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Bread Hero, The Better Health Bakery #realbread

18 Jul

The Better Health Bakery

Community Workshop at The Better Health Bakery
(Photo credit cc the Real Bread Campaign)

 Bex Clarke opens the door of east London Campaign member The Better Health Bakery, at which she volunteers.

Tucked away behind Kingsland Road, just around the corner from Haggerston station in Hackney, is the Better Health Bakery. Taking up most of the ground floor of an unassuming industrial building, the bakery has now been going for about six months, with a focus on traditional handmade artisan bread made using all organic ingredients and a sourdough levain. Many of the loaves are left to prove slowly in the fridge overnight for around fourteen hours, and then baked early in the morning.

Dough to be different

What sets this bakery apart is that it is run by the Centre for Better Health, a charity that has been working in Hackney and its surrounding boroughs for over fifty years. The charity provides support for adults who have suffered from mental distress, helping them find or regain their place in the local community. Over the last three years, it has put its energy and expertise into three key services: low-cost counselling; a training and employment social enterprise; and a community hub offering courses and workshops that range from literacy to yoga.

Social enterprise

In 2010 the Centre began to explore using the social enterprise model to enable people living with various mental health issues to gain on the job training. This involves giving trainees opportunities to learn new skills, build confidence and engage in team working, helping them move closer to employment. Ashwin Matthews, the Centre’s director, said ‘We wanted to shift away from simply running a sheltered employment workshop to a model that built individuals’ confidence, employability skills and provided a genuine path to further training or employment. We were also keen to develop a real business that had the potential to sustain itself financially.’

The first such project set up by the Centre involves trainees making products for the healthcare industry, offering them the chance to learn the whole manufacturing process. While looking for a secondary enterprise to build on this, Ashwin found the inspiration locally. He explains, ‘I saw Ben from E5 Bakehouse cycling around one day and just stopped him at the side of the road. The making of Real Bread was something that seemed to tick all the boxes, both as a project to support recovery and as a commercial activity. The skills and therapeutic process of making long fermented, quality bread, as well as the satisfaction in selling that bread to people in the local community, captured our imagination. It’s from that conversation that we are where we are today.’

The Swedish Chef

A key member of the team is head baker, Robert Agren, who hails from Sweden. Formerly a chef and originally coming to the UK to study graphic design in central London, he was soon tempted back into the kitchen. It was while working his way up through the kitchen ranks to become a chef that he discovered the wonders of Real Bread baking from a fellow chef who knew how to work with wet doughs to produce satisfying sourdoughs and ciabattas.* When not at work, he carried on experimenting with sourdough at home, supplying a local supper club. He also started volunteering two days a week at the aforementioned E5 Bakehouse, which eventually led to a job there.

Robert’s plan had been to set up some kind of bakery himself in east London but when he heard about the Better Health Bakery project, he approached the Centre to offer to set it up and lead the bakery team. ‘I have always been interested in community projects and the idea of sharing knowledge with others, so this was an opportunity for me to explore this further. It is great to see what the art of bread making can do for society,’ he said.

100% Rye Sourdough (Photo credit cc the Real Bread Campaign)

100% Rye Sourdough
(Photo credit cc the Real Bread Campaign)

Yeast tenders

At the moment around three trainees can be found in the bakery on any given day, each on a placement of one to four days a week for three to six months. On top of baking skills, they benefit from ongoing training in health and safety, first aid, numeracy, literacy and IT skills, all designed to help open up routes for them into employment, catering or further training. More than this, making Real Bread from scratch is a labour intensive and therapeutic process. It’s a true craft and skill that the trainees can get involved in. Seeing wild yeast, flour, salt and water turn into a physical loaf is rewarding, a little magical and it gives people a sense of achievement.

