Borough Market: The Book

This market is much more than hidden gem, it is a treasure trove. Like in an adventure story you step sideways from one of the most frequented commuters’ bridge, leave the crowd of grey-suited City workers behind, venture down down down some stairs, trot around the cathedral and enter THE place of food celebration: Borough Market. Dating back to Roman time in one form or another, on the very same site for 250 years, it is the capital’s oldest market. For a long time wholesale only, it opened to the public 7 years ago, growing from 6 stalls in 1998 to over a hundred; every single one displays fine quality produce, a lot of them organic. Last year, it received a gold award and was voted “London’s best shopping experience,” which in London is not an easy feat.
This unique gastronomic haven is a brilliant place to meet up with friends. Here you can get “the Best Breakfast in London.” There is an array of places, from sole traders to larger firms. From Konditor & Cook with their most delicious funnily named sponge cake, to the tea-stall inside the market itself which serves coffee on rickety tables and chairs in such a friendly manner that you almost forget the winter weather. On your way out, make sure to get the ultimate chocolate brownies, unless you are in Ines company and, then you will also whirl around each of the world class bakers/patissiers’ stalls, delighting equally in tartes au citron, cheesecakes and pasteis: lovely small custard tart like they have the secret in Belem (Lisbon). Oh! but why, are you wondering, am I raving & rattling on about a market? Here is your answer:
The Borough Market Cookbook: Meat & Fish. This new book “is not the work of a single individual but a collective effort that reflects the market its collaborative and community driven ethos”. Sixteen traders give us a fascinating insight into their livelihood and their passion. Packed with information, it tracks the market products down to their origins. It guides you through the choice process, e.g., how NOT to ask for cod, but instead buy sustainably fished species such as bream, gurnard or herring. Next it tells you all about preparation and finally offers recipes which I must say will be rather handy if you were to step out of your comfort zone. Even if you are unlikely to visit Borough, buying and cooking with this book will appeal to your sense of discovery. It is part of a series and I can’t wait for the next installment, just hoping that it might cover cheeses as my French friends are often gasping in disbelief at the quality of English cheeses.
Some months ago, I went to what I would describe as a “beer restaurant.” I ordered Mussels in cider, which I never had before. I cursed myself for months afterwards for neither taking a picture nor asking for the recipe, therefore I was delighted to find it in the book.


Mussels are one of the easiest weeknight suppers. They are sweet tasty morsels from the sea that are made for sharing, which always results in a convivial meal to be had by all. A few years ago a customer mentioned to me that they were her favourite dish for Boxing Day every year. She said it was a quick and easy ‘hot’ option to have on hand for those who didn’t want turkey and bacon sandwiches. I couldn’t agree more. To many people’s surprise mussels can be purchased well ahead oftime. They keep very well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. However, they do like a very specific environment: they must be kept moist with a damp tea towel or wet newspaper. They should be left un-cleaned with their ‘beards’ intact in a sieve resting in a bowl with a few ice cubes, rather than stored in an air-tight container or water. Finally, they must be kept well chilled. The less they are disturbed the longer they will keep quite happily. This has to be one of my favourite recipes in the book. The combination of sweet-salty mussels with deliciously dry New Forest Cider is my idea of heaven. Even though I do love the small threads of shallots dotted throughout the mussel broth, I have at a pinch gone without. I have also substituted basil for thyme and parsley with similar success.

Preparation time 45 minutes for cleaning and soaking the musselsCooking time 10–12 minutes, 10–12 minutes, 10–12 minutes
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter

Season Mussels are at their best September through December but are reasonably available throughout the year

1kg mussels
2 tblsp sea salt, for soaking the mussels,
plus additional for the broth
60g unsalted butter
6 shallots
3 garlic cloves
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
400ml tomato passata
480ml cider
1 level tblsp Dijon mustard
2 rounded tblsp crème fraîche
15g fresh parsley leaves

Clean the mussels under cold running water. Leave them to soak for half an hour in a large bowl with plenty of salted water. Scrape off barnacles and pull off the hairy beards. Discard any mussels with broken shells. Most of them will be closed: if any are open, give them a squeeze. If they don’t close shut, then throw them away.
Heat the butter in a wide deep saucepan with a tight fitting lid over moderately high heat until foaming subsides. Peel and cut the shallot in half. Then chop the shallot into thin slices. Peel and crush the garlic with a little salt in a mortar. Then add, along with the shallots, to the hot butter. Stir to coat in the warm butter and cook gently until the shallots start to soften and become translucent. Wash the sprigs of thyme and blot dry with kitchen paper. Pull off the leaves and give them a rough chop to release their flavour. Then add to the pan along with a pinch of sea salt and the black pepper, stirring to coat. Slowly pour in the tomato passata and cider and bring to a gentle boil.
Add the cleaned mussels and cook; covered, stirring occasionally, until mussels open, 4–6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.
Wash the parsley and blot dry with kitchen paper. Chop the leaves and fine stems of the parsley and set aside. Stir together the mustard and crème fraîche in a small bowl. Then add, along with the chopped parsley, to the hot tomato broth and whisk until combined.
Divide the mussels amongst warm bowls and ladle the sauce over them.
Serve with a leafy green salad and lots of crusty bread.
The Borough Market Cookbook

recipe reproduced with the authorisation of the publisher.

Big Thank You to Libby for trotting down the market in the spirit of research, yes that way round, not the research of spirit.

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