Category Archives: England

Today Deptford…Tomorrow The World!

©2011David Porter

This old t-shirt, bought at the Albany Empire around 1980, is one of my prize possessions.  Every weekend we were either at the Albany, the Tramshed, The Duke, or the Royal Albert.  Sometimes all of them, and there was always a party afterwards at somebody’s house or flat, with the musicians and actors turning-up and rocking-on. There’s a very good book about this period, “Rock Around Lewisham” by local author and musician Mel Wright, I recommend it.  The old Albany Empire was in Creek Road near Albury Street, and famous for Rock Against Racism concerts, sadly in 1978 it burnt down and after a brief revival it was demolished to make way for a wider road.  The Albany rose again in Douglas Way and we all joined (you joined in those days) because the acts and the atmosphere were really electric, everybody from the Flying Pickets to Bo Diddley, via Pookiesnackenburger and Billy Connelly.  Squeeze were the dominant band, somehow more authentic than the equally ginormous Dire Straits.  I seem to remember Dire Straits supporting Squeeze at the old Albany, but I might be wrong.  Deptford was really buzzing: Bowie and the Spiders From Mars were rehearsing Ziggy Stardust in Underhill Studios (now Gee-Pharm chemists) at the bottom of Blackheath Hill, with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop in attendance; John Cale of the Velvet Underground was here producing Squeeze, Mark Perry’s ‘Sniffin’ Glue‘ was being edited from a flat on the Crossfields Estate, and local band Rubber Johnny, led by John Turner were filling the gap between the opening act and the headliners at the Royal Albert. Soon they became so popular they were headlining their own gigs.

John Turner and Rubber Johnny at the Royal Albert c1982. ©Steve Golton.

In 1980 Squeeze released ‘Argybargy’, the last album with Jools Holland on keyboards. I was at the time what you’d call a rock photographer and photographed Squeeze several times.

Squeeze 1980 ©David Porter.

Squeeze photographed in 1980 by David Porter.

This picture was taken in 1980 in an old pea warehouse under the Floral Hall in Covent Garden which had been converted into a cavernous underground studio, I’ve still got the parachute.

In 1982 John Turner adapted Squeeze’s ‘East Side Story’ into a stage production for the Albany and called it ‘Labelled With Love.’ We were there when it opened, along with Tim Rice who was probably picking up a few tips on musical theatre. The play was set in a smoky Deptford boozer threatened with conversion into a disco cocktail bar, the fictional ‘Nail in the Heart’.  “It’s happening everywhere,” sighed Eric the pub landlord, “Bermondsey has fallen, Peckhams on the way, and Lewisham is sure to follow...” We all murmured agreement, and after the show trooped round to The Duke on Creek Road, transformed for the show’s run into The Nail, complete with  pub sign of a heart pierced by a nail, the landlord of The Duke was called Erich.

The opening track of ‘East Side Story’ is ‘In Quintessence’, one of those tunes you can’t get out of your head. A song about a 15 year old boy’s fantasy about a girl that he never sees, while he smokes himself into oblivion in his messy bedroom listening to his transistor radio. The ‘in quintessence’ hook is the bit I can never get out of my head. I didn’t know what quintessence meant at the time, I assumed it was a made up word something to do with quinces. Now I’ve found out one possible meaning is the fifth element!  The Greeks and Roman believed the quince was the golden apple, Aphrodite’s fruit of love.

Quince ©2011 David Porter.

It has the perfume of a loved woman and the same

    hardness of heart, but it has the colour of the

    impassioned and scrawny lover.”  

    (Shafer ben Utman al-Mushafi, died 982AD)

I’ve been given some quinces, from a tree on an allotment in Catford, and some from my friend in Lee with the greengage tree. Turkish shops are selling quinces now, at about £2 per kilo; their quinces are bigger than my home-grown variety but they all have the most subtle but unique perfume. You could just buy a bowlful and leave them to scent the room.

Plan of Sayes Court Garden in the 1650s. The British Library.

The quince is one of England’s forgotten fruit. We can be certain John Evelyn would have had quince trees among his 300 fruit trees in the orchard at Sayes Court, along with the similarly forgotten medlars, mulberries and vines, lemons, apricots and pomegranates.  Thanks to London’s Lost Garden I know that he listed a ‘Portugal Quince’ in his 1687 Directions for the Gardiner.  Quince trees in England were first recorded at the Tower of London in 1275, possibly they were here before 1275 but Evelyn’s Portugal Quince was introduced in 1611 by John Tradescant who was working as head gardener for Robert Cecil at Hatfield House.

Quinces ©2011 David Porter.

