The Knackered Chef: A pause for thought.

We’re three weeks into the New Year and if you’re like me the last three weeks has dragged a little, we said goodbye to two great legends, Alan Rickman and the unforgettable David Bowie may they both rest in peace. Has Dry January lasted for you? I know for me it didn’t, I was doing really well until last Friday then a friend of mine needed my help so to action I sprung, the mates standard reward for any help is always a couple of pints sadly my friend can’t count to two and I’m really bad at saying no.

Never–the-less, I’m still running and I’m still managing my 10K’s, for me it’s a battle of will between my body and my mind, a sort of defiance no matter what gets thrown at me I just keep going because I know the more I do it the better I become. We have to bare that in mind when we see our square in the center of Herne Hill, we have to pull together and become a stronger force because just like the campaign to save The Half-Moon pub, the more we shout the more people WILL listen, Bleu has relocated to Dulwich Road, the Bakery and Green grocers have relocated just around the corner on Milkwood Rd. Please do continue to use these wonderful shops all of which constantly battle for survival,  I’ve been around in my time and I have to say that I’m proud to be associated with this wonderful little town on the outskirts of London, those that want to really to step up to the plate and make the difference. Coming from a small village I know a lot about community and pulling together, having spent the greater part of my adult life in London over the years I have moved about, I’ve not experienced anything like Herne Hill. It’s a real mix of people, those that get involved with helping, volunteering, or working within our community really are a different type to others that I have met in my time, I know that those who use our local shop will continue to do so, and hopefully ensure that these lovely shop continue to trade for many years to come.

Sadly due to a 70% Rent increase from Dulwich Estate Just Williams are no longer able to trade due to the preposterous rent increase. I can understand a small amount of say 5-10% in some ways I can see although slightly cheeky asking twenty percent somewhat acceptable, but 70%. How can you justify that kind of increase for a business that has traded for such a long time in the area?  Success for Herne Hill isn’t who is willing to pay the most because money doesn’t automatically give someone either the brains or the taste to run a business which is relevant to the community, rather than charging the highest rent perhaps they should consider the relevance and impact the current business has within the community. Let’s say that when the Network Rail have refurbished the four shops they rent to Starbucks. How many businesses would be affected by this, I can count at least 8 local business who will have an automatic downward turn in business, one of who only relies on a coffee and tea trade, let’s hope greed doesn’t overtake and we end up with a pound shop or something much worse.

With the first month after Christmas out of the way I’ll be visiting as many of the local businesses in Herne Hill to chat with the people that run them, obviously I’m biased towards food but let’s not forget that there are more than just restaurants and food businesses in our town so I’ll be popping in to the Dry cleaners and chatting with the Estate agents, I’ll be visiting the traders on our very successful Farmers market. I’ll be writing about my chats with the local traders and getting their views.

In the hope that Network Rail and Dulwich Estate can think past their own pocket I have decided to offer a recipe for Humble Pie and hope they could both eat a large portion of it?

 Humble Pie

 1 bunch of fresh Spinach

80ml Olive Oil

2 Large onions

1 Leek finely chopped

12 sheets of readymade Filo pastry

125g unsalted butter melted

500g Ricotta

160g parmesan grated

200g Sundried Tomatoes (in oil)

2 Eggs

Salt and pepper to season


 Preheat oven to 180°C. Blanch spinach in boiling water and drain well, squeezing out excess moisture. Chop finely. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook onions and leek, stirring occasionally, for about 6/8 minutes, or until golden. Cool

 Meanwhile, cut pastry sheets in half width ways so you have 24 sheets. Layer 12 sheets on top of each other, brushing each with melted butter, and place in the base of a greased 30cm x 24cm baking dish.


 Combine spinach, onion mixture, ricotta, parmesan, tomatoes and eggs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread over pastry base. Repeat process with remaining filo and butter, and place on top of ricotta mixture. Brush top with olive oil. Cook pie for 40 minutes, or until pastry is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.