Tag Archives: bermondsey

Cake & Jam

Butterylemonyvanillaness.

Gooseberry Jam

Until you have tried this cake you will think that is a non-existent and very silly word.  After you have tried this cake, you will know exactly what I mean.  Yellowy organic butter creamed to whiteness with organic sugar.  Eggs from free-range, organic, corn-fed chickens are mixed in, one by one; each yolk is almost orange and the batter starts to regain its golden eggy shade again.  Vanilla and fresh organic lemon zest are added for flavour, and two sticky dollops of honey from my parent’s apiary.  Baking powder, some sea salt and spelt flour are sifted in to the mix and slowly stirred to the thickness of an old fashioned cake batter which smells like the birthdays of your childhood.  And just when you think it sounds as if it might be getting to be too sweet, now imagine that I have cut the cake in half and spread a thick layer of gloriously tart and freshly homeade gooseberry jam.

The gooseberry jam itself was another learning experience.  I’ve never made it before, and every time you try to preserve a new fruit, estimating its pectin content is a bit like throwing craps.  So I turned to Nigel Slater, who I always turn to when I have no idea what I’m doing.  (He won’t know it, but he taught me to roast my first chicken when I, as a naieve vegetarian, thought I’d treat my boyfriend to a Sunday roast.)  I roughly followed a recipe, mixing the gooseberries with an almost equal quantity sugar and a drop or two of water, to partly dissolve the sugar.  Its incredibly satisfying, popping the gooseberries with a spoon as they start to warm up and become soft.  (All the therapeutic qualities of bubblewrap, but with a lovely tart smell.)  I squeezed in a bit of lemon juice to help keep the lovely livid shade of gooseberries in tact, but to no use, as they soon took on a translucent, candied fruit quality, and after about 45 minutes of regular stirring and fussing, the jam finally became jammy, with big chunks of partly dissolved gooseberry skins – all in a beautiful quincy rust shade.

In all truth, this cake was intended to culminate its existence in the form of a Washington Pie.  But, in order to turn a vanilla cake filled with gooseberry preserves into a proper Washington Pie, like the kind my grandmother makes for my visits to Canada, you’d need to cover the entire thing in a thick layer of whipped cream.  For today, though, I’m afraid that some semi-health conscious urge has stopped me from going to these lengths.   We instead, settle for a slice each, after dinner, with a heaped spoonful of low fat creme fraiche.

Find Your Farmer’s Market

Bermondsey Farmer’s Market Finds

Kermit the Frog wasn’t wrong.  It ain’t easy being green.  It ain’t cheap either.

Buying things in glass bottles & recycled cardboard punnets.  Weighing up whether to buy the organic milk from the big chain store or the regular milk from the small local shop.  Thank God for Saturdays when throughout the UK and North America, farmers and small producers flock to the towns and cities and put up their stalls to flog their wares for the day.  Thank God for the Farmer’s Market.  Suddenly the anxiety from the constant onslaught of ethical decisions I associate with buying food melt away, and I can just enjoy the experience of buying good food and having a ‘good chinwag’ (as my boyfriend so delicately puts it) with the producers.

Sometimes you don’t have the extra money to buy as your ethics would guide you.  Sometimes you just don’t have the time.  Sometimes the products you want just aren’t available.  (Seriously, just try to find organic tonic!)  But sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll be suprised.

Today I went to Bermondsey Farmer’s Market (in the heart of Bermondsey Square, for those of you who are interested) with £30 in my handbag.  It has been an expensive month so far, but despite that, I had intended to head out to the famous (and I might add extremely pricey) Borough Market to buy some organic basics for the week, I was halted in my tracks by a small green sign guiding me into Bermondsey Square.

Rather than the few veg and bottle of organic gin which I had intended to buy at Borough Market, I instead came home laden with the following groceries.  Most organic.  All locally sourced.  And all for my £30.

