Drawn together: the food processor

Categories: Behind the stalls

Award-winning blogger and Borough Market regular Ed Smith displays a talent for illustration as well as the written word, as he talks to stallholders about the tools of their trade. This month: the food processor

Zoe Roberts, Butter Nut of London

Butter Nut of London began in 2016. I began making absolutely everything at home, literally on my kitchen table. I’m completely self-funded, having decided to invest in myself because I knew that I worked hard! I wanted to create something that I really loved eating and my friends would too, and I absolutely love peanut butter—and always have done since I was a child—so I started experimenting making nut butters using a small food processor that I borrowed from my mum.

More than peanut butter (but little more than just nuts)
Although I produce one now, I actually set out to make things other than peanut butter because that felt like a crowded market place, so I created a hazelnut and cacao butter—similar to some of the chocolate-nut spreads out there, but with none of the bad stuff; no palm oil, refined sugars or anything like that. Just nuts (hazelnuts and cashew nuts), dates and cacao.

There’s also an almond and coconut butter, which is crunchy, punchy and I think quite rounded flavour-wise because I use the flesh of the coconut, not the oil, plus a vanilla extract that I make myself. Then there’s my ABC butter, which is a mix of almonds, brazil and cashew nuts, plus sunflower seeds and a pinch of Cornish sea salt. I made it in response to my customers saying they wanted a savoury option. I think it’s quite creamy and certainly more complex than a straight-forward peanut butter.

My best seller is cashew maple turmeric, which is a little bit out there and a little bit different to anything else I’ve come across. The turmeric element isn’t a response to a fad or a health thing—as with everything I do, it’s down to flavour, and I love it. I was really pleased when it was awarded two stars at the Great Taste Awards, because that backed up my taste buds—so it can’t just be me!

Magimix food processor illustration

From nuts, to butter
A nut ‘butter’ is a paste made from nuts that have been processed and blended until smooth. There are a number of different ways to make a butter, starting with the source material that you use—you can, for example, choose to turn raw, roasted or activated nuts into a paste—and then also what else you add into it.

I use roasted nuts—largely for taste, having experimented a lot—and I don’t add anything other than the other key flavours I’ve mentioned (like cacao, turmeric and coconut). I buy organic nuts in their raw state from a trader who has the same beliefs in ethical food trade as I do, then roast them to the level I need and want.

The big commercial brands often add oils as emulsifiers or to make loose pastes quickly and economically, but I don’t. I like to use only the natural oils in the nut, which is another reason to roast them as that helps to draw them out. Different nuts have different blending times, because they have different levels of oil in them. The hazelnuts blend quickly and easily, for example. whereas almonds are much slower.

Small batch, handmade
From when I began until recently, I was making the butters at home using a Magimix food processor—the 5200 XL, to be precise. It’s a great home processor, but presented some problems for a growing business: the capacity of the bowl is pretty small—I could only really make 10 jars at a time—and the machine would over-heat when blending, so I’d have to put it by a window to cool down, or sometimes put it in a walk in fridge when I was working in a bakery.

In fact, during my first Christmas of trading I managed to break my processor from working it too hard. It was pretty terrifying as I was just getting started and wasn’t sure I had enough money to buy a new one and make it through the season.

The replacement has lasted another two years and is still with me, but I’ve grown enough now to upgrade to a larger, more professional processor, and more commercial surroundings. Everything’s still relatively small batch and handmade, but we can do around six kilos per mix now, plus there’s less risk of the machine overheating, so it’s a quicker process all round.

Spreading nut butter across Borough Market
I’ve been trading at Borough Market now for a year. I started trading just on Thursdays, but now we do Fridays and Saturdays too. The custom I get from this has allowed me to scale up my production and improve the methods.

You can taste each of the nut butters at my stall. I’m there most of the time, and the beauty of being on the stand is that people are very honest and give me really valuable feedback; and they won’t buy things unless they like them! I wouldn’t want them to either.

The cashew maple turmeric is the most popular throughout the year, though almond and coconut was a great seller in the summer months and I expect the hazelnut and cacao to do well through winter and Christmas. Don’t just take my word for it though. You should come and have a taste for yourself.