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London's new wave of food producers
Enterprising Londoners are setting up food businesses without the need for huge capital. Time Out meets some of London‘s new wave of small-scale producers
They’re London’s guerrilla food producers, joining the resistance to mass-produced sustenance. They prove that great grub made with love, long hours, and no thanks to Tesco, tastes better than anything. And you can find them at the Real Food Festival (www.realfoodfestival.co.uk) at Earls Court from April 24-27, alongside some of the UK and Europe’s finest artisanal food makers, bringing the city that thinks it has everything some previously undiscovered delicacies.
The 500 small producers at the show were selected to make up probably the greatest food market London has seen under one roof, where visitors can meet those responsible for exceptional grub. Here’s a taster of some of the producers making genuinely good food.
Pâté MoiFlip Dunning had often wandered round Borough Market and thought, ‘That’s a nice life, I’d like my own stall.’ Which is why, after after she’d convinced the 30-member Borough Market committee that her mushroom pâté passed muster, the 34-year-old threw caution and a ten-year career on the research side of advertising to the wind, and with no money or experience turned her family’s secret recipe into her livelihood. In her first morning in September 2006 she sold out within four hours. Enough meat eaters, veggies and even mushroom haters love the pâté of just-picked field, button, chestnut and in-season wild mushrooms so much that Flip can now pay assistants to help with the chopping – saving her 16 hours’ labour a week.‘I think the secret of my success is doing one thing really well. I live, breathe, sleep, eat and think about mushroom pâté all the time,’ a pregnant Flip admits. ‘The baby’s going to come out knowing how to make it and will be with me in the market from the start.’ She’s hoping to debut compostable containers for her pâté at the Real Food Festival. ‘This brings little producers together to show what’s going on throughout Britain. I think it’s going to be really inspiring,’ says the fungi fanatic, whose business has well and truly mushroomed.www.mushroompate.co.uk
Wei-Ling Seow of Scoops Ice Cream and her blender
Scoops Ice CreamWhen Wei-Ling Seow was a student in London ten years ago, if you wanted something cooler than a Magnum there was only Häagen-Dazs. Frustrated, the compulsive cook took to making her own ice cream and gave up her job with a software company to get her ices down to a T. After a spell with a gelati master in Verona, Wei-Ling returned to London, bought a reconditioned pasteuriser and commercial ice-cream machine and, 18 months ago, Scoops was all set to churn.Her vanilla ice cream, fragrant with seeds from the pod, has a loyal following. Seasonal hits include her blood orange ice cream and rhubarb with ginger. Other voluptuous flavours include Thai basil, black sesame and rich, dark Valrhona chocolate ones.Using milk and intensely thick cream from Jersey cows in Somerset, Wei-Ling’s is nothing like solidly dairy, American-style ice cream. ‘The rich milk makes a difference to the texture, but it’s only 8-10 per cent fat, so I wouldn’t call it high fat,’ she explains. Nor is it as sweet as gelati. ‘Italians whack in the sugar.’ Those who can’t wait until the summer to find her stall at farmers’ markets in Clapham and Blackheath can eat her ices for dessert at Flâneur Food Hall in Farringdon or order bespoke tubs. Wei-Ling makes ice creams to be eaten fresh. ‘I don’t like the idea of them sitting in the freezer for two years.’ As if.www.scoopsicecreams.com
Mini MagooCereal doesn’t come more hand-made than Mini Magoo. ‘It’s a cottage industry,’ laughs former make-up artist Maria Jetoo-Luigi, who scooped an organic food award in her first year of production. Though there’s no thatched roof on her Earl’s Court flat, it’s an artisan enterprise. She roasts the hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seeds and linseeds, dries orange peel, chops dates, sources sour cherries and coconut and chooses the spices. Along with organic oats she mixes them all together into mueslis and granolas that keep customers coming back to feel-good stockists such as Planet Organic and Whole Foods Market for the next instalment of her cereals. From small beginnings supplying her Notting Hill circle, she’s moved up to Daylesford Farm Shop, Windsor Castle Farm Shop and, any minute now, Fortnum & Mason. www.minimagoo.com
From prison break to big break - Tracy Mackness with her star sows
The Giggly Pig CompanyPork butcher and sausage-maker Tracy Mackness got her break in prison. Doing time for her part in a drugs ring, she came face-to-face with a saddleback pig on the prison farm and hasn’t looked back since. In just 18 months she has established a herd of 300 saddlebacks within earshot of the M25 in Brentwood, and now has a devoted east London and Essex fan base for her sausages. She makes 55 flavours ranging from lime and sweet chilli to classic Cumberland, and sells them from her own butcher’s shop in Romford.Six of her beloved saddleback sows – ‘good mothers, docile, prolific and good-tasting pigs’ – have been with her since she came out of prison with qualifications in pig husbandry, butchery and sausage-making. But she had no money, not enough animals and nowhere to keep them, she recalls. However, with a little financial help from a friend she’s already repaid, she bought more pigs from the prison farm and started taking her sausages round Essex and London farmers’ markets. Now her company has four full-time staff for the shop and as many part-timers helping out on the farmers’ market stalls. Cook her sausages and see how they’re so lean and meaty they don’t shrink, but actually grow.The Giggly Pig, 132 Petersfield Ave, Harold Hill, Romford, Essex (01708 343 896).
Ian and Sadie
Jennings Kush CuisineTwist your tongue round this: pickle people Kush Cuisine were perfect picks for the festival. With a variety of preserves and pickles that makes Heinz look like underachievers, chef Ian Jennings is so used to chopping onions in his kitchen near Croydon he doesn’t shed a tear. Some recipes reflect his Jamaican parentage, some are traditional British in a range that includes apple, lemon and mustard-seed chutney, date, lime and banana chutney, jerk marinades and cucumber and sweet-pepper pickle. With up to three of these at a time bubbling away in giant preserving pans, that’s a lot of chopping for one man, even with 25 years as a chef behind him. ‘We sell at farmers’ markets so many of the ingredients have to be locally sourced,’ explains Sadie Jennings, who helps her husband sell the jars they fill by hand. ‘London’s so cosmopolitan – people really appreciate what we do.’ www.kushcuisine.com