Wednesday, 26 November 2014

General Store, Peckham

General Store

The opening of any independent grocery store is something to be celebrated.  Almost 4 years ago to the day I wrote about Leila's Shop in Spitalfields and said "every neighbourhood should have a shop like this".  Back then, as much as I wanted to see it happen, it seemed a bit of a forlorn hope. The grip of the supermarkets was vice-like and becoming ever-more insidious as they moved into corner-shop territory with smaller neighbourhood stores.  Now the big 3 are facing their own competition and shoppers are realising there are alternatives involving not only other multiples but small and local too.

Small independents are never going to be able to compete line-by-line with supermarkets on price, but that doesn't mean they can't have better prices on individual items.  With good quality they can offer better value.  They can also identify and form close personal relationships with local producers and specialist suppliers and this is the direction that General Store in Peckham has chosen. Actively seeking out the locally produced wherever possible, there's a commitment to supporting other small business allied with a commitment to quality and provenance.

On the shelves
at General Store

So, what is on the shelves?  London produce includes sourdough Cafone loaves from Bridget Hugo's BreadBread bakery in Brixton; breads and pastries from Bermondsey-based The Little Bread Pedlar; Coffee from the Clerkenwell roastery of Workshop Coffee; fine British and French cheeses from Neal's Yard Dairy and Mons Cheesemongers, matured under railway arches in South London; jars of honey from Bermondsey's The London Honey Company; some of the best preserves in the capital from Lily O'Brien's Hackney-based London Borough of Jam; and bottled beers from Kernel Brewery who were at the vanguard of London's recent micro-brewery movement; and natural wines are now available from Gergovie Wines too. Then, there's a good range of Spanish foods from importer Brindisa; rice from The Real Basmati Rice Co; organic flours from Shipton Mill; chocolate from bean-to-bar makers Pump Street Bakery in Suffolk sit alongside bars from influential Mast Brothers of Brooklyn; and, always, a selection of top quality seasonal fruit and vegetables.

at General Store

Then there's the service.  The young owners, Merlin and Genevieve, get the balance just right.  If you're happy to browse, that's fine.  If you want help or advice, it's knowledgeable, and friendly. Look out for their 'Meet the Supplier' events.  As see from a flyer that in the run-up to Christmas you'll find Neal's Yard Dairy setting up table outside on 6th December, followed by Mons Cheesemongers on the 7th.  Christmas orders can be placed up to the 15th December with specials like smoked salmon from Hansen & Lydersen's Stoke Newington smokery; Melrose & Morgan Christmas Puddings and Cakes; and special prices on wines and beers by the case.

Peckham is up-and-coming but still rough around the edges so perfect hunting ground for those looking for more bang for their buck property-wise.  The General Store is a great addition to the Asian, African and Caribbean stores. Shops like Persepolis, bring A taste of Persia to Peckham. There is also traditional British butchers Flock and Herd.  For more about food shops in Peckham, The Skint Foodie has a great list.

Fruit & vegetables
at General Store

Trying to compete directly with supermarkets is still a road to nowhere.  Independent grocery stores are a different breed from what they used to be but, little by little, they are returning to a neighbourhood near you - grocers for the way we live now.

General Store
174 Bellenden Road
London SE15 4BW
Tel: 0207 642 2129

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hot Gingernuts

Hot Gingernuts

In my last posting Breakfast, Lunch, Tea I promised you a recipe based on one from Rose Carrarini's first book, and here it is - Hot Gingernuts.

It must be the change of season.  Root, powder or crystallised, I can't seem to get enough of warming ginger at the moment.  The truth is I've been enjoying these hot little ginger nuts for years at 40 Maltby Street without knowing that Kit, the maker, based his recipe on that of Rose Carrarini.  And hers, in turn, is based on a Sally Clarke recipe, kindly gifted for the opening of Rose Bakery in Paris.  In the way of most recipes, each baker has tweaked the original here and there.  True to her principles Rose's recipe turns up the flavour a notch with extra ginger and reduces the sweetness.   In her pursuit of flavour here she has maximised the quantity of ginger, and even suggests a touch of cayenne pepper.

Hot Gingernuts
ready for the oven

In the spirit of "feeling free" I leave out the cayenne but would suggest unless your ginger is really good quality and fresh, you might need to add a little bit more than is shown in the recipe below. On Kit's advice, I roll the balls of uncooked dough in demerara sugar before baking for extra crunch. The quantities of both ginger and bicarbonate of soda seem a lot but it does work.  They're meant to be crisp on the outside and soft within.  If you want completely crisp biscuits leave them in for a few extra minutes, but watch they don't burn.

