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No allotment, no problem – seasonal vegetables from Turnips Borough Market
Everyone knows Borough Market but, did you realise though that until relatively recently, June 27th 1998, the market was only wholesale. The 21st anniversary of the first ‘Warehouse Sales’ when the market was opened to the public was in June. While Fred Foster, the founder of Turnips had moved his wholesale fruit and vegetable business to Borough Marketing in 1989, it was not until nine years later that a group of businesses got together to see if, by any chance, the public could be persuaded to shop at Borough… Now, Londoners and visitors to the City alike can benefit from a fantastic array of seasonal vegetables and fruit – somewhere you’ll find anything you might be looking for.
Turnips not only operates a thriving stall at the market where you can buy fruit and vegetables sourced from growers in the UK, France and Italy but continues to supply some of the top restaurants in London – Le Gavroche, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester and Marcus Waring for example. So, don’t be surprised if you spot things for sale that you’ve only seen before on your plate in a posh restaurant.
For me, Turnips is THE place to come for special tomatoes and mushrooms in particular. – and somewhere I’ll generally find a treat or two lurking, like this tray of French black figs.
I tend to arrive without a shopping list and just buy what I think looks wonderful. I asked the people at Turnips to put me together a selection of what they thought I should try – with one caveat, that I wanted some chantarelle mushrooms.
Here’s what they came up with. There’s sweetcorn, globe artichoke, a squash, yellow haricot beans, a purple cauliflower, Victoria plums, heritage tomatoes, Roscoff onions, Lautrec pink garlic, a couple of those wonderful French black figs and of course, some chantarelle mushrooms. Late summer seasonal vegetables and fruit.
I’ve still got a few things to use up – the Roscoff onions are waiting patiently in a dark hessian sack along with the squash. But these are autumnal vegetables that store well if you star with good quality. And I’m particularly happy to have both the onions and some Lautrec pink garlic, because both are special ingredients. Roscoff onions have been grown in the area around Roscoff, France since the 17th century and are known for their unique flavour, high vitamin C content and long shelf-life. The stereotypical Breton man on a bike with a string of onions round his neck and a stripey top is actually carrying Roscoff onions. It’s an AOC approved product and can only come from a specific area around Roscoff. Similarly, Lautrec Pink Garlic comes from the Tarn and is PGI. I’ve actually visited Lautrec – but out of season for garlic, so I was really quite thrilled to find some in my collection of veg.
What I have been doing though, is eating some beautiful vegetable dishes (and one which is meat led). I used the heritage tomatoes to make a fresh tomato salad with basil, shallots and olives. I used green olives here, though my original recipe used black Kalamata olives. And, because I’ve got a lot of fresh basil growing, I used that as my soft herb. Finally, I replaced the white wine vinegar with a softer, sweeter sherry vinegar that I have been experimenting with and like a lot. The real point about this kind of salad though is that your main ingredient, tomato, needs to be the highest possible quality.
Next, I cooked the globe artichoke – something I’ve never done before.
Did you know that you can steam a globe artichoke in a pressure cooker? That’s what I did – it took just 15 minutes at high pressure and was perfectly tender. In some vain attempt to be healthy I made yoghurt, lemon and olive oil dip – 3 tablespoons of greek yoghurt to 1 each of olive oil and lemon, with a little salt and pepper to season. All I needed to do to prepare the globe artichoke was to trim the stalk and leaves a little.
To serve, take the steamed artichoke out of the pressure cooker and pop it into a deep bowl.
The dip on the side, you eat it by pulling off the leaves and eating the soft fleshy part where it was fixed to the main artichoke. Once you reach the choke (a kind of round, hairy bit in the middle of the artichoke), you need to remove that with a sharp knife. What is left is the best part, the sweet and tender heart of the artichoke.
Artichoke makes a delicious sharing starter for two – and it is genuinely very healthy (a large artichoke will be just 25 calories with around 170 milligrams of potassium, and is a good source of vitamin C, folate, magnesium and dietary fibre!).
Finally, my favourite part – the chantarelle mushrooms. The first challenge with chantarelle mushrooms is cleaning them.
To clean the mushrooms, fill your sink with fresh cold water. Have a tea towel, a small sharp knife and a small clean cloth ready. First, use your knife to scrape off any bits of earth or peat that are stuck to the mushroom. Then, take a small handful of mushrooms and swish them in the water for a few seconds. Wipe off any remaining bits of earth with the cloth and lay the mushrooms out on the tea towel to dry. It’s very important not to soak the mushrooms because they will absorb water and then go soggy when you try to cook them. And it’s vital to let them dry for at least 15 minutes, even if you think they look as if they are already dry. Trim the stalks before cooking.
To cook, melt a good pat of butter with an equal quantity of olive oil in a large frying pan till just sizzling. Add enough mushrooms to barely cover the pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for around 6 minutes, till the mushroms soften a little and the edges just start to look as if they are browning a little. Once cooked, you can keep them warm in an oven while you cook a steak, as I did. For more about how to prepare yours, check my tips for the perfect steak
Or enjoy them in an omelette as a luxurious filling. Or, perhaps with a bowl of polenta. The choice is yours.
There’s more to come. I’ll be sharing a recipe for the onions and squash very soon. But, this particular selection of vegetables really didn’t need anything else to enjoy them at their best. If you have excellent quality ingredients, it’s often best to do as little as possible with them. And that’s just what I’ve done here.
With many thanks to Turnips for a wonderful selection of seasonal vegetables to cook with. Now run by two generations of the Foster family, they really do provide the highest quality seasonal vegetables. If you’d like to try for yourself, Turnips are open 6 days a week.
3 Borough Market
London SE1 9AH
Monday – Thursday 10.00am to 5.00pm
Friday 10.00am – 6.00pm
Saturday 8am – 5.00pm