  • 1 litre fresh Bramley apple juice from Norfolk (http://www.droveorchards.com/)
  • 1 large handful of samphire
  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley, organic
  • 1 large garlic head, organic
  • 1 cucumber, organic
  • 1 fennel bulb, organic
  • 2 punnets gooseberries, organic
  • 4 punnets raspberries, organic
  • 1 100% rye bread, organic
  • 1 whole lemon sole, sustainably caught
  • 2 chicken thighs, organic & free range
  • 3 small buffalo steaks, organic
  • 6 eggs, organic & free range
  • 1 ball of fresh, homeade mozarella, organic
  • 1 large spanikopita
  • 2 small Portuguese custard tarts

I dare you to spend £30 at Tesco (or $50 at Loblaws for my Canadian readers) and do so well…

The spanikopita was absolutely yumlicious and I scoffed it for my lunch as soon as I got home.  The Bramley apple juice is extremely more-ish and very dry, and I suspect it will make an excellent apple gimlet – I do realise there is probably no such thing as an apple gimlet, but I decided on the way home that it sounded like a good idea.  A nice pre-dinner cocktail.  As a starter for dinner tonight, I think the mozarella ball will be nice, sliced thinly and served on a plate, alternated between slices of ripe vine tomatoes and basil leaves and sprinkled lightly with a sort of Portuguese version of fleur de sel which I have and some coarsely ground organic black pepper.  The chicken thighs will be massaged in butter before being doused in olive oil, garlic and slices of lemon and being roasted in the oven later tonight for my boyfriend’s dinner while I have the lemon sole on a bed of samphire.  I’ve never made lemon sole, but I recently saw on Saturday Kitchen how to ripe the skin off in one single, swift yank – not dissimilar to leg waxing actually.  Dessert will consist of the raspberries, which are already starting to melt, they’re so ripe, crudely poured overtop of the Portuguese custard tarts and followed by a cup of hot Ethiopian roast coffee.

So, not to sound pushy, but get out there, find your Farmer’s Market and buy something special to cook for someone you love.  Even that person is just you.

London Bridge

Here’s a confession you don’t hear every day.

I love the march of the drones in suits across London Bridge every morning. There are people in my office who will go out of their way to cross Southwark Bridge, just so they don’t have to engage in that mass migration from the station to The City every morning. It makes them feel like individuals. I can respect that. But to me, there’s something wonderfully Orwellian about being in my little bubble, right in the middle of it all – the dank smell of Thames water, the glazed eyes of the commuters, the tapping of steel toes onthe  men’s shoes on the pavement, keeping in time with the rhythmic clicking of the spiked heels of their female counterparts.  It makes me want to keep the aspidistra flying and then take a bus to Cricklewood. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then obviously literary London isn’t your thing.

Do you know what I found yesterday on the way home from work? The London Stone. How many times have I walked down Cannon Street, but only yesterday did I finally spy the bit of dirty grating and the grimy plaque which I’ve been searching for in this City for so many years. They say that the stone was the point from where the Romans measured all distances in Britannia. Its where deals were forged, proclamations made and oaths sworn. The existence of the stone is even linked to the safety of The City itself, much like the legend attached to the ravens in the Tower of London. “So long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish”

And so each Friday afternoon, after a week of back and forth, back and forth, across the bridge, disguised as a commuter (albeit with a slight irrational fear that I’ll be found out as an imposter, attacked by the mob and thrown into the Thames… which is ridiculous, as I do actually work in The City, with a more or less proper job and also I’m pretty sure that non-City workers are allowed to cross the bridge during peak hours anyway) yes, so disguised as a commuter, I make my way down the well worn steps by Southwark Cathedral into Borough Market. Its usually on the verge of closing by the time I get there, but there are still a range of wonderful local and organic breads, vegetables, treaties, sweeties and edible goodies of all sorts to be had. A loaf of heavy rye bread, a chunk of comté to nibble on with my glass of wine later that night (yes, there is actually a stall which just specialises in comté – massive great wheels of the stuff, pervading a nutty aroma throughout their immediate surroundings), an artichoke (which I will steam, and slowly pick away at, dipping the base of each leaf in lemony melted butter and scraping the soft flesh off between my teeth, while my boyfriend scoffs at the pointlessness and fiddliness of such a stupid vegetable) and finally some fresh home counties-grown berries, almost melting from ripeness and exposure to the afternoon sun, which I will slap with a whomping scoop of crème fraiche later that night.

I make my way home, through the winds and wends of Bermondsey Street, happy with my market finds, and still in love with London.