I get home from a long day at work to find my housemate’s cousin sitting on the sofa. This can only mean one thing… I’m going to be getting up extremely early! When my housemate’s cousin (who’s training to become a pastry chef) visits London, we get up at the crack of dawn and head out to a food market that we’ve never been to before. The idea is to purchase something different, something none of us have ever cooked before. Its a fun challenge, which has produced some surprising results.
So we set our alarm clocks to 5:00am and decide that Smithfield market is our destination. I must admit I’m not 100% psyched about getting up this early, but hey what else is there to do on a Wednesday morning at 5:00am?
The first tube arrives at Balham tube station and amazingly we are there, and even better, I have remembered to pack my camera! We jump on and ride the tube to Barbican station.
Arriving at Smithfield market we are presented with a large and bustling grade II listed victorian market. The market is filled with men in bloodstained white coats, and the air is thick with the sounds of cockney accents and the smell of blood. Maybe not the most welcoming of scenes at 6:30am, but the sight of meat carcasses hanging on large metal hooks and tables filled with all kinds of meat cuts, is intriguing enough to take my thoughts away from the smell and back to the task at hand – what are we going to have for dinner? At this precise moment I am looking down at a container filled with sheep heads! Nice! Though this is defiantly something neither of us had cooked before, even for us this would be going a little too far. Time to scurry on before we are talked into buying the blooming things.
After much deliberation, we decide to purchase a whole Oxtail and a 4kg cut of beef shoulder. Before leaving, I wanted to get a few shots of the market, with butchers in action etc. However, a note to all you food photographers, you may want to get permission before taking any images inside the market. I was told off whilst I was photographing a butcher lifting a pigs carcass. I’m still a little baffled as to why and as a food photographer I’ve never been told off for photographing in a public food market before. But hey, there is always a first!
Leaving the market, we head back to the tube station with transparent bags in hand. Note to self – bring a rucksack next time. The horror on people’s face, as we carry the blood stained bags, containing what looks to be someone’s cut-up torso onto the tube at 7:30am. Probably not one of our finer moments, even though I did find it slightly amusing, if not a little embarrassing.
Once home, we decide that we’ll make an Oxtail soup and we’ll stew the beef. I then head out to the studio to do my day’s food photography work, whilst my housemate’s cousin starts preparing the evening’s meal. On arriving home, I open the front door to be instantly greeted with the immense aroma of a rich and meaty Oxtail soup. I can’t wait to dig in, but I’m informed that we have a 2 hour wait until it is ready, and 3 hours before the beef stew will be done. Gutted! Oh well might as well start preparing the bread and butter pudding for afters!
On tasting the Oxtail soup I found it deliciously rich with a silky/glossy look. If you are after a soup that is hearty, full of flavour and cheap to make, then this is a true winner. You can find Gordon Ramsay’s recipe on the BBC Good Food website here. I highly recommend you try it.
Matthew’s Gray braised shoulder of beef recipe is also a delight. Though we didn’t have the time to follow this recipe by the letter, thus skipping out the horseradish ice cream, it is still a very tasty meal. The tender meat soaks up all the flavour of the wine and has an immensely deep flavour. I wouldn’t recommend having this after a course of Oxtail soup as we found it quite heavy, and followed by a portion of bread and butter pudding, left us grounded to the sofa holding our tummies. I must admit, we definately fell into the bracket of having ‘eye’s to big for our tummies’!
I do apologise for not taking any food images of the finished recipes, unfortunately I was so hungry by the time the food was ready, I couldn’t wait any longer! I’ll try harder next time I promise! Hope you enjoy the few photos of Smithfield Market I managed to take before being told to stop.
As a London based food photographer, over the past seven years, Ryan has worked with some of Europe’s largest retailers, local restaurants, and food suppliers. With such clients he produces sensational images for advertising, packaging, and editorial purposes. His images have been used for both local and national campaigns: store merchandising, brochures, magazine editorials, TV advertisements, in-store/billboard posters, and national press advertisements. Now based in Tooting, South West London, he continues to work regularly with some of the best food stylists in the industry, creating appetising images with a natural and contemporary look.