Only in Brixton…Is Cuba So Far Away

From this Thursday (25 July) Cuba is coming *ever* so slightly closer to Brixton.

mojito

Until the 28 (you’ve got until Sunday night), aficionados of the Cuban cocktail can make their own mojitos – for free. Yes, that’s for free people. And why I am I telling you this? Well, because it’s only in our backyard.

Trained ‘Cantineros’ – the word for barmen in Cuban Spanish – will guide you towards making the most authentic Cuban mojito (mine never tend to be authentic, more just heavy handed). That’s one that’s free from all this rubbish the trendy places normally include – pomegranate pulp, earl grey shawaddy-waddy or whatever other bullshit is in vogue.

In Brixton Market between 25-28 July all that’s getting between you and a good time is mint, Havana rum, mint, sugar, lime, ice and sparkling water.

If you’re unable to make it and want some more info on how to muddle your way through a mojito-making masterclass (and I quite literally mean muddle), then there’s more information at: havana-mojito.co.uk. (It’s a nice and snazzy website).

I guess I should probably encourage you to drink responsibly, but that wouldn’t be any fun, would it now?

Disclaimer: I was told that if I write this I’d receive some free rum. So I did. You’d do exactly the same too. Plus you also get free rum so no one’s complaining.

Have fun rum bunnies.

**UPDATE:**

The Havana mojitos lived up to, and exceeded expectations. Delicious.

havana-rum-mojito

havana-rum-mojito-1

havana-rum-mojito-3

 

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SW11- Battersea – The Northcote Road Summer Fete

The Northcote Road Summer Fete is coming next week…

Northcote Road Summer Fete

The Northcote Road Summer Fete is coming to Battersea on Sunday 7th July, from 11am until 5pm. The whole road will be closed to traffic all day for the event – no parking and no buses! Imagine that, just pushchairs and people. I’m very excited about some of the main highlights of the event especially the ping pong tables which will be at various intervals along the road, plus there will be the Wimbledon Men’s Final on the big screen…C’mon Tim!

Oh hang on…

There’s going to be tons of visiting stall holders selling their wares including jewellery, handmade cards, photo frames, children’s clothing, cosmetics, snacks and much more.

What we’ve all been waiting to hear about is the delicious food and drink items which will be on offer. Word has it that there will be a traditional hog roast and barbecued food, Spanish tapas, an oyster an Champagne bar run by Fish Club, jugs of Pimms, real ale and gallons of wine. *Hic*!

There’s much more information at www.northcoterd.co.uk; on Facebook – www.facebook.com/NorthcoteRd and Twitter  – @Northcote_Rd. Ill be helping out at the event; so if you see someone maniacally running up and down the street with a lanyard and a hi-vis vest on, that’ll most likely be me.

See you there!

SW18 Wandsworth – Old York Road – The White Christmas Market

I don’t know what it is about this year, but my Christmassy feeling has come much more prematurely than is usual. By no means am I a Scrooge but I do look cynically at those people who have sent off their Christmas cards, wrapped presents, and had their first mince pie by October 1st.

To be fair, it isn’t particularly taxing to get me to drink mulled wine; I had my first at the Christmas lights switch on at St John’s Hill (Wandsworth) only last Saturday. But do you know what I am really looking forwards to? The Old York Road’s White Christmas Market. I’m going to be lending a hand at the actual event and I would love to see a few friendly faces (friendly faces who will bring me hot wine will be even better).  So if you’re free on December 16th and fancy getting into the Christmas spirit with a few glasses of spiced cheers and nibbling on some mince pies, then I wholeheartedly recommend you come down to Wandsworth’s Old York Road.

There’s also going to be local traders and businesses  selling  lots of things – I’m not quite down with WHO as yet, but I’m told their wares will make ideal Christmas gifts.

Mulled wine and gifts! The perfect combination.

Mulled wine and gifts! The perfect combination.

I’ve become increasingly attached to the quaint Old York Road after I wrote my review of Amirah’s Kitchen back in September. It’s quite a hidden little street, but with lots of independent traders and restaurants, it really does feel like you’re part of a village.

Like I say, if you’re local to the area (or even if you’re not), you’ll be warmly welcomed no matter how chilly the night is. It starts at 12pm and goes on until 5pm – come down, have a potter, buy some pressies and then get tipsy! For more information go to the Old York Road website.

SW4 – Clapham – Venn Street Market

I am fortunate enough to work as a freelancer – legitimately – this is not code for unemployed. Technically I can wake when I like, wrap up the working day when I like, and take arbitrary random days off without aeons of notice.  I also used to work from home; in my pyjamas, mostly. Officy people are curious about the world of freelancing.

Officy person: “Do you work set hours?”

Me: “I try to keep as closely to a working week as possible, it’s easier that way.”

Officy person: “But what motivates you to work?”

