Sunday, 18 September 2011

East Dulwich Orchard Collective

Twitter is a funny thing. It’s not like e-mail where you see the conversation that went on before you get roped in. I’m fairly new to Twitter but have a lot of time on my hands so when I saw my name being mentioned apparently randomly I dug back and found out it was all to do with the East Dulwich Orchard Collective. I was intrigued, as I am about any independent goings on in the area, so when it was mentioned that an apple pressing was taking place on Lordship Lane I thought I had better go along.
It transpires that this has been going on for about ten years.  The founders, Damon and Jo Green, bought a cider press for their own personal use to make cider from the apples in their garden, but they soon realised that it would be fun to broaden the idea and encourage other apple growers of the area to bring along their produce, in the same way that the wine co-ops function all over Europe.  They also promote tree growing and are a font of knowledge on what trees to buy and how to grow them. 
Last Saturday they held a community apple pressing, encouraging locals to bring along their apples.  They crushed and pressed around 100kg of apples from at least twelve local trees, gave away two dozen bottles of cider and perry and raised nearly £40 in donation to support the collective.  The juice they pressed on the day has been sealed in two large sterile buckets and is fermenting away in their kitchen. Soon it will have to be moved to a cooler spot to continue the process through the winter; when spring comes and the secondary fermentation is over, they will bottle it and it will be ready for those who donated apples and signed up to the collective to collect.

They are planning another pressing at Franklins to coincide with Apple Day so if you are interested, and/or have apples go along. If you are on Twitter the man to follow is @DamonGreenITV.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


My parents both lived through World War II, in fact my Dad was in the Merchant Navy making sure the convoys carrying food and aircraft fuel got through to the UK and later to Russia.  He joined the Navy in 1942 when he was 16! They lived the early years of their marriage during the times of rationing, and that meant that we were all brought up with the strict edict of ‘waste no, want not’. And old habits die hard! 

I am one of four children so making every item of food go as far as it could was very important. A favourite dish of Mum’s was stuffed marrow.  Take the leftovers from a bit of roast lamb (we never had roast beef, it was too expensive), mince it up with lots of onions and perhaps some red lentils to bulk it out if necessary – cook slowly for an hour until you have a flavoursome mince, then use to stuff a couple of marrows.  Bake in the oven until the marrows are soft and the meat is bubbling.  Serve with mashed potatoes and, if you wish, another vegetable - perhaps carrots to provide a colour contrast. It’s the essence of comfort food to me, and brings back a lot of childhood memories – and cooking with Mum was where my passion for food and cooking came from.

For this stuffed marrow I used some left over slow cooked shoulder of lamb that we had for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago, and that I had frozen.  It didn’t need much chopping up but if you are using something a bit less well cooked it might be better to use a food processor. Just be careful not to process too much, you need to keep some texture.  This isn’t spicy, or edgy, or innovative. It’s just a bit of old fashioned English cookery. 

Serves 2 

I medium sized marrow (about 14” long), washed
1 tblsp vegetable oil
1medium onion, finely chopped
300g or so of cooked lamb or beef
If you want to make from raw use 500g mince and fry off with the onion, then stir in flour etc. and proceed as in recipe
1 tblsp. flour
Dash of Lee & Perrins
250 ml beef stock
1 tblsp. Tomato puree 

Put the oven on at 200 degrees C 

Slice the marrow lengthways and, using a tablespoon, scoop out the seeds so you are left with two ‘boats’.   

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion gently until soft and translucent.  Add the cooked meat and stir until coloured. Add the flour, stir until cooked out, then add the Lee & Perrins, stock, tomato puree and 250ml water.  Simmer for 30 minutes or so until you have a thickish mince but with a little residue gravy. Taste and season with salt and black pepper as necessary. 

Line a baking tray with foil, put the marrow boats in, try to wedge together so that they are supporting each other, and fill with the mince. Cook for 30 minutes then check on progress. Cover with foil if browning too fast. Cook for another 15 minutes. By this time the marrow should be cooked and infused with the mince juices and the mince should have a nice crusty top. 

Serve with additional vegetables and potato – we had it just as it is.

