Foodie’s Paradise: Partridges Food Market

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Food markets are a wonderful, traditional and natural thing – something humanity has been doing for hundreds of years as a way of trading, exchanging and buying food. They create a physical and visual circumstance where consumers can see, smell and often taste (the most important aspect of anything we eat!) food before they buy it. We can literally ‘feast’ our eyes on an array of delicious fare.

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Markets are direct, personal and unambiguous presentations of fresh ingredients and real produce, usually handmade or cooked or baked on a small scale, by passionate people. They operate on an intimate level, and not only foster interaction between one person and another, but between producer and consumer, farmer and customer, maker and eater. Furthermore, they characteristically encourage the sale and consumption of local and seasonal food. That was why and how markets first began – a local farmer or baker would set up a stall for those who lived nearby to come and purchase locally grown vegetables, or bread kneaded and baked from local wheat or rye flour, or meat reared from cows or pigs living in neighbouring fields. Today, people all over Britain and the western world are doing the same thing; in a kind of revival of something we’d lost and forgotten about for a good fifty years.

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Everything about food markets is positive and nurturing – natural, sensual, personal, local. So different to the experience we as people have when buying food at supermarkets; pushing our trolley round aisles and aisles of plastic-wrapped food in a sterile, odourless and artificial atmosphere, as if food was made by machines and just appears on the shelves out of thin air, with no human being or plant or animal or particle of soil involved in its growth and production at all.

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The great news is food and farmers markets are on the rise, becoming more and more popular, attractive, accessible and prevalent. They are quickly starting to be seen as valuable, exciting ways of purchasing and enjoying food, both in terms of buying ingredients for home cooking and as a delicious lunch or snack. Partridges Food Market is one such market, where every Saturday tens of growers, producers and companies set up their stalls in Duke of York Square for anyone in London to enjoy. It’s always heaving, and for a good reason – the array of food on offer is both amazing and mouth-watering.

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There’s raw honey from Spain; organic vegetables from Riverdale Organic Farm; cheeses from France, Wiltshire and Somerset; raw super foods by Detox Delivered; a hog roast; Chinese dumplings; paella; French crêpes and galettes; speciality curries and Indian dishes; haggis toasties; sushi made right in front of you at the stall; burgers with a range of toppings; a Brazilian pastelaria and deli; vegan cakes and biscuits; petit fours; organic sourdough breads; handmade ravioli and gnocchi… The list goes on!

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My absolute favourite stall is Rainforest Creations. Their spread of tropical-style raw salads, dips, flans, cakes and sweets is like a rainbow of vegan, plant-based, refined sugar free delight and goodness. It makes natural, healthy vegetables look like the food of the gods. And it all tastes incredible. Their salads range from tropical coleslaw and angel kale and avocado to mungbean-lentils and red quinoa. And their sprouted hummus is the best I’ve ever tasted, with subtle hints of spice, herbs and turmeric. You can get almost everything wrapped up in a corn and split lentil roti, or just a tub bursting with salad, an akashe ball and a good dollop of hummus.

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If you haven’t been to Partridges Food Market, Rainforest Creations alone is a reason to get yourself there. But it’s wonderful to just go and wander round; to see, smell and take in all the food and bustling people – to experience genuine food out in the open air and have your fill of fresh, delicious produce that’s natural, personal and real.

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French Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

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Lentils and mushrooms make for a somewhat brown combination, but together they really complement each other and create a nutritious, delicious stew. Puy lentils are probably the tastiest lentil out there and hence, over the years, the French have seized on them for their cooking, so they’re often known as French lentils. As a legume (the seed of its plant), they really are powerhouses of protein, but so often they’re served as a side dish. This seems silly to me because a thick, warming lentil casserole is such a hearty, satisfying meal all on its own – it deserves to be the main, the focus of your plate. Taking inspiration from the lentils’ link to France, this casserole is bursting with French flavours, from the red wine to the rosemary and mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most nutrient-rich mushrooms out there. They’re a fantastic source of bioavailable iron and protein, which is always good news for vegetarians and vegans. They also have a strong antiviral effect – perfect for the colder months of the year when our bodies are naturally more disposed to catching viruses. But the best thing about these shiitake mushrooms is that they were grown here in the UK, so they are local fungi through and through. The chestnut mushrooms also come from a few counties away, and the rosemary’s from a little bush in my garden, so as a whole this casserole is a local pleasure.