To monitor trainees’ progress and ensure each receives support tailored to his or her own needs, the charity uses a tool called Work Star. This is incorporated into a framework for one-to-one sessions, where trainees can assess their own journeys and progress from the start of the placement. It provides the basis for each trainee to identify key areas he or she would like to work towards and set goals in relation to these. Work Star focuses on seven core areas, which range from job-specific skills to stability. The self-assessment dynamic of Work Star is crucial so that the trainees can see their own progression, build confidence, self-belief and ambition.

Getting better all the time

The Better Health Bakery’s Real Bread is proving popular, particularly the Country Sourdough, Country Rye Sourdough, and the baguettes made with a mix of sourdough levain and a yeasted poolish. Loaves are already available from Stoke Newington farmers’ market, supermarket antidote Unpackaged, and a range of local cafés, pubs and restaurants.

The Centre has a very holistic approach at its heart, looking at mental health from a social perspective. In May this year the bakery opened its doors so local people can now drop by for their daily loaf, coffee or sourdough sarnie. As Ashwin says, ‘Hackney has so much happening right now, but often the people we work with are not part of that buzz. Being able to open our doors and invite our neighbours into the bakery offers our trainees a chance to be included in it.’

Though relatively new, already some of the trainees are really keen to learn more about baking pastries and cakes, with which the bakery is currently experimenting. There is also talk of having a weekly pizza day, where they can learn how to make pizza and enjoy a shared lunch. Now the bakery is open to the public, it will give the trainees more opportunity to learn skills in a range of roles such as customer service, food preparation and barista training.

As Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, ‘there is not a thing that is more positive than bread.’  @BakeryHealth

* I’m not going to get into a debate as to whether the plural of ciabatta should in fact be ciabatte…though you’re welcome to do so in The Real Baker-e [ed.]

**This article originally appeared in the Real Bread Campaign members’ magazine True Loaf. Find out more and join at**


Shoots of Anticipation

1 Mar

Salad drawer

Salad drawer

It’s the first day of March, the official month when Spring starts to break through the grey and green shoots push their way up through the ground looking for light and opportunities to spread their seeds.

Growers are ablaze with excited chatter about which seeds to try out this growing season. A friend of mine who has been growing in London for years recommended The Real Seed Catalogue, based in Wales. They only sell open-pollinated seeds (non-hybrid) in a range of rare heirlooms and modern strains bred for flavor, not for the needs of supermarkets.

You automatically become a member of their seed club through requesting seeds. This is due to EU legislation, which in practical terms means that in the EU there is now an official list of vegetable varieties, so varieties not on the list cannot be sold to the public. Through the membership you are no longer seen as a member of the public, and get the change to grow amazing seeds with many a story to their name, and play a part in protecting seed diversity.

Seeds come with much anticipation, nurturing that potential through the right conditions for germination to the first seed leaves and then the emergence of true leaves, you know the plant is really determined to grow. This is the first bit of magic which largely happens under the soil’s surface. Now new life is here, we need to make the most of it by working within natural cycles to make the most out of its potential.

I’ve been a bit keen this year and ordered my seeds at the start of February. I’m growing in containers as I live in a converted school, so the playground is my edible challenge. We’ve upcycled an old drawer and a hardboard container from a skip by drilling some holes in the bottom for drainage, linning it with plastic and given it a lick of paint, perfect for an urban kitchen garden. They are all right by a sunny south-facing wall, so the tomatoes should be in their element.

The drawer is perfect for cut and come again salad leaves so I’ve gone for some Shungiku, a favorite of the Japanese and very peppery. I’m hoping some of my companion plants from last year reseed or I may buy some small plants to replace them in early May.

I’m trying out some more vine tomatoes as they flourished last year, although they were a bit tightly packed and did require lots of watering. This season the variety is an early cropping vine, Stupice, from 1954 Eastern Europe, a little larger than the average cherry tomato and known for its heavy cropping and rich flavour. They will be undersown with some mixed Nasturtiums to add some diversity, food for pollinating insects and ingredients for salads or butters.

Smells of summer

Smells of summer

I’m also really excited to be trying out some mouse melons, which are a tiny type of lemony cucumber. A natural climber known for its heavy cropping and stunning little fruits. Perfect for summer salads and pickling!

