, got on – and thank goodness they have. As Esther Crouch of The Parma Ham & Mozzarella Stand notes, Borough Market itself “feels like a family” – and at least some of that feeling is born of the actual families who work there. These are the people for whom being at the Market is not about making a living, it’s about living. Inevitably these businesses have evolved as the new generation has got involved. Social media, once dismissed as a frippery, is now a must-have for any food and drink business, rendering the experience and insight of younger people invaluable. The young are, often, more in tune with trends. They have the energy and enthusiasm to try new ideas, and have different education and experiences to bring to the business. Yet the real strength of family businesses comes from what is passed down through the generations. All of the new breed, to a man and a woman, credit their parents with instilling in them and their teammates the core values of honesty, quality and sustainability that make their businesses – and by extension, Borough Market – what it is. Dom McCourt, Northfield Farm While his brother Leo “practically came out the womb saying the word tractor,” it was 20 years until Dom McCourt expressed any interest in the family business. “I was into eating, but never into cooking,” he smiles. “Then I finished university and was drifting along, not knowing what to do, and dad suggested I go to London and have a go working at the stall.” Dom’s dad is, of course, Jan McCourt: one of the ‘original’ traders, who had a table here back when Borough Market in its current incarnation first started, in 1998. His stand and the McCourt’s farm up in Leicestershire have evolved a great deal since then; yet the family’s ethos and vision are as they’ve always been: “Rare and traditional breeds, grown slowly: that is the heartbeat of the business that dad set in motion,” says Dom. Though he and Leo are steering the business now – Dom in the Market, his brother on the farm with his tractors – Jan is never far away. “We look to him for advice when we need it – mostly when we’re doing something new, like the restaurant pop-up we’ve just launched, or on financial matters. He’s far more financially minded than we are,” Dom continues. Meanwhile, Dom has worked hard to inherit his mother’s culinary talents. “Our mum Tessa is an amazing cook and I’ve always loved food, but it’s only in working with her that it has gone from the mystery of mum’s food to understanding what it is she does.” Tessa too can often be found at the stand – and her fingerprints are all over their recipe cards, most of which are her creations. “When I give a customer one, I can say, my mum makes that. Trust me, it’s delicious.” Now the pair feed off each other with ideas and inspiration: “There’s a synergy there.” Dom’s determination and vision are palpable. He talks passionately about the role regenerative farming has to play in sustainable food production, and about the changes he and Leo have made and will continue to make regarding things like branding. “We wanted the brand to be red – which seems obvious, but actually not many meat
businesses lay claim to that colour.” It stands out, he continues – much like the truly family nature of the McCourts’ business. “There are a lot of family business out there in the world that aren’t really family – they just use it as a marketing tool. We are, and people like that authenticity.” Esther Crouch, The Parma Ham & Mozzarella Company “Esther, Clare is doing an article about parents and children who work at the Market. Can she speak to you around 4pm? And be nice about me – pretend?” writes Philip Crouch, introducing me to his daughter. The message is followed by a ‘winking face’ – but it’s not until I come to interview Esther that I realise just how firmly in his cheek Philip’s tongue really is. Esther, who joined her brother Jonathan last year at the family’s business, is full of genuine praise for her dad, another of the Market’s true stalwarts. He is, she says, “someone many traders still come to for advice and support”. That’s not to say it’s all been plain sailing: “When I first started working for him part time as a teenager, I just treated him like my dad. I’d be snappy, and mean and unprofessional.” A typical teenager, it sounds like – yet age, the experience of working for another boss, and the demands of the pandemic have conspired to create a more harmonious dynamic between the pair. “I’ve learned to be more professional... to find a more balanced way of working. We definitely have a good working relationship now,” she smiles. What gripes she and her brother have are born less of irritation, more out of concern at her father’s absolute refusal to slow down to even three quarters of the pace and scale at which he’s been operating throughout his career. “It comes from a place of love. He just loves coming into the Market every day, having a chat to everyone. It is not a long journey, but it’s still a journey,” she shrugs, with the smile of someone who knows she’s probably lost that battle. Yet it’s clear, from Esther’s ease behind the stand, her comfortable relationship with her customers and the vision she has for the coming years that when it comes to manning the stand she’s happy playing a more senior role. “I’ve known how to slice ham since I was 15,” she says. “Then when I first left university, I helped manage one of dad’s places in Soho before working at a bar in Tooting.” It was there she learned what she brings to a business. “My old boss told me that no matter what happened I remained positive, which was great, and I’ve since brought that to The Parma Ham & Mozzarella Stand.” That and an enthusiasm and aptitude for social media. Meanwhile Jonathan works “behind the scenes, on the bookkeeping side”. That a family business strengthens the bonds between family members is a virtue born of necessity: “You have to get on,” says Esther. “You have to be professional to be successful.” Yet being a family business in Borough Market exposes Esther and Jonathan to “the way in which other people see my dad – because I hear how the traders talk about him, with such respect.” It’s this, and the way in which everyone has pulled together to get through the past 18 months. that has highlighted to her the extent to which Borough Market is in itself a family, regardless of blood connections. “It’s a really lovely, familiar place to work.”
