Thursday, August 27, 2009

Borough Market, London, England

A Tale of Two Sandwiches

One of our first destinations in London was Borough Market, a paradise for food and food lovers. We did some shopping and gawking, admiring the sight of the portly pork pies obediently stacked in their glass display case, the smells of London's finest meats, cheeses, and food surrounding us.

We worked up an appetite with our wandering and were drawn to two different sandwich vendors which were serving up expertly prepared, simple fare. The first was the grilled chorizo vendor who was combining five ingredients to perfection. A short length of chorizo had been split open along its axis and grilled before being placed on a slightly grilled crusty bun and drizzled with a splash of high quality olive oil. Roasted piquillo peppers, which were both slightly acidic and sweet, and fresh nutty rocket contrasted with the salty sausage to yield a perfectly balanced sandwich.

The crusty bread and snappy sausage casings gave our jaws a workout with each bite.

Still hungry, we wandered our way through the market until the alluring scent emanating from a second sandwich vendor reeled us in.

We shared the most perfect grilled cheese sandwich imaginable. It consisted of two thin slices of Poilâne sourdough bread, a generous handful of grated cheeses (a mix of Montgomery Cheddar from Cheddar itself and Ogleshield), and several heaping teaspoons of minced leeks, red onion, and garlic. The bread was generously buttered, and pressed in a sandwich press until perfectly golden brown.

The cheese was pungent, salty, and pleasantly slippery while the bread was thin, crusty, buttery, and crisp. Cheese had leaked out around the edges of the bread, forming a delightfully greasy crust where it contacted the hot press. The crispy, fresh vegetables provided just enough contrast in flavour and texture to elevate the sandwich to another plane. Without a doubt, this was the best thing I ate in England. We took it next door and devoured it on the lawn of the Southwark cathedral.

Borough Market is located at 8 Southwark Street in London, England. It is open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Visit their excellent website for directions and more information. The chorizo vendor is located at the front of the Market on Southwark Street, while the grilled cheese vendor is located at the rear of the market, adjacent to the cathedral.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Tamar and I are in London, England enjoying ourselves before a family wedding. We visited Borough Market last week and before our trip, were asked by her brother to try and find some fresh samphire to cook up for dinner that night. This English plant is in season now, but is only available for a few weeks every summer. It grows in salty marshes and coastal regions of England, and absorbs that ocean essence to provide a unique marine flavour that lends itself nicely to seafood dishes. Never having heard of it, we found some at the market stall Turnips, for the low low price of £29/kg (or $22 USD/lb). After overcoming the sticker shock, we picked up a few quids worth to eat later that night back at my brother-in-law-to-be's flat.

We also bought some beautiful salmon fillets at a fishmonger. That night, we seasoned the fillets with salt and pepper before roasting them skin side down in a pyrex roasting dish in a few tablespoons of melted butter and three cloves of coarsely chopped garlic until slightly underdone (about 15 minutes in a 350 F oven).

We then added the samphire to the bottom of the dish and tossed it with the juices from the salmon, the melted butter, and garlic. We baked it all together for five more minutes until the salmon was cooked to our liking. We served a fillet per person with a generous tangle of samphire. The samphire had soaked up some of the garlicky butter while releasing it's briny juices into the pan. It retained a lot of its natural saltiness, was ever so slightly bitter, and had a nice toothy bite to it.

Since that night, we've seen samphire on a few menus and ordered it yesterday. It had been blanched and came tossed in a salad with rocket, sauteed garlic, chili flakes, olive oil and was topped with two grilled scallops. The chili flakes added a nice zing, and the slightly crunchy samphire contrasted in texture with the soft scallops nicely.

I've enjoyed my samphire experiences over here, and hope to one day see it on menus and in markets back in North America. Does anyone out there have any other interesting uses for it? If so, please let me know!