Containers are made for climbers so continuing with that theme I couldn’t resist trying some green pole beans, the Cherokee Trail of Tears, originally from the native North American Cherokee people. As they were driven from their land in 1838 by the US government in a forced march to make room for European settlers, they carried the bean with them and it has been passed on ever since. One of the most famous seeds of solidarity.

Which interesting varieties are you trying out this year and where do they originate from?

Urban Foraging in Stokey

24 Oct

Ingredients for Hedgerow jelly

Meeting outside Abney Park Cemetery on Stoke Newington High Street we were greeted with flasks of fresh coffee and some delicate mulberry and London honey muffins to start a morning tour of true urban foraging.

Expert wild food forager, Nick Saltmarsh guided us into Abney Park Cemetery opening our city eyes to the edibles below our feet in the cracks of the pavements and next to the rubbish bin – pineapple weeds, nettles, tomatoes and dandelions. Nick reminded us that our urban landscape is fascinating, and a surprisingly richer environment that the countryside, perfect for delicious foraging.

Inside the cemetery were the true delights – juicy sloe berries, tiny raspberries, hogweed, hawthorn berries and leaves, elderberries, elderflowers, rose hips, blackberries, dewberries, mulberries, dock leaves, hedge garlic, pine needles and the ‘juicy ear’ fungi which are usually found on the branches of elder trees, and yes they really do look like tiny ears!

The first essential for any keen forager is a book of poisonous plants and fungi, so you can be one hundred percent sure of what you are eating. In other words, the golden rule is to achieve a positive identity before any picking or eating takes place. And just in case you weren’t sure, under the 1968 theft act, foraging for personal consumption in a public area is not theft.

The location, Abney Park Cemetery, is rich with history, originally a park around a grand house, turned into a non-conformist Victorian cemetery, taken over by a trust that planted an alphabetical arboretum, now managed by Hackney Council. It’s considered the largest woodland ecosystem in London and straddles two distinct types of landscapes, Oak woodland and heathland.

We then wandered along Church Street to Clissold Park taking in the diverse mix of fruit and nut trees – cherry plum, peach, pear, fig, hazelnut almonds and walnut, the most common in urban areas. In Clissold Park we stood in delight under a magnificent fruiting mulberry tree, which had black juicy berries just out of hands reach!

It was nearing lunchtime, so we jumped in a couple of taxis to cookery teacher cum culinary anthropologist Anna Colquhoun’s house in Highbury to find out how we could make the most of our urban edible landscape in the kitchen.

Fortunately, Nick had been foraging earlier in the week and Anna’s kitchen was stuffed with wild fungi, hedgerow berries, mulberries and wild greens. First up were some triangular wild weed filo pies, which had been made earlier in true Blue Peter style. Anna then introduced us to the wild mushroom speltotto with Nasturtium butter, which would be our lunch. We all chopped and stirred as Nick filled us in on more wild fungi facts.

Wild mushroom spelt risotto

Lunch ended with chestnut flour crepes with wild berries and ricotta cream. We also tried out some of Anna’s homemade liquors (made with bay, sloe berries and walnuts) on our way out which had a real punch!

A large festive dark red pan had been bubbling away with a mix of edible hedgerow berries and some apples – on the way to being a hedgerow jelly. This was to be our take away gift, perfect with hard cheeses and cold meats.

I think we’ll all be looking around London in a more inquisitive way now we’ve had a taste of the abundance under our feet, above our heads and at arm’s length. Together with a good field guide and a book of poisonous plants and fungi, London really is delicious for foraging.

Roger Phillips illustrated guides come highly recommended for all things wild food.

This was originally posted on the Jellied Eel with some edits.

**This adventure was hosted by Food Safari**

A Moorish Aroused Feast of Waste

12 Mar

Since reading about the scale of the food waste scandal in Europe a good few years ago I’ve had the pleasure of working with Tristram Stuart on the mighty Feeding the 5k campaign which seeks to illustrate and change the current broken food system focusing on the major issues around food production within the industry and our homes.

