Archive for April, 2012

I say Tamarillo, you say Tree Tomato

Easter is always a bit of a topsy turvy time for me in the U.K. I get that Christmas is mid-winter here and I prefer it that way, but Easter always feels like it should be Autumn. It’s just a temporary seasonal holiday thing that has stuck with me. I consider a hot-cross bun to be an Autumn food, so when I eat them, it feels like Autumn.

At Maltby Stree Market I found a fruit unquestionably Autumnal (it had been flown up from the Southern Hemisphere), the Tamarillo, such a rare treat to find I bought a few to take home and make a pudding with.  

This is my mum’s all time favourite and when I sent her a picture of what I had made quick as a flash she responded, “Absolutely my favourite dessert when done properly with plenty of sugar. Hiding in the kitchen crouched on the floor so no-one sees you licking the bowl stuff.”

When I read that I was taken back to our family kitchen, thinking about all the times as a kid I’d snuck open the fridge while everyone else was in the lounge watching TV, I would be ramming syrupy spoonfuls this ambrosia down my throat. It seems I wasn’t the only one! There was always plenty left over because Mum believed it tasted better the next day. 

The recipe could not be easier. Take however many Tamarillos you have to hand, blanch to peel the skins off, slice widthways and spread out on a platter, cover in sugar, more than you think is morally acceptable and leave for as long as possible. The sugar works drawing out the juices of the fruit to create a deep, rich syrup. Sweet at the same time tart. Serve with Vanilla Ice cream. The easiest most sophisticated dessert I know.

Having only had three Tamarillos to work with (they were £1 each eek!) and we didn’t get the chance to see how it tasted the next day as my rather enthusiastic dinner companion helped himself to four servings and I had three.

The Humble Tree Tomato



Blanch and slice, spread out on a plate



The hard part, cover in sugar


One hour



Seven hours


Best served with Vanilla Ice cream








40 Maltby Street

As a food lover and enthusiastic cook I am interested in all things gastronomic. Although I  like cooking at home for friends more than eating out, as everybody is so busy these days, I get to do the latter more. A place where I’ve managed to combine the two for the last few years is Borough Market by London Bridge. Regularly on a Friday, I will trundle along to meet a friend for an early lunch at Brindisia; we normally talk each other through current projects, then I browse the stalls picking out whatever seasonal specialty catches my eye to take home and experiment with over the weekend.

Borough Market is no locals’ secret and acts like honey to the bee for tourists. In recent times, I have found the difficulty navigating through the crowds acting as a deterrent to having a real good root around. The popularity has also had a direct consequence for the traders, with increased crowds and growing competition leading to an increase in rents. Many of the original traders have decided to up sticks and decamp to Maltby Street, which is about a fifteen minute walk away in Bermondsey.  

For months I’d been hearing about Maltby St Market and recently managed to make it along to lunch, where the traders set up in and alongside railway arches. My hoped for peaceful shopping was, of course, nothing but a pipe dream. This new market’s cover had been blown long ago. However, with an insider’s knowledge to get there early (before noon) to eat we headed straight to 40 Maltby Street and pulled up bar stools around a palette of wine cases acting as a makeshift table. We ordered a bottle of vino and most of the menu. One of my favourite things to do.


This is what the website says. I love how understated they are.

“Located in the warehouse of Gergovie Wines we sell wines produced by a handful of wine-makers who eschew the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in favour of letting the land and the grape speak. At our warehouse you can buy these wines to take home or to drink by the glass or bottle at our bar. We have a small kitchen serving food through the evening on a Thursday and Friday and all day on a Saturday.” 


The menu was what I guess you would call Italian Tapas. Served up with good Sourdough bread and cold salty butter. Lunch, the actual act of eating minus the waiting and wine drinking, lasted approximately five minutes. In fact I was annoying everybody as I made them wait extra seconds so I could take pictures of the dishes.

I’m not going to critique the food as I am all too aware of the armies of pseudo food critics out there doing just that right now. What I am going to say is that it was refreshing and exciting to visit a place that was just doing what it was doing really well. Making well thought out meals using the ingredients of the season. The tiny box of a kitchen at the end of the bar was quietly getting on with turning out dish after dish of excellent food to groups of people delighted to be getting it. The waiters and bar staff seemed to really care about what they were doing; our waiter was passionate about the wines they stocked and helped us make a really nice selection. 

Egg Mayonaise


Romanesco and Parmesan

Smoked Cods Roe on Monksbeard and Bottarga


Spelt, Kid, Artichoke and Wild Garlic

Tongue and Lentils


Our happy table.


Afterwards, a little hazy after some pre-noon libation we wandered the rest of the market and took a look through Lassco which is also on the street. Definitely worth a repeat and further exploration.

Celebrating Queen Elizabeth ER II

For a bit of fun last year, we produced a tea towel to celebrate the Royal Wedding. Then suddenly everyone else got serious and they flew out the door and around the globe. The response was immense, as were the amount of stories and photographs people sent back to us letting us know how they were using them. One lovely lady in Australia contacted us to say she and her friends were all sitting around watching the wedding and waving them at the telly, and at the same time apologising for the poor dress sense of her Prime Minister, dearest Julia.

This year, we’ve designed another tea towel for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and back in January Ben and I also came up with the idea of a Jubilee decoupage plate, while waiting to catch the Eurostar back to London after a mad day buying at Maison & Objet in Paris. Ben’s been madly busy working on things other than plates, and I’ve been bugging him about it ever since. 

Finally all the bugging paid off, and last week he presented me with these four beautiful designs. I’ve spent the last few days practicing the dark art of decoupage on the images, to turn them into commemoration plates worthy of such a sparkling celebration and hey presto! May I present our very own set of Royal Souvenirs to collect and keep. Each plate is made in my studio and is backed with a highly lacquered C18th map of London. I do hope they please Ma’am as much as they do us.

My favourite has to be the one with the purple band and the pink inner. What’s yours?

 Buy one or collect them all. Available now at Ben Pentreath Ltd