Essex Road’s ‘recipe lady’ Kay Scorah: Why I love Islington’s local shops

Kay Scorah with some of her Essex Road food recipes and butcher Wayne Roberts (Picture: Ken Mears)

Kay Scorah with some of her Essex Road food recipes and butcher Wayne Roberts (Picture: Ken Mears) - Credit: Archant

Locally famed ‘recipe lady’ Kay Scorah is now selling her popular counter-top cards online. Georgie Conway found out what keeps her coming back to the shops on her doorstep

Kay Scorah with some of her Essex Road food recipes and butcher Wayne Roberts (Picture: Ken Mears)

Kay Scorah with some of her Essex Road food recipes and butcher Wayne Roberts (Picture: Ken Mears) - Credit: Archant

Two years ago, the shopkeepers of Essex Road thought Kay Scorah was mad when she started leaving her improvised recipes on the counters of her favourite independent food shops.

Now dubbed “the recipe lady” by the local community and with 50 recipes recommended by shopkeepers under her apron, Kay, 61, is set to publish her Essex Road Recipes collection.

She worried she was being a nuisance to the proprietors, but soon found she had a hit on her hands. “If I skipped a couple of weeks,” she recalls, “people would start to ask me when the next one was coming out.”

And little by little, she began to get comments and questions from shoppers and shopkeepers alike about the ingredients and her recipes.

Kay Scorah with some of her Essex Road food recipes and butcher Wayne Roberts (Picture: Ken Mears)

Kay Scorah with some of her Essex Road food recipes and butcher Wayne Roberts (Picture: Ken Mears) - Credit: Archant


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When Kay moved to Essex Road from Edinburgh where she had lived for the past 18 years, she was delighted to find a variety of independent stores on her doorstep.

“The local shops helped me feel part of a community again,” she told the Gazette. “I’ve noticed that the local shops provide all of us, but especially the elderly and stay-at-home parents, with conversation and company as well as food.”

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The project hopes to encourage people to be more confident and inventive with cooking, as well as support local produce.

“Celebrity chefs have done wonders for our courage and expertise, but now I think it’s time to take the next step and for everyone to realise that they can be creative in the kitchen,” she says. “You don’t have to be a slave to the recipe.”

The recipes are largely thought up on the hop, based on what ingredients look fresh on the day. Kay then discusses with customers and shop staff what would be best to do with them.

“I created the chicken mint curry because someone who had been picking up the recipe cards sent me a message saying he had a load of mint in his garden and wondered if I could think of anything to do with it,” she adds.

Though Kay understands the impracticalities of independent food shopping for some, she believes the community feel makes up for the long queues outside the Essex Road shops on Saturdays.

“I love the banter,” she says. “Honestly, the people who work in Steve Hatt, the Market Garden, James Elliott and Raab’s are hilarious and the customers give as good as they get.”

As well as being the founder of the communications company Have More Fun Ltd, Kay also does stand-up comedy in her spare time.

“On a good day around here it’s like an episode from a sitcom but underneath all the flippant comments and cheek, there’s genuine kindness and consideration,” she says.

The recipes are currently being sold online.

But the cards placed on the counter tops of Essex Road can still be found – as well as Kay, who often visits her favourite street looking for the freshest produce.

“There’s a local objective I have with the recipes,” she says, “which is to support the shops I think are so good for our community, and are so good at what they do.”

Visit Kay’s website for more recipes.

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