Thursday, 29 November 2012

‘Tis the season to be eating!

I love this time of year. Fairy lights and hot mince pies mean we are finally nearing Christmas. It is the only thing that makes the biting cold worthwhile. Ho, ho yes!
Now, I’m a local girl; South-East born and raised, and I think our lovely area has so much to offer this season. Here is my guide to the best buys this holiday.

Have a Butcher’s
Meat, fish and trimmings
Christmas would not be Christmas without a roasted bird, and this season, I urge you to go to make a ‘flying visit’ to the recently opened Flock and Herd, in Peckham and William Rose Butchers in East Dulwich. A good indication of their stock’s quality and friendly customer service is that they are both always packed with customers. This Christmas they have got beautiful game birds, juicy marinated cuts of meat, freshly made sausages, cured hams and pork shoulder and festive trimmings. If you’re a vegetarian, or just fancy a bit of a change, your best bet is to head just across the road to Moxon’s Fishmongers. I absolutely love fish, and these cheeky chappies are a pleasure to talk to and a credit to their profession. This year the guys are smoking Salmon, by the kilo. They are sold whole to preserve their moisture, and are ready to be sliced and thoroughly enjoyed- superb.

5-a-days of Christmas
Fruit, vegetables
Yes, Christmas is more than just a meat feast, it’s important to source wholesome vegetable too. For big boiling spuds, King Edwards, Maris Piper and the like (perfect for your roastie potatoes), head to TFC- a relatively untapped haven for fresh produce. Another relatively recent find for me is SMBS Foods on Lordship Lane, a veritable treasure chest of not only great fruit and veg, but wheat-free, gluten free and soya based products. Here you can find brussel sprouts growing on the stem, fresh seasoning, such as tarragon and rosemary (perfect for juicing up your bird) and colourful seasonal vegetables such as rainbow chard.

Say ‘Cheese’
Cheese, crackers, platters
You can’t think of cheese, and not think of The Cheese Block (in the good sense of course!) I have always been a massive fan of these guys. This Christmas they are selling some original blends of cheese, which would be perfect for any cheese platter. A particular favourite mine is their Gorgonzola and Allenoci block with walnuts. Another hot spot, is El’s Kitchen, which has unsurprisingly been voted Deli of the Year. Friendly, yes, and whatever you need this Christmas- whether you are catering for a party of 1 or 10, their great choice of cheeses, olives and bread mean you are sure to find something that you’ll like.

Jimmy Jams
Chutneys, jams, accompaniments
One of my favourite finds this year is street trader Denver Bennett. After teaching for over 25years, Denver deciding to go into the food industry- and thank goodness he did! Whether it’s his crunchy Sourdough bread or wonderfully fragrant chutney’s, you will be certain to go back for more. DB  Foods has also introduced a wonderful Christmas hamper, which you can customize with Christmas pudding, glorious cape-town preserves (such as Lemon curd, watermelon preserve, fig preserve, mango chutney, lime pickle, tomato relish, pear chutney, apple and rhubarb chutney and fruit Chutney) and even a luxurious pheasant pate that Denver is whipping up especially for the season. You can order online or hunt him down every Friday and Saturday at Brixton Food Market, and every Thursday at The Talent Factory for their weekly Pop-Up Lunch. 

Tea for Two
Mince pies, puds, after dinner hot drinks
If you’ve never been to East Dulwich Deli, this is the perfect time to make a trip. Now these guys have been around for a while, and certainly know their food. They have a stunning collection of tasty cheeses, salami and prosciutto, oils and vinegars that are displayed in every food lovers dream pantry. However, make sure you don’t miss their sweet section of mince-pies, shortbread and other moreish after dinner treats. Nothing better than a cup of tea and a bite of those festive berries! And speaking of tea, have you been to Les Chandelier? If not, WHY? This place is absolutely stunning. Filled to the brim with..well chandeliers, and delicious sweet treats, they also have a superb selection of tea. For a tea-spread with a difference, why not buy a wintery Blackcurrant and Hibiscus fruit fusion or even some Flowering Red Amaranth, (which I am told literally ‘flowers’ when you add the water on top)? What a simple way of making a Christmas tea party come to life.

Flower Power
Floral arrangements, decorations and centre-pieces
Now, much as I’m loathed to admit it, Christmas is more than just eating. It is also about entertaining and with it, transforming your house into a winter wonderland. One stop you must make if you are having anyone over for the holidays is Bonnies Flowers. This is an Aladdin’s cave of one off reeves, baubles, paper chains and of course gorgeous seasonal flowers for table center-pieces and arrangements. Where else can one invest in a hand sized mini Christmas tree? That’s magic!

