Made in London
Published by Lona Jones on 12/03/2020
From experience people love to talk about food!
In London, locals and visitors alike need no encouragement to enthuse about the wide variety of food on offer. The more ‘exotic’ the cuisine, the more likely is it to get a mention, Japanese, Greek, Malaysian, Nepalese, Turkish…
Whilst global gastronomic diversity has undoubtedly influenced our own cuisine by introducing all manner of delicious ingredients and flavours to the British palate, we are now experiencing increased interest in produce grown much closer to home.
In the 1990’s a ‘new’ phenomenon, the Farmer’s market occurred.
Of course, the concept of growers bringing goods directly to the public has existed for centuries. In the days before supermarkets, history tells of farmers providing shoes for geese and turkeys on long walks to London where they would be sold. I’d like to think of them kitted out in a smart pair of brogues or at least comfy trainers but I’m sure the truth is far less sartorial or animal friendly!
To understand why the modern concept of Farmer’s markets continues to increase in popularity, there are around 20 each week in London and over 400 in the whole country, we only need to look at current global trends. Those of:
A move away from processed, mass-produced food has obvious benefits for health and the planet but renewing our relationship with the land is a powerful consequence and has been proven to have huge psychological benefits.
In 2009, Sarah Vaughan-Thomas established London’s only commercial vineyard since the Middle Ages, Forty Hall, as a social enterprise, based on her knowledge and conviction that working outdoors amongst nature provides untold health benefits.
As a not-for-profit venture she invites volunteers to come along, work together in the vineyard and connect with the land, at the same time as contributing to making award-winning organic, English wines.
Whilst not reaping the benefits directly from spending time outside amongst the vines, working for London Cru , I consider there must be a knock-on effect from sharing the same space with fermenting grapes in an urban winery. Indoor eco therapy?! London Cru started producing wine in London in 2013 using fruit from vineyards in France, Spain and Italy. Fast forward four years and vineyards in the south east had developed to a high enough standard that grapes could be 100% locally sourced.
As a producer based in the city, using an oft-cited phrase for inspiration, ‘if it grows together, it goes together” we decided to research other producers making foodstuffs within the M25.
When it comes to all things agricultural, Dagenham, Enfield and Chingford possibly aren’t the first places that spring to mind, but truth is they are the locations of 3 of London’s 5 urban farms (Enfield is where Forty Hall Farm and vineyard are located). Incredibly there is a hotbed of urban farmers, community growers and makers in and around London with organisations like Capital Growth supported by the Mayor of London and the Lottery Fund, establishing community gardens, organising supper clubs and promoting local food networks.
Whilst neighbourhoods are cultivating spare ground and individuals are caught by the planting bug, businesses are acting on opportunities presented by the renewed interest in all things local. In some instances, budding entrepreneurs have taken the bold step of ditching careers to follow their dreams.
Wildes Cheese is owned by Philip Wilton an ex-management consultant, who in 2012 faced redundancy. Rather than begin the momentous task of applying for new jobs, his first instinct was to start making cheese in his kitchen. Having moved out into a small garage space, Wildes Cheese are now in bigger premises on an industrial space in Tottenham, North London. Why Tottenham? Because that’s where friends live and it’s their home.
They’re not afraid to make everything their own way. Cheese recipes are original, milk is from a single herd of cows in East Sussex and only vegetarian rennet is used.
Far from being secretive about what they do, Philip hosts lively and entertaining cheese-making workshops to spread the word.
Cobble Lane Cured creates high quality charcuterie from British sourced meat. Set up by four friends in Islington, North London, between them they had the necessary skills, craftsmanship, technical know-how and business acumen to make the venture a success. Fortuitously, their concept caught the eye of a well-known TV chef who was keen to invest and help establish their business.
Their speciality is Salami containing free-range pork from farmers with exceptionally high standards of welfare and husbandry. Whilst sticking to traditional recipes they’re also not afraid to experiment with spices and flavourings to put their own twist on things, but the time taken to make and age their products and their commitment to quality is their defining feature.
Whilst supermarkets aren’t going anywhere soon, good food, grown and produced locally is increasingly available. So maybe London, as other locations around the country, will be defined by their own seasonal offerings and will deserve a mention alongside the more exotic cuisines Thai, Japanese, Indian, when people enthuse about their favourite foods in future.
For an opportunity to taste foods produced in the capital alongside our London-made wines, join us at Made in London, our new food and wine pairing event. You’ll get the opportunity to try a selection of smoked fish, cured meats, cheeses and other locally produced goodies and learn some of the science and personal preferences involved in good pairing.
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