I love to source ingredients during my travels so my pantry is basically a reflection of the experiences that inspire me and the cooks I meet along the way. For example, this photo shows a market on the banks of the Bosphorus in Kadiköy on the Asian side of Istanbul. It is my absolute favourite place to go for spices, dried fruit and vegetables, and exotic condiments; I would shop there every day if I could. However, contrary to popular belief, my life is not one long holiday, despite all attempts to make it so. For that reason, here is a list of my favourite UK-based places to shop:
A constant source of inspiration, I’ve watched Borough market slowly evolve since it started with just a couple of people selling their goods on simple trestle tables. Covering a huge area, it is now an emporium of opportunity discovery and one of my favourite places on earth to uncover new ingredients.
I’ve sourced pulses and grains, spices, breads and Middle Eastern condiments from this Lebanese food hall since it opened in 1986. I’m incredibly loyal to them, mostly for their patience when answering my constant stream of questions and for the encouragement they’ve given me over the years.
Honey & Spice
This cute little shop belongs to Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer; it’s just across the road from their widely celebrated restaurant and sells a comprehensive range of popular Middle Eastern products, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as prepared items from the Honey & Co kitchen. It’s also a great place to pick up a healthy lunch and side dishes for a mezzo supper.
This Asian supermarket Brick Lane in London was founded in 1936 making it one of the oldest international grocers in the UK. In addition to spices, oils and other condiments, they also flies in high quality seasonal produce direct from Bangladesh.
Fairer World York
York’s dedicated Fair Trade shop stocks Zaytoun, my favourite brand for fairly traded organic ingredients from Palestine, including olive oil, maftoul, za’atar, olives, couscous and nuts.
I buy my Italian goods from this beautiful deli, from fresh pasta and cheeses through artisan olive oils and vinegars to flour and semolina.
Makkah International Food
This store on Hull Road is a foodie Samarkand to me. From here I source most of my Mediterranean-inspired and Middle Eastern ingredients.
Millie’s describes itself as ‘York’s Premier Greengrocers’ having sold quality fruits and vegetables to the local community since 1920. I can’t praise them highly enough for the quality of their seasonal produce which beats supermarkets hands down. They also stock an amazing range of Italian, Indian and Chinese goods and they deliver, for free, to my door. They are my culinary heroes because they have made it possible for me to live a life that is supermarket free, an ambition that I’ve aspired to for a very long time.
Rafi’s Spice Box
I love this quirky family-owned brand with stores in York and Harrogate (as well as Newcastle and Sudbury). They literally live and breathe spice; indeed, walking into their store is a sensory overload. It’s a great local store for me when I need to top up my pantry.
When it’s impossible to buy ingredients locally, these are my tried and trusted suppliers:
Arabica Food & Spice
I love this brand through and through. I remember when its original founder – known as Jordanian Jad – arrived at Borough market setting out lovingly prepared mezzes on a trestle table. He was a revelation to me and certainly one of my early inspirations. Later he was joined by James Walters and together, they bravely pioneered the growing appetite for authentic Middle Eastern food. Jad has since returned to the Mediterranean leaving James at the helm to open the wonderful Arabica Bar and Kitchen as well as curating a comprehensive online store.
Fet a Sóller
A Mallorcan-based initiative that aims to combine economy and ecology in a way that promotes the exquisite produce that is created and harvested in the beautiful valley of Sóller.
Virtually an online farmer’s market supplying a vast range of specialist ingredients from independent small companies from all over the UK and beyond. The quality of their customer service is beyond compare.
Melbury & Appleton
A London based family-owned independent food company that imports and sells an incredibly wide range of hard-to-find ingredients and speciality food from around the world – including the Middle East, Italy, France, Spain – at sensible prices. If you can’t find the ingredient you’re looking for here, ask them and they will attempt to source it for you.
This Yorkshire-based family business is my source for unusual ingredients packed with flavour, aroma and provenance. Their herbs, spices and teas are ethically sourced; organic; environmentally sound (they are a carbon neutral business); innovative and of an extremely high quality.
Another London-based family-run enterprise that supplies an incredible range of unusual ingredients, equipment, tableware and gifts inspired by leading restaurants and international food.
The Tapas Lunch Co
Strange name but a fantastic supplier of an outstanding range of Spanish food and Mediterranean ingredients; The Tapas Lunch Co is a great resource for learning more about the richness of Spanish produce, some of which has earned a world class reputation.
A social enterprise dedicated to the fair trade of artisanal products from Palestine including olive oil, za’atar, maftoul, freekeh, almonds and medjoul dates.