001 - Things Got Weird...Already.
A wild trip to Borough market, how we shop and tortilla-bound mashups.
Thank you for subscribing to Food Team Monthly. This month, we took a trip to Borough Market, hung out with TikTok royalty and hosted a 10am taco party...all in the name of learning. Read on to find out how we find the best seasonal ingredients and why we use them. Read on a little further to find three amazing recipes inspired by another bizarre month in the Sorted development kitchen.
Slater: Barry had taken us the long way to Borough Market. What should have been a quick trip down the Thames from the studio, turned into a scenic tour of central London thanks to his awful sense of direction and unique brand of “it will be alright in the end” mentality. As we snaked our way past restaurants, pubs and bars Kush and I were already talking about what was in season, the traders we would avoid and those we would make a b-line for once we got there. The winter months are an exciting time to be a chef. The nights draw in and the temperature dips, allowing root vegetables, long cooks and all things heavy to creep into the culinary repertoire.
Kush: Borough market has always been the go to, one size fits all market for anyone in London who wants to buy the best of the best. Whether it be dry aged, rare breed pork from Ginger Pig, Day boat hake and gurnard from one of the myriad of fish mongers or wild mushrooms and exotic vegetables from the likes of Turnips and Raya Grocery. I have long been a visitor but rarely spend my own money there as, unfortunately due to it’s popularity as a tourist destination, prices are quite inflated.
Slater: We actually made it there with time to spare, much to our surprise. We sipped mediocre flat whites and waited for Oli. The past two years had seen him ditch the 9-5 in favour of making a living online. His weird, wonderful, largely burrito-based creations had gained him notoriety and a 500K-strong following. The plan was simple: meet, have a rummage around Borough Market, then head back to the studio to create some burritos with our obscure food haul. So we too could become “El Burrito Monsters”... just for a few hours. But Kush already had other ideas.
Kush: The Ginger Pig, a stalwart butcher of Borough market and one of London's best, was the most necessary of 1st stops for us. But before we started shopping for the burritos, we needed to sort breakfast out! Their sausage rolls are reputedly the best in London so it was our duty to test this out. No limp pastry and pappy meat here! The traditional sausage roll was deeply filled with a dense, juicy porcine filling, using their rare breed pork and covered in a sturdy yet light pastry case. Fantastic and quickly devoured - we even let Barry have a nibble. We also sampled their merguez sausage roll that had a delicate spice and lamby “Funk” to it.
It’s no surprise that both were very good indeed. Just looking at their counters, the richly marbled and deeply coloured meats from all animals screamed pedigree and care - no watery chicken or flabby pink beef here! Knowing that we could possibly be pushed for time back at the studio, I wanted to get a cut of meat that, with a little cheffy knowledge and hacks, could deliver bags of flavour and texture quickly! It was a relatively easy decision to plump for a few lamb neck fillets. A cut from the top of the shoulder, these fillets have all the intramuscular fat and flavour of a hard working cut of meat that would normally necessitate a long slow cook. However, due to their shape and size, we could get around this by thinly slicing the fillets crosswise and marinating before cooking - leaving us with tender, rich, full flavoured meat in just 10-15 minutes.
Obviously, buying meats from a renowned butcher at one of London's best markets is somewhat a guarantee for quality, but not possible on a day to day basis. It’s always worth buying the best you can afford when it comes to proteins and balance this with eating them less often. As Ben mentioned above, now is the time for long, slow cooks and letting time take care of the meat. Go for more inexpensive cuts like lamb and pork shoulder, beef shin and chicken thighs. This will help save you some money while being able to buy better.
Slater: With the lamb neck under our belt, we turned our attention to all things fruit and veg. We knew that with it being October we would be spoiled by choice when it came to the seasonal selection. But also wanted to dip our toe into the imported fruits that are readily available if you have a little more money. Barry winced as Kush blew the budget on firm green papayas and plump finger limes. I opted for a head of slightly less exotic, but no less delicious Kalibos - a tender, purple cabbage with a texture akin to that of a more commonly used sweetheart cabbage. It’s great roasted with butter, but I knew it would also work really well sliced thin and used in a slaw context. We were coming to the end of a three month window in which tender cabbage varieties like this are available in the UK. I was keen to make the most of it!
I also picked up a pumpkin. While the larger varieties are great for carving, they often have quite a soft, unappealing texture once cooked. The smaller varieties have sweeter flesh and hold up better at high temperatures. They also have a higher sugar content meaning that they caramelise a lot more readily yielding more flavoursome results.
