Why it’s worth looking carefully for those local lockdown treats
As we find ourselves in the second national lockdown, many of us will be looking for ways to support our local businesses and ensure that the high street isn’t a complete desert when we enter the new year. During the last lockdown, local businesses stepped up to provide us with the provisions that were no longer available on our supermarket shelves and many also gave us the indulgence we all needed to distract us from the uncertainty and worry we all faced.
One business providing food related pleasure was , led by founder Ross Mitchell and his small, passionate team. Their aim – to bring the enjoyment and love of smoked and cured food to the people of Streatham and beyond.
Located in Streatham’s last remaining cobbled street, Gleneldon Mews, I walked past London Smoke & Cure twice when I was trying to collect an order during lockdown. Thankfully, I persisted as the salmon I brought home was like nothing I had ever tasted before. It was silky, buttery and full of flavour but without the overpowering, artificial smokiness of shop bought salmons.
I had no doubt that there was something magical happening in this small, almost hidden unit so when I received the newsletter advertising for a production assistant I sent over my CV.
At this point, it’s worth noting that I last worked in a professional food environment more than 20 years ago. Despite my lack of experience, Ross invited me for a test day in early September.
I started the day weighing, slicing, vacuum-packing and labelling the salami snack sticks.
The afternoon was spent grinding and seasoning the mix for the chorizo and saucisson. Everything was carefully measured from the fat and meat content to the salt and spices. Having spent the past ten years working from home, it was a welcome change to spend the day on my feet being part of a process that would end in someone’s utter enjoyment. I was also made to feel part of the team and really enjoyed the banter – most if which evolved around food.
I spent a few shifts working at London Smoke & Cure during which I pricked saucisson and chorizo which were then hung for drying and weighed and packed the cold smoked salmon – probably the most challenging task. The salmon is sliced like sashimi and getting the exact weight was like putting together a delicate jigsaw puzzle.
I learnt about the processes required to produce top grade charcuterie, award winning bacon and cold smoked salmon, but my main takeaway was the team’s passion for provenance, attention to detail and restless determination to improve flavours and textures, something that I recognise in the Michelin starred chefs that I work with.
What makes London Smoke & Cure special is that every element of the processing chain is done with care; from ensuring the meats are sourced from high welfare farms and the salmon fresh from British waters, to tasting each round of product again and again, tweaking here and there to achieve perfection.
In a world where convenience has become such a big part of our daily lives, it’s good to take a step back and enjoy the pleasures and satisfaction that true artisan food can bring. If you haven’t given their produce a try, I highly recommend you do.