Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Foraging, fishmongers and sandwich baskets

Spring has definitely sprung here in London. Along any feral pathway you'll find nettles ready to sting and borage ripe for the clipping. I plan on doing a harvest next week or on the weekend and making a bit of nettle sauce for pasta. If I'm feeling super adventurous, I may even make some Jerusalem Artichoke Gnocchi for the sauce and get a bit of Sheepdrove Farm beef for the fresh horseradish I've spotted at the green grocer in Hampstead.

One of the most amazing things about our new flat is nothing to do with the brick and mortar. It has do with someone who comes to visit weekly to pawn his wares from the back of his van. His name is Glenn and he drives down from the port of Grimsby every Tuesday right to our front door, van loaded with refrigerated, freshly caught (and some smoked!) fish. In only one try, we have the drill down: Glenn arives, rings my doorbell, I run down with cash in hand and he pulls, filets or cuts anything for me. Weighs it on his scale, wraps it up and I return home upstairs with fresh sea critters for dinner for one or two days (and even some lunch). The best part about it is he comes during Eamon's morning nap, so I can have a leisurely look and chat. I believe that as we get more familiar I'll be able to ask for special things, like oysters and urchins and cockles and things. Yesterday we got two fresh mackerel, fileted beautifully, which I seared and broiled, topped with cilantro+hot pepper+basil+lime and Maldon Sea Salt. Mmmmm. Tonight it'll be salmon. A whole guy.

Last week I discovered a gorgeous butcher shop in Maida Vale called Sheepdrove Organic Farm. Everything in their shop they raise, butcher and make into charcuterie themselves. We had lovely spicy Merguez, a brisket which I slow cooked with prune, apricot and shallot and I plan to go back for their pork roasts which are said to have wonderful cracklings. When I think of how much I love this shop I am a little bit shocked that I was ever a vegetarian. My 20 year old self would cringe!

The most wonderful opportunity is created by moving to a country that has a completely different electrical grid. It means you have to buy all new kitchen appliances. I have yet to see if I fall in love with my slices/dices/does the laundry kitchen machine by Kenwood, but no matter! I am absolutely over the moon about my Dualit toaster. Sandwich cages! What a revelation, to pop a bit of leftovers in between some bread, into the cage, cage into the toaster. Cary on with my "work" and then return to a gorgeous sandwich. Hot, no less. I am hoping the US starts to carry this model by 2012 or whenever it is we return...

One more discovery in Hamsptead has been the crepe stand that lures me in every time I "pass" by, in spite of its ridiculously long line. Shortest wait time yet was 35 minutes. Longest was 1 hour, note to self, don't go just when school lets out. Teenagers come in droves to get sugar and butter crepes. Okay, salivating just writing this. I should be embarrased that I took this picture of their trash, but you have to commend them on their quality ingredients. That is my favorite creme de marron, and they use only free range eggs, plus the flour is high grade. Now the butter... they literally use about a half stick for one savory crepe, so I wonder how the quality is on that. Still, this is England and therefore the EU and therefore a bit more consciencious about the provenance of foods.