In the UK alone we waste a staggering twenty million tonnes of food each year which ends up in landfills and being ploughed back into the land.

On Friday evening chef come food waste activist Tom Hunt with the help of his great team, Tom’s Feast put together a feast of Moorish inspired nosh at The Russet in Hackney Downs Studios, a creative space and café for the local community. The owner Steve Wilson is behind the People’s Kitchen, a food waste and community cooking project at Passing Clouds in Dalston which runs most Sundays.

(Rebecca Clarke)

We arrived to a very welcoming space with five wooden dinner tables lit with candle light and freshly cut daffodils. Pieces of fruit were handed out to us vegetarians and pescatarians.

The canapés stared to roll thick and fast, beetroot hummus with an elegant sprig of dill, potted hare with chili & cacao, smoked salmon & ricotta and cod’s cheek croquettes served with a dill aioli (I think). The highlights being the potted hare and the sweet cod’s cheek croquettes.

(Rebecca Clarke)

We were then seated with an eclectic range of others all happy to feast together on seasonal, organic produce that had been either rejected due to cosmetic reasons, basically not being ‘pretty’ enough or too ‘rude’ and surplus food donated through a range of supplies such as Abel & Cole, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.

Next came the warming Harira soup with E5 sourdough. We were then asked to take a deep breath and make as much space as possible for the main course of salt boiled lamb’s head and tongue which I was expecting to be an almost biblical affair. This was served not as an actual ‘head’ on large wooden chopping boards with roasted fennel, baba ganoush, cumin spiked hummus, lentils with salsa verde, mouth cleansing waver thin kolrabi and enough celeriac boulangere to capsize a small fishing boat. Falafels with tangey harissa were served for the non meat eaters.

After more chatter and booze the dessert arrived, orange jelly with thick rhubarb ice cream on ginger biscotti. Sadly my pictures don’t do this immense feast justice due to the subtle lighting!

Sharing and celebrating food brings us all together which is a great start, but what’s next?

If you are not familiar with FoodCycle and FareShare you should have a read of all the work they have been doing. These two fantastic charities are actively redistributing surplus food within disadvantaged parts of the community with a crew of determined volunteers.

You can also discover more about the work Tom’s Feast does in the UK and sign the pledge to reduce your household food waste and encourage businesses to do the same. It’s a great opportunity to reduce your environmental impact and ease the pressure on global food supplies.

My Sweet London Highlights of #SMWLDN 2012

23 Feb

  1. Share

    Thu, Feb 16 2012 06:11:52
  2. This year’s London Hub, The Design Council sponsored by Google

  3. Share
    Chinwag’s first @smwldn event kicks off at 1pm! ‘Mind the Gap: Avoid a Social Media Skills Crisis’ #SMWmindthegap
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 05:07:13
  4. Share
    A lot of truth in finding corporates don’t fully understand these online media positions they are hiring for #SMWmindthegap #smwldn
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 09:31:28
  5. Share
    Interesting stuff at the #SMWmindthegap event re Social Media skills gap. Collaboration to create practical learning is the key. #smwldn
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 10:48:58
  6. Twitter, the Butterfly effect and the future of Journalism in a warehouse in Farringdon
  7. Share
    Only 7% of people are on Twitter. #smwldn #mashupevent #socialmedia
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 15:15:16
  8. Share

    Tue, Feb 14 2012 11:43:57
  9. Share
    Try and read the signal, not the noise @killdozer #smwldn #mashupevent
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 15:08:43
  10. Share
    Over 50% of top 150 news items shared are from traditional news media sources #smwldn #mashupevent
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 14:26:55
  11. Share
    Danger = we think we can tell stories well from our desks – but we can’t @paullewis #smwldn #mashupevent
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 15:01:44
  12. Share
    News orgs create 100k URLs a month but only 10k shared by political influencers @killdozer at #mashupevent #smwldn
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 14:14:40
  13. Share
    Great night at #mashupevent #smwldn future of news event with @annadoble @stevewillbe @titia_k @paullewis @emmajell @simongrice
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 18:47:03
  14. Party time in the Big Smoke!