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Serves 6:

  • 50g dried shiitake mushrooms (porcini also work well)
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms
  • 120g shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 medium onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 litre of hot vegetable stock
  • 150ml red wine
  • 400g of puy lentils
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of miso paste

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First, give your dried shiitake mushrooms a quick rinse before placing them in a large bowl and pouring over the hot stock, leaving them to soak for twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop the onions and crush the garlic cloves through a press. Chop both the fresh shiitake and chestnut mushrooms into discs, making them all a vaguely similar size. Place the lentils in a sieve and give them a thorough rinse.

When the dried shiitake mushrooms have soaked for twenty minutes, use a slotted spoon to take them out, letting as much liquid as possible drip off so they’re fairly dry. Chop these mushrooms, discarding any hard stalk ends.

Place a large casserole dish (I like to use Le Creuset) over a medium to high heat and pour in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil’s hot, tip in the onions and fry for a few minutes until they’re starting to soften. Add the garlic and a few rosemary leaves and allow to cook for another couple of minutes, turning the heat down to medium. At this point add all the mushrooms and fry for approximately 5-10 minutes until they’ve all softened and shrunk down, cooked through.

Pour in the mushroom vegetable stock and the red wine, give it a good stir and then add the lentils. Stir once more, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in the rest of the rosemary leaves. Make sure all the lentils are down in the liquid before placing the lid on and reducing the heat to a simmer. They should take about 45-60 minutes to cook, but every 10 minutes check it’s gently simmering and give the stew a good stir. You may find you have to add a little more liquid as the lentils soak it up – do a small amount at a time as you want a thick casserole by the end.

Once the lentils are soft and the flavours have all come together, mix up the miso paste with a tiny bit of water and then stir into the mix, turning the heat off. Serve with rice or roast potatoes for a traditional winter supper, or try it in a lunch bowl with some roasted vegetables and salad.

Turmeric Tangerine Porridge with Blackcurrant Compote

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Turmeric should be called a superspice. It’s got the most amazing colour, distinct flavour and even better it’s one of the best things you can eat, especially in these winter months when your body needs a good immune boost. It has a host of medicinal properties and nutrients – the most significant of which is curcumin. This compound is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and recent studies have shown that it can prevent heart attacks, delay the onset of diabetes and fight cancer by helping to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.

You most probably associate turmeric with curry and savoury dishes, but it’s such a warming spice that it goes perfectly with porridge and, in general, with sweet, fruity flavours. Tangerines have a citrusy sweetness with subtle sour tangs, which combined with the turmeric creates a unique, mildly exotic taste, making every spoonful of porridge delicious. Tangerines are such a great seasonal fruit – they’re my go-to for a naturally sweet afternoon snack in the winter. Not only are they chock-full of vitamin C, they’re also grown in Spain, so they haven’t had to travel too far to my greengrocer in southern England.

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Swirling blackcurrant compote through this porridge really is the cherry on top of the cake. Blackcurrants are so overlooked as a berry, which is mad because they’re so good for you – packed with iron, as well as B vitamins and vitamin A. I use blackcurrants handpicked from my very own garden, which to me is just the most wonderful thing – truly organic, local and with no one else involved in the growing and gathering apart from me. These babies have been frozen since last summer, so if you can’t get your hands on any right now then try alternative berries for the compote and be ready for the blackcurrant season this year. They’re little gems.

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Serves 2

For the porridge:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • ½ cup of coconut milk or almond milk
  • ½ cup of water
  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg

For the blackcurrant compote:

  • ½ cup of blackcurrants (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1½ teaspoons of yacon syrup, maple syrup or honey

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First of all, place the blackcurrants in a saucepan along with the water and sweetener of your choice and turn to a medium heat. Once the pan’s hot, keep stirring the blackcurrants until their juices start to come out and the berries are just starting to burst. At this point reduce the heat to low.

