Dish up the flavour of the month
London’s bustling Borough Market and its spectacular seasonal produce are the inspiration for a new book. Pip Sloan enjoys a taste
When the food writer Ed Smith moved to the capital in 2007 one of the first trips he made was to Borough Market in south London. He bought cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy, and a roasting joint from the butcher’s. Ever since then, Smith has immersed himself in the life of the market, becoming a regular contributor to its monthly magazine, a recipe writer for its website, and running cookery demonstrations at the market’s teaching kitchen, stopping short – only just – of setting up a produce stall himself.
He visits every week to shop at the historic food market by the Thames, and so when it came to penning a cookbook that captured the spirit of the area, Smith was the perfect choice. “Its aim is to celebrate the uniqueness of the market and its traders,” he tells me, “while inspiring cooks to shop inquisitively and to bring seasonal produce back to their kitchens.” The book’s recipes, gathered for spring, summer, autumn and winter, illustrate Smith’s own approach to eating seasonally. They star ingredients that are “at their peak at that particular time of year, but also those you really crave” in that moment. “Right now,” he says, “I want soups, tray-bakes, and dishes I can sink into, using ingredients like artichokes, brassicas and wild mushrooms.”
Woven through the recipes are profiles of Borough’s traders, many of whom have worked there for decades and have become the fabric of the market. “We wanted to explain why their produce is so vital, and share snippets of their routines. They make the market come to life.”
For those of us who don’t have Paul Day’s Sussex Fish counter on our doorstep, the book remains a prompt to support local stars. “The country is brimming with fantastic producers,” says Smith. “Seeking out them and their ingredients might just inspire you to make something different.”
The Borough Market Cookbook by Ed Smith is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£25). To order your copy for £20 go to books. telegraph.co.uk or call 0844 871 1514
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, leek, and a pinch of flaky sea salt and cook for four to five minutes until softened but not coloured, stirring frequently.
Put the chunks of artichoke and peeled potato in the saucepan, along with the thyme leaves, garlic and parmesan rind (if using).
Reduce the temperature to low, place a lid on top and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the stock into the pan and simmer for a further 30 minutes until the artichokes are completely soft. Use a hand-held blender, food processor or stand blender to purée the soup until velvety smooth.
Just after the artichoke and potatoes are added to the saucepan, toss the vegetable peelings in the vegetable or sunflower oil then scatter them over a baking tray in one layer – use a fork to spread the peelings out so they roast and crisp up, rather than clump and become soggy. Place towards the top of the hot oven and roast for 10-15 minutes until golden and crisp, shuffling them around after about eight minutes. Remove, sprinkle with lots of salt and a few drops of hazelnut oil, mix, and try to avoid eating them before the soup is ready.
Check the soup is at a desirable consistency – it should be neither too watery nor thick like a purée; cook to evaporate liquid or add a splash more as necessary. Once happy, season generously with salt and black pepper and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and generous swirl of hazelnut oil in each bowl, plus a scattering of chives or parsley (if using) and a handful of the peeling crisps. Slice the reserved whole artichokes very thinly (with a mandolin if you have one), and add a few to each bowl to garnish.
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
90g caster sugar
100g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
10 sage leaves
6 plump fresh figs
2 tbsp warm water
3 tbsp raw honey
150g full-fat crème fraîche, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6 and line a baking tray with baking parchment or a silicon mat.
Cream the butter with the sugar in a bowl using the back of a wooden spoon. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Roll a walnut-sized teaspoon of biscuit dough quickly in your hands to make a ball, then repeat to make six balls (using half the biscuit dough). Space them evenly on the baking tray. The biscuits spread significantly, so don’t be tempted to cram more on. Bake in the oven for eight minutes, until they have flattened and started to turn golden. Remove, leave to cool and harden on the tray for five minutes, then slide them off the tray with a palette knife. Repeat the process with the remaining biscuit dough. Store in an airtight container until required.
To cook the figs, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/ Gas 6. Put four of the sage leaves in the base of an ovenproof dish that will fit the six figs snugly. Cut a cross into each fruit from the stalk to two thirds of the way down. Squeeze each fig at its base to encourage the centre to present itself and slot a sage leaf in each of them. Place the figs in the dish. Mix the honey with two tablespoons of warm water and pour it in and over the figs. Bake the figs in the oven for 15-20 minutes, basting them with the honey and fig juices after 10 minutes. They should be soft and sticky, but still intact.
Carefully decant the figs into bowls. Pour a couple of spoons of juice over the top of each fig and serve with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and two ginger butter biscuits per person.
MARKET FORCES Smith, left; and recipes from his new book, right and below