Our mum Tessa is an amazing cook and I’ve always loved food, but it’s only in working with her that it has gone from the mystery of mum’s food to understanding what it is she does Dom McCourt, Northfield Farm
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Richard Cartwright, Cartwright Brothers Vintners When Richard Cartwright first joined his dad Martin and uncle David in their wine business, the only thing he knew about wine was that he enjoyed drinking it. While the eponymous Cartwright brothers imported wine from France and chatted their customers through the merits of various vintages, Richard listened in, gleaning information as he processed transactions, and restocked the stall from the cellars beneath the Market. Having been behind the phones in a recruitment firm prior to joining Cartwright Brothers, Richard found that the experience of manning the stall was a real confidence boost. “I just did what I was told to start with and deferred to my uncle, but my confidence grew as I did wine courses and read more.” Now he decides what to stock – where his dad and uncle concentrated on French and then South African wines, Richard has expanded into Italy, England and more of the New World – and talks animatedly about the next 20 years: the Sunday opening, the return of tourists, the online trade which “really kept us going through lockdown” – even the possibility of making their own Cartwright Brothers gin or rum. “I introduced spirits a few years ago, and they sell pretty well,” he says. “So maybe we’ll set up a small bespoke distillery one day.” Where most of the family businesses in the Market are parent-child affairs, the ‘brothers’ nature of the Cartwright Brothers means it’s not just one side of the family that has a stake in the firm. The close relationship between Martin and David laid the groundwork for the close relationship between their children: “My cousin Hannah and her husband Stuart both worked here when we started out – and Hannah was pregnant at the time so all three of them were involved,” Richard laughs. “Stuart, who’s a firefighter, still helps out when his shifts at the fire station allow. Now we’re in the process of developing the website, my cousin James’ wife Natalie is going to be responsible for our social media – because I’m terrible at all that, and Natalie really knows her stuff.” Of course, all families who have businesses in Borough Market are close – but there’s close, and there’s the Cartwrights, who have lunch together every Sunday, without fail. “It used to be on one large table, but now there’s loads of children, we need a few tables. There’s loads of lovely food – and of course, lovely wine.” He credits the fact that they’ve never really fallen out with their being so close, and so respectful of each other’s decisions. “There’s no rivalry. There are no challenges. It’s all support.” Mary Topp, The Cider House There aren’t many families who can happily work in the same business. There are even fewer families who can happily live in the same place once the children hit adulthood. As for families who could work in the same business and live in the same place – well, it’s a wonder they even exist. And yet that is exactly the setup of the Topp family, who run New Forest Cider Company and its Borough Market stall, The Cider House. The business’s founder is Barry Topp, who together with his wife Sue set up a cider press on the farm Sue’s family had owned 36 Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
for four generations. His son John took over the production side of things a few years ago, and his daughter Mary handles the marketing, the market stall and pop ups around the country. “My sister Sally does the accounts and finances – and we all live here in each other’s pockets,” she laughs. Though not, she stresses, in the same house. “I think that would be a bit much! “The important thing is, we have the same goal,” she continues – that is, producing unpasteurised, real cider from their orchard fruit and that of neighbouring farms, and bringing it to customers around the country. “We are all really passionate about the product because we know exactly what goes into making it, and we’re prepared to put the time and effort in.” At busy periods – Christmas at Borough Market, harvest time at the orchard – the Topps are ready to pull out all the stops. There are many advantages to their being a family business, says Mary. There’s the spectrum of strengths which invariably exist across different siblings – “I’m more creative, my sister is more logical, and my brother more manual” – and across different generations: “When I first joined the business I came in like a ball of energy and enthusiasm – and while dad was a bit reluctant at first to take on new ideas, he did allow me to try stuff out.” Mary took them to new festivals, expanded the Borough Market stall to include ciders from
I’ve learned a lot from my dad. I’ve taken lots of leaves out of his book. The way he talks about produce – not in order to sell, not to force it on you, but because it’s great produce and he wants you to enjoy it Richard Stark, Stark’s Fruiterers