This recipe for baked quinces is adapted from the recipe in Jane Grigson’s ‘Fruit Book’, but they don’t have to be reserved for sweet puddings. Mrs Grigson gives recipes for quinces with beef, and with pheasant for instance, and I know of a Persian recipe for quinces stuffed with minced lamb. Mrs Grigson wrote that baked quinces were Isaac Newton’s favourite pudding, and of course Newton and John Evelyn were friends. It’d be nice to imagine John bidding farewell to Isaac, and pressing a bag of quince onto his friend, “I’ve so many…take some home…”

Baked Quince ©2011 David Porter

Baked Quince

Preparation time:  10 minutes

Cooking time:         90 minutes +

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 quince per person (assuming they are of a suitable size, otherwise 1 or 2 per person)

Juice of one or two lemons

150g caster sugar

110g unsalted butter

3 tbs double cream (or more if necessary)

2 glasses of sweet white wine

1 cinnamon stick, gently pulled into a few shards


Either peel entirely, or as I did peel strips from each quince. Hollow out the centre of each fruit, without piercing all the way through. I used an apple-corer but this is more difficult than it might appear, quinces are very hard! Squeeze lemon juice over the peeled exterior and the hollowed-out cores. Butter a small-ish roasting tin and stand the quinces in the dish. If necessary cut them a flatter bottom so they stand up.

Then mix together the sugar, butter, and cream, till the mixture is smooth and creamy. Fill the hollowed cores with this mixture, finishing with a tablespoon of sugar sprinkled over the top of each fruit. Scatter some shards of cinnamon stick around the dish.

Put in your oven preheated to 200C and bake for about 25 minutes, then pour in the wine. Carry on baking till the quince is tender. I tested for this with a slim skewer pushed through the side of a quince, avoiding the hard centre. If you’ve any of the creamy mixture left now is the time to top up the middles of your quinces. They took about 90 minutes altogether, you could reduce the heat to 180C and cook them for longer depending how soft you like your puddings I served them after transferring them to a heated dish and pouring some of the liquid around the quince, and have some cream ready to pour over them at the last minute.

©2011 David Porter.

Support Your Local Farmer

First, let me declare an interest: I’m a bloke. And blokes like tractors, which is why a couple of weeks ago I could be found with a soppy grin on my face walking around a display of vintage tractors and steam engines at the Weald of Kent Ploughing Match.

1930s Oliver 70, row crop tractor

Ploughing matches and point-to-point racing are some of the countryside’s best-kept secrets, and for a townie like me a terrific day out getting immersed in tweed and dogs.  We took a basic picnic and at the show bought St Michael’s Blue cheese from Silcocks Farm, pickled walnuts and cider  to eat later in the stubble.

It was the end of the short hop-picking season and among the trade stands (more, bigger, tractors!) there was a display of old farming photographs, some showing hop picking in the days when tens of thousands of Londoners, including children that should have been in school, would descend on the hop gardens for a working holiday staying in corrugated iron huts and picking hops.

By the 1950’s hop picking was becoming mechanised, and the annual migration from London gradually died out.

from the collection of I.Coomber and D.Ludlow

But its not all tractors doing the ploughing, pairs of heavy horses were stoically pulling especially polished ploughs; and for £5 you could have a go at driving horses and plough whilst trying to carve a straight furrow. The tractor match is judged depending on the type of plough, and points are scored for well-cut and straight furrows, uniformity, firmness, accuracy and the curiously-named ‘ins and outs’. Points are deducted for finishing the wrong way and leaving double wheel marks. The rules of horse ploughing are even stricter but the winner can look forward to the first prize of £12!

The Bolebrook Beagles trotted around the arena in a disorganised fashion, and later a pack of foxhounds from the Ashford Valley Hunt ran around following the huntsman and two whippers-in, before the ritual invitation for children to come into the arena and meet the dogs. I realise hunting is controversial, and the commentator repeated several times that the hunt operated within the law, but obviously no one at this show was offended in any way and the ring soon filled with children. Contrary to what you might think a foxhound is not an aggressive blood-thirsty animal but is extremely friendly, unlike some of the dogs in my local park. To be surrounded by twenty foxhounds licking and wagging is a happy experience, but then I’m not a fox.

Three years ago I took a friend to the East Kent Ploughing Match. As a confirmed Guardianista he saw foxes as the cuddly animals he fed in his back garden. Farmers, he thought, were all rich and right-wing,  sponging subsidies from the rest of us and driving around in 4x4s.  They’re just ordinary people I told him they just get muddier, and they work longer hours seven days a week, putting up with endless inspections from government officials and spending their evenings filling in the mountain of forms demanded by the EU.  He couldn’t bring himself to stroke a foxhound but he grudgingly admitted he’d enjoyed himself, apart from the extortionate price of the venison burger (£3-50), and remarked that everyone had been very nice and polite, and he’d not heard a four-letter word all day. I bought him a “Support British Farmers” mug which once he was back at home went straight to the back of the cupboard and was never seen again.

