19 December 2012

On the twelfth day of Christmas...

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love donated our Christmas meal to Peckham Foodbank.

The Peckham Foodbank was launched in December 2009.  It is a store where food donated by the community is 'banked' and can be drawn on by people in crisis. It is designed to help individuals in need by providing free emergency food for three days, which is the period assessed as the minimum time it takes for the appropriate agencies to be in a position to assist, although this period can be extended if necessary.

As many of you will know, items are collected from local schools, supermarkets, churches and community groups.  This year, they are planning a special Christmas Hampers Day when they will give their clients all of the necessary ingredients for them and their families to have a typical Christmas dinner.

Even if you can't give much, every little donation is worthwhile.  Imagine if everyone living in or near East Dulwich, who is able to, gave up just one element of their Christmas Day meal so it could be enjoyed by someone who needs it more...  We could forgo the pigs in blankets or the sprouts (really, that can't be a hardship...) or that big tin of chocolates and donate what we would have spent to Peckham Foodbank to help give others a Christmas meal at home. 

Peckham Foodbank estimate the cost of a Christmas meal for a family of 4 to 6 people at £38.31 and would be grateful for any donations we can make this week - http://www.pecan.org.uk/news/news.  The volunteers will be preparing the hampers this Thursday so please give what you can.

Happy Christmas.

The Lowdown

Peckham Foodbank
121a Peckham High Street
SE15 5SE

Tel: 020 7732 0007    

18 December 2012

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me...cheese for my festive cheeseboard from The Cheese Block and Mootown.

Blue cheese accounts for only 2% of the cheese consumed in this country.  2%?  We probably consume most of that ourselves (what are the rest of the country eating?!). Of that 2% the majority is purchased at Christmas and, unsurprisingly, it's usually Stilton. 

Stilton is not just for Christmas, but it has become as synonymous with Christmas as mince pies and over eating.   One piece of advice though, if you only eat stilton once a year, side step the ‘stilton gift set’ that you always see reduced in supermarkets in January and get yourself a slice of something good.  Locally, The Cheese Block’s Colston Basset Stilton is pretty hard to beat.  Not too creamy and with a nice tang to it, it’s always well kept (so important with cheese).

If you fancy something a bit different this Christmas though, we heartily recommend you try Mootown’s award winning Bermondsey Spa.  Lovingly washed three times a week for two weeks in beer from the brilliant Kernel Brewery it’s the sort of cheese that announces its arrival from 10ft away (keep it stored somewhere air tight is our advice). But don’t let that put you off, it is one of the best cheeses we’ve tried this year, and we have tried a few...

The Lowdown

The Cheese Block
69 Lordship Lane
SE22 8EP
Tel: 020 8299 3636

Email: cheese@mootown.co.uk

You can find Mootown at the North Cross Road Market on Saturdays and at the Herne Hill Market on Sundays.  You can also order their cheese online.

17 December 2012

On the tenth day of Christmas...

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me…a couple of Christmas beers.

I love Christmas and I love beer.  
Not all Christmas beers are great but if you find a good one then it can make 25th December feel that little bit closer.  So in order to see what East Dulwich had to offer by way of festive beers Mrs GG and I set out one day with the difficult task of having to try some.  There were two that particularly stood out, but new beers are coming on all the time and so it is well worth seeing what is out there (The Great Exhibition and The Gowlett will both have one or more on over the next week).

Harveys Christmas Ale is a festive ale that tastes exactly how a festive ale should, like Christmas.  In fact it couldn’t taste more like Christmas if it came with a free Noddy Holder screaming “IT’S CHRISSSSSTMAS” at you.  It’s dark and thick and smells of Christmas pudding.  Rich, malty and nutty.  Available at Franklins it is only served in half measures but you wouldn’t want any more than that.  At 7.5% there is only so much Christmas you can take in one go.

Delirium Noel is a slightly different beast.  This is a Belgian Christmas beer and is very much in keeping with the typical style.  Belgian brewers always used to make a Christmas version of their beer in December, using only the best ingredients, by way of thanks to their staff and customers.  At 10% it is not for the faint hearted and is lightly fizzy as you would expect a Belgian beer to be, but it tastes no less Christmasy than the Harveys (just with more of a continental twist to it).  Available at the Draft House we drank ours in a third measure, but you may wish to push it to a whole half if you’re feeling particularly festive.

The Lowdown

157 Lordship Lane
SE22 8HX
Tel: 020 8299 9598

Draft House
21 Lordship Lane
SE22 8EW
Tel: 020 8299 3511

On the ninth day of Christmas...

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me...the cutest novelty chocolate penguin you ever did see, from Hope & Greenwood.

