Inside the A&C Deli, Brixton

Save Our Shops

Inside the A&C Deli, BrixtonThey say a workman is only as good as his tools and while I think natural talent and practise play a part too, there’s a lot of truth in that statement. And for people who cook, their tools are the ingredients they use. Great food doesn’t always need specialist equipment but it does need something to create it with, preferably better quality ingredients.

We’ve all tried to cook a meal and been thwarted by our ingredients: the bacon that spewed out white water and refused to crisp at all, the tomatoes that were woolly and flavourless, the pulses that simply wouldn’t soften. Often it’s less about the price of the products and more about where they come from. Those tomatoes might have been Finest or Taste the Difference and still been nothing more than red water while the bag of cheap chickpeas from the corner shop might have been been more velvety than the branded ones.

Learning how and where to shop for your food is as important a part of learning to cook as how to prepare the ingredients once you get them home, but is an element that rarely gets talked about beyond a certain amount of showing off these days. I had a Ladybird book as a child that probably seems incredibly quaint now with a mummy and housewife popping to her greengrocer, butcher, baker and probably candlestick maker. But it acknowledged the link between where the food is farmed and where it is cooked. Good shops matter. Read more

boxty 2

Brixton Boxty

boxty 2I have to admit that boxty wasn’t something I ate as a child. Popular in Monaghan and Leitrim, it’s a type of potato pancake made from grated potato, but it was so alien to me as kid, I basically thought it was made up until I was older. I first saw it as a real thing in my beloved potato bible The Humble Spud and I’ve been meaning to make it for years, but I disappeared down the tangent of rosti instead and forgot to back up until recently.

Half of you are probably lost by now. Isn’t a potato pancake just a potato pancake I hear you cry? Well, no, rosti are made with semi cooked grated potato with a high starch content, mixed with onion and fried on each side in butter and is eaten as a savoury side dish. Boxty uses raw grated potato before being fried and can be sweet or savoury. Potato farls are made with mashed potato before being cooked on a griddle and then often fried until golden. And I’ve never yet made a latke, but I’ll bring you breaking news about them when I do…

Some recipes for boxty use mashed potato in with the grated spuds but I thought I’d some pureed fresh corn instead since I have tonnes left over from a recent Brixton Bugle recipe. Combining corn and potato gives a autumnal feel and a taste of Brixton which I thought I’d enhance by adding some chopped Scotch Bonnets, fresh coriander and lime. I then served it with some grilled tomatoes for a really good brunch. Read more


Recipes from Brixton Village book launch

_NTI8538I’ve been a bit quiet recently because Recipes from Brixton Village launched last Thursday May 22nd and everything has been full on in that time. The book has been incredibly well received and at the time of writing is No. 1 on Amazon in their Restaurant Cookbook category! Thank you to everyone who has bought it, tweeted about it, told their friends about it and supported me with it. I couldn’t have done it without you all and of course the traders of Brixton Village. They have been absolutely fantastic and their enthusiasm about the book is infectious. We had a fantastic launch party on May 22nd at Studio 73 in the Village and the book sold like hot cakes, going even faster than the codfish fritters from Fish Wings and Tings, black olive doughnuts from Casa Sibilla and daikon and chilli dip from Okan did! We did justice to a keg of Brixton Brewery American Pale Ale,  some gluten-free Celia lager courtesy of Vozars and some of Brian’s home-made ginger beer…and spilled out into 1st Avenue dwarfing the Honest Burger queue for once.

Many thanks to Adrian at Studio 73 for allowing us to take over his shop and for hosting our illustrator Kaylene Alder’s exhibition. If you missed it you can still buy prints from the book from her website. And massive thanks to all the traders who supplied food and drinks too. _NTI8533 I’m delighted to share some of the photos from the evening with you if you weren’t able to make it. Sadly we don’t have any photos of the launch event with Herne Hill Books on May 25th as I was too busy selling books, chatting to Jay Rayner and encouraging people to try the excellent cupcakes from Sponge and Cream we celebrated it all with. If you are in Brixton this weekend, you can find Kaylene and me at the Big Lunch in Brixton Village at the Coldharbour Lane entrance from 11am-4pm. Kaylene is setting up an art trail for the kids and I’m running a small quiz to see how well you’ve all read the book!There’s also the charity lunch to raise money for Brixton Soup Kitchen. I’ll be selling and signing books as well along with the Brixton Blog team. And then on Monday night, I’m fighting any nerves about public speaking to read at the Brixton Book Jam at the Hootenanny on Effra Road. I should be making my author’s debut about 8.30pm so come along for a beer and some book chat. I might be selling books but if previous events are anything to go by, we’ll have sold out on Sunday! I’ll hopefully be popping up in Grazia Daily this week and we’re plotting all kinds of exciting events over the summer, including a little something at Lambeth Country Show. It’s quite the whirlwind of events but it’s been fantastic meeting people and just talking Brixton non stop! Definitely my dream job.