  15. Share
    Anyone else heading down to #smwldn launch party tonight? We’re ready to get our tweet on! #nokiaconnects
    Mon, Feb 13 2012 15:17:32
  16. Share
    Social Media Week 2012 – BBC, Rory Cellan-Jones
    Fri, Feb 17 2012 21:22:12
  17. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:20
  18. Day 2, Happy Valentine’s Day
  19. Share
    We are holding a special valentines session today at @smwldn – Sex, Love and Social Media #SMWsexlove
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 06:26:38
  20. Share
    #smwsexlove – SEO your social profile to enhance your date-ability! Classic! #smwldn
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 08:53:29
  21. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:00
  22. Share
    33% of people have broken up with their partner via text message, email or facebook #smwldn #smwsexlove #fishburnhedges /via @edwards_jen
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 08:50:26
  23. Share
    Apparent 65% of young ppl use FB to look at profiles of ppl they don’t know… This is why I set my privacy settings to max! #smwsexlove
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 08:32:22
  24. Share
    If you can’t be at #SMWsexlove watch the live stream, it’s hilarious!!!!
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 08:27:37
  25. Global Keynote with Mark Stephens CBE & Kathryn Corrick
  26. Share
    Q’s for @markslarks on Freedom of Speech, Censorship, Twitter, Privacy tweet us or use #smwfreetweet, we’re all ears, well eyes.
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 10:17:53
  27. Share
    Don’t spend £70-120k on a super-injunction. Spend £50k on a good PR person #SMWfreetweet
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 10:29:44
  28. Share
    Freedom Of Tweet Censorship: Governments Marketing & The Law
    Wed, Feb 15 2012 11:27:06
  29. Share
    Lovely tip “if you want a super injunction, get it at Xmas, no-one’s checking’ /via @markslarks #smwfreetweet #smwldn
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 10:26:57
  30. Share
    You no longer require expensive equipment – anyone can become a publisher. Your success is dependent on what you write #smwfreetweet #smwldn
    Tue, Feb 14 2012 10:38:54
  31. Day 3, The First Ever Unruly Social Video Film Festival
  32. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:34:45
  33. Share
    30% of all online searches are video searches! #svff #smwldn @unrulymedia
    Wed, Feb 15 2012 15:12:48
  34. Share
    Future Hipsters
    Wed, Feb 08 2012 00:04:43
  35. Time for some food & photography from Great British Chefs
  36. Share
    Another fab blog post from @gbchefs #SMWFoodPhotography #smwldn by @tikichris @tomaikens @davidgriffen @tomskitchens
    Fri, Feb 17 2012 02:06:16
  37. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:36
  38. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:00
  39. Day, 4! The biggest day of the week with The Future of Sharing, Google , The BEEB & The Olympics, The Psychology of Online Influence and more, ohh and the closing party.
  40. Share
    61% of social media users are annoyed with ‘frictionless sharing’ #smwsharing
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 04:49:38
  41. Share
    Mobile users share 2.5 more times than desktop users. #smwsharing
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 05:15:01
  42. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:20
  43. Share
    Mark Jones, Reuters: “Frictionless sharing has to have an ’embarrassment button'” – it needs to be undoable if required #smwsharing
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 04:57:48
  44. Share
    Social/digital literacy to understand transparency and privacy is responsibility of State? No, transparency is an ethical issue. #SMWsharing
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 05:40:42
  45. Share
    Trevor Johnson of FB on privacy concerns when printing press, telephone invented. Says people will understand and accept #smwsharing
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 05:38:22
  46. Share
    @claire_coady Indeed, very male panel. Would have appreciated a woman’s perspective #smwsharing
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 05:47:29
  47. Google kick off with Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, Oxford University and a shop full of sweets.
  48. Share
    Robin Dunbar = total legend. #smwldn #SMWgoogle
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 10:03:27
  49. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:34:18
  50. Share
    Male Facebook users with 500 friends have mutual communication with just about 10 of them according to Fbook data! #SMWGoogle
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 09:52:19
  51. Share
    Social is a core human behaviour, not a destination #smwldn #smwgoogle
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 10:27:05
  52. Share
    24% of shoppers will get on their smartphone and check customer reviews before buying #SMWLDN #smwGoogle /via @kerryjeanlister
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 10:31:10
  53. Share
    #smwldn #smwgoogle The woman from Google who demonstrated Google Hangouts deservces a promotion – she’s just convinced the whole room
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 11:04:28
  54. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:54
  55. Share
    Woo! #smwgoogle is trending! Thanks for coming and joining the conversation on Twitter, all.
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 12:53:09
  56. The Psychology of Online Influence
  57. Share
    Im at the psychology of online influence session for Social Media Week #smwpsychology
    Sun, Feb 19 2012 06:04:33
  58. Share
    RT @publiczone: People trust information received on fb at 16%, on twitter 23%, on linkedin 66% #smwpsychology @TheWebPsych
    Fri, Feb 17 2012 19:30:19
  59. Share
    70% trust the reviews of strangers, 90% from those you know #wom #smwldn #smwpsychology
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 09:16:57
  60. Share
    Your personality predicts how happy you are at about 30% – David Stillwell #smwpsychology
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 08:56:29
  61. Share
    Interesting point about curiosity. We’re 10x more likely to share something on fb from someone on the periphery of our group #smwpsychology
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 09:19:38
  62. Share