Novelty chocolates aren't normally my thing (unless they're from Paul A. Young that is, in which case anything goes), but I was really quite charmed by this little fella.  How could you possibly resist?!  WIth a crisp shell and smooth praline filling, this penguin would be perfect for any child's Christmas stocking.

The Lowdown

Hope & Greenwood
20 North Cross Road
SE22 9EU

Tel: 020 8613 1777

14 December 2012

On the eighth day of Christmas...

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me...a fabulous sparkling wine from Green & Blue.

Forget over processed, mass produced, expensive champagne this Christmas and treat yourself to the very best in natural fizz. A petillante naturel, made with organic grapes and no chemicals, is not only delicious but has to be better for you too!

If traditional is your thing, then the Domaine Benoit Courault ‘Le Petit Chemin’ Petillante Naturel will suit you down to the ground. Made to ancient methods from old Chenin vines in the Loire, the bubbles are soft, fine and beautifully subtle (or as Kate Thal would put it "far less rambunctious than more exuberant fizzy wine..."). This has to be one of my favourite 'finds' this year and at £15.75 it is a fraction of the price of any champagne of a similar quality. With honey, apple and citrus flavours I'll be having this as a pre-Christmas dinner tipple with my family.

For a perfect party sparkler for New Year, try Domaine Jean Maupertuis Petillant Pink Bulles. A sparkling rose, it is made with grapes from a tiny (3.5 hectare) parcel of Gamay vines in the Cotes d'Auvergne region and, following traditional methods, the first fermentation is finished in bottle. A delicate pink with gentle bubbles and berry fruit flavours, it is oh so easy to drink and makes for a fabulous apperitif or party wine.

It is with a heavy heart that I publish this post which was written earlier this week, before I had heard the incredibly sad news that Green & Blue will be closing its doors for the last time at the end of this year.  It will be a huge loss to East Dulwich.  Not only will we lose the best wine shop on earth, but one of my favourite local places to eat - nibbles and a glass of fino up at the bar, Sunday brunch with family, wine dinners with old School of Wine friends and birthday lunches aplenty... Green & Blue, we will miss you.

The Lowdown

Domaine Benoit Courault ‘Le Petit Chemin’ Petillante Naturel
Domaine Jean Maupertuis Petillant Pink Bulles

Green & Blue
38 Lordship Lane
SE22 8HJ

Tel: 0208 693 9250

12 December 2012

On the seventh day of Christmas...

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me...a Christmas Pudding from Give Me Cake.

Love it or hate it, Christmas Pudding has long been a part of our Christmas tradition. But let's be honest, many shop bought puddings can leave a lot to be desired - heavy, stodgy puds with indecipherable fruit and little in the way of warm spices. Not always the highlight we hope it will be, often laying heavy in our stomachs until the New Year.

This little beauty was everything but that.  The one we sampled was packed with whole juicy fruit, plenty of toasted almonds (adding texture and flavour) and a good slug of cognac.  Rich, but not laden with sugar, the sultanas, currants and raisins give this pudding the right amount of sweetness.  Paired with homemade brandy sauce, it made for a very indulgent pre-Christmas mid week treat (all in the name of research, you understand).

Jo started out as a pastry chef in her native Yorkshire before moving to London to study.  Ending up in academia, Jo is just finishing a PhD in Art History and has spent the the past year compiling a book about historic British food and the influence of Mediterranean culture.  This interest in the history of food explains, in part, her love of heritage fruit varieties, like medlars and quince, which make their way into her Christmas puddings and cakes.

The Lowdown

Jo will be selling her homemade puddings and cakes outside Captured on the Rye (where Jack's used to be) on Pellatt Road on Saturday 15 December 2012.  You can also contact her directly by email or via the East Dulwich Forum.

Email: give_me_cake@yahoo.co.uk

11 December 2012

On the sixth day of Christmas...

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me...a mulled wine recipe using spices from SMBS.

As the cold weather draws in and the decorations start to go up, who doesn't love a glass of mulled wine?  Using ingredients from SMBS on Lordship Lane, this is my recipe for you to make at home.

Tweak it to suit your tastes - more orange, less ginger, star anise instead of all spice berries...whatever takes your fancy - and then curl up in front of It's a Wonderful Life, Love Actually or The Snowman with a large jug full and a big plate of mince pies.


