Essex Road Recipes

By Kay Scorah

A collection of 50 improvised recipes inspired by Islington’s independent food shops

Pot roast lemony chicken.


1 large free range chicken
2 lemons
2 onions
4 garlic cloves
½ bunch flat leaf parsley
½ bunch coriander leaf
salt and pepper

You’ll need a deep ovenproof dish with a lid, or one that you can cover tightly with foil

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Pre heat the oven to very hot; 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8

Chop 1 of the lemons very finely, skin and all. Pick out all the pips.

Chop 1 of the onions, all the garlic, half of the parsley and coriander leaf very finely.

(I then blitz the chopped lemon onion and herbs in a food processor for a few seconds to release even more flavour, but it isn’t absolutely necessary to do this.)

Mix all the chopped ingredients with a little salt and pepper and spread over the bottom of your roasting dish. Add a small amount of water, about ½ a cup/100 mls.

Place 1 whole lemon and 1 whole, peeled onion inside the chicken. Lift the skin on the chicken breast and push the remaining uncut herbs between the skin and the flesh. Rub a little salt and pepper into the skin of the chicken and place the chicken on top of the chopped mix. Cover or put the lid on the roasting dish and place in the very hot oven. After 15 minutes turn the oven right down to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas Mark 2

Check after about 20 minutes to make sure that the liquid in the bottom of the roasting dish is bubbling slightly, and if it isn’t turn up your oven a bit.

Cook for 21/2 hours. The chicken should be falling off the bone. Serve with some of the chopped lemony onion spooned over the top of the chicken with boiled potatoes and green beans.

Aphrodite’s Beetroot Soup.

According to the Oracle of Delphi beets are worth their weight in silver. Fortunately they’re a lot cheaper than that now. Allegedly the goddess Aphrodite ate beets to help retain and enhance her beauty (although it’s possible that she was just a messy eater so looked as if she was wearing lipstick after she’d eaten it). It is said that if two people eat from the same beetroot then they will fall in love; so be very careful who you share the soup with.

Beetroot season ends in October/November, however, like most root veg, if stored carefully in a cool, humid environment beetroots retain their flavour and texture for months so don’t worry about buying them right through the winter.

Eating beetroot regularly helps cleanse the liver, so this is not just comforting hangover food, it actually does you some good!


5 small beetroots with stalks and leaves.
1 medium potato
1 medium or half a large onion
1 stick of celery
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons of olive oil
about 750 ml water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Chop the onion, garlic and celery very finely.

Wash the beet greens (stalks and leaves) thoroughly. Chop them coarsely.

Scrape and chop the beetroots and potato into bite–sized chunks.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion and celery for a couple of minutes.

Add the garlic, cover with a tight fitting lid and turn down the heat.

Sweat these ingredients for a few minutes until they soften.

Turn up the heat again and add the fennel seeds. Stir the veg and fennel seeds around so that the seeds don’t stick or burn, but cook quite quickly.

Add the chopped beetroot stalks and leaves and keep stirring around as they fry a little.

Turn down the heat, put the lid back on and leave the mix to soften for about 5 minutes.

Now add the beetroot and potato, stir to coat it with the other ingredients and add the water, salt and pepper (just a few turns of the salt and pepper mill - you don’t want to mask the taste of the fennel and beetroot.)

Bring to the boil, then turn it down. Cover and simmer very gently for about 40 minutes, or until you can pierce the beetroot pieces easily with a fork. Check the taste, and add more salt and pepper if it needs it.

Roast Fennel with Pomegranate seeds.

I served this as a side dish with roast halibut, but I think that the combination of aromatic, sharp and sweet flavours would also work really well with lamb chops or sausages.


2 large fennel bulbs.
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground or crushed coriander seed.
Seeds and juice of half a pomegranate.

Trim off the very bottom of the fennel bulbs, and the feathery tops.

Discard any outer leaves that have dark or soft-looking patches. If you choose your fennel carefully and it’s a good batch you may not have to discard any of it.

Slice in half lengthwise, trying to keep the halves intact. Don’t worry if they fall apart, but if they do you’ll need a little less cooking time.

What to do, roughly speaking :

Cover the bottom of a small roasting dish with olive oil and sprinkle in the salt and pepper and freshly ground coriander.

Place this in the oven pre-heated to 210ºC

When the oil is hot, add the fennel and coat with the hot seasoned oil.

Return to the oven and roast for about 40 minutes.

(I was also roasting the halibut as well as potatoes, beetroot and carrots in separate dishes to make the best use of the hot oven.)

Turn the heat up to 240º.

Pour the pomegranate seeds and juice over the fennel and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until the pomegranate seeds look slightly burnt. Taste one of the seeds to make sure that it is caramelised – chewy with a very slightly charred taste.

Serve while still very hot.

