Jimmy Doherty, Suffolk-based pig farmer and longtime friend of Jamie Oliver, is passionate about locally-sourced food. As he begins his search for Britain's favourite local food artisan, he shares his favourite restaurants and hidden gems throughout the capital.
"I think it is important to fly the flag for the fantastic local producers out there who work really hard to make their products fantastic. Whether they are a local butcher making great pork pies, a coffee stand blending a unique grind of coffee or somebody producing fresh salad bags – you can list hundreds, there is so much uncelebrated talent out there. The whole gist of Hotel Indigo’s campaign is to make heroes of great artisanal producers that are loved locally," says Doherty.
Why is local food sourcing so important to you?
Sourcing locally is really important to me because it means we maintain diversity in our food culture. Supermarkets are also important - everybody goes to them - but supermarkets get their ideas from trends that have actually been introduced by small local producers. Take the Cornish pasty for example. You need diversity to keep producing wonderful, creative and different products.
Do you think the trend for artisanal food and local producers is growing?
Without a doubt. In fact, more and more, the trend for artisanal food is infiltrating a wider section of our society. It’s grown from being fairly trendy in bigger cities, such as London and Manchester, to smaller regions in the UK with weekly farmers markets and artisan stalls cropping up in every village.
This is great as it means smaller home-run businesses can come into the spotlight. For so many farmers it’s an absolute necessity in order to diversify, especially after foot and mouth. In the North East and South West, producers are looking to sell directly in order to keep local farms running.
In London, where would you recommend going to find the best local produce?
London’s quite spoilt with markets. Everyone used to head straight to Borough market and, whilst it’s still a great establishment with such a diverse mix of vendors and producers, it has become a very big tourist attraction. What’s important is that people go and hunt out other little regional markets. I used to love Alexandra Palace’s farmers market, which I feel really had the essence of what a market should be because it always had a good spread of small producers with inspiring things on offer. You don’t have to go far in London to discover a special food hotspot.
How can people get involved in the Flavours of the Neighbourhood search?
Local food vendors and producers can nominate their produce or dishes before Sunday 15 February via Hotel Indigo’s Facebook page. The winner will receive £1,000, a company photoshoot and inclusion into Hotel Indigo’s foodie guide to the neighbourhood. Vote here between February 16-23 facebook.com/hotelindigoflavours
Jimmy Doherty’s marrow stuffed with sausage meat
This is something I came up with when I started to get into growing my own vegetables. It’s a great way to use a whole marrow. I love to bring it to the table and serving in all its glory, like a roast.
* 1 medium marrow
For the stuffing:
* 30g butter
* 1 small onion, finely chopped
* 225g sausage meat
* 4 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
* 50g white breadcrumbs
* 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
* salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Cut the marrow in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds.
2. Melt the butter in a pan and gently fry the onion until soft but not coloured.
3. Add the sausage meat, stirring to break it up, and cook until browned. Add the tomatoes and cook for five minutes.
4. Remove from the heat, add the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix in the egg to bind.
5. Spoon the stuffing into the two halves of the marrow. Tie the halves together with string and wrap in buttered foil.
6. Cook in the hot coals of your barbecue for about an hour. Alternatively, you can cook it in a conventional over for one hour at 180C/350F/gas mark 4.