2nd June 2015
Last December the Ukrainian chef and food writer Olia Hercules was named as one of the Observer’s Rising Stars of 2015 and this month sees the publication of her debut cookbook, Mamushka. Although she was born and grew up in Kakhovka, Ukraine close to the Crimean border, Olia later moved to Cyprus and then studied in Italy before settling in England where she trained at Leith’s before working at Ottolenghi. But it’s her family roots that really inform her colourful, evocative book which is packed with cherished Uzbeki, Moldovan and Russian recipes inherited from her grandmothers as well as Armenian dishes she has borrowed from her aunt Nina and the vast pool of Thai and Laos food she regularly cooks at home. Here Olia shares some of her favourite suppliers and food sources in London.
Richard Peter Snapes makes the most incredible sourdough. I brought him some natural hop blossom yeast from Ukraine last year and he made a starter with it and now all of his bread, baguettes, even brioche buns have a little bit of Ukrainian meadow in them. I do not get bread from anywhere else. It is simply the best sourdough in London. It takes about 20 hours to make a Snapery loaf. Richard only uses his mixer to incorporate flour and water, he then lets his loaves rest and lets nature do its thing. He then stretches and folds them every half an hour. There is no vigorous kneading at all, which makes for the most wonderful texture. His is still a very small business but he sells his bread along with his friends from Tozino at Maltby Street market on Sundays.
I love a collaboration. And I love small businesses helping each other. Tozino on Maltby Street are a small but the most incredible and atmospheric jamon bodega. They help The Snapery to keep afloat by buying and helping to sell Richard’s bread. They also sell the best jamon, salchichon (wine and black pepper salami), sobrasada (chilli chorizo pate!) and wine that I have ever tried. I go there to eat but also buy slices of ham and amazing iberico bones to make the most flavoursome stock! They have a stall at Maltby Street on Sundays.
I lived in Cyprus for five years so Cypriot food is something I cannot live without. I am so lucky that I now live right by Green Lanes, home to one of London’s grocery institutions, Yasar Halim, which has been there for 35 years. I go there to buy koubes (Cypriot cigar-shaped bulgar-encased meat bites), sesame-sprinkled breads and vegetables.
I love my local Alexandra Palace market. There are always so many incredible producers present. I love making my own curd cheese (or syr in Ukrainian) and it is only good enough when made with raw milk. I know that I can always rely on organic, full-bodied lusciousness from Hook and Son. Their pastures are not treated with any chemicals so the milk is simply what it should be.
Meat provenance is extremely important to me. I love making broths and they really do rely on the best quality that there is. Turner & George have never let me down. Founded by chef Richard Turner and butcher James George, it is hands down one of the best butchers in the country. It’s easy to order online but I love dropping into their Islington shop, it’s got an amazing atmosphere.
When I can’t make it to Turner And George, I visit my local family-run Baldwins Butchers on Green Lanes. Apart from incredible deli items and organic and free range meats, they specialise in sausages with 50 varieties which are all home made on the premises.They are also very friendly and knowledgeable. Andreas, the owner really cares about what he does and it shows.
Natoora is run by a group of some of the best people that I have ever met. Always informative, kind and passionate they deliver (through their website and Ocado) some of the best vegetables, fruit and cheeses (amongst other things) that I have ever tried. They source a lot of produce in Britain, but they also bring outstanding tomatoes from Sicily. They also do edible flowers which I sometimes use for my events.
I have lived in North London for over eight years now, first in Muswell Hill and now by Turnpike Lane and Purkis & Sons is my fishmonger of choice. Established in 1973, Walter Purkis has always made a specialty of sourcing the freshest fish he could find and to that end both shops have day supplies coming in from Billingsgate Market, Cornwall, Devon, Grimsby, Aberdeen, Fraserburgh and many other fishing ports around Britain. Much of the smoked fish sold through the shops is smoked in the century old smoke house at the rear of the Crouch End Shop, with recipes that have been handed down through the family for at least six generations.
I try to shop locally and support independent producers as much as I can. I hence love Harringay Local Store. They really do sell what they like and luckily I want to eat what they eat! Most of their produce is organic from predominantly British farms. I am not in any way a vegan but their vegan and vegetarian food is fantastic. They also sell amazing local craft beers, ciders and wine, as well as loads of other ace produce.