Kush: Now that the vegetables and fruit were sorted and we had a broad sense of direction, it was time for some cheese, obviously. Cheese is something that Borough Market excels at. The variety from across the globe is quite astounding with a great deal of small UK producers on display. One such cheese I spotted was Blackwood’s Australian style feta called Graceburn, a raw cow's milk soft cheese, presented as generous cubes suspended in golden rapeseed oil. Having tried it at other food markets I wanted to get Ben and Oli’s opinion on what I think is a brilliant small batch cheese, quite unlike anything else in the UK. They both agreed that we should buy a jar to play with, as Barry once again winced in the corner at the price tag. This dairy success story spurred me on to another splurge, something that I knew none of the boys would have ever tried as I had never seen it at any other market. Belper Knolle is a rock hard, cow milk cheese infused with Himalayan salt and a truck load of garlic before being formed into balls, rolled in black pepper and dried. Looking slightly like a huge black truffle, this cheese is shaved or grated into fine ethereal slices that add a lactic garlic punch to any dish.
The British Cheese Board claims that Britain produces over 700 distinct different types of cheese, more than any other country. So to say we are spoiled for choice is an understatement. While not as revered as our French and Italian neighbours, British cheese is definitely worth exploring. Find a trader that lets you sample a few different varieties and guide you on what to buy and when to buy it…yes, CHEESE IS SEASONAL! My personal favourite cheese shop outside of London is The Bath Fine Cheese Co. where I developed my current rotund figure on days off from my then chef job. In London, it has to be La Fromagerie - expensive yes, worth it, most definitely.
Slater: By this point, our backpacks were getting heavy, and Borough market was starting to fill with droves of tourists that we had managed to avoid, thanks to our decision to get there early. It’s always best to get to markets as soon as they open to secure the best produce possible. I was reminded of when we would have to get up at 3am, or not go to sleep at all to find the freshest fish at Billingsgate Market (the largest fish market in London) when I worked in kitchens. The difference between arriving at 4am and 6am was startling. All the best, firm-fleshed, red-gilled, clear-eyed fish would be snapped up early doors. Those arriving at 6am would have to settle for the bits that no-one else wanted.
Before leaving the market, we stopped by the fish stall and picked up some monkfish. Oli was keen on getting swordfish, but Kush reminded us that they are caught in warm climates, likely meaning a long time in transit. When buying fish it is always important to bear in mind the amount of time it has been out of the ocean. More time between sea and fork generally means degradation of texture and flavour. It’s also important to think about the natural firmness of the fish, as most are semi-frozen upon being caught on the boats. Varieties like monkfish, cod and haddock hold up better to temperature changes. We joked that the next time we see Oli we should do it on a tropical island to get the swordfish straight from the sea. Barry winced at the potential financial implications of a Food Team getaway.
Kush: On our return to the studio we knew we had to get cooking fast! Those sausage rolls had been metabolised and we were hungry! After quickly deciding on three distinct flavour profiles, we got to work. I went straight in to getting a quick marinade done for the Thai inspired Lamb burrito. Thinly sliced lamb neck covered with a thick flavour paste of garlic, ginger, fish sauce, Thai BBQ seasoning spice (there is nothing wrong with using packet mixes from the right shops!) and palm sugar was flash fried in a searingly hot pan to caramelise. We paired this with a traditional Som Tam salad of raw green papaya, chillies, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar - think Thai slaw with a kick! Oli meanwhile was knocking up a “Pad Thai Style” fried rice to bring it all together. Overall it was a flavour bomb of a Burrito - maybe too much for a purist but I loved it!
The 2nd was a Mexican Inspired fish and chip Burrito! Chipotle marinated charred Monkfish, loaded fries, pickled cabbage and a chopping board guacamole all came together to make something that we were all very happy with.
Then it got weird… maybe it was the sugar spike from the Thai burrito or the lack of coffee but Oli and I went off on quite a tangent. What was meant to be a spelt and Autumn roast vegetable burrito in end included Guanciale, chestnuts, whisky, black garlic, hummus, instant gravy, chips, brandy, Belper Knolle, babybel, sprout dust, spicy salsa, horseradish, Christmas cabbage slaw and more… Safe to say we had a great time making this one, but Ben was right in his prediction… 2/10!
Slater: It had been two weeks since our day constructing burritos with Oli and we were keen to recreate some of the magic. I was inspired by some of the ingredients we picked up at Borough Market so developed a couple of seasonal, tortilla-bound recipes featuring them. I gave the Sorted team notice that there would be a taco party and they were all invited.
