Our first visit to Portobello Market was shortly after we moved to London. I hadn’t settled in yet and felt very much like a tourist. And, like tourists from all over the world, I loved it. It is huge (long, more accurately) and changes with every block. It is colorful and vibrant and diverse and fun. There is a reason it is one of the most visited markets in the world.
As I have settled into my new home, I’ve revisited the market many times and my point of view has shifted. While drawing visitors from all over the world, the market also provides daily goods to locals. It is simultaneously cosmopolitan, traditional, edgy and utilitarian. Where else can I get a really great cup of coffee while shopping for antique silver spoons and plain old onions. With good reason, Portobello & Golborne Market was honored this year as the UK’s best outdoor street market because of its diversity and for creating “an environment where people from across the whole community mix on an everyday basis.”
Imagine my excitement when I discovered that the market was looking for volunteers to work on Road Food, a program put on every third weekend of the month to promote the market’s food stalls. After working up some recipes showcasing current market produce, some Leiths classmates and I cooked loads of nice food to pass out to market-goers. All of the ingredients were sourced exclusively from Portobello & Golborne Roads and can easily be recreated at home. Below you’ll find the recipes for Rocket Vichyssoise (I make some variation of this dish every few weeks and even the Fours slurp it up) and the super-easy, super generous Apple Cake.
A massive thank you to Naomi (from A Spot of Pepper) and Rich (the non-blogger), both from Leiths, and to all of the volunteers for giving so much time. And thank you to Mark, Claudia and Olivera for having us back again next month. See you on April 20!
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Vichysoise is a classic soup of leeks and potatoes that can be served warm or cold. The addition of greens boosts the vitamins and fiber and adds a beautiful color. Patience is your friend here: sweat the onions and leeks slowly and simmer the potatoes for maximum flavour. The whole thing will still only take 30 minutes from start to finish.
1 medium onion, evenly diced
1 medium leek, halved and sliced to approximately the same width as the onion
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter or oil
10oz/290ml vegetable stock
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1in/2cm dice
5-10oz/150-290ml whole milk
200g rocket (arugula) or spinach
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco Sauce to taste (optional)
- Warm the oil or butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, leek and a pinch of salt. Sweat over low heat until completely soft. They should not take on any color. This should take 5-10 minutes.
- Add vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
- Add potatoes and simmer until soft. This should take 8-12 minutes. You can be sure that they are done by testing with a cutlery knife: if the knife easily cuts through the potato, they are done.
- Add ¼- ½ pint of milk, the nutmeg and the rocket or spinach and simmer until the greens are soft. The amount of milk can vary based on personal preference from a splash to the full amount. The consistency should be creamy and not too thick.
- Once the greens are cooked, blend the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender/liquidizer. Take care with the hot liquid. If using a blender, it is safer to work in batches and use a tea towel over the top.
- Return the blended soup to the pan and season with salt, pepper and Tabasco (if using).
- Serve hot or cold.
This cake comes together in a matter of minutes before it is baked in the oven. It is moist and full of apples and it is huge. It is also better the next day, but good luck waiting that long to cut into it.
450g apples, firm and crisp, but not too tart
Squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
8oz/250g sugar + 1 tablespoon for the apples + extra for sprinkling on top
11oz/350g self-raising flour
2oz/50g rolled oats or porridge oats
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325F/160C and butter a large baking tray (mine is 11in x 11in or 27cm x 27cm).
- Peel apples and cut into pieces, discarding the core. Cut into a 1/2in/1cm dice. Squeeze lemon juice over to keep from discoloring. Toss with 1 tablespoon caster sugar and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside while making cake batter
- Melt butter and sugar in a small pan. Tip into a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Measure out all remaining dry ingredients into a large bowl. Use a wire whisk to distribute ingredients and aerate flour. Make a well in the centre.
- Beat eggs together with vanilla. Gradually add eggs to butter and sugar mixture.
- Tip the egg mixture into the well in the dry ingredients and fold until just incorporated. Stir in apples.
- Spread into baking tray and put in pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden and sides are pulling away from the edges of the pan. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out without any raw batter (it may be moist, especially if you hit an apple).
- Allow to cool before slicing into squares.