Archive for May, 2009

Borough Market



I am possibly about to commit an act of foodie-heresy. I think Borough Market is massively overrated.


I love markets. I grew up visiting Surrey Street market in Croydon every Saturday. Surrey Street market is a proper market where you can buy cheap fruit and veg, some of which may be on the turn. There are the usual stalls selling mobile phone covers and bottles of Radox as well food stalls.  There are no olives.


Growing up my father knew the stall holders and he gave many of them nicknames.  I remember the guy who sold potatoes up next to the Goose on the Market was called Jesus because he bore a fleeting resemblance to Robert Powell.


So Borough Market should be a real treat for me.  It’s a food market on steroids. As well as the traditional fruit and vegetables you can buy cheese, beer, wine, bread, cakes and ice cream.  When I was there over the weekend I tried a delicious piece of comté, some so-so Turkish delight, a nice organic apple juice and some prosecco.


Something about this market doesn’t ring true for me.  The food is very expensive and on a Saturday it was heaving so perhaps this put me in a bad mood.  Borough Market epitomises a lot of things that I don’t like about the British foodie movement.  It can be elitist, over-priced and offers an unrealistic approach to shopping and eating on a daily basis.


After a visit to Boough Market most people would need to go to another market to buy the bulk of their groceries but the reality is that they probably go to a supermarket instead.  Nothing wrong with that but doesn’t it rather undermine the whole point of supporting these producers.  How is Borough Market any different to a deli or Harrods food hall in this respect?  It isn’t accessible and it doesn’t change the way the majority of people eat.


On Saturday I had a tomato, rocket and ham sandwich that cost £3.50.  The mark-up on this was enormous and ultimately it was a perfectly ok sandwich but with not so much as a smear of butter.  For £3.50 I need butter, a lot of butter.


I also had two scoops of ice cream from a stall which attracted me with its unusual flavours.  Unfortunately the Honey & Lavender ice cream tasted like someone had accidentally spilt some potpourri into vanilla ice cream.  Lavender buds actually taste horribly bitter, not pleasant.


Weird mushroom shaped canelé

Weird mushroom shaped canelé


I was excited to find some mini canelé after making my friends walk around for about an hour looking for them.  They were 3 for £1 and looked more like little mushrooms than the canelé I am used to.  I have to say these were dry, maybe because they were so small.  My quest to find a canelé fix in London continues.


I know I shouldn’t criticise Borough Market.  Like most people there on Saturday I was lapping up a good old bit of food porn because sometimes the Sunday supplements aren’t enough.  But instead of getting a foodie fix I ended up feeling annoyed by its organic, sanitised version of a market.  I’d rather visit Surrey Street any day.


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With the bank holiday over I am feeling rather glum, especially as God decided to unleash London’s entire rain quota for May this morning.  So I am fed-up and inappropriately dressed.


I shouldn’t complain as I have had a lovely weekend with gorgeous weather and much feasting.  I have consumed an awful lot in three days.  I recall pizza, Canelé, ice cream, tapas, asparagus, greek meze, lasagne and cake.  There is more but it’s all a bit hazy.  By Monday I was suffering from a food-induced stupor.


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I will be posting about Tapas Brindisa and Borough Market tomorrow but for now I wanted to share some pictures of a delicious Jamie Oliver cake which my aunt Sylvie made. 


Apparently you can find this recipe in the April 2009 edition of the Sainsbury’s magazine. Alternatively, if you have the Ottolenghi cookbook the cake looks almost identical to their orange and polenta cake, they could be one and the same. It looks like a perfect summer cake as the oranges are so sunny looking.  Plus they keep the cake beautifully moist and even if the weather is bad this cake would cheer you up.


I just noticed an unholy amount of bling going on in the top-right corner, that is not my hand...


This has all got me thinking about upside-down cakes in general. I adore pineapple upside-down cake and I can’t understand why it is considered retro or even, whisper it, naff.  It is completely delicious and the perfect way to use up that three year old packet of glace cherries at the back of the cupboard.


I suspect there is a world of upside-down cake recipes that I don’t even know about. I have this crazy idea for a stuffed Rambutans upside-down cake and since I am now in possession of a tin of said-Rambutans there is nothing to stop me…watch this space.


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My father’s beloved lupins.  You can’t eat these so they don’t really have any place on this blog but they are so beautiful and we were admiring them whilst we ate the cake.

My father’s beloved lupins. You can’t eat these so they don’t really have any place on this blog but they are so beautiful and we were admiring them whilst we ate the cake.

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I didn’t make anything worth taking a photo of last night as I got back late from a knitting class at the I Knit  shop in Waterloo.  This is a lovely place for those of you who don’t know it and Alix who runs some of the classes is great at explaining to relative novices like me. I am going to attempt a knitted tea cosy next as I cannot knit another scarf, I might go mad.  So expect an afternoon tea post in a few weeks when I can show off my creation.