other likeminded producers, and developed it into one of the first dedicated cider venues in London. “When we first started, it was just selling our New Forest Cider; now it’s known as a really good cider venue,” she continues – something she’s keen to build on in future, with apple-based spirits and cocktails in the pipeline as well as workshops and producer talks. One area in which family businesses do tend to vary is in their tolerance for ‘talking shop’ at social occasions. The Topps’ rules on this are clear: “we have regular, proper meetings, which professionalises the business, as we have a number of other employees. At the dinner table and at family events we have bans in place to make sure we don’t talk about work.” As a result, they rarely fall out – and if they do, “none of us hold a grudge. That’s the best thing about our family: we’ve always just got on with it and made it work.” Richard Stark, Stark’s Fruiterers The twinkle in his eye might be familiar, his friendly salesman patter sounds much the same, but if you do happen to note a similarity between Richard Stark and his dad Jock, mind not to mention it – because if there is one thing that does irk the otherwise eminently affable Richard it is people commenting: “You’re just like your dad.” “That really annoys me,” he exclaims, with only a half-smile to suggest he’s not entirely serious. Afterall, Jock Stark was and is one of the most popular traders in the Market. No one in the history of his decades-long long tenure at the Market could visit Jock’s stall and not walk away with at least one piece of fruit they were not intending to buy. “I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve taken lots of leaves out of his book,” says Richard: “The way he talks about produce – not in order to sell, not to force it on you, but because it’s great produce and he wants you to enjoy it.” The way Richard sells is slightly different, he continues – as is the way he buys. One of the most obvious changes at Stark’s Fruiterers since Richard took the reins is the improvement in the range of the produce on the stall – not that Jock bought anything of poor quality, but he “bought cheaper than I did. I buy a better class of produce, but still sell it at a competitive price.” Sicilian lemons, smoked garlic, wild mushrooms and courgette flowers abound. “I know people love a quality Sicilian lemon and are happy to pay for it. I’ve also introduced more vegetables, and did home deliveries during lockdowns,” he continues. “Dad was worried I wouldn’t be able to pull through this last year, but I’ve just about managed to do it.” It’s a significant achievement – for Richard, but also for the family business, which has been running for as long as he can remember. Jock Stark established his first grocer’s shop in South London over 40 years ago, and Richard has “known the game since I was a kid, when I worked on Saturdays at school.” After 15 years in the building trade, Richard joined the family firm full time, and they worked “under each other’s feet” for the next four years. “Sometimes we couldn’t stand each other. I’d drive home and think, I can’t do this anymore – but we were always absolutely fine the following morning,” Richard smiles. “That’s family. And since he has left, and only comes in occasionally – we have got on really well.”
When I first joined the business I came in like a ball of energy and enthusiasm – and while dad was a bit reluctant at first to take on new ideas, he did allow me to try stuff out Mary Topp, The Cider House
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A BLISSFUL TYRANNY Kathy Slack on the pleasurable frenzy of a courgette glut Image: Kathy Slack
Look a veg grower in the eye in August and you will see there a glint of mania. Usually calm, at one with nature, there is now a flicker in their steady gaze, a ripple in still waters. The courgette glut is peaking and it has unhinged them. Which is understandable. When courgettes get into their stride, they crop relentlessly, producing two, three, four new fruits every day, a frenzied explosion of fecundity, unrelenting, unfading, and seemingly infinite. And you can’t just leave them – you have to keep picking. If you don’t, the fruit will grow and grow, ballooning to gargantuan proportions, bloated and bursting at the seams, like a green Violet Beauregarde. And then the plant will stop producing. Sure that the swollen beast it has spawned will secure the next generation, it will give up making new fruit and put all its energy into growing this grotesque, distended baby. So you have to keep picking. The pressure of such a harvest can get on top of even the most placid gardener, their innate drive to use up the glut escalating into hysterical bouts of preserving, pickling, puréeing, freezing, foisting on unwitting neighbours. I once 38 Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
abandoned a bucketful on the village green with a sign saying, ‘Please, for the love of God, help yourself.’ What’s weird about all this is that the glut is entirely selfinflicted. I could sow fewer seeds. But I don’t. I could give them less space in the patch. But I don’t. I could plant only the healthiest seedlings rather than all of them. But I don’t. I just don’t. Because, like every other gardener, I am secretly in thrall to the glut. Don’t come to courgettes looking for bold flavours. What assertiveness they possess is used up in the growing. Their taste is all mildness; a delicacy that belies their despotic ways in the patch. Whichever variety you pick will taste pretty much the same as the next. All varieties are good for eating raw, perhaps in the anchovy and lemon salad. Similarly, any will do for grating into fritters or scones. They do vary in their looks, though, and given how diverse and delightful they are, that’s variety enough. Romanesco, for example, looks like a clown, long-limbed and stripy. Rondo di Nizza is green and spherical (and one of my favourites: perfect for stuffing). Summer Ball is golden and spherical. Gold Rush, Shooting Star and Golden Dawn III are yellow too, but cylindrical. Tromba d’Albenga, as the name suggests, has a trumpet-like curve and a bulbous end, quite outrageous, and is a great rambling variety. The plainest of them all is Defender, which is the solid green sort you get in the shops, but it is extremely reliable and prolific so we shall forgive its lack of allure. But really the options are endless. From pale (Lungo Bianco) or warty (Rugosa Friulana), to canary yellow and shaped like a flying saucer (Sunburst Patty Pan), they might be despots, but they are handsome ones and worthy of a place in any garden.