10 cloves
5 allspice berries
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
large pinch blade mace
1 bay leaf (optional)
2 strips fresh root ginger
3 thick slices of orange (about half an orange)
3 strips of zest from an unwaxed lemon (I use a potato peeler to do this)
1-2 tbsp golden caster sugar (to taste)
1/2 litre water
1 bottle red wine


Put the cloves, allspice berries, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, blade mace, bay leaf, ginger, orange, lemon zest, sugar and water into a large pan (depending on your tastes and the type wine you use you may need more or less sugar, so best to add just a little and adjust at the end). Bring to the boil and then turn the heat right down. Simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water has reduced by at least half.

Add the wine and heat slowly and gently, taking care that the wine doesn't begin to boil (you don't want to be losing any of that alcohol...). Once the wine is hot, taste and add more sugar if required.

Strain into glasses or a large warm jug and serve.

The Lowdown

SMBS sell all of the spices, sugar and fruit for this recipe.  Some of the spices come in big bags and will make many many glasses of mulled wine.

SMBS Foods
75 Lordship Lane
SE22 8EP
Tel: 020 8693 7792

9 December 2012

On the fifth day of Christmas...

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me...a Winter Spiced Brownie from The Dish & The Spoon.

Sometimes (but only sometimes mind) the onslaught of dried fruit based puds, pies and sweet delights at this time of year can all get a bit too much.  It can leave you craving a sweet treat that is entirely fruit, nut and brandy free...

At times like these you absolutely need a Winter Spiced Brownie from The Dish & The Spoon.  Lovingly created by chef (and local food blogger) Jassy Davis this silky smooth, fudge like brownie has warm spices - ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg - plus an ingenious special ingredient, paprika.

Even better for the parents amongst you, the wonderful play area at the Dish may mean you can snatch 5 minutes peace and quiet to enjoy your brownie with a mug of warm spiced apple juice.

The Lowdown

The Dish & The Spoon
61 Cheltenham Road
SE15 3AF

Tel: 020 7635 6384
Email: shona@thedishandthespoon.co.uk

6 December 2012

On the fourth day of Christmas...

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me...Spiced Crab Apple Jelly from East Dulwich Naturally.

I have often stared at the crab apple tree in our garden and wondered what contribution it makes to the varied flora and fauna we have in this fair country of ours. The conclusion I normally reach is none. So when Mrs GG (someone wiser to the possibilities of the humble crab apple than I) told me someone was coming to pick them, my first thought was 'what for?'.

Sarah of East Dulwich Naturally, used to be a hair and makeup artist for the RSC before she had her children, but now makes jams and jellies from the fruit she forages from around the East Dulwich area. From the crab apples on my tree came a Spiced Crab Apple Jelly to rival any Christmas chutney.

Perfect for cold cuts on Boxing Day, with your Christmas Day turkey instead of the ubiquitous cranberry sauce or with a mature hard cheese (we quite like it with the Ashmore from The Cheese Block or Teifi from Mootown). It's more akin to a quince jelly (which Sarah also makes) in colour and style so you could also get away with it alongside a slab of manchego.

It is safe to say I'll be giving my crab apple tree a little more respect from now on.

The Lowdown

East Dulwich Naturally's jams, jellies and chutneys are stocked by Franklins Farmshop and Captured on the Rye, amongst other local retailers.  Sarah will also be selling them on the stall outside Rouiller White on Lordship Lane on Saturdays throughout December.

4 December 2012

On the third day of Christmas...

On the Third Day of Christmas my true love sent to me...festive cocktails from the House of Tippler (to get me into the partying mood).

The House of Tippler's new menu of Winter Warmers has something for everyone with Whit's Posset (a festive revamp of the 17th century 'sack posset'), Tippler Tea (a fresh, clear cocktail with spiced apple and gin) and a fine traditional Mulled Wine.

The star of the show for me though is the Tarte au Riz.  Inspired by childhood memories of homemade rice pudding with good old fashioned quince jam, this cocktail is a labour of love which has taken almost a month to perfect.  Its simple ingredients of quince jam, condensed milk, sake and whisky belie the complexity of a drink which transports you straight back to being 5 years old and tucking into a bowl of steaming hot homemade rice pudding with a huge dollop of jam.

You'd be forgiven for expecting this cocktail to be creamy, opaque or overpoweringly sweet.  But it isn't.  It is delicate, balanced and incredibly moreish.  Skip dessert and save room for one of these.

House of Tippler opened its doors in March 2012 and specialise in cocktails from co-owner and mixologist, Tim Oakley, including the locally inspired Lordship Mule.  They not only mix fabulous cocktails, but also make their own syrups, bitters and liqueurs like their Pimeto Dram, a spiced rum made from 5 year aged amber rum, demerara sugar and allspice.

The Lowdown

House of Tippler
123 Lordship Lane
SE22 8HU

Tel: 020 7998 4878

House of Tippler invited me to sample their new festive cocktail menu with them.