My sister, Felicity, who is as obsessive about food as I am, will be joining me on this blog.  She’s going to help me harass our family for recipes and we will try and visit a London restaurant once a month or so.  I’m sure she’ll also start posting some of her own dishes too.


Just so that this post isn’t devoid of pictures above is a tin of pineapple stuffed Rambutans which Sylvie told me about.  I haven’t tried them yet but apparently they are like big lychees.  They sound fantastic and are a good base for a fruit salad.  You can find them in Indian grocery stores.


Finally, for anyone who lives around the SW11 area, I read in Time Out that a new branch of Gelateria Danieli has opened on Queenstown Road on Saturdays and Sundays only, from noon-8pm.  They serve inventive ice-cream flavours such as Cinnamon, caramel and date.  Felicity and I will be heading there this weekend, hopefully the sun will be shining. I am off to enjoy the bank holiday weekend now.

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Risotto cakes


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Last weekend I caught a bit of Saturday Kitchen whilst eating my breakfast just as the gorgeous Galton Blackiston was plating up some risotto cakes with salad.  This seemed like a rather good way to use up left over risotto.  Just the sort of excellent idea one expects from lovely Galton.


The leftover risotto looking rather unappetising.

The leftover risotto looking rather unappetising.


So as I pondered what to have for my supper last night I decided to attempt a risotto cake.  I didn’t think there could be much to it, just left-over risotto, flour and some oil.  I toyed with the idea of using a whisked egg to coat them as well as flour but decided that, on balance, I would rather keep the egg for another time as I was only cooking for one. 


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I enjoyed mashing the risotto around a bit before settling on a fishcake-like pattie.  A bit of flour to coat and hey presto they were ready to fry. 


No real reason for this shot. I just wanted to get my hand in a photo.

No real reason for this shot. I just wanted to get my hand in a photo.


I had the cakes with some carrot salad which is probably my favourite salad. I have yet to acquire a proper grater for salads despite asking for one for my birthday for the last few years.  It’s a fairly scary-looking contraption from Moulinex which gives you perfect carrot rappee.  Until I own one of these I make do with a cheese grater.


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The risotto cakes tasted exactly like risotto with a crispy coating.  I suppose you could stuff some little treats in the middle like mozzarella or sun-blushed tomatoes to make it a bit more exciting. I am not going to lie to you, this dish will not change your life.  It’s not going to take over normal risotto or anything.  But it is a pleasant leftovers dish and it takes about 10 minutes to make which is a good thing when The Apprentice is about to start.


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I was hungry this evening. For lunch I had a tin of sardines a la tomate, the posh Parmentier ones.  I am lucky to work in a small office so I can often eat this when no one else is around and then air the room thoroughly as it does smell disconcertingly like catfood. It is a great lunch but it needs bread and today I didn’t have any.  So I spent the rest of the day thinking about what I would make for dinner.

It is asparagus season, or at least it will be for a couple more weeks, and I’d be eating them morning, noon and night if I could. I like to prepare them the same way my mother does, drizzled with a little olive oil and lemon juice and cooked in a medium hot oven for about 15 minutes.


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I usually serve the asparagus with mayonnaise and since I recently found out how to make this myself I have turned my back on shop-bought varieties. My mayonnaise recipe is a mish mash of tips from different people.  What goes into it is largely dictated by what I have in my cupboard. This evening I used sunolive oil which is a blend of sunflower oil and 15% olive oil.  I think this gives the best tasting mayonnaise as using 100% olive oil is too strong (and expensive).  Having said that I have also made it with rapeseed oil and it tasted fine.

The big problem with asparagus is cost. I have been force-feeding it to my flatmate recently as one supermarket has been offering 2 bunches for £3.  That’s hardly a bargain but the asparagus season is so short and food is pretty much my only extravagence so to hell with it.


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This evening I decided to make the mayonnaise a bit special since it was going to be on the internet.  I added some minced anchovies, capers and lemon juice.  According to Hugh Fernley-Wernley you can serve a punchy mayo like this with raw asparagus if it has just been picked and is sweet and young.  The asparagus we were eating came from a super market in Clapham so we decided to cook it.


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I then made a garlic risotto purely so that I could try pangrattato which I had seen Jamie Oliver make on a really old episode of Oliver’s Twist.  Has anyone else seen this hilarious show from early on in Jamie’s career?  If you have then I am sure you enjoyed the shaky camera work and Jamie’s constant refrain of ‘go on my son’ as much as I did. 


The risotto was just a plain base: one onion, a glass of white wine and stock but once it had cooked I added a head of garlic which had been roasted for 30 minutes in a medium hot oven.  Or rather I put in the puree from inside the garlic head.  The skin of the garlic went in the bin.


