Shop, Cook and Eat SE6

SE London Blog’s Cooks up a Storm with the Catford Cookbook, Claire Foster

When better than a cold and wet January day to delve into the local Catford Cookbook – a collection of 100 recipes inspired by local people and small independent shops in SE6.

Brought to life by the award-winning team at House of Catford, the cookbook roams from high street to side-street via the market, picking out ingredients with complex flavours and brilliant back stories. Illustrated by local artist, Nancy Ellis, dishes are split into chapters of meat, poultry, fish, vegetarian, vegan and sweets, with tips on where to find ingredients from local shops.

It’s a shame that we could not support the spirit of the book, as we are in national lockdown again. Travelling to SE6 and going from shop to shop would increase the risk to others so I gathered as much as possible on a walk to West Norwood.

As a literature and London lover, I was immediately drawn to the London Particular. The name comes from the famous London mists of the Dickensian era known as London particulars or ‘pea soupers’. This is a traditional pea and ham soup that is so gorgeously thick – you should be able to stand you spoon in it upright.

I used green split peas although originally, yellow ones would be preferred. The torn pieces of ham fried in butter were so delicious and sprinkled on top of the finished soup they were divine. To accompany our soup, we made the Irish soda bread also found in the book.

Almost 20 years ago, after university, I lived in Turkey for a year. Working in a hotel and travelling around the West side of Turkey. From Izmir to Istanbul, Bodrum to Konya, I developed a love for Turkish food. If traditional borek is on a menu, I will always order it. So the Spiced Lamb Pie seemed the obvious next choice. However, the recipe calls for Turkish yufka which is similar to filo pastry. You can buy this at PFC Turkish supermarket and it will be much better than my substitute. This pie had such an authentic flavour and tasted even better heated up the following day.

Lastly, we made the Beef and Guinness Stew with Rosemary Dumplings. Using Guinness in a stew tenderises the meat and leaves a distinctive flavour. You could use lots of different cheaper cuts of beef for this meal – I used beef shin but left it in the oven for four hours. The dumplings were incredibly easy to make and look fantastic. They really have the wow factor. I love recipes that include tons of different vegetables for my two year old son. The stew was the equivalent of a big hug on a plate and brought so much joy – we cooked it again this week

We also caught up with Nancy Ellis, the cookbook’s illustrator, for our regular #SpotlightOn

Nancy Ellis

Tell us about your art?

I love experimenting with a mixture of pencil drawings and digital techniques, creating a mixed media look. I like to keep the colours vibrant and fun and the style eye catching and inviting.

‘A Helping Hand’ Illustration by private commission 

How did you get into it?

I have always loved drawing but my passion began with animation and storybooks. I grew up watching fantastic programmes from Cosgrove Hall, Aardman and Tim Burton, while also reading again and again work from the likes of Raymond Briggs and Shirley Hughes. All these things inspired me to pursue stop frame animation which then progressed into digital animation.

This passion for animating has stayed with me all my life, but when I had my two sons, I realised that smaller projects would suit the family life juggle more. This is when I started producing bespoke illustrations for private clients, developing a storybook style of my own to reimagine their memorable moments. From here, I have enjoyed illustrating local landmarks and most recently have uncovered a new passion for cookbook illustrating.

You never know what the next project will be and that’s always a big part of the challenge and excitement.

Who and / or what inspires you?

I am motivated and inspired by work that is honest and free spirited, or that aims to make a positive difference in some way. A lot of the ideas I have are around communicating important issues in a visually appealing and stimulating way. This is at the core of the explainer style animations I love working on.

I am particularly inspired by stop frame animation and the craft of making and building those incredible worlds. I also love observing children at play, and the way that they view the world and express themselves.

What is your most memorable piece of work either by yourself or another artist?

I think I’d have to go right back to the beginning with Dogger by Shirley Hughes. I know and love all the pictures so well.

In terms of personal milestones, my first commission ‘Red Welly Day’ represents the moment I felt I had really got the direction for the illustration style I began to work in.

I also loved seeing the Frankenweenie exhibition on the Southbank years back, with all of the fantastic Tim Burton sets and characters. Incredible!

A selection of illustrations from the Catford Cookbook

Is there a seminal moment in your life that has made a profound impact on you and your work?

When I was nine, I went to the Disney studios. I saw the desks where the cells were worked on and the behind the scenes world of animation. This was a pivotal moment, to realise that animation was a job that people did – that shifted everything.

Do you have any current exhibitions on?

Not currently, but I would love to display work locally again in future. Local businesses have been extremely supportive in displaying my artwork on their walls or commissioning their own pieces.

What are your plans for the future?

There are so many things that I would like to do in the future. I would like to continue evolving various illustration styles, hopefully working more in publishing, and exploring more animation ideas.

What are your favourite #SELondon spots?

We spend a lot of time in all three of our nearest parks – Blythe Hill, Ladywell Fields and Hilly Fields, the best thing is that you always see people you know to say hi to and I love that.

For a day out, it would be heading up to Tower Bridge and walking all the way along the Southbank, with Greenwich a close second favourite.

And just for fun, who would be your ideal fantasy dinner guests?

Hard not to be greedy, too many to decide… Nick Park, Nina Simone, Erroll Garner, John Lasseter, Bob Marley, Einstein, Neil Armstrong …. where to stop is the problem.

The Catford Cookbook can be purchased from the House of Catford website with profits from sales going to the Sickle Cell Society and the Catford Bridge Station Community Fridge.

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