Don’t forget you can still buy books with free UK P&P direct from the Kitchen Press website or for international shipping at Amazon. Don’t forget to leave a review there to tell us how much you enjoyed the book or the recipes you cooked! Signed copies can be ordered from the Brixton Blog shop too. And if you come down to Brixton Village this weekend, you can buy the book direct from the traders and chat to them about their input. It’s also in stock at 20 Storey in Market Row along with a selection of other Brixton authors’ books and the famous I ♥︎ Brixton mugs. We really do have everything you could ever want in Brixton! _NTI8725

Guava Banana Brixton Trifle

close up trifle

Sometimes only a trifle will do. Few other dishes say celebration the same way that a dish of trifle with all the family does. Its layers of cream, custard and fruit please everyone so there’s no better way to get people to try something new by introducing different ingredients to a classic dessert.

I recently bought a hand of gorgeous finger bananas in Brixton Village and couldn’t get over how sweet and moreish they were. Being smaller than usual, they ripened quicker making them perfect for roasting to bring out their flavour. Basting them in a coating of guava jelly made them naturally caramelised.

Layered up with spiced bun soaked in rum, dulche de leche cream and custard, the whole thing is the perfect Brixton trifle. Serve it at a Sunday lunch or a barbecue this summer. You won’t miss the jelly at all…

Originally published in the Brixton Bugle…. Read more

Banana bread

Brixton Banana Bread

Banana bread

I am very fussy about how I like my bananas. Barely yellow, top tipped with green and a satisfying crack when they open, this means that there is about five minute window when they are at the stage where I can eat them and enjoy them. This means I spend a lot of time realising that the little blighters have gone and ripened on me while I was making a cup of tea or turning my back for just a second. This could be pretty wasteful except that I make really really good banana bread.

Like all banana bread, this is a great way to use up overripe bananas, but unlike many banana bread recipes, it’s as simple and straightfoward as you want it to be. In fact this recipe is so simple that it was the only thing at all I could make at all in my teens when I thought cooking and baking was too difficult and scary to be bothered with. I felt confident to make this recipe because I’d learned it from the mother of the family I au paired for one summer in America who couldn’t cook at all. In between ordering take out food or heating up frozen burritos, she whipped up fresh banana bread for breakfast and I figured if someone who struggled with doing carrot sticks to go with hummus could do it, so could I!

Over the 17 years I’ve been making this recipe, I’ve tweaked it a bit and it’s changed from Boston Banana Bread to Brixton Banana Bread with the addition of some different spices, but it’s still super easy to do. I simply mash up bananas as they ripen and freeze in bags until needed. They defrost by the time you’ve measured everything and it means you don’t chuck black bananas out all the time.

Brixton Banana Bread: makes 1lb loaf

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 75g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 mashed bananas

Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin and heat the oven to 180℃. Then put the flour and all the other dry ingredients in a bowl. Put the sugar, oil and all other wet ingredients in another bowl and add in the eggs, beating them until combined. Then pour the wet mix into the dry and add in the bananas, mixing lightly til combined. The batter should be dark, glossy and slightly lumpy. Pour it into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for as long as you can wait and then have a good thick slice of this with a strong mug of tea. It’s super soft and sticky with a lovely sweet banana flavour and if you don’t devour the whole loaf in one sitting, it keeps really well for several days when wrapped in a tea towel. It also toasts beautifully with a smidge of butter as an excellent breakfast. It’s simplicity itself and I think it’ll probably something you make for years to come to once you’ve tried it!