Juice the tangerines either by peeling their skins and squeezing out the juice from the segments by hand, or by putting them through a juicer if you have one. In another saucepan, pour in the oats, water and milk and bring to the boil. Once the oats are starting to absorb the liquid and break down, add the tangerine juice, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. Give it a good stir to make sure everything is combined.

After 5-10 minutes, depending on whether you’ve used jumbo or porridge oats and how soft you like them, pour the porridge into two bowls and then top with the blackcurrant compote. I like to serve mine with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut.

Warm Winter Sprout & Quinoa Salad

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Quinoa is a slightly contentious topic in the food world at the moment (as this article highlights), due to the west’s sudden love and demand for this little grain. There’s no doubt that quinoa is one of the world’s greatest foods, especially for vegetarians and vegans out there: it’s a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids, it has almost twice as much fibre as most other grains and it’s packed with magnesium. In most ways, it trumps all other grains, but when poor Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their staple food because of US and European demand raising prices, it’s not an easy or particularly acceptable thing to buy a packet of South American-grown quinoa and simply shrug and ignore this unethical fact.

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But here in Britain we have the perfect solution – Hodmedod’s British quinoa from the fields of Essex. A truly local grain grown in English soil which has only travelled a few miles and hasn’t cheated South American farmers and civilians out of their food – what can be better than that? And, pairing this with Brussel sprouts and a few swirls of carrot, which are both in season, this salad is a local and seasonal bowl of rainbow-coloured goodness. Sprouts receive an unfair nose-wrinkling bad name, but they can be so delicious if cooked in an imaginative way, rather than simply boiling all the taste and nutrients out of them. Infusing this warm winter salad with rosemary and chilli flakes gives both the quinoa and sprouts an aromatic flavour, and topping it off with lightly toasted sunflower seeds adds a crunch which makes every mouthful a protein-packed, plant-filled pleasure.

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Serves 3:

  • 2 cups/310g of Brussel sprouts
  • ½ cup of quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup of sunflower seeds
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons of chilli flakes
  • Sea salt

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Preheat your oven to 170°C. Start by chopping the bottom end off the Brussel sprouts and removing the outer leaves. Give them a good wash before cutting them in half. Then place them on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and toss until evenly coated. Roast them in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Whilst they’re baking, bring a pan of water to the boil and add the quinoa and apple cider vinegar. Give it a stir and reduce to a simmer, letting it cook for about 15 minutes, or however long your specific quinoa takes.

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At this point, peel the outer skin of the carrots off and then use the peeler to make thin strips, from one end to the other. Strip the rosemary leaves off their stems. Once the sprouts have been in the oven for 10 minutes take them out and sprinkle over the chilli flakes and rosemary leaves. Give them a stir to make sure they’re roasting evenly and return them to the oven for about 10 more minutes, or until they’re starting to go golden brown and slightly crispy.

Using a dry pan, turn it up to a medium heat and gently toast the sunflower seeds, tossing them about a bit to make sure all sides go lightly brown. Once your quinoa’s cooked, drain any excess water and remove the sprouts from the oven. Toss all the elements together and serve – I like mine sprinkled with a few extra chilli flakes for a mildly spicy tang.

Almond Butter & Maca Energy Bites

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Almond butter (and I know I am not alone here) is something of an obsession for me. I just absolutely love it. Since I was little I’ve always adored peanut butter because that was the only nut butter available or that I’d come across, but since I tried almond butter last year (Meridian’s is the best – no added sugar and just pure almonds) it trumped peanut butter, and I still tend to gorge on it. The base for these energy bites is almond butter, along with a few raw almonds, walnuts, dates and maca.

