Monday, January 16, 2006

I love Borough Market in London

I have been going to Borough since it was a one off on a dank weekend in December a very long time ago. It was the most extrordianary piece of food magic imaginable with its clusters of producers selling food they had raised themselves, often on a very small scale. All the food was of the highest quality and provenance, rare and exotic treats previously unheard of or unobtainable, despite this being one of the major cities of the world. That first day I bought rump steak from Wild Beef, smoked duck breast sliced paper thin from Brown & Forrest, a box of large organic eggs that were all six of them double yolked (as the sweetly hippyish young man selling them had promised) and a lump of cheese from, I think, Neal's Yard. All these producers are still selling every week, except for the egg man, who came for a while then started selling through the permanent shop that Neal's Yard have set up in Park Street.

A little while after the very first market weekend it was decided to have a food market every third Saturday of the month from 9am till 4pm and see if anyone would come, if it would be worthwhile for the producers to travel to London for a single day's trading. I think it was organised by Henrietta Green strongly backed by Southwark Council's visionary regeneration officer of the time, Fred Manson. I marked those special Saturday's in my diary and the lovely boyfriend and I would set off early and shop. It was like drowning in tempatation. Especially in those very first days everything was perfect and a lot of it was completely unknown.

I have a few really clear ‘food memories’ of the first time that I tried something that I have loved ever since. One day in suburban Sydney, when I was less than ten years old my mother peeled me a mango, told me to go outside and try not to drip the juice all over myself. I was transported to heaven by the dense, sweet flesh and astounded to find the enormous seed in the middle. At that age it was definitely ‘snot fair’ to to be given the most extraordinary thing to eat and then find that half of it was seed. I made the most of it, dragging my teeth across the camel haired husk, sucking all the juice I could. I still eat mangoes the same way.

The first time I ate the bacon from Ginger Pig I had the same epiphany. It is amazing. A good ridge of fat that makes you understand why it can be described as sweet, lovely dense flesh and a pervading flavour of bacon that had seemed to have disappeared from life as I knew it. It was a fantasy moment – with bacon like this, a fry up is simply joy on a plate. I buy some nearly every week - mostly unsmoked oyster offcuts which are the cheapest - then toss it with chilli and garlic for pasta sauce.

Lentils for supper

Gently fry a few rashers of sliced unsmoked oyster bacon with one or two cloves of crushed garlic, till the bacon fat becomes a little translucent. Add 200g of green egyptian lentils, a large sprig of fresh rosemary and a bay leaf and enough water to cover generously. Simmer, covered, for 40 -50 minutes, checking occasionally to see that it hasn't dried out. The liquid should be almost gone, the lentils should be soft but not collapsing. Season generously with salt and pepper - never add salt at the beginning when cooking pulses as it toughens them instantly and they will be forever inedible - a disappointment easy to avoid. Poach a couple of fresh eggs - one to top each bowl - and dinner is ready. If there are left over lentils, they are lovely cold the next day as a salad.

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