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Pangrattato is a fried breadcrumb mix which Italian peasants used on their risotto and pasta instead of parmesan which was, and still is, very expensive. I think we could all get on board with fried bread in the place of parmesan in the current climate. You can add garlic, parsley, lemon zest, even dried chilli flakes. There are lots of recipes online which are probably far superior to what I put together which was a mixture of breadcrumbs, lemon zest and ground almonds.


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The verdict from my flatmate/guinea pig was that the asparagus was lovely even though this is the third time we have had it in a week.  I thought the capers and anchovies in the mayonnaise was lovely, I will definitely do it again and perhaps dip other things in it.  Chicory leaves would be delicious.


The garlic gave a lovely smokey taste to the risotto but I added lemon zest to make it more fitting for the time of year.  It tasted fine but I think you could bring out the garlic flavour much better in the winter with some chestnuts and herbs.  I love chestnuts in risotto, it’s the perfect comfort food when it’s cold.


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The pangrattato was essentially fried bread crumbs and worryingly easy to nibble on long after we the risotto was finished.  If I made it again I would blitz the breadcrumbs in a food processor rather than serving them rustically a la Jamie Oliver.  It was a nice crispy topping to the risotto and it was cheaper than parmesan.  I actually preferred it to cheese as it gave the risotto some crunch.


Here are the recipes but bear in mind these are approximations as I tend to measure everything by eye unless I am making a cake:


Asparagus with lemon, caper and anchovy mayonnaise.


This makes enough mayonnaise to serve 5 people generously.  I have lots left over.


Asparagus (as much as is needed, we had 8 spears each for a starter)
Drizzle of olive oil
1 lemon
Sunolive oil (or Rapeseed oil, or olive oil or a mixture of all three)
1 egg yolk
Heaped tsp of Dijon mustard (I used a honey and balsamic flavoured dijon which is delicious)
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1 tbs capers finely chopped
2 Anchovy fillets finely chopped
Salt and pepper to season


1. Put the asaparagus in an oven-proof dish and drizzle with olive oil and some lemon juice to coat the spears. Cook in an oven pre-heated to about 200c for approximately 15 minutes.
2. Place the egg yolk, mustard and vinegar in a bowl with a good pinch of salt. Whisk this to emulsify then add a drizzle of the oil and keep whisking to emulsify.
3. Keep adding the oil slowly whisking continuously until your arm feels like it is going to drop off, then change whisking hand. It should start looking like mayonnaise once about half of the oil is in. At this stage I find you can start adding the oil in larger quantities to speed things up a bit.

4. Once you have your mayonnaise base add the capers, anchovies and the juice of about ½ a lemon. You could try lots of different additions such as tarragon, mustard, parsley or gherkins depending on what you are eating it with. 

5. Serve the asparagus spears with the mayonnaise.


2 tbs Ground Almonds                                                                                                                                       Zest of a lemon
150g breadcrumbs
2 tbs olive oil

1. Heat a heavy-based frying pan then add the olive oil.

2. Fry all the ingredients until crisp and golden, about 8 minutes.

3. Sprinkle over pasta or risotto instead of parmesan (or with, don’t let me stop you). 

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When I told my flatmate that I was thinking about setting up a food blog she asked me what my USP would be (she works in the media).  I have been racking my brains trying to come up with something ever since but to no avail. 

I originally planned for this blog to be an online record of dishes I have made in the past and new ones that I attempt.  Over time I hope to convince my family to give me the recipes for their many signature dishes.  Sylvie’s pineapple upside-down cake, Nouches’s oeufs farcies, Grandma’s currant pastries, my mother’s Shepherd’s Pie and my father’s pommes de terre belle saison are just some of the dishes I have stuffed myself with over the years.  I have 26 years of food memories to record. 

My Grandma in particular has been unwilling in the past to write down her recipes so that I can attempt them.  I am hoping the wonders of the internet will persuade her to record them.

I’ll also try and include any exciting food shops I have tried or produce I have tasted.  For example the stone baked baguette in Waitrose is the nicest bread you can find in a supermarket, I promise you.  I don’t have much time to wander around food markets but if I do I’ll try and take some pretty pictures.

Every now and then, when I don’t blow all my money on groceries, I like to dine out and I can’t imagine anything more fun than taking photos of my food before returning home to write a damning critique.  So I’ll be doing that too.

Essentially then my blog is going to be like most other food blogs out there.  I have no USP.  Sorry Ruth.

My new notebook in which I plan to record all the family recipes.  I am not the Sophie of the title, that is a lady called Sophie Dudemaine.  I hope she won't be cross with me.

My new notebook in which I plan to record all the family recipes. I am not the Sophie of the title, that is a lady called Sophie Dudemaine. I hope she won't be cross with me.

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