Borough Market has traded in some form or another since 1014, reaching the peak of its wholesale operation in the 1930s before reinventing itself for the public in 1998 and growing into the culinary mecca it is today. The Borough Market Cookbook attempts to tell the story of the modern-day incarnation from the inside, introducing you to the food and traders that have made the location iconic.
The recipes are divided by the seasons, and the overall style is rustic and fresh. The ingredient-led, light-touch approach means that very few are overwhelmingly complex. However, many – like razor clams served in the shell with Marinda tomatoes and monk’s beard, or beef cheek and lamb heart pudding – manage to be an exciting celebration of produce.
The Borough Market Cookbook is generously punctuated with short-form essays and autobiographies – food writer Sybil Kapoor writes on the joy of seasonal shopping, while Professor Tim Lang discusses the changing ethics of food production.
While these and other names provide a good tone for a market with such an ethical, sustainable focus, it is the traders themselves being given a voice – through author Ed Smith – that makes the editorial elements of the book worthy of your time. Fred Foster of greengrocer Turnips writes about his time on location since the market’s wholesale days, serving customers like Nico Ladenis and Éric Chavot. Fishmonger Darren Brown of Shellseekers talks about going from the Royal Navy to scallop diving and building a 20-year career in the site. It is their stories and commitment to brilliant, first-rate ingredients that come through in every recipe, so it is only right they are given space in the book to speak for themselves.
It is a rare joy to have a cookery book that also gives you access to the writer’s larder. Over 320 pages, the book’s real skill is how strongly it can put the urge in you to go to the place itself – to spend a day mulling over the stalls and picking through the produce. Just like the market, this book is well worth exploring.
The Borough Market Cookbook, by Ed Smith (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)