Recipe from From the Veg Patch, by Kathy Slack (Ebury Press)
Crispy courgettes, hazelnut purée & caperberries Serves 6 as a starter
I came across the caperberry/ hazelnut/vegetable ménage à trois during a knockout meal at Brassica, in Beaminster, west Dorset, where chef Cass Titcombe served hazelnut purée with roast leeks and whole caperberries. This recipe is inspired by the memory of that wonderful dish, though uncharacteristically for me, I have made it fussier. All the preparation, up until the point you batter the courgettes, can be done a couple of hours in advance, though the less time the parsley spends languishing in the caperberry juices, the better. The hazelnut purée is a bit of a bother, but worth having a go at because it makes a really smooth, creamy base. If you don’t have a high-powered blender, you can make it in a food processor, adding the liquid in a stream. The batter for the courgettes is like a tempura batter, so will be shatteringly light and crispy, just don’t expect it to brown much. — 320g blanched hazelnuts — 200ml warm water — 6 caperberries from a jar, drained, stalks removed, plus 12-18 extra (with stalks intact) to serve — A small bunch of parsley — 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil — 400g medium courgettes, trimmed — 50g cornflour — 50g plain flour — About 500ml sunflower oil, for deep-frying — Heat the oven to 220C. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray, then roast for 8-10 mins or until golden. Remove from the oven, set 20g aside for the topping later and leave the rest to cool for a minute or two. The nuts need to be warm for the next stage – blending – as it helps release the oils, but too warm and they might cause a heat suction in your blender, rendering it impenetrable. — Blitz the hazelnuts in a highpowered blender to make a stiff, smooth butter. Stop the motor every now and then to scrape down the sides of the pot and make sure all the nuts are evenly blitzed. When they are, gradually add the warm water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, whizzing after each addition, until it forms a smooth, pale cream. You might not need all the water, so stop once the purée is the consistency of soft butter. Scoop into a bowl, season with salt, cover and 39 Market Life 50 / boroughmarket.org.uk
set aside. — Now for the topping. On a chopping board, gather the reserved hazelnuts, the six caperberries (without stalks) and the parsley. Bunch it all up and chop finely. Pour over the olive oil, then chop it all together for a final time. Check the seasoning – depending on the brininess of your caperberries, it might need salt. Scrape into a bowl and set aside. — Slice the courgettes, at an angle, into rounds 5-10mm thick. Lay them out on kitchen paper and blot dry. — All of the above can be prepared in advance, but the final frying needs to be done as your guests sit down. So, when you are ready to serve, whisk together the cornflour and plain flour with 120ml water and a generous pinch of salt in a large bowl. Tip the blotted courgette slices into the batter and muddle them around to coat – hands are messy but best here. — Pour the sunflower oil into a high-sided saucepan to a depth of about 5cm. Heat it up to 180C, or until a fleck of batter fizzes busily on contact with the oil. Use tongs to lift the courgette slices out of the bowl, one at a time, shaking off the worst of the excess batter and then dropping them into the hot oil to fry for 3-5 mins. You will need to do this in a couple of batches so the slices don’t stick together. Once cooked, rescue the courgette slices with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper in a single layer so they don’t go soggy. — This is a dish to trumpet to the table, so, to serve, spread a generous spoonful of the hazelnut purée on each of your 6 plates. Pile a few crispy courgette slices on top and scatter over the chopped caperberry topping. Arrange 2-3 extra caperberries (with stalks intact) on the side of each plate and dash to the table for maximum tempura crunch.
Waste not You might find there is too much purée, but any less is too little for the blender to whizz. Leftovers are no hardship, though: the purée keeps for 3-4 days in an airtight container in the fridge and is delicious on toast with a drizzle of runny honey.
SUNDAY TRADING 10am – 2pm In what has been a momentous change for the Borough Market community, visitors are now able to shop for produce at the Market for four hours every Sunday. Sunday trading, which runs from 10am – 2pm, gives customers the opportunity to stock up on a wide array of ingredients from more than 50 of our produce stands and stalls: Beer Bread Butter Cakes Charcuterie Cheese Chocolate Coffee Condiments
Eggs Fruit Game Grains Herbs Honey Meat Milk Nut butters
Nuts Oils Olives Oysters Pasta Pastries Pickles Pies Preserves
Rice Smoked fish Spices Sweets Tea Tinned goods Vegetables Vinegars Wine
Street food is not available boroughmarket.org.uk/events/we-love-sundays