    Thu, Feb 16 2012 05:40:23
  63. Share
    Psychology, aesthetics and the power of the mind online #SMWpsychology #smwldn live stream < lots to learn
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 08:29:34
  64. Share
    #smwldn #smwpsychology is now trending in London!
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 09:04:38
  65. Share

    Fri, Feb 17 2012 11:26:09
  66. Taxi, it’s party time again!
  67. Share
    So, who’s going to the #smwldn closing party this evening?
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 12:14:02
  68. Share
    Social Media Week London #smwldn closing party starts … With bubbles.
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 14:06:47
  69. Share
    I’m having a great time! Packed out party, such a pleasure to be here #smwldnclosing #smwldn
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 15:46:37
  70. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:20
  71. Share

    RT @ThatGirl_Chloe: So proud of my @NewspepperHQ crew! #smwldn closing party
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 18:57:11
  72. Share
    Enjoyed catching up with @BexLondonTown @LaurenAlyceMac @paulj85 @JoshSolana & It was great meeting @cloundninerec #SMWLDN Closing Party
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 20:16:49
  73. Day 5, Friday! I was out of action, so here are some pieces of coverage which really made me smile.
  74. Share
    AMAZING that #SMWDNA has raised over £5000 this morning for Mind & Cry charities. Great skills #smwldn
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 09:06:31
  75. Share
    Which city made the most noise during Social Media Week 2012? London! Collaboration is key via @Brandwatch #smwldn
    Mon, Feb 20 2012 06:47:38
  76. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:34:18
  77. Share
    RT @Toodlepip Man on a mission: Sam Michel of @Chinwag /by @LondonlovesBiz < thx @gabbygriffith, made me blush #SMWLDN
    Thu, Feb 16 2012 05:43:47
  78. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:34:46
  79. Share
    RT @smwldn: Already over 210 votes! Still have til Friday to take part in the Social Media Week Awards 2012 #smwldn #smwawards
    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:23:44
  80. Share

    Thu, Feb 16 2012 06:44:35
  81. Share
    Storming end to #smwldn with a cracking #smwsocialbiz session. #smwhugs to all involved for making my Friday. #geekgasm @SMWLDN
    Fri, Feb 17 2012 07:55:54
  82. Share

    Wed, Feb 22 2012 14:35:36

My very first Supper Club

9 Dec

After salivating over the array of supper clubs in East London for the last two years on my best friend Twitter, I finally chose one ten minutes walk from our flat, Leluu & Blyde.