Couscous with monkfish and veg stew


About a kilo of monkfish tail, sliced into 8 pieces and marinated for an hour in the juice of 1 lemon and a teaspoon of smoked paprika.
About half a cup of dried chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked for about an hour (or a can of cooked chickpeas) drained of the liquid. Save about 100 ml of the liquid.
1 large onion sliced
4 garlic cloves chopped finely.
2 medium carrots and 1 small turnip
1 green pepper and 1 yellow pepper
2 large courgettes
cut all the veg into large chunks.
6 medium sized tomatoes peeled (drop them into hot water and the skins come off easily) and chopped.
a heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika.
Salt and pepper
A handful of chopped parsley or coriander leaf
A splash of your preferred cooking oil: I use olive oil.
1 tablespoon each of Harissa paste and tomato puree

What to do. …roughly speaking:

In a large saucepan, fry the onion and garlic in the oil.

Add the chopped green and yellow peppers and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the smoked paprika, mix it in well.

Now add the carrot and turnip, the drained chickpeas, a little of the liquid/water, the chopped tomatoes, some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add a little more liquid if it’s drying out. Add the courgette and chopped parsley or coriander for about 10 minutes. Now lay the monkfish pieces on top of the stew, cover the pan and leave simmering for another 15 minutes so that the fish cooks through – don’t stir at this point - just let the fish sit there and absorb the flavours.

Place 1 tablespoon of harissa paste and 1 tablespoon of tomato puree in a jug and mix well with 250 ml of the liquid from the stew or the cooking liquid from the chickpeas. Mix and serve with the stew - on the side so that people can choose how spicy they want it

Serve with steamed couscous – I like to add a knob of butter to the couscous when steaming it.

Rhubarb, plum and apple with blueberry crumble.

I had complaints from the pudding lovers (especially the shopkeepers!) about the general lack of sweetness in the recipes, so here’s a really homey traditional dessert. Suprisingly, given the time of year (it was spring), there had been really good plums and rhubarb in the Market Garden, so I made this and it went down a treat.


5 big sticks of rhubarb. Trim the ends and strip off the stringy outer layer, then chop into approx 2 inch/5cm pieces
8 plums – halved and stones removed
3 large cooking apples – peeled, cores removed, cut into thick chunks
1 tablespoon of runny honey
a cinnamon sick
5 whole cloves
Crumble topping:
200g plain flour, sieved to remove lumps
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter chopped into small pieces
a teaspoon each of powdered nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger (optional)
about 20 blueberries, rinsed
You’ll need a flat ovenproof dish – approx 20cm x 30cm

What to do. …roughly speaking:

Place all the fruit except the blueberries in a saucepan with the honey, cinnamon stick and cloves, and a small amount of water, just enough to stop it sticking.

Bring to the boil then cover tightly and simmer for 20 minutes, stir it frequently or it will stick.

Pick out the cinnamon stick and the cloves and pour the fruit into the ovenproof dish.

To make the crumble: mix the flour and ground spices and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. When it’s bread-crumb consistency, add the sugar and gently fold in the whole blueberries

Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the fruit so that it is completely covered.

Place in the oven at 200C/400F/gas 7 for 25 - 30 minutes until the crumble topping begins to brown.

Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.

Beef and Guinness stew.

This is our family Paddy’s day dish. Cooking time is about 3 hours in total. Instead of buying a can of stout I like to pop down to the New Rose at around midday with a jug and buy a pint of Guinness. Proud to say that I sometimes manage to escape back up to my kitchen without having a drink.

In a slight variation to the recipe below, try adding about 20 button mushrooms to the pot 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

Ingredients for 4 people

1 kilo diced stewing steak
4 smoked back bacon rashers cut into small pieces
4 shallots, peeled
12 small carrots trimmed and washed.
1 medium sized onion finely chopped.
3 garlic cloves finely chopped.
1 can of Guinness or a pint from your local.
A bunch of fresh thyme.
Cooking oil.
3 tablespoons plain flour
3 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

What to do. Roughly speaking:

Place the flour, mustard powder, salt and pepper in a large re-sealable plastic bag and shake it up to mix it.

Toss the diced beef in the bag until it’s coated with the seasoned flour.

Dry fry the bacon in a large saucepan with a lid, keep it moving to stop it sticking. Take it out and put it to one side. Don’t wash the pan. Heat the cooking oil. Fry the finely chopped onion and garlic for a couple of minutes and then drop in the bacon and seasoned beef and fry it until it’s browned. You’ll have to keep it moving because the flour makes it very sticky.

Pour on the entire can or pint of Guinness, mix well to make sure that the beef isn’t sticking to the pan. Then add the shallots and fresh thyme.

Bring it to the boil and then turn the heat right down, put on the lid and simmer gently. After an hour, add the washed, trimmed baby carrots. Continue to simmer very gently for another 11/2 hours. Check from time to time to see that it isn’t too dry. If it is, add a little more Guinness or water.

Take out the bunch of thyme before serving with mashed potatoes and green beans or broccoli.

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