Me: “Money, mainly.”

You see, if I don’t get up and work, then I certainly don’t get paid. And any time I take off – those arbitrary random days I mentioned earlier – is not paid either. Like any form of employment, there are pros and cons. I always like to look on freelancing positively though.

However, times are a changing. For the last two months I have been invited to work in an office which belongs to one of the companies for whom I freelance. Conveniently, the office is about a mile from my house, so even the commute walk into work isn’t bad. I’ve lost at least half of you now, haven’t I?

A short stroll from my desk is Clapham High Street, which even when I lived in Battersea, was a misnomer to me. I think the only thing I have ever successfully done on the High Street was to have a haircut under £25 (successes are relative). The bars are dire, the restaurants (save for Fish Club) leave much to be desired. There are barely any decent shops either.

Now that I work in the vicinity I have forced myself to try to seek out the diamonds from the (my own self-perceived) rough. Clapham High Street must have some interesting foibles which a food fan like me could entertain?

The most obvious (and middle class) of intrigues is of course, Venn Street Market. I’ve not blogged about it properly before, so where better to start? Just off the Clapham Common end of the High Street, this petite marche consists of a handful of stalls. Cheese, cake (Brixton’s Ms Cupcake too), some live action – a hog roast, burger flipping and rotisserie chicken – are the stands which stand out, if you will.

Chocolate chip

Une Normande a Londres

Une Normande a Londres

Unless one is buying mild cheddar for a child, there’s no excuse for going supermarket for cheese. You buy cheese at the supermarket? How could you? Get off my blog! You must try before you buy (it also appeals to one’s inner freebie seeker) and there’s no finer place than a market to do it. I’m no expert on cheese, but I knows what I likes. Plus, the person behind the wheel of cheese knows their shit. Ask them, try different things, chances are you’ll end up buying something which you can barely pronounce but you’ll thank me for it when you’re in the la la land of a cheese coma. The Borough Cheese Company were really helpful when I bought some of their Tomme de Savoie; initially creamy and sweet finished off with an earthy mushroom kick. How their stall supports the huge wheels of Comte I’ll never know. I also got a pretty awesome pecorino from Italian cheese specialists Gastronomica.

The Honest Carrot is another producer which intrigues me. Think vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free burgers and morsels; chickpeas, beetroot, and carrots creatively and attractively made into falafel and patties. I haven’t yet ventured to trying any, so if anyone has ever bought from The Honest Carrot then let me know what you think.

Although they weren’t at Venn Street Market when I was getting inspiration for this post yesterday, the Arancini Brothers frequently make an appearance. Fried risotto balls in a wrap. Need I say more?

The Honest Carrot

It’s a carrot, only more honest.

I don’t need to add my voice to the hype about Bahn mi 11, and I won’t because I’ve not tried them, but they had sold out of baguettes which pissed me off (I was hungry, OK?). I want one!

*Sad child’s face*

So Venn Street Market is the first contender to add its voice to the ‘save Clapham High Street from Room 101’ campaign. But who’s next? All suggestions will be seriously considered, unless you try to convince me about trying the Shalamar kebab house which plays Backstreet Boys videos on a loop.

I’ve already tried it.

Venn Street Market is open 10am-4pm every Saturday.

www.vennstreetmarket.co.uk

SW9 – My food week in pictures – Brixton Farmers’ Market

I remember when I was a child sitting up at our kitchen’s breakfast bar watching my mum curate culinary activities and prepare the dinner. Quite often there was only me and her in our house; my dad worked away from home, sometimes several months at a time, and I used to sit and keep her company while she cooked up mountains of food for me – I may have been an only child – but my appetite was equivalent to that of two other siblings. We used to chatter about our days, plan the activities for the week, or sometimes she would tell me about her jungle experiences when she lived in Brunei.

While we chatted I would give her a hand with the preparations. Even though I was young, I was given responsibility with the sharpest Kitchen Devil – chopping and peeling the vegetables – checking every now and then that the carrots were the correct  thickness. My mum liked things just so, and as her only daughter, I aimed to please. By helping out and observing her I learned how to gut fresh fish, make gravy from scratch, and test how al dente the pasta was – never has there ever been a better excuse to thrown spaghetti at the wall! I learned ridiculously simple, yet ridiculously useful tips – tips which cooks learn only through experience – at a very young age. Most importantly I learned about timing. A roast dinner is one of the simplest meals to cook, but allowing the chicken to rest, ensuring the potatoes have a crunchy exterior, making sure the gravy doesn’t burn, and not overcooking the broccoli can be one of the hardest things to coordinate.  Yet by my early teens I was a comfortable kitchen hand and cook.