Although almonds aren’t in season here in Britain at the moment, I make sure I use almonds which have come from Spain, where they are currently seasonal and so they also haven’t had to travel too far (Meridian states that their organic almonds are grown in Spain, which is fab). Almonds are packed with slow releasing energy, and they’re also rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium, both of which help maintain healthy bones and teeth. The addition of walnuts to these little snacks is also great because they are still in season in the UK – so these nutty balls are fresh, seasonal heaven.

The mix of creamy almond butter, almonds, walnuts, dates and ground flax seeds gives these bites so much flavour, and you just know you’re giving your body a health and energy kick because almost all the ingredients are raw. In health cafes maca is often offered as a drink alternative to coffee, because of its naturally invigorating and revitalizing effects, so it gives these balls that little bit extra for an afternoon pick-me-up or a morning boost. Even better, maca has a unique spiciness and subtle sweetness which is so delicious. These little titans of energy really are so easy to whip up – it’s great to make a quick batch at the weekend ready for the trials of the week ahead.

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Makes between 12-15 balls:

  • 4 tablespoons of almond butter
  • ⅓ cup of almonds (50g)
  • ⅓ cup of walnuts (45g)
  • 10 dates (80g)
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds
  • 3 teaspoons of maca
  • 3 tablespoons of jumbo oats
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • Sea salt

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Simply place the raw almonds, walnuts, ground flaxseeds, oats and maca in a food processor and blend until the nuts are broken down into fine pieces and it starts to resemble a flour (though not totally ground).

After that, add the almond butter, dates, coconut oil, water and a good grinding of sea salt before blending once more until the mixture has all come together and is starting to stick into one big ball of dough.

Scoop out a small amount of the mixture and roll around in your palms to make smooth balls. Store them in the fridge, or if you’re restrained and don’t think you’ll eat them within a week, place them in the freezer. Nibble (or pop into your mouth in one) and enjoy!

Ultimate Thai Green Curry

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Thai curry is just one of those things. If you go to an authentic Thai restaurant and order their staple dish it’s just bursting with flavour and I always love it. I went to a Thai place in Brixton the other day for a friend’s birthday lunch and we all sat outside – yep, that’s right we sat outside in Britain in January. But along came our big bowls of steaming Thai curry and everyone was happy – warmed, satisfied and chipper, if a little numb in our fingers and toes.

As a general rule Thai curry comes in the form of chicken or prawn, or it’s been made with fish sauce, which isn’t so fantastic for vegetarians and vegans. For a while now I’ve wanted to create a truly veggie Thai green curry, spiced with all the authentic Thai flavours and creamy coconut milk, but with good seasonal British vegetables as the principal feature. So here you have a kale, cauliflower and broccoli curry, both super healthy and tasty, and 100% vegan.

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Kale rules the health food world at the moment, and for a good reason – it’s chock full of iron (it actually has more iron than beef per calorie!) which is essential for processes in the body such as the formation of haemoglobin and enzymes, and for cell growth. Kale is also high in vitamins K, A and C and contains powerful antioxidants. Cauliflower kicks arse as well – it’s a great source of minerals and vitamins such as manganese and phosphorus, and it’s an important source of fibre which aids in digestion. And they’re both in season here in the UK – bought from my local organic greengrocer, these winter veggies are the most wonderful thing.

The secret to this curry is making the paste yourself. Using fresh ingredients gives it so much more flavour than those supermarket readymade ones in a jar that also have added sugar, colour and acidity regulators, which you just don’t need. Whizzing up the paste is so easy and you can make a big batch and freeze the rest ready for your next Thai curry. Combining this with coconut milk, delicious vegetables and a few peas for a protein boost, this curry is spicy, creamy and zesty.

