The chips were cooked in extra virgin olive oil and the eggs were fresh and organic, crispy golden around the edges and soft in the centre — they too were cooked in olive oil. A glass of still foamy, freshly squeezed orange juice and some good coffee — the perfect start to provide a burst of energy for a whizz through the Borough Market around the corner.
This iconic market has now almost become a victim of its own success. Foodie visitors to London make a beeline for Borough on a Saturday morning and as a result the aisles quickly get cluttered with ‘snapping’ tourists whose main, maybe only purchase, will be food to nibble as they go.
However, I was bound for the new Bermondsey Market off Druid Street.
It’s not easy to find — my taxi driver was totally flummoxed, but eventually the cool guys at Monmouth Coffee Shop on 34 Maltby Street, where half of London seemed to be queuing for freshly roasted beans, gave me directions. “Turn left and walk through a building site, you’ll find it in a series of arches under the railway” — there is was like a furtive, secret rendezvous.
It was as though the best of Borough, including biodynamic vegetable growers Jane Scotter of Fern Verrow Farm, had decamped into the little commune close to where Randolph Hodgson of Neals Yard ages his cheeses in a cave under the railway arches.
I bought some beautiful membrillo made by England Preserves from his shop and some gorgeous English cheese and just managed to resist a loaf of Poilâne sour dough bread.
On my way through the building site I came across Evin O’Riordan, the man behind Kernel Brewery based on Druid Street. He started his artisan brewery in December 2009 and already has a cult following. William Oglethorpe was beside him with his cheese and Elliot John from Ham and Cheese Company was on the other side.
I was searching for my friend Clare Ptak of Violet Cakes and there she was with a little table of her delicious sweet things. The whoopie pies had all been sold but there were still some scones, already sandwiched with homemade jam and cream, some little blood orange sponges and bags of homemade candied orange peel. Lilia McAlistair had lots of tempting Polish sausages, horseradish sauce and beetroot relish.
Jane and Michael Dunne were selling very good looking Romney Marsh lamb and British Shorthorn beef from Hop Hurst biodynamic farm in Surrey near East Grinstead. This sought-after meat comes from a cluster of farms enclosed by bridges, so no large machinery can get in. Consequently there are still permanent pastures on the farm.
There is so much more tucked in under the arches, and the loaves of St John Bakery are just a few yards away. Don’t miss the custard doughnuts, I don’t care how fattening they look, just have one. To use the much overused expression, they are to die for.
This market is obviously the coolest place to congregate on a Saturday morning, within a couple of minutes I’d met several chefs and friends who really go out of their way to find good things. Stevie Parle, whose restaurant Dock Kitchen on Portobello Dock on Ladbroke Grove is causing such a stir, was there in his favourite orange duffel coat with baby Sam strapped onto his front. Joe Travelli, the gifted chef at River Cafe, was also there to pick up some goodies, as was artisan ice cream queen Kitty Lindy Travers.
It was almost lunchtime so on Clare Ptak’s advice we headed for the newest happening place for lunch, a restaurant called Brawn on the corner of Ravencroft St and Columbia Rd in Bethnal Green.
There’s no name over the door so we had another demented taxi driver grizzling about the new cool restaurants who like to make his life difficult.
Brawn is an offshoot of one of my favourite West End restaurants, Terroirs in William 1V St. Named after a dish made from pigs head and crubeens, Brawn became an almost instant hit for its delicious well priced food when it opened not long before Christmas.
The atmosphere is chilled and quirky with whitewashed brick walls, a random collection of mismatched tables and chairs and some eye-catching local art. It is housed in a former furniture warehouse near the Flower Market and is divided into two rooms with a bar in one and a semi open kitchen in the other.
The menu is enticingly divided into Taste Tickler, Pig, Plancha, Raw, Slow Cook, and Pudding & Cheese.
The Taste Ticklers are nice and small. I loved the Pays Basque Saussison sec from Pierre Oteiza and the Nduja, a sort of soft spreadable chorizo, with lots of the aforementioned bread.
There was also an inspired little plate of Anchoide, Fennel & Breakfast Radishes which I also ate with relish. All these dishes by the way cost just £3 each.
For main course, I had a classic Tete de Veau with Sauce Ravigote (£13) and tasted the Montbeliard Sausage & Horseradish (£14). Both were substantial and excellent.
For pudding I enjoyed the Crepes with Salted Butter Caramel, so much so that I just managed to resist the urge to lick the plate. Here are few recipes kindly provided by Head Chef Ed Wilson.
www.brindisa.com Brindisa Restaurant and Shop at Borough Market
www.dockkitchen.co.uk The Dock Kitchen
www.boroughmarket.org.uk Borough Market
www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk Monmouth Coffee Company
www.violetcakes.com Claire Ptak – Violet Cakes
www.nealsyardremedies.com Neals Yard
www.e5bakehouse.com E5 Bakehouse
Brawn Restaurant; 0044 (0)20 7729 5692
A simple emulsion of anchovies, garlic, vinegar and oil. This is perfect as a dip for raw vegetables such as fennel, carrots and radishes. This recipe makes quite a substantial amount, but it will keep very well covered in the fridge.