Hot Gingernuts
- large and small, cooling

Hot Gingernuts
(makes about 24 large or 48 small)

200g (7oz) unsalted butter, softened (plus a little extra to grease trays)
440g (16oz) self-raising flour
150g (5½oz) caster sugar
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1½ tablespoons bicarbonate of soda
240g (8½oz) golden syrup
40g (1½oz) treacle
A little demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan)/325F/Gas 3.  
Butter and line trays with baking parchment.
Mix all ingredients, except the golden syrup and treacle, in a food processor until well mixed.  If you're not using a food processor, cut the butter in small pieces, rub into the dry ingredients and mix well.
Warm the golden syrup and treacle together in a small pan.  Add to the mixture and stir to form a stiff, glossy dough.
Break off pieces and roll in your hands to form smooth balls.  The size is up to you, but I like them on the small size, about 2cm across.  Roll the balls in demerara sugar or sprinkle a little on top, placing them well apart on the prepared trays and bake for about 10-12 minutes depending on size.  They will rise then fall back.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Once cooled they should be crisp on the outside and chewy soft within.

Recipe based on Hot Gingernuts in Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini, published by Phaidon
Rose Bakery (no website)
46 rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris
and now branches in London, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Tel Aviv and New York

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini

Page of Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini
- Broccoli Cake

Not to have recommended Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini, first published in 2006 by Phaidon, until now is a serious omission.  In truth I bought two copies, the first before I started writing this blog and a second copy from one of its several re-prints.  Why two?  Water damage.  A neighbour.  Don't ask...  It was only when I bought Rose Carrarini's second book, How to Boil an Egg, published in 2013, that I remembered I had to catch up on my favourite book reviews.  So, anxious as I am to tell you about the second, I need to get my books in order.

A little about the author.  In 1988 the Anglo-French team of Jean Charles and Rose Carrarini set up one of the most influential food shops cum café/restaurants in London.  With their treasure of an epicerie fine, Villandry (not to be confused with the present Villandry nearby), they drew people from all over the capital to their little space. It was one of the few jewels in what was then a rather jaded (imagine that) Marylebone High Street.  Jean Charles and Rose Carrarini were pioneers and everyone in London who aspired to open their own deli checked out Villandry first.  I've written about the Carrarinis before so click on here if you want to read more about their time in London and Rose Bakery which they opened in Paris in 2002.  

Rose Carrarini is not a trained chef and this book is not simply a list of recipes but an expression of her learning and instincts; a philosophy if you like.  As with Sally Clarke who opened her inspirational restaurant in Kensington Church Street 30 years ago, Rose cites Alice Waters as a strong influence.  Richard Olney and Elizabeth David informed her thinking, too, as she evolved her own pursuit of simplicity, seasonality and intensity of flavour. Breakfast, Lunch, Tea is based on the seasonal food prepared every day at the tiny one-time chartil which is Rose Bakery.  The book conveys a deep love of good ingredients and Rose's passionate belief that "life is improved by great food and great food can be achieved by everyone".

Not many cookbooks stress the importance of feeling "free to add different ingredients or change things as you go along" to suit your own tastes, because "That is what cooking is all about".  But it's important to remember, "the secret to getting a wonderful result lies ultimately in the ingredients.  So choose them well."  The Breakfast section of the book includes recipes for Fruit Taboulé, a delicious alternative to a bowl of muesli; pancakes from classic to gluten-free and vegan; Maple Syrup Scones; no-nonsense Perfect Scrambled Eggs; as well as juices, smoothies and cereals.  The chapter on Lunch keeps things 'light' to suit both the way Rose Bakery customers want to eat in or take-away.  Soups include Spiced chickpea and lemon soup and Cold Beetroot soup with a hot potato; Salads such as Carrot and seed and Quinoa and pepper are packed with flavour; the Pastry section includes recipes for Rose Bakery's singular square vegetable tarts like Artichoke and pea tart and Ricotta, tomato and thyme tart and a take on Pissaladière; Rice features, including a new combination to me Tomato, Aubergine and mint risotto.  I love the idea of a main course dish of Cod in tomato water (alternative white fish are suggested and sustainability emphasised).  This takes us through to Tea, and a much longer recipe list including Chocolate, orange and ricotta tart; Pistachio cake; Brocolli cake; Almond, cinnamon and meringue biscuits; Jam sandwich vegan cookies; coconut custard slices; and puddings including classics like Apple Brown Betty and Summer Pudding; and finishing off with a Japanese influenced Red Bean sorbet.

This is a very freeing recipe book.  It's not prescriptive and hand-holding to the point where you feel you must follow the recipes slavishly.  Rather, it encourages you to follow your instincts.  It's my kind of cookery book.  The photography is by Toby Glanville.  From a flour-strewn pastry table to a portrait of 'Jacob, our kitchen assistant', he captures the mood of Rose Bakery perfectly.

Check back in a couple of days for a favourite recipe from the book.

Coming soon, book two, How to Boil and Egg.