Daily grind

Shoreditch Grind

When it comes to coffee, being in East London, means we are quite blessed with a heck of a lot of brilliant antipodean-run joints and greasy cafs to choose from. Shoreditch Grind is possibly the best cafe in spitting distance to my house. Pull up a stool at the floor to ceiling windows, order a flat white, and watch the world go by. A pillowy, untoasted cheese and tomato croissant doesn’t go amiss either. They are one of the few places nearby, too, that dish up custardy pastel de natas – Portuguese egg tart pastries.

Shoreditch Grind
213 Old St, London EC1V 9NR, UK

Wild foods: Blackberry pickle

Hackney wilds

I am a hunter-gatherer at heart. I love looking back on my wild, tangled childhood, when I spent hours combing the beach for seaweed, following my grandmother out to her whitebait spot, or following my Mum on a wild mushroom and freesia hunt. There’s something to be said for making something beautiful and tasty for free. However, I don’t really know that much about British flora and fauna. So when I spotted the opportunity to learn about foraging at the Tower Hamlets Cemetry Park, I leapt at the chance.

A group of seven of us learned about everything from Fat Hen, a spinach-like weed often found on cultivated land, to wild fennel, juniper berries – which take two years to ripen! There was also an opportunity to check out the very poisonous deadly nightshade in the flesh, and I was also ‘lucky’ enough to experience my very first nettle sting. No one in the group could believe I’d never met a nettle before!

Blackberries

One of the highlights of the day for me was the chance to indulge in a British classic, blackberry picking. Blackberries can be found in hedgerows (and surprisingly, urban Hoxton) from July to October. We got stuck into picking from a large thorny patch on the edge of a park, right by the railway. It’s a good idea to actually taste as you pick, as the flavour profile of berries can vary from plant to plant. It took a while to nip and pluck all the berries, leaving my arms looking  they’d been attacked by an army of kittens, but we enjoyed a decent haul. Terry also told us that you can buy thorn-less plants now – definitely an idea for the garden!

Box of berries

There you have it, 1.5kg of wild blackberries, ready to be turned into a tasty blackberry pickle, which we made back at HQ. Terry says he chose this recipe as it’s unusual to see a savoury take on a famous preserve:

PICKLED BLACKBERRIES
{
From Rosamond Richardson’s book Hedgerow Cookery (pictured below)}

Ingredients

  • 500g sugar
  • 300ml vinegar
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 1tsp cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1kg blackberries

Method

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over a gentle heat. Put the spices in a muslin bag, and put them in to simmer for several minutes. Add the blackberries and cook for between 10 and 15 minutes. Remove the spices, pack the blackberries into hot jars, and then boil the vinegar down until it turns syrupy. Cover the blackberries with the vinegar, and seal the jars.

These pickled blackberries are delicious with bread or served with crackers and a nice and squidgy cheese like brie (it works best with creamy flavours).

Hedgerow cookery

Empty jars

Broadway Market Bingo

Yesterday, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Jo and I had brunch at the Market Cafe on Broadway Market. The weekly market was in full swing, and we had a great view of people merrily making their way up from the canal. While sipping on grapefruit mimosas, we started playing a game of bingo… So I decided to whip up a little card for next time.

Broadway Market E8 Bingo

If you get BINGO, treat yourself to a taco from Off Broadway, and a high-five from a drunk at the Cat & Mutton. Look, you even get a free square to start!

21st Century City

Photos from last night: wandering on a Monday evening to buy a saucepan from Bangla Town (an awesome cash-n-carry on Brick Lane), and to eat some sweets. I don’t know the name, but my favourite is a dense squiggle of fried dough, soaked in a sugary syrup. Oh, and guess who finally upgraded from a Nokia brick?

2CV ooh la la.

Truman Breweries.

East London

A familiar face!

A familiar face – Tame Iti. (See my photo of a similar stencil in 2008!)

 

The neighbourhood

The last week in three words was busy, nerdy and cold.  It even snowed again on Thursday evening. So I haven’t left the house too much, except to cycle to work. Here are some photos from the times I did venture outside the house:

foxy

Shoreditch Grind

Arnold Circus

Savoy cabbage

Virginia

bottle

milkbar

Alexandra Trust

A) A fox on Brick Lane. Thom sees lots of foxes wandering the streets late at night on his way home from work, but I have to make do…
B) Shoreditch Grind. We go here a lot for coffee every weekend. The interior is very raw – I love the factory look.
C) Arnold Circus, with a smattering of snow still on the pavilion’s roof.
B) Savoy cabbage braised with garlic butter is delicious! My new role involves a lot of writing for two food brands (perfect, right?) so I am learning a lot about new-to-me vegetables and techniques.
D) Virgina – a school’s ironwork gate in the middle of Shoreditch.
E) Yinka Shonibare’s HMS Victory at Trafalgar Square. If you look closely you’ll see the sails are made of African patterned textiles!
F) Lovely typography at Milkbar in Soho.
G) The Alexandra Trust Dining Rooms. A beautiful building near my house… I wonder what it is used for now?