Essex Road Revolution – Manifesto

1yASA07IR2yR6hir64fOrQI want to feel proud to be English.

I want us to be revered for the intelligence and thoughtfulness of all of our people, thanks to excellent education, free to everyone, designed to benefit all types of intelligence.

I long for us to be admired for our inventiveness and productivity, for our craft and creativity, for our willingness to listen and to learn.

I want England to be known throughout the world for the good health and vitality of all its people thanks to a well-funded National Health Service, “free at the point of delivery, based on clinical need, not the ability to pay”.

I crave home-grown, thought-provoking, ground-breaking, soul-nourishing literature, visual art, music, cinema and theatre. Something made by everyone. Something for everyone.

I dream of a time when our business and political leaders will be sought out to help those in need and find peaceful means to resolve conflict throughout the world.

I want “inclusive, open, welcoming and compassionate” to be the adjectives that others most associate with English people.

In my newly reborn country, I never, ever want to see a homeless person sleeping rough outside an empty, unused building.

I want a parliament with no “sides”, in which all representatives are there to serve their constituents, and to work alongside their colleagues to make the country and the world a more harmonious, equal place.

This is what I call taking my country back.

The Last Post. The Last Supper. The Last Stand. The Last Straw. The Last Resort.

8o7ciz9CT1GaMYPtOPLbbwIf you’re new to Essex Road Recipes, welcome. And goodbye.

The idea was born out of the wonderful collection of independent, specialist food stores around the corner from my flat in Islington, North London. There’s Steve Hatt for your fish, James Elliott for your meat and cheese, Raab’s the baker. And then there used to be The Market Garden for your fruit and vegetables and The New Rose pub for meeting your friends and neighbours. All quality. All with minimal plastic packaging. All staffed by people who know their stuff, who know their customers. People who have supported me through some tough times with banter, genuine concern, hugs and sharing.

This is the last Essex Road Recipes blog. You can say that you were there in March 2019 when I finally admitted that the project had failed. When my recipes on essexroadrecipes and my ranting on kayscorah collided, and I realised that my well-meaning, small scale social activism was pointless.

5 years ago, I started to improvise recipes around what looked good in these shops. 2 years ago I published a set of 50 improvised recipes.  My love of food and cooking grew and grew…

…as did my love for these people, my sense of belonging and being at home after 20 years living away. The North London banter in Raab’s, James Elliot and Steve Hatt is still guaranteed to cheer me up on the darkest of days, but I miss the Market Garden Family. I miss the New Rose Family. The owners of the land on which the Emery family ran the Market Garden for 20 years decided to terminate the lease in January. Apparently they were going to develop the site; luxury flats and 2 retail units, or so we were told when we petitioned the council to keep the shop open. Our petition failed.

Even now, 2 months after the shop closed, no planning permission has been applied for, and an estate agent’s sign is advertising the site to let as a popup retail opportunity. Meanwhile, homeless people sleep under the shelter of the abandoned shop.

The New Rose went out of business and now sits empty, boarded up with an intruder alarm constantly sounding. The group  of locals who used to hang out there, listen to one another and take care of the older ones, are scattered. In what used to be the beer garden there is a tent  where homeless people live.

What now? Now that the extremes of greed and poverty that seem to characterise my country  these days stare me in the face a few yards from my door? Now that I am politically orphaned; neither represented in parliament nor by my local council? Now that I feel powerless to effect even the smallest change? Now that I feel unseen and unheard? Should I succumb gratefully to a mind-numbing diet of reality TV and supermarket shopping? Or start a revolution?

Essex Road Recipes is no more. Watch this space for Essex Road Revolution.

Monkfish with preserved lemons.

The plan for Sunday lunch was to take advantage of my “once a week meat allowance” and make slow cooked lamb tangia with preserved lemons, roughly guided by the Casa Moro recipe. However, I realised (luckily while Steve Hatt was still open on Saturday) that a couple of my guests were pescatarian.

So, as well as 6 lamb shanks, I bought about 400g of very meaty, filleted monkfish, and decided to experiment with marinating the fish in the same preserved lemon mix as I used for the lamb, and then pan fry it. It worked out very well indeed, so here it is.