Ian Florey of Liquid Pleasure in Tenterden

Walking past one of the beer tents a voice called “David!” It was Nicky Aldhouse from Wadd Farm, helping Ian Florey sell local beers. Ian runs Liquid Pleasure an online wine merchant with a shop in Tenterden. Ian’s favourite small local brewery is the award-winning Old Dairy Brewery which he promotes at shows and charity events,  decorating the tent with Nicky’s hops.  Nicky and her husband Guy rear prize-winning Suffolk sheep at Wadd Farm, and try to be as self-sufficient as possible growing every sort of vegetable and soft fruit imaginable.  Wadd Farm is one of the oldest farms in Kent, going back to the 1540s. “We never have a holiday,” said Nicky, “there’s always something to do, but this is the best job in the world!” Like many Kent farmers they still grow a few rows of  hops, for the sake of tradition and for their homemade beer. Here’s Nicky in her polytunnel with her tomatoes…

Nicky Aldhouse

Every year they hold ‘Wadd Fest’ a music festival on the farm in aid of Demelza childrens’ hospice. I was really impressed with Nicky’s larder, stuffed with homemade wine, beer and preserves; each year Nicky makes over 30 bottles of wine, mostly from over-ripe fruit. “It’s important not to waste any fruit,” she said, “and it’s so simple to do.” It was Nicky that told me about ‘Farmhouse Fare‘, a collection of recipes from the readers of Farmers Weekly. I went home and ordered it on Amazon, it’s a simple, easy to use and unpretentious collection of recipes and one of my all-time favourite cookbooks.

We’ve a hop growing around our front door, and a nearby pub has hops growing in its garden, if you look around carefully there are wild hops growing here and there.  The Hop Shop at Castle Farm in Shoreham near Sevenoaks sells hop plants, that’s where we bought ours, and if you’re feeling ambitious they sell old hop poles and wonderfully enormous balls of thick rough hop string that wouldn’t look out of place in The Conran Shop.

The hop garden at Castle Farm. Picture ©Thomas Alexander

Castle Farm is an old hop garden, now more well known for the lavender fields than the hops. When the price of hops collapsed as brewers turned to cheaper imports, Caroline (above) and William Alexander diversified into lavender, herbs and rare apples, and their son Thomas Alexander is a talented photographer.  Caroline developed a lavender oil just for cooking, something we use in cake-making and always have at home. Castle Farm is local enough for me, just 14 miles down the road, and the farm shop is always worth a visit. I came across an interesting blog about making beer using hops from Castle Farm, you need surprisingly few and Castle Farm sell hop bines, the complete stems with hops attached, during the season.

Next to Nicky’s beer tent was the hog roast, offering roasted pork in huffkins. The queue was too long for me, but huffkins are worth making at home.  The huffkin is a traditional Kentish teacake, unique in that the baker made dent in the top with his thumb, and they have a slight beer flavour.  Some Kent bakers still make them, but they are becoming quite rare. We only make them a few times a year, and at this time of the year Clarissa likes to push a green hop into the dent in the huffkin to add to the flavour.

Huffkins-Kentish-Hiffkins-recipe for Kent Huffkins

Kentish Huffkins

Kentish Huffkins

Preparation time about 1 hour 45 minutes including the resting times.

Cooking time 20 – 30 minutes depending on the size of the individual huffkins.

Ingredients (makes 6 – 8):

10g dried yeast

2 tsp sugar

225ml warm water

110g lard

2 tsp salt

225ml scalded milk. That is milk that has been heated till it almost boils. This disables some proteins that would stop the yeast from properly fermenting.

500g plain flour, sifted

Flour for dusting


Activate the dried yeast in a little warm water with a pinch of sugar added. When it froths it is ready.

Cream the lard, salt, a pinch of sugar, add the yeast and then the sifted flour, making a dough.

On a floured surface knead the dough till it feels ‘springy’ to the touch. Then put the dough to one side in a bowl covered with a clean dry tea towel. Leave the bowl of dough to rise in a warm dry place for about 1 hour.

Then roll out the dough again so it is about 15mm thick and use a knife to cut-out oval shapes about 85mm across the length (the traditional shape), or larger circular shapes if you wish. Some bakers make larger huffkins.

Put your pieces of dough onto a greased baking sheet, well-spaced, and cover with some damp muslin, then leave to rise for further 30 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 220C.

After they’ve risen, using your thumb make a large dent in the middle of each huffkin. Dust them lightly with a little flour then put them into your oven. How long you bake them for depends on how big they are, but remember they are soft crusted, so don’t over do it!

When they are cooked, remove them to a wire rack to cool, covered with a dampened tea towel to prevent the crust from hardening. Finally dust with a little flour. The dent will have almost disappeared, Clarissa likes to push a green or dried hop into the dent, you may have to make it larger to do this. I’d serve sliced in half and spread with homemade jam!

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