I have a romantic ideal of living in a country that treats going food shopping every day, for what’s good, as the normal thing to do. I know that this country isn’t really geared to that, and it’s just not practical here, because we are not geared up for it, and then there’s the rush to get to work or get the kids sorted out before everyone has to hurtle off to somewhere else, but I can dream.
I found myself at London Bridge this morning and, realising that a fair few of the stalls open at 8am, I went for a wander to Borough Market.
I love Borough in the early morning.
Actual people are buying things, not just tourists who gawk and stare but never buy. Office workers picking up their breakfast, having a quick chat in the patchy sunshine before they have to dash off, parents who have dropped the kids off, and are collecting a few bits for dinner in that peaceful hour prior to the crowds descending...
Then there are people like me. Just wandering about, soaking up the atmosphere, looking at the cathedral, imagining perhaps that we are walking foreign streets, hearing Italian or French spoken, instead of British.
Tricking ourselves that it’s warmer and sunnier than it really is when we smell the olives, and the freshly baked bread, or see the amazing fruit and vegetables dotted all over. Walking past the displays of tomatoes without buying any is a very hard task for me.
It’s in the early morning that you get the chance to talk to the stallholders, and learn more about what they do, where their produce comes from. One week I learned about elderflower champagne, today I learned about salt curing my own olives. To me, that’s a bargain all on its own. I love that people take the time to talk, to explain their own products and to even swap recipes and ideas.
I’d originally started swapping Tweets with the nice people at The Turkish Deli quite a while back, but they disappeared offline for a bit. They were victims of that pernicious ‘click this link’ scam that makes your Twitter account DM everyone, so they changed all their passwords, and went inactive on Twitter. It seems to have worked, and now they are back again.
Jay Rayner asked Twitter for the best place to get Turkish Delight in London, so I recommended Turkish Deli, and then decided to go and get some for myself as well. I know that what they do is excellent, and authentic, and I just needed some. You know how it is.
So that’s why, at just gone 8am this morning, I was heading hopefully towards their stall. The smell of olives as you approach is just lovely. Well, it’s lovely to me, probably not so good if you don’t like olives, but thankfully I do not suffer from that particular affliction. Olives, cheese, good bread. That is what makes a proper breakfast for me. Sadly colleagues at work don’t quite agree, but there we go. Philistines.
I tried some green olives this morning, but then I tasted the salt cured black olives. They are fairly small, and because of the salt cure drawing out all the juices, their flavour is intense and the texture quite fudgy. They are brilliant for olive bread, which I suspect these will go into.
Next up was the Delight.
Date and Cinnamon caught my eye, so I bagged some of those for my husband. Then the very nice man, Graham, showed me the Turkish Coffee flavour. Sound unusual? Well, it is.
The first taste is of the sugar, of course, but then as you chew, the coffee flavour come through. Turkish Coffee has a fairly mellow, almost woodsy – to me – flavour, and this was absolutely present. Then there was a slight hint of a grainy texture, because of the coffee grounds I assume, but that melted away very quickly. Your head is telling you that you taste a sweet Turkish coffee, but your mouth is saying “Sweeties!” All in all, I really liked it, and I do not like drinking Turkish coffee. Go figure.
Next I spied jars of white kourabiedes, snuggled in their snowy drifts of icing sugar. These are an almond cookie, similar to shortbread in style, very popular at Christmas and at weddings.
There were two options, one stuffed with Turkish Delight, and one with Walnuts. Walnuts won. My cookie will be eaten at home, over a plate, with my always-black-clothed self covered in a towel.
Jars of homemade tahini (which I’m getting next time) grape molasses, and rose petal jam sat next to stacks of olive oil soap and many more goodies. The baklava is at the front counter, and I believe some pistachio baklava was about to be made. I’m not sure how I tore myself away, to be honest.
So. If you are in Borough Market, go and find them and have a cup of coffee while you browse the stall. You will not be disappointed, I promise you.
Now, excuse me while I go and find me a towel, and a plate, and a cup of coffee...