Many thanks to friend and neighbour John B for the preserved lemons. Should you want to make your own, the Casa Moro second cookbook has a recipe.

Ingredients to serve 2:

400 g filleted monkfish in 2, 200g pieces

For the marinade, finely chop:

  • 1 preserved lemon.
  • ½ an onion.
  • 1 glove garlic.
  • Handful of coriander leaf.
  • Teaspoon of cumin seed, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • Salt and pepper.

What to do, roughly speaking.

Blitz the lemon, onion, garlic, coriander leaf, crushed cumin seeds, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor.

Place the monkfish in a shallow bowl and marinate in this preserved lemon, onion, herb and spice mix for 2 hours. Turn it from time to time so that it soaks up the flavours on all sides.

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan until smoking, then turn down the heat a little, lift the fish out of the marinade and place it in the pan.

Cover the pan and fry the fish for about 3 minutes, moving it around a gently to stop it from sticking. No need to turn the fish over – let it cook through from the bottom up.

After about 3 minutes, remove the lid from the pan, spoon the marinade over the fish and then replace the lid.

Continue frying for another 5 or 6 minutes. The fish should be cooked right through, and a little crispy on the bottom. If the top still looks raw, cook it for another couple of minutes.

Spoon some of the marinade over the top to serve.

I served it with roast fennel and peppers, mashed potatoes and bobby beans.

Going….going….

Fewer than 40 sets of the Essex Road Recipe cards remain!

If you’re lucky enough to live close to the shops that inspired this project in the first place (Steve Hatt, James Elliott and the Market Garden on Essex Road, London N1) then you can buy them there. If they’re out of stock, tell them to give me a call and I’ll bring some down.

If you live too far away, then Amazon have a few boxes left. cropped-img_0082.jpg

Here are four examples from the deck of 50 recipes..

Ingredients and cooking instructions on the other side of the card, obviously!

Scan 16

 

Cold, grey days call for warm, colourful evenings…

 

 

This is similar to the recipe for Aphrodite’s Beetroot Soup in the Essex Road deck of recipe cards, but instead of using fennel seeds I used half a fennel bulb.

Ingredients:

Half a red onion and half a medium-sized white onion
Small fennel bulb (or half a large one)

1 small carrot
3 garlic cloves
2 large beetroots
1 medium potato
handful of chopped basil and handful of chopped coriander (cilantro) leaf
2 tablespoons of olive oil
about 750 ml water
salt and freshly ground black pepper.
about 50 g haloumi cheese for the topping
What to do. …roughly speaking:
Chop the onion, garlic, fennel and carrot very finely.
Wash and peel the beetroots and potato and cut into bite-sized chunks.
Chop the fresh herbs roughly
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the chopped onion, carrot and fennel for a couple of minutes.
Add the garlic, cover with a tight fitting lid and turn down the heat. Sweat these ingredients for a few minutes until they soften.
Add the beetroot and potato, stir it around for a few minutes and then add the water, salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil, then turn it down to a gentle simmer.
Cover and simmer very gently for about 40 minutes, or until you can pierce the beetroot pieces easily with a fork.
Add the fresh herbs for about 5 more minutes.
Check the taste, and add more salt and pepper if it needs it.

Remove from the heat and use a wand blender to liquidise the soup.

(I like to leave a few chunky bits for variety. If it seems too thick, add a little more water.)

Chop about 50 grams of haloumi cheese very finely and sprinkle over the soup before serving.

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Huge Headless Halloween Halibut..

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Steve Hatt fishmongers posted this hilarious picture of Jason with a giant halibut on their Facebook page this morning. So it seems like a good time to remind you of this halibut recipe so that you can pop out to Essex Road, buy all your ingredients and settle down for some yumminess.

We have a few more boxes of Essex Road Recipe cards left; you can buy them in the shops on Essex Road (Steve Hatt, James Elliott the butcher and the Market Garden), directly by messaging me here, or through Amazon.

Warning, please don’t even think about wearing white while preparing this…..

Pan fried Halibut with grated roast beetroot and fennel seeds.