Between the ages of 19 to 24 I lost my love for the kitchen and the joy of cooking fresh food. It started when I moved to London. I was studying full time, paying out of my nose to live somewhere that, really, I couldn’t afford. It’s not that I couldn’t afford to eat – I obviously did and have survived to tell the tale – but when you have a limited budget you cook up meals with no more than four ingredients. It means the cooking experience lacks joy and creativity. Meals are filling, but uninspiring. Those who try to pay an affordable amount of rent in London do so through the mechanism that is the house-share. We all shudder with the term ‘Gumtree’.  When your living space is not your own, and you share with strangers, you keep yourself to yourself.  Kitchen space is at a premium and you become increasingly accommodating to a lack of utensils, space, and others’ unusual culinary habits. Also, making soup is mightily difficult when the household only has one bowl (my house-mate and I affectionately, and somewhat originally, named it ‘the house bowl’).

But there is a light ahead of this story’s tunnel. It came in the form of The SW Food Blog. I’ve been blogging now for just over a month, and unintentionally it has given me more impetus and desire to cook that I ever have had before.  I set out to review a few restaurants and local producers, but now I’m finding myself planning dishes for a Sunday night and inviting friends over for dinner. I’ve been rekindling those tips and tricks my good old mum taught me (less of the old, she’d say), and for the best part of Sunday I was completely engrossed in the kitchen; making brownies as a teatime treat, as well as home-made fish cakes and cauliflower cheese.  Not only have I been consumed by cooking once again, I have also been consuming the cooking.

The ingredients for Sunday night’s cauliflower cheese were sourced from Brixton’s weekly Station Road Farmers Market which is open from 10am until 2pm.

Meat and vegetables at Brixton Famers' Market

Perhaps it was the sunshine, but the market seemed to be more bustling than usual. Turning the corner under the bridge off Brixton Road, the eyes were greeted with Brassicas of all hues and varieties. Cauliflowers were selling for as little as 60p, and the purple cauliflower (actually a broccoli, although different from purple sprouting broccoli) was one I couldn’t resist. Cavolo nero, other varieties of kale, and leeks, were among the glut of potatoes, onions, carrots and storeroom essentials.

Brixton famers market broccoli

Sampling the wares I settled on a mature cheddar made by Green’s of Glastonbury. Strong, creamy with a grainy texture, it was going to give my cauliflower cheese a tangy bite.

There are so many other stalls there which I have yet to try. I did however pick up Giggly Pig’s Irish sausages; I have it on authority that they were meaty and filling. They didn’t lose any volume on cooking, which says a lot about the amount of water in your average supermarket saucisson.

Colourful and intriguing was the greenery of Wild Country Organics‘ salad leaves. Tatsoi, claytonia, and their mixed salad with spinach and rocket were just some of the highlights.

Wild Country Organics at Brixton Farmers Market

Veggie lovers can delight at Brixton Farmers’ Market, but those looking for something altogether less wholesome can still tuck into the Carribean vegan cakes of Global Fusion foods, and the pastries of the Old Post Office Bakery.

I even had a go myself at counteracting all this beautiful fruit and vegetables. Decadent brownies made with Green and Black’s cocoa, and a whole bar of 70% chocolate, made my Sunday cooking and domesticity a pleasure. It’s so great to be back in the kitchen after this long overdue absence and put the love of cooking and fresh food, learned from my ma, back into practice.

70% Chocolate Brownies

SW2 – My food week in pictures – Brixton Village

Happy Sunday everyone, and I’d like to give a warm welcome to the snow, snow which is purportedly reeking havoc on the England’s transport infrastructure. A warm welcome you say, surely that would melt said snow? Exactly. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the snow; what I can’t stand is the foreboding and doom from the newscasters tragically trying to make rolling news, well, roll, on BBC News 24. The headline story is the 5cm of snow that has hit central London. With no sense of irony the next story is the minus 33 degrees which has killed countless Ukrainian homeless in Kiev. Anyway folks, I apologise for the rant, and just to prove that I do actually like the this festive weather, I’ve included a picture of Brockwell Park in the snow.

Back to important, and food-based matters now. One blogpost per week is going to be dedicated to ‘my food week’ in pictures. Obviously writing a food blog means that I have some sort of interest in food. This interest manifests itself with symptoms like compulsive restaurant attendance, a weird affliction of hanging around markets, stalking local producers, and drooling at delicatessens’ windows. Do you have this condition too? I’ve heard the only cure is calories. So anyway, one post will include a selection of photos of places I’ve eaten at, dishes I might well have cooked, and anything which is vaguely consumable which I’ve clapped eyes on.

This week I stayed in SW2 and headed to thefamiliar Brixton Village, concentrating mostly on the fresh produce on offer.

There’s also just one food experience which I’d like to share with you – and that’s the brandy snap. A lovely friend of mine was kind enough to invite me around for dinner this weekend, and to finish off the most delicious and authentic paella I’ve had to date, was this lovely brandy snap, which I ‘snapped’ for posterity.