Spiced Battered Monkfish Tacos
We wanted to create a fish taco recipe, but were keen to incorporate some South Asian flavours in honour of the cuisine-bending day we spent with Oli. The batter in this recipe works really well on most meaty white fish, so don’t break the bank on monkfish if money is tight.
For the fish
400g monkfish tail
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp salt
For the batter
75g strong flour
75g chickpea flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
220ml lager (beer)
For the yoghurt mix
50g desiccated coconut
200g Greek yoghurt
For the slaw
½ sweetheart cabbage
1 tbsp black onion seeds
Strong flour, for dusting
1L vegetable oil, for frying
8 flour tortillas (see below)
Cut the monkfish into finger-sized strips. Season them on the board liberally with the curry powder and salt. Transfer the fish to a cooling rack set over a baking tray. Leave the fish to cure slightly in the fridge, uncovered, for 2 hours.
Mix the strong flour, chickpea flour, baking powder and a generous pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the beer, until smooth, don’t overmix. Cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge.
Toast the desiccated coconut in a small frying pan over a medium heat, tossing regularly until golden. Leave to cool. Fold the cooled coconut through the yoghurt, finely grate over the zest from the limes. Season to taste with salt.
Thinly shred the sweetheart cabbage and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Squeeze over the juice from the limes and add the onion seeds. Season with salt and give everything a good mix.
Heat the oil to 180°C in a high-sided saucepan, it should come no more than ¾ of the way up the sides. Dust the fish with flour on the cooling rack while you wait.
Dip the fish batons, one at a time into the batter, then carefully lower them into the oil. Fry them in batches of 4 until golden. Once ready, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towel, or another cooling rack set over a baking tray.
Serve the crispy fish with the coconut labneh and shredded cabbage in warm flour tortillas.
Ancho Braised Lamb Neck Tacos
Lamb makes for a fantastic taco-filling, especially when it is slow cooked. The blackened jalapeno salsa compliments and cuts through the sweet, sticky braise well - deseed the chillies if you can’t take the heat.
For the lamb
4 ancho chillies (dried)
4 tbsp vegetable oil
600g lamb neck fillet (diced)
1 brown onion, peeled and cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp honey
750ml beef stock
For the salsa
1 shallot, peeled and halved
½ bunch mint
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown sugar
150ml sour cream
8 flour tortillas (see below)
Tip the ancho chillies into a small bowl, cover with boiling water from the kettle and cover with cling film.
Heat the oil in a large, oven proof casserole pan over a high heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer and loosen, tip in the lamb and brown on all sides.
While the lamb browns, tip the onion, garlic, cumin seeds and honey into a high powered blender. Add the ancho chillies and their soaking water. Blend until smooth.
Once the lamb is golden all over, transfer to a plate. Lower the heat to medium and fry the paste for 10-12 minutes, stirring regularly until dark and sticky.
Add the beef stock to the pan along with the browned meat. Add a generous pinch of salt, give everything a mix and braise in the oven uncovered for 4-5 hours, until the meat is tender and falling apart.
Place a large frying pan over a high heat. Once the pan starts to smoke, add the jalapenos and shallot halves. Leave to char undisturbed for 4-5 minutes, toss and repeat until everything is blackened all over.
Tip the blackened jalapenos and shallot into a mini-chopper. Finely grate in the zest from the limes and squeeze in their juice. Add the mint, garlic, oil and sugar, then blend until smooth. Season taste with salt.
Once the lamb is tender, place the pan over a medium heat and reduce the sauce to a sticky glaze that coats the lamb. Season to taste with salt.
Load the lamb, salsa and sour cream into warm flour tortillas. Get involved.
Bacon Fat Tortillas
You could make this recipe with lard instead of bacon fat…but where would the fun and flavour be in that?!
325g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
80g bacon fat (room temperature)
180g hot water
Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.
Rub the bacon fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the water, mix with a butter knife to form a rough dough.
Cover and rest for 15 minutes.
Knead for 5 minutes, split into 10 tight balls.
Transfer to a greased tray and cover tightly with cling film.
Rest in the fridge until needed (at least 1 hour).
When you are ready to cook the tortillas, place a large frying pan over a medium-high heat.
Sandwich a dough ball between two thick sheets of acetate or thick but flexible plastic. Cling film is too thin, we like to use a cut up disposable piping bag. Use a tortilla press or heavy pan to flatten the dough to a 3mm thickness.
Toast the tortillas in the preheated pan, one at a time for a minute on each side, until puffed and charred in places. Store wrapped in a damp kitchen cloth while you cook the others.
Use within 30 minutes of cooking for best results.
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