It really excited me the mix of Vietnamese and classic British flavours from the partnership of Uyen Luu, who has been hosting her very own Vietnamese inspired supper clubs for two years and food journalist, sommelier and now chef, Douglas Blyde. Douglas and I shared a few amusing emails as we’d requested no red meat and he came back with a bone marrow salad as a alternative to steak tartare which made me giggle. We ended up with some succulent veggie gyozas which did the trick!

Last night we turned up to a very welcoming flat with three tables all set delicately with vintage china and a large ice bucket for our booze. It was BYO, as all supper clubs should be. We mingled with the other first timers and all shared our love of food, many working full time in the food industry. We were then seated ready for our eleven whole courses to begin.

First up was a very homemade strained vine tomato Bloody Mary with basil which was refreshing and subtle, not like a Bloody Mary. Next up was an oyster filled with seaweed, sesame and stinging nettle jelly.

Plates of immaculate morsels just kept coming and were beautifully described when served. My highlights were the delicate not so Bloody Mary, the pea soup with white truffle croutons and the quail bathed in rose water on a festive nest of roasted parsnips and pink pomegranate seeds.

Enjoy the pictures below, although they were taken on my rather crappy blackberry. The full menu is here for you to admire. Most of the ingredients are sourced locally and from sustainable supply chains. The donation to the cooks and hosts is £35+ per person. Don’t hold back, it’s time to book that supper club.

(Rebecca Clarke)

(Rebecca Clarke)

(Rebecca Clarke)

(Rebecca Clarke)

(Rebecca Clarke)

My four local loves on Hackney Shore

2 Dec

A quick post on my four favourite local shops which all have healthy, local living and access to sustainable food at their core.

Fin & Flounder

First up is Fin & Flounder the friendly fishmonger at the London Field’s end of Broadway Market which has a great selection of sparkling wet fish and seafood which all comes from sustainable sources. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some tasty Squid, stewed Portuguese style with onions, garlic, chili, tomatoes, parsley and white white and a thick slab of Ling and some sweet Monkfish cheeks, cooked with a fresh Thai green curry paste and lashings of coconut milk. The head of the fish is always the most delicious part of the animal, the cheeks being the gold. They even Tweet! 

(Rebecca Clarke)

Healthy Stuff

On Dalston Lane, this newish health food shop with a small cafe has great juices, smoothies, coffees, cakes and sandwiches served on E5 Hackney Wild Sourdough is a quiet place to hang out with your laptop. Set up by a local couple who now have a young baby, one a trained nutritionist and the other a passionate foodie, they stock a range of Organic fruit and veg and various other staples and you can also refill your Ecover bottles.

FARM: Shop

This urban farm come cafe, workspace and unique event space has been around for a year, opposite Dalston Curve Garden. It was originally devised by Something & Son – ‘How much food can we grow in a shop?’ and is now a fully functioning sustainable business with fish, chickens on the roof and loadsa salad which is used in the cafe. They also have a polytunnel at the back which is great for events or to enjoy a fresh urban snack in the heart of Dalston. If you are interested in creating your own FARM: Shop email these guys here. I have just started working with these guys, the whole shop is run by a range of volunteers! Pop in and get involved. They have just joined Tumblr, enjoy.

(pony cube, Tumblr)

Happy Kitchen

They started off as a vegan bakery, and now sell their products throughout the UK. Their cafe is just by London Fields overground station under the arches which gives it a holiday feel. Happy Kitchen specialise in sweet vegan goodies which use no sugar, just wonderful fruit and a range of savory lunchtime salads and one pot wonders. They also sell loose pulses and have a range of food centered events/classes under the arches. They also have a stall on Broadway Market on Saturday if your feeling like a festive brownie. See what they’re up too. Hopefully the full website will go live soon.

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