Have yourself a Jellied little Christmas
We've been on a mission to find out what a Londoner’s festive dinner table could look like if they made some of the tastiest bits a little more, well, Eel-y.
Our fair capital is jam-packed with food producers and retailers who share London Food Link’s love for seasonal, sustainable grub, so here are a few ideas to help you have a very merry, Jellied Eel Christmas.
If you going for a meaty mouthful, one super-local source is Surrey Docks Farm in Rotherhithe. The farm offers opportunities for people to learn about farming and food production in the heart of the city, and their shop will have limited amounts of pork and turkeys reared on site.
Other options include meat boxes of organically-reared lamb or beef from Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, or try your local, independent butcher or farmers’ market to see what biodynamic, organic, or at least free-range or outdoor-reared options they have.
…and many veg
For the choicest seasonal fruit and vegetables, look to your local veg box scheme, such as Local Greens in Herne Hill, Vegbox in Kentish Town and Enfield Veg. Co.
To find your nearest local organic veg box scheme, check out the Soil Association’s online directory.
Cranberry, schmanberry. The Well Preserved make their jellies, jams and chutneys from local, seasonal fruit and vegetables, and Fruit Magpie make theirs from surplus fruit from London's gardens. And for your cheeseboard or Boxing Day buffet, waste-conscious social enterprise Rubies In The Rubble also make their champion chutneys from surplus fruit and vegetables.
Give the Californian almonds or Turkish hazelnuts a miss this year. Instead try Kentish cobnuts or walnuts as moreish nibbles or a crunchy addition to your stuffings, puddings and cakes. Potash Farm grows cracking cobnut and walnut trees on their farm near Sevenoaks. You can order them direct from the farm or buy them at one of the farmers’ markets they attend.
Better still, how about foraging for nuts yourself? Sweet chestnuts are ripe for the picking around this time of year.
Why not impress friends and family with homemade baked goodies? Borough Market-based Bread Ahead’s bakery school is holding a series of festive baking courses for people who want to learn how to perfect their mince pies or create a gingerbread house showstopper. The Baking Lab in West Hampstead is also running a series of seasonal workshops.
With the likes of Kappacasein, Wildes Cheese and Gringa Dairy all making cheese within the M25, there’s no excuse for anything other than a capital cheeseboard. Wildes Cheese have particularly been praised for their 'Howard' cheese. Named after Luke Howard, the man who named clouds, Howard is a semi-hard cheese with a hint of blue. Borough Market’s annual evening of cheese on 12 December provides the ideal festive setting for you to quiz the makers to help curate your perfect cheeseboard.
There is no need to venture very far outside London to quench your thirst this Christmas, with an array of artisan companies around we’re well and truly spoiled for choice.
Forty Hall Vineyard have just released London's first sparkling brut, made entirely from the North London vineyard's grapes using the traditional champagne method, whilst also providing local volunteers with wellbeing support. There's also Limney Estate from East Sussex–based, Soil Association certified, Davenport’s Vineyard. They proudly state their wines are made with as few chemicals as necessary, eco-packaged and transported in the most carbon efficient way. Other award-winning effervescent south eastern English offerings include Chapel Down, Gusbourne and Hush Heath in Kent; and Denbies in Surrey.
And out there on its own is Peckham-brewed Gosnell’s mead, a lighter, sparkling take on the ancient honey-based drink.
The Orchard Project has been making cider and apple juice with only fruit rescued from across London in an incredible feat of food waste reduction and local action, training volunteers to harvest, press, label, and fill over 15,000 bottles of goodness, which are now available at select locations around London. Read more about this project, and it's future here.
Where do we begin? London’s brewing scene is in fine fettle giving you oodles of options when it comes to choosing a festive beer. A trip to the ‘Bermondsey Beer Mile’ around Maltby Street Market on a Saturday is a great way to road-test some of London’s best microbreweries. There you can expect to find Hiver Honey Beer, The Kernel Brewery, Partizan Brewing, Brew by Numbers, Anspach & Hobday, Fourpure and Bullfinch. Also be sure to check out The London Brewers’ Alliance, a collective of breweries within the M25.
For food, drink, and edible gifts, London Farmers’ Markets will be holding their last markets before Christmas on 22 and 23 December. There will also be a special Christmas edition of Fat Gay Vegan's ever-popular Hackney Downs Vegan Market on the same weekend, and at Venn St on 23 only.
Don’t throw it out! For tonnes of ideas on how to create marvellous meals with your Christmas leftovers head on over to Love Food Hate Waste
Going out out
If cooking up a storm yourself all sounds too much like hard work then check out the restaurant guide from our friends at the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The SRA’s independently verified rating system can help you choose an eatery according to a range of sustainability criteria.
Based on an article first published in Issue 45 - November 2014, but updated for December 2018.