Article features in this month's edition of Living South, look out for your nearest copy!

Flock and Herd – 155 Bellenden Road, Peckham SE15 4DH
William Rose - 126 Lordship Lane  Dulwich, SE22 8HD
Moxons- 149 LORDSHIP LANE, SE22 8HX

The Cheese Block - 69 Lordship Lane
SE22 8EP

El’s Kitchen - 71 Ladywell Road * London SE13 7JA

Fruit and Veg
TFC - 163-165 Bromley Rd, SE6 2NZ
SMBS Foods – 75 Lordship Lane, Dulwich SE22 8EP 

Paul Wayne Gregory - Electric Avenue, Brixton SW9 8JX
Pat-a-cake - 358 Brockley Road SE4 2BY

Bonnies - 63 Lordship Lane, Dulwich SE22 8EP

DB Foods (Friday, Saturday) Electric Avenue, Brixton SW9 8JX, (Thursday) Unit 8, Barmeston Road, London SE6 3BH

East Dulwich Deli - 5/17 Lordship Lane London SE22 8EW
Les Chandeliers - 161 Lordship Lane SE22 8HX

Monday, 19 November 2012

Love my Grub meets A Light Perspective

Crikey, it seems like it's been forever...well more like 1 month and 8 days- certainly the longest time I've ever been away from you. But fear not, my lovely grubbers, I have not forsaken thee...more like sharing the Grub.

After taking on a monthly spread in Desi-Info, things have gone from good to great, and I have more and more requests to take on more food articles. Got to say peeps, I'm a little bit  buzzing right now. To kick off, fellow food blogger A Light Perspective kindly approached me to write up my hit list of top tips to jazz up your food photographs. So here it is, my top 5 must haves.

Food and design are my two greatest loves. Food photography is for me, the perfect combination of them both. There is nothing worse than a beautifully prepared meal that is terribly photographed- case and point, many of those horrible 90’s cook books. You all know the ones I mean- sterile, flat and unappetising.

Before I began cooking, painting was my thing, and I have found that a lot of the great food stylists out there apply the same rules of the canvas to the lens. Here’s my hit list of 5 easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy tips to styling your food shots.

1. Texture

Texture plays a huge part in food; both in it’s preparation and it’s photography. Often when we cook a meal, we are advised to add ingredients that will form layers of texture, and this is something I would also greatly advise when you photograph your food.  Dishes that have dynamic exteriors, or those that have great contrast in their surfaces make for great subjects. Even something as simple and un-extraordinary as a humble strawberry can be a pleasure to photograph with it’s pitted skin and green foliage.

2. Props/ authenticity

A fantastic way of transforming your shots, is to use accessorize your plate. The lists of possibilities are endless, crockery, cutlery, ribbon, chopping boards and so on. The trick is to find to things that will match your dish and give your photos an extra lift. Cooking a curry, then why not photograph in an authentic tiffin carrier? Homemade bread looks great in an organic basket and chopsticks make for a simple stamp of the East. You get my point. If you can’t find what you want in your own kitchen, then raid your mum’s house- trust me, I’ve picked up some absolute gems from mine; and if you’re after something a little different, then head to your local charity shop. There’ll be a veritable treasure chest of goodies there. Last visit, I picked up a set of beautiful hand glazed 1920’s tea-cups for 80p. Who say’s you can’t put a price on happiness?

3. Garnishing

Another prop that people often forget is garnishing- and I’m not just talking about a sad sprinkling of parsley- I mean, enough already, there are other herbs out there! No, by garnishing, I mean, taking any part of your dish and using it to really tell the story of it. Jamie Oliver is an absolute master of this. After you have prepared your meal, always leave a handful of ingredients so that you can topple it on the surface and finish your dish. Items like seeds and herbs are great as they will give great texture and vivid colour and will always look fresh.

4. Difference in heights

Now this seems like an odd one, but photographing food that is stacked looks amazing. There is no particular science to it, but as with the element of texture, stacking techniques create shadows and the more inventive the food arrangement, the more interesting the shot.

5. Creativity

At the end of the day, food is meant to be fun, so have fun with photographing it. There are no rules, so always try to push what you can do with it. More inventive and adventurous presentation will engage your viewers and make your food come alive, so give it a go!