2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

A Taste of Community in the Big Smoke

Photo by: Toby Allen.

A Taste of Community in the Big Smoke

Frittata in London

Saturday mornings on Brockley Market in South London are usually the same: I arrive late. Breakfast, therefore, usually consists of a cereal bar eaten on a bus. I work for a small business called Mike & Ollie, making flatbread wraps for shoppers. The market is a beautiful thing, despite being on a car park of a busy corridor road. One morning every week, the gray gravel-covered space fills with the finest in organic vegetables, artisan produce and ethical meats, as well as a strong line-up of hot food traders, selling wonderful takes on classic street food, including burgers, burritos, fried chicken and schnitzel.

This week, though, I arrive early. On the menu at Mike & Ollie is the usual flatbread, toasted with za’atar, topped with hummus, rocket and the customer’s choice of filling. Our options are slow-roasted lamb shoulder picked and re-fried with coriander seeds and served with quince jelly; pan-fried fillet of mackerel with beetroot and dill; or fried aubergine with homemade harissa. All are garnished with yoghurt, mixed seeds and Turkish chili, then wrapped and rolled before being devoured.

Mike has fully set up the stall and most of the prep is done when I get there, so we have a proper breakfast to get us ready for the day. Usually, this time would be spent chopping herbs or sorting out the vegetarian option, but we only have to heat the lamb to be ready to serve. My time is filled with tearing greaseproof paper into squares for the wraps, while Mike goes out into the market and returns with some ’Nduja sausage from Moon’s Green Charcuterie, striped organic courgettes, chives, eggs and tiny tomatoes in varying shades of red and yellow.

The ingredients melt into a frittata, served with toasted bread from the stall. My contribution is an apple and flame-roasted red chili hot sauce I made earlier for another London street trader. The market’s manager and founder, Toby Allen, is out photographing the stalls as they get ready to welcome the Saturday shoppers. As Toby snaps the picture, Mike frowns out from the gazebo: “Come on now chef, let’s eat it before it goes cold.” He’s been up since 5am and hasn’t eaten a thing.

As we gather around the pan, we get a taste of a community that can be lost among the noise and traffic of the Big Smoke. The people I don’t understand most in the world are those who don’t like breakfast—such a simple way to make time to enjoy the things that are right in front of us. This one is something particularly delicious, reducing us to a scoffing, nodding huddle around the pan. Breakfast for me is a key part of the prep for the day, without its energy catering can become a slog rather than the joy it should be. As Mike gets the coffee in, I turn to our other helping hand, Georgia, and give my motivational speech for the day: “Better have a quick wipe down, people will be bothering us for food soon.”

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