Today, the Islington Storyteller invites you to trace the steps of Alex, one of our most committed contributors. Alex will take you with her on her mission to find the best ingredients in local pantries and specialised shops. Not only that, Alex also shared her new recipe for a summer-inspired salad which you can easily replicate at home.
Local pantries and fishmongers
As much as I love all the glorious places there are in Islington to eat and drink food from around the world, today I wanted to celebrate the excellent options available if you want to pick up a few bits with which to create a delicious dish at home, and nowhere is this more true than down Essex Road.
Running parallel to Upper St from Islington Green to Balls Pond Road, the bustling pavements have become home to some brilliant independent food stores, each offering nicely personal service and a great choice of fresh ingredients to eat on the day, as well as pantry staples perfect for stocking up with.
Hungry for cheese? Artisanal cheese retailer and one of London’s favourite home-grown businesses Neal’s Yard Dairy boast a very friendly team who’ll help you find the perfect bread, milk, yoghurt, and eggs to accompany the most incredible cheeses you’ll ever try.
Looking for a taste of Italy? The Da Giovanna Deli specializes in sourcing and selling high-end Italian products with charcuterie, pasta, produce, wine, and olive oils sitting alongside breads baked and delivered daily from the much-loved E5 Bakehouse.
After the perfect piece of meat or fish? James Elliott Butchers and Steve Hatt Fishmongers both showcase levels of expertise and quality that have kept them in the hearts – and stomachs – of loyal locals since 1950 and 1895 respectively.
A couple of recently opened coffeeshops have also settled nicely into their new N1 homes; Devotion Coffee sells gorgeous beans from roasters like Dak and Ozone as well as pouring a top-notch latte come rain or shine, while Brood Roastery supply wholesale beans roasted to order as well as cold brew iced teas and fresh-from-the-oven pastries for those passing by.
Discover Harvest N1
Right now though, I want to give a special shout out to Harvest N1, an independent specialist food store with a focus on health and a mission to make eating well affordable, easy + delicious for everyone.
From the outside it might seem hard to tell exactly what lies within but step inside and you’ll quickly see that it’s a place worth spending a little time walking round and exploring.
As well as an incredible fresh produce section that boasts everything from the familiar fruit and vegetables you’d expect, to some beautiful international produce that might be less well-known but ever so intriguing. There’s also a great selection of key ingredients for global cuisines all the way from Japan to the Middle East.
Those looking to go plant-free will find it easy to do here with everything available from vegan ice-cream to cheese, and if you’re searching for the latest in health trends, sparkling glass bottles of kombucha and cold pressed juices sit next to superfood + nootropic loaded drinks.
There’s a great selection of beans & pulses, herbs & spices and jams, honeys & pickles sat alongside the other great necessities of life aka chocolates, wines & snacks, those also catering for just about any dietary choices imaginable.
Completely inspired by the range of fresh fruit and vegetables in store when I last went, I wanted to create a recipe that celebrated some of the dreamy summer produce that’s currently out there, as well as hopefully giving a little inspiration for flavour pairings you might like to try or be inspired by yourself; I so hope you enjoy it and please do let us know here at @Islington_London if you have any other particular spots on Essex Road that make your own life that little bit more delicious!
Fennel Salad with Tropical Fruit, Toasted Sesame Seeds + Soft Goat’s Cheese
Serves: 2 Prep time: 15 minutes
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 1 tbsp champagne vinegar (you can sub in white wine vinegar but only use ½ tbsp as it’s a stronger flavour, or simple use the zest and juice of a ripe lime)
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- ½ Cantaloupe melon
- 8 kumquats (go for those without any hint of green for the perfect sweet-sour ripeness)
- 1 ripe mango (if you can get one, South African have a gorgeous flavour right now)
- 150g soft rindless goat’s cheese
- Wash + dry your fennel then slice off the bottom root and top stems so you’re left only with the bulb; the top stems you can use another time and the fronds you will use later in this recipe.
- Using either a mandolin or a sharp knife, carefully slice the bulb as thinly as you can then toss in a bowl with your vinegar or citrus juice and set to one side.
- In a small pan over a medium heat, lightly toast your sesame seeds for a few minutes until golden then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Slice your half melon in half again, scoop out + discard the seeds then slice each quarter in half again to give you four segments of fruit.
- Take two of those segments and slice them all the way across vertically into small pieces then carefully remove the skin from each piece; take your remaining two segments and slice them in half again so you end up with four thin crescents of melon which you will keep with the skin on to offer a nice visual contrast on the plate, then set all these melon pieces aside.
- Peel your mango then slice vertically around the stone to give long wide pieces of fruit; slice these into fingers before setting aside.
- Wash + dry your kumquats then, keeping the peel on as this is where the flavour is, slice half of them vertically into quarters; slice the remainder into rounds, removing any seeds then set aside.
- Take two plates and lay your fennel slices generously over them; top with your melon crescents and mango fingers feeling free to place one or two on top of each other to give height to the plate.
- Add your kumquats to each plate, and then your smaller, peeled melon segments; it’s nice to stand some of these up as well as laying flat, and to turn your kumquat quarters over so that the skin is visible in contrast to the kumquat slices where the interior is on show.
- Divide your goat’s cheese into two portions then crumble it over the plates, tucking it around and under some of the other fresh ingredients then finish each plate with a sprinkling of your toasted sesame seeds and your fennel fronds, gently torn and scattered over the top.
About the author: Having lived in N1 for nearly a decade, Alex is one of the borough’s biggest fans with a particular appreciation for all the great places to eat and drink in the neighbourhood; working in food means she is always keen to seek out new places in which to find interesting ingredients or delicious plates to share with friends and family all-year round.
NB! If you would also like to contribute to the Islington Storyteller, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.