Monday, 12 September 2011


This is very much a favourite in our house.  It’s an unusual Indian dish in that it doesn’t have any dried spices in it.  The flavouring comes from curry leaves, ginger and green chillies, and a good dose of souring tamarind at the end.  I always use tamarind that has already been extracted from the pods because it is so much more convenient. However, if you have acquired a packet of tamarind pods, soak the recommended amount in hot water for 30 minutes then sieve, making sure you get all the juicy bits off that cling to the stones.   

It’s a very different tasting curry, and I feel needs a bit of pickle and some well flavoured dahl to go with it. I also made some potatoes with peas, mustard seeds, ginger and shallots, and rice steamed with cardamom pods.  I always steam my rice with cardamom pods when cooking Indian as I love opening them up and sprinkling the seeds over my food – quite apart from the delicious scent they lend to the rice. 

Serves 4 

1 tblsp vegetable oil
8 curry leaves, fresh or dried
2” lump of ginger, finely grated
2 medium onions, finely sliced in half moons
3 cloves garlic crushed
4 green chillies, finely sliced, including seeds
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1kg of boned and skinned chicken thighs
1 desertspoon of tamarind paste 

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or wide bottomed sauté pan then when hot pop in the curry leaves and sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chillies, stir, and cook gently until the onions are soft and have started to brown a little.  

Now put in the tomatoes and cook until they have softened down into the mixture.  Add a teaspoon of salt and the chicken, pour in 250 ml cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.  

Remove the lid and add the tamarind.  Continue cooking uncovered until the sauce has reduced to a thickish consistency.  If wished, add another finely sliced green chilli with the tamarind.  Taste, season, and serve!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Beer and The Rye Lane Brewery

I was never much of a beer drinker – gin, vodka and wine are my main tipples.  But on striking up a relationship with the lovely Mr Redding I was subjected to a crash course in beer – and when I say beer I mean real ale, a name I hate as it conjours up beardy sweater wearing folks, and that’s not me and Mr R.  So, beer…with the aid of the great British Beer Guide we have visited scores of pubs over the last couple of years and I have developed my favourites.  A pint of Harvey’ bitter is probably up there at the top, especially from the Royal Oak in Tabard Street, SE1.  A trip to Leyton to the William IV pub allowed us to sample 14 of Brodie’s beers, which are brewed on the premises.  Our local pub chain Capital Pubs sell beer from their micro-brewery at The Florence pub in Herne Hill -  Weasel, Beaver and Bonobo – and we hope that this will still carry on now that the pub guzzlers Greene King have taken them over. And a special mention to a couple of other local pubs that always have a range of good beer on pump available, The Old Nuns Head and Hooper’s 

So, becoming a bit more educated about beer, and the importance of local breweries making good real beer, I was intrigued to hear about a new brewery planning to open up on Rye Lane…funnily enough called The Rye Lane Brewery.  Even better, they have managed to squat at another local brewery and produce a fledgling beer, endearingly called ‘Keep Your Peckham Up’ as a rallying cry after the riots.  Things got better – I heard that the beer would be on sale at the Peckham Rye Fete, slaking the thirst of the hundreds of people turning up for the world famous dog show, Punch and Judy and other fete related delights.  So I felt it was incumbent upon me to slope over on a hot Saturday afternoon to sample the brew.   

Unfortunately, Mr Redding was not available, so my cunning plan was to take a thermos flask with me so I could take a carry out back home with me…I was not sure how this would go down with the seller.  I need not have worried.  Tom, the owner and leading light behind the brewery, was at the helm and didn’t flinch when I asked if he could put a pint in my flask. I then took a pint in a glass for my own consumption as I wandered round the fete.  Keep Your Peckham Up is a relatively light (3.6%) bitter, very much in the English style.  Lightly but noticeably hopped with a nice flowery aroma, and a long dry finish. Perfect for lunchtime drinking with fish, salads and sandwiches. Mr Redding was equally impressed remarking at the depth of flavour and finish for a relatively light beer. Right up our street.

The Rye Lane Brewery is searching out premises on or near The Lane and I hope they manage to find something soon. Tom wants this to be a brewery that the community feels involved with producing products that our local pubs want to stock.  He has a Facebook page at!/pages/Rye-Lane-Brewery/207076782686209 and the website is at

Support your local brewer!!!