2 large halibut steaks on the bone

4 medium sized raw beetroot – peeled and halved, stalks and roots removed

1 tbsp fennel seeds

salt and pepper

1 tsp sumac

1 tsp smoked paprika

Large pinch of sea salt

juice of ½ a lime

About an hour before you want to eat, mix the salt, sumac and smoked paprika with lime juice in a large shallow bowl and dip each side of the halibut steaks in this mix. Leave the halibut to marinate until you are ready to cook it.

Also at least an hour before eating, preheat your oven to 200ºC

Heat some vegetable oil (I use olive) in a roasting tray. Sprinkle the fennel seeds and some salt and pepper into the hot oil. Place the halved beets in the seasoned oil and stir them around so that they are well coated.

Roast the beets in the oven for 20+ minutes, or until you can pierce them with a sharp knife.

Remove from the oven and leave the beetroots to cool.

Once they are cool, grate or finely slice the cooked beetroot in the roasting dish or a bowl. Make sure that you keep the fennel seeds in with the grated beetroot.

(This is a messy and time-consuming business, but so worth it.)

In a large frying pan, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.

Fry the grated beetroot on a high heat for 5 minutes, stirring all the time, then add the halibut steaks on top of the fried, grated beetroot and cook the fish, still on a high heat, for 3 minutes on each side

Turn down the heat a little, cover the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Squeeze a little lime juice over the fish before dividing each steak in 2 and serving on a bed of beetroot.

Back to where it all began.

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As I stroll past the display of pumpkins in the Market Garden, I am reminded that the very first recipe in the Essex Road Recipe deck is a Halloween stoup (see below).  Thinking back to when and why I started this project, I’m grateful to the people in my local shops who brighten my days, give me new recipe ideas, help me keep packaging to a minimum and make my food shopping so much fun. 

 

But I’m feeling anger and frustration, too. The Market Garden site is going to be developed into luxury flats, and the family who have run the business for more than 20 years have to leave in January, even though the developer hasn’t even submitted a planning application yet. So in place of a lively greengrocer’s shop with minimal packaging and excellent banter, we’ll have an empty, derelict site for at least 2 years.  In spite of a petition signed by thousands, and repeatedly contacting our local councillors, no-one seems to have any idea of how to stop this.

Our lovely independent local pub, the New Rose, is now empty and dark; forced into liquidation by creditors a few weeks ago. One less place for Rob, who has difficulty walking more than a few yards, to hang out. One less place for my diverse collection of neighbours to gather spontaneously and laugh and cry over life, Arsenal and everything…

The irony of my having to get 20 boxes of Essex Road Recipe cards returned to me from Amazon (not an easy task as any of you Amazon sellers out there will be aware!) because the local stores that inspired them have sold out, has not escaped me. If you’re in James Elliott Butchers, Steve Hatt Fishmonger or the Market Garden you’ll be able to buy one of the few remaining decks. But if you’re thinking of getting yours in the Market Garden while you shop for your stoup ingredients, better make it soon. Meanwhile, here’s your Halloween Stoup recipe:

Ingredients:

200 g red lentils

The flesh of 1 small, innocent pumpkin that never did anyone any harm, chopped into small pieces.

1 eating apple, chopped into small pieces. Leave the skin on. (Throw the core away, or give it to a crow. Crows are my favourite birds.)

A piece of root ginger about the size of a small frog’s leg – peeled and thinly sliced

Teaspoon of turmeric

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small red chilli chopped up small

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon salt

a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaf

What to do:

Place lentils in a large saucepan in twice their own volume of water with the ginger, turmeric and a splash of oil. Bring to the boil and simmer until they are almost cooked – about 40 minutes.

Smash up the chilli, cumin and coriander in a pestle and mortar (or put them in a Ziploc bag and bash them with a hammer – on a sturdy surface of course!). Fry the spices in some of the oil and then add the pumpkin to the frying pan. Keep the pumpkin pieces moving around until they are coated in the spice mix and beginning to soften and brown at the edges. Then toss in the apple for a couple of minutes.

Add the spiced up pumpkin and apple to the lentils. Add a little more water if the lentils are almost dry. Put the lid on tight and simmer for about 15 minutes – until the lentils are properly cooked and the pumpkin and apple soft.

Serve as a stew with basmati rice or, if it’s a little thinner, as a soup with some chia seed bread.