Saturday, July 9, 2011

Things to do in London #6 - Borough Market and Neal's Yard Dairy

I have to admit The England of the 1960's and 70's, which is when I was growing, up was a bit of a food wasteland. The British people really did not seem to care about food in the same way as they did in the rest of Europe.  The bakeries used fake cream in their pastries, everything came with chips and in most pubs the best you could hope for is a bag of crisps.  It is a different place now, it seems the British have had some kind of food Renaissance.  I guess part of this is because of the ease in which they now travel around Europe as well as being part of the EEC they have easy access to food from all over Europe.  That is not to say that all the good food in England is from Europe, they seemed to have rediscovered good English food like the many amazing cheeses made all over the British Isles.

Neal's Yard
A shining example of this is Neal's Yard Dairy This company started in the late 70's over in Covent Garden and then moved to Borough Market in the late 90's which is when the real food movement seemed to really get going in England. Any way no trip to London is complete in my mind with out a trip to both Neal's Yard Dairy or Borough Market which Neal's Yard is situated on the edge of.

A selection of Cheese at Neal's yard
If you want an English cheese, and believe me who wouldn't this is the place to go.
You should smell the inside of this shop
They all sell artisan made yogurts, cream and the piece de resistance, eccles cakes.  These are pastries made with flaky buttery pastry filled with raisins.

Neal's Yard eccles cakes

If you ever get a chance you really must try them. After purchasing said eccles cakes and some "stinky bishop" cheese we headed in to the market proper.  This is an ancient market that still functions as a wholesale market by night, but transforms into a retail market by day from Thursday to Saturdays.  It is going through a bit of growing pains at the moment as it has become a major tourist attraction and there seem to be as many camera touting tourists as there are people actually shopping for food.

Borough Market
There are stalls some more permanent than others selling fruit and vegetables, meat, olives, pies, wine,baked goods, and just about anything else you would want to eat or drink.  It is a wonderful place to pick up a lunch to eat on the go, the only downside it is very difficult to find somewhere to sit.  We timed our trip to coincide with lunch time so after scouring the market to find what we wanted, Nancy and I settled for Cumberland sausage on a bun and Connie for a meat pie.

Cumberland sausage on a bun with cranberry relish
The sausage came with your choice of accompaniments which you helped yourself to, including arugula, home made tomato ketchup, home made cranberry relish and mustard.  I chose the relish and arugula, Nancy slathered hers in mustard.  I had forgotten to warn Nancy about English mustard, it is yellow and looks like the rather bland French's mustard that we are used to in North America, but actually it is extremely hot in the same way wasabi and horseradish are.  Poor Nancy she could not taste much of her sausage in fact I am sure she had trouble tasting anything for a while.

Right behind the market is Southwark (pronounced Southark) Cathedral, which we sat in the grounds of to enjoy our lunch, and since we were there we decided to wander in.  This turned out to be one of those wonderful stumbled on surprises, that can happen if you just go with the flow and do not stick to a strict schedule.  There was a school band from the states that were just about to give a performance, but before they started the clergyman gave a wonderful account of the rich history of the Cathedral. Then they started to play, the music was beautiful and the acoustics in these old cathedrals is wonderful.

This is not a great movie clip as it was taken with my little point and shoot but it gives you an idea.  We stayed and enjoyed the concert for about 1/2 an hour before moving on.

We bought a bottle of wine recommended by wine of the stall owners as a good wine to to with lamb tagine, which is what we had decided to make. And he was correct it was wonderful, I am sure that even if we could get this wine in Canada it would cost an arm and a leg.

Back to my friends house, where we made lamb tagine with butternut squash, couscous with fresh herbs and chickpeas, a salad made of thinly sliced fennel with grape tomatoes and baby buffalo mozzarella tossed in a light dressing and served over lettuce.

The salad was only thing we got a decent picture of and there was too much talking, laughing and gin and tonics to have taken any pictures of the preparation of an of this. So if you have never been to England or have not been there for a few years, believe me when I say the food their can be as good as anywhere in Europe and more varied as you will get the best of France, Italy and Spain as well as the best of British

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