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Serves 6

For the paste:

  • 3-4 medium green chillies (25g)
  • 1 shallot (60g)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (12g)
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger (30g)
  • Small handful of fresh coriander (15g)
  • Small handful of Thai basil (18g)
  • 1 lime (75g)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk (22g)
  • 1½ teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1½ tablespoons of coconut oil
  • ½ tablespoon of sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon of tamari soy sauce

For the curry:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 5/6 heaped tablespoons of curry paste
  • 2 tins/800ml of coconut milk
  • 3 large handfuls of kale (70g)
  • 8-10 florets of broccoli (200g)
  • 8-10 florets of cauliflower (230g)
  • 150g of frozen petit pois
  • ½ a lime
  • A few sprigs of fresh coriander and Thai basil

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First, deseed and roughly chop the chillies. Roughly chop the shallot, garlic and lemongrass stalks. Peel the ginger and again roughly chop. Grate the lime zest and then squeeze all the juice out. Place the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar and grind them until they’re completely crushed. Place all of these ingredients and the remaining Thai basil, coriander, coconut oil, sunflower oil and tamari into a food processor and blend until smooth – it should take about a minute. You may have to scrape down the sides with a spoon a couple of times to make sure it’s all combined.

Place the paste in a bowl and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. After that, place a large pan on a medium heat and add the coconut oil. Once it’s hot, add 5-6 heaped tablespoons of the paste, depending on taste or spiciness required (the amount of paste should be about right but you may have some left over – simply place in the freezer for another curry). Let the paste fry in the oil for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. At this point, add the coconut milk and stir.

Once the milk comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low, put a lid on and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes. This will let all the flavours from the paste infuse into the coconut milk and will really bring them out – ideally you should leave it for at least 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the broccoli and cauliflower so that they’re all small to medium sized florets. At this point, squeeze the juice out of the ½ lime ready for adding later. Once the coconut milk’s simmered for at least 30 minutes, place a small amount of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. When it’s boiling add the petit pois and simmer for 4 minutes, or until tender. At this point, steam the broccoli and cauliflower for not more than 1½ minutes before adding them to the coconut milk. Add the cooked peas and the fresh kale as well.

Give the curry a good stir and then let the vegetables simmer gently for about a minute (making sure the kale has a chance to wilt). While they’re simmering, add the lime juice to the curry along with the fresh coriander and Thai basil. Stir it all round once more and then finally serve – I like to soak up the luscious, spicy coconut sauce with a portion of wholesome long grain brown rice.

Carrot, Ginger & Turmeric Juice

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Carrots are super – they’re probably the vegetable that’s in season for the longest in Britain, growing naturally and happily in our soil from June right the way through to February. That’s a whopping 9 months, over three quarters of the year. You might think they almost don’t have a season, but it’s so good because whenever I crunch on one or press a bit of carrot through my juicer it’s a great feeling because I know they really are local and seasonal, a true English food.

They’re also pretty bloomin’ healthy as far as vegetables go. They’re great for vision because they’re rich in beta-carotene, which also helps slow down aging through acting as an antioxidant to cell damage. Moreover, carrots promote healthier skin through their vitamin A content, this wonderful vitamin helping to protect the skin from sun damage, premature wrinkling, dry skin and pigmentation. In addition to carrots, this juice is bursting with ginger and turmeric, which both add a lightly spicy tang that’s really stimulating. They’re both anti-inflammatory; ginger containing potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which can be beneficial to chronic inflammatory diseases. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.

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I woke up with a pretty bad headache on Christmas Eve so I decided to make a carrot juice with a ton of fresh ginger and turmeric, and you know what? It really worked! My headache didn’t disappear completely but it was 95% gone, which is an amazing result, especially as it all came from plants – no drugs, nothing synthetic, nothing artificial. Things like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are just so far from anything natural and when we swallow them our bodies have no idea what they are or how to process them. I’d so much rather sip on a juice, knowing that everything I’m putting into my body can only have a positive effect, in both the short term and long term. In simple words, this juice is an easy and great way to flood your system with vegetables, minerals and vitamins, giving it a good alkaline boost, so don’t hold back – especially if you have swollen glands, tonsils, sinuses or are generally feeling under the weather.

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Makes one large glass:

  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 apple
  • 1-2 inch piece of ginger (depending on how gingery you like it!)
  • 2 inch piece of turmeric root
  • Half a yellow bell pepper

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Simply press all the ingredients through your juicer, pour into a glass, give it a little stir and enjoy!

P.S. I like to save the pulp and make raw carrot cake