Fresh radishes with the leaves still attached
Julienne of fennel
180g (4¾ oz) of tinned anchovies drained of any excess oil
3 good sized cloves of garlic
50ml (2 fl oz) of good quality red wine vinegar
750ml (1 pint 7floz) of vegetable oil
Water for thinning
First make the anchoïade. In a food processor, add the anchovies, garlic, vinegar and purée to a smooth paste.
Very slowly start to add the vegetable oil in a slow stream like you are making a mayonnaise. The anchovies act in the same way as egg yolk’s in mayonnaise and as a protein, will emulsify the oil. Be careful and keep a close eye as the oil starts to emulsify.
If you feel it becomes too thick, add a little water. This will do two things: It will thin the anchoïade, and will also
stabilise the emulsion too which will stop it from splitting.
When all the oil is incorporated and you have a lovely thick garlicky, anchovy emulsion, put in a pot and dip away. Cut the fennel into julienne strips and the radishes in half lengthwise and chill in iced water.
To serve: Arrange a few crisp chilled radishes, crisp fennel julienne on a plate, have a bowl of anchoïade on the side for dipping. Delicious.
Ed Wilson kindly shared the recipe for these rillons — a signature dish on Brawn’s menu.
1kg (2¼lb) of pork belly (with the skin left on, any bones removed and preferably from the thick end)
50g (2oz) sea salt
250g (9oz) lard
Large sprig of thyme
3 Bay leaves
4 Garlic cloves (split in two)
250ml (9fl oz) of dry white wine
125ml (4fl oz) water
The day before: Dice the pork belly into 5cm/2inch cubes with the skin left on. Salt the cubes with the sea salt and leave for 12 hours covered in the fridge.
The next day, wash the salt from the cubed belly. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Then in a large hot pan with a little of the lard, add the pork belly cubes and brown on all sides until nicely caramelised all over. Transfer to an oven proof dish making sure the belly pieces are snugly sitting together and not on top of each other. Add the wine, water, bay leaves, thyme and garlic and the rest of the lard and place in a preheated oven at around 140C for about an hour and a half.
The lard when melted should just be about half way up the pieces of pork. Check after this time and they should be tender. If not, cook for another ½ hour. If the lard is becoming too hot and burning the pork carefully add a little more water as this will lower the cooking temperature of the lard.
When cooked, allow the rillons to cool down in the fat.
To serve: Place the rillons in a really hot oven (200C) for 5-6 minutes so they become sizzling and crispy on the outside. Serve with a simple green salad with a good punchy mustard vinaigrette, a lively glass of Sancerre and some bread.
Strangely addictive, salt and sugar. Ed Wilson, head chef of Brawn Restaurant in London shared this recipe — they are beyond yummy.
Serves 6 — makes 12 approx
6 ozs (175g) white flour, preferably unbleached
A good pinch of salt
1 dstsp castor sugar
2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range
Scant ¾ pint (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed
3-4 dstsp melted butter
500g (18oz) caster sugar
125g (4½ oz) unsalted whole butter (diced)
250ml (9fl oz) double cream
10g (½ oz) fleur de sel from Brittany (literally flower of the salt, the very mineral and not too salty top layer)
Put the caster sugar into a large pan over a medium heat and stir continuously until it turns into a rich caramel. You need to do this by eye, but aim for a slightly dark mahogany colour. If it is too light, the butter and cream will dilute any caramel flavour and it will lack that slightly burnt sugar taste that makes this sauce so good.
When you are happy with your caramel very carefully add your cream to stop the cooking. Be really careful to not do it too quickly as the caramel has a tendency to spit. When you have whisked in the cream, add the butter bit by bit until it is all incorporated and you have a smooth rich caramel.
Allow to cool to blood temperature and then add the fleur de sel and mix so you get an even distribution. Ed says it is very important to allow the caramel to cool before doing this so that the salt crystals do not dissolve and you then get that lovely crunch.
Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles.
Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so — longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
To serve: Make the pancakes in the usual way. Heat the pan to very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly. A small ladle can also be very useful for this. Loosen the pancake around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The pancakes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later.
Spread a little salted caramel evenly over the warm crepe. Roll up or fold into a fan shape. Serve two per person on warm plates.
THE Burren Ecotourism Network was launched last Thursday. The Network — a group of dedicated businesses that are certified as one of only two Irish ecotourism destinations — is offering visitors opportunities to engage with the landscape of the Burren in a manner which is sustainable in terms of the environment and the community. Contact Burren Ecotourism Network, Edel Hayes at 065 7072295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for Ecotourism Ireland, contact Mary Mulvey, chief executive, email@example.com or 087 6841531, contact www.burrenecotourism.com
TO celebrate International Slow Food Grandmother’s day on Saturday, April 16, Slow Food is inviting its members and their friends to send a favourite recipe from their grandmother and or a food memory and we will publish them on the Slow Food website.
Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and see www.slowfoodireland.com