A year at the Market

Categories: News and previews

Ed Smith is a London-based cook and food writer, and a regular contributor to the Borough Market website and the award-winning Market Life magazine. He writes articles and recipes for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, and is the author of On the Side: a sourcebook of inspiring side dishes and blog Rocket and Squash. He gives us a sneak preview of what’s in store for the new Borough Market Cookbook

Image: Issy Croker

Perhaps you saw last week’s announcement that there will be a Borough Market Cookbook published in the autumn. If not, it is happening—The Borough Market Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a year at the Market will be published on 4th October.

These things are never the work of just one person, and indeed many people are involved in the making of this one (the process is ongoing), however I was thrilled to be asked to pen much of it, and to come up with a set of recipes that showcase and utilise the produce available at Borough Market, and indeed other produce-led markets and shops.

No doubt most food writers (and home cooks) would consider compiling a cookbook for Borough Market a dream job—just think of all the potential material!—and indeed as someone whose written and created recipes for the Market since 2012, I was acutely aware of how rewarding and tasty the process would be, well before getting going.

The task has not been without its difficulties, though (again, just think of all the potential material!). How should a book based on Borough Market, its people and products be structured? How do you fit everything in or, more specifically, what do you leave out?

An inspiring cornucopia
This Market is an inspiring cornucopia of world class ingredients. More than that, though, it’s a vibrant, energising and influential community, with distinct and defined values, and a real mish-mash of personalities, cultures and influences. The traders and their products are diverse, with farmers and primary producers stood alongside traditional butchers, fishmongers and bakers, contemporary artisans, and entrepreneurial curators of quality foods from across the UK and far beyond.

We chose, in the end, to create a recipe-led book based on a year of market shopping. The book focuses on the four classic periods of a calendar year, with each section offering a set of dishes based on ingredients at their peak at that time, organised according to appetite—from breakfast through to baking, desserts and after dinner drinks.

There are minimum effort, mid-week dishes for two or four people; easy, one pot family bakes; and more celebratory and involved feasting items too. Some recipes feature ‘hero’ Market products, others are inspired by specific traders or the foods they offer, though all could still be cooked even if you can’t make it to SE1 that week. The recipes are eclectic and a mix of classic and contemporary, but all are united by the fact that they celebrate and utilise the kind of ingredients that Borough Market specialises in: the seasonal, sustainable, slow, and sustaining.

Interspersed among the recipes are profiles of Borough Market’s traders, and essays about events, typical Market scenes, and on the ethics of eating in the 21st century. But primarily it’s a cookbook based on seasonal market shopping and eating. We hope it will inspire and inform people who want to cook from scratch, to shop and cook smartly, and to enjoy food—so that they can take advantage of the produce on offer at Borough Market, and other markets like it.

Seasonal shopping and cooking
Each month from now to October, I will write a post hinting at the kind of recipes and themes you can expect from the book. Some, like this one, will focus firmly on seasonal market shopping and cooking, while others will also highlight Borough’s traders, key Market events, values and other stories similar to those in the book.

Though written specifically for this post, this wild garlic, tarragon, pistachio and purple sprouting broccoli pesto dish illustrates the style of thinking, shopping and cooking behind the recipes in the book: it’s based on seasonal items, has an ingredients list that can be fulfilled at Borough Market, involved conversations with traders as I gathered inspiration and collected the components, and was ultimately easy to put together and delicious to eat.

Walking around Borough in mid-March you can’t fail to be drawn towards the baskets and bags of springtime ingredients, like purple sprouting broccoli and wild garlic—spring’s is a new shade of green, brighter and somehow sparkier than the dark greens, purple and brown palette of winter.

Fairly quickly I fell on the plan to turn a large bag of wild garlic from Ted’s Veg into a pesto to stir through pasta, though it would be bolstered by some purple sprouting broccoli and tarragon, as I personally find pastes that only use wild garlic a little harsh.

Puddles of pesto
Next stop was Gastronomica for dried pasta (though the fresh stuff from La Tua Pasta would’ve worked just as well). Of course, any shape would be fine, but I’ve a particularly strong affinity with conchiglie at the moment, plus I knew the insides of the shell-shaped pieces would conveniently gather and hold puddles of pesto and purple sprouting florets.

After that, to Oliveology for some pre-shelled pistachio kernels, an alternative to the more classic pine nut, which will lend sweet notes and yet another hint of bright green to my paste. And finally a few paces across Three Crown Square to Bianca e Mora, where I had a really interesting chat about the two parmigiano reggiano cheeses they currently stock—an organic one made from fresian milk, and an intensely more-ish variety made from the milk of the red cows of Emilia Romagna—and another they’re awaiting on for next week, which uses the milk of a particularly rare white cow, and is only made by two producers.

Barely 10 minutes of very enjoyable shopping and about the same time in the kitchen were spent to create something seasonal and fulfilling, in every sense of the word.