This is Simon, literally breathing fire. We’ve known him since he grew up across the street from us– watching painfully as he hurled himself up and down our cul-de-sac on his monocycle, frequently crashing into fences, trees, and walls, then getting up and trying again. And again. And again. Until he could sail past us easily, like a hot knife through butter. As a boy he learned to become a magician by staring unblinkingly at infinitesimal changes in Paul Daniels’ TV shows, and trying again, and again, and again, to duplicate what he saw. Even at an early age, he could take a crowd’s breath away with his magic tricks. And he’s even better now.
As an adult these skills and persistence are coupled with a strong sense of justice. Besides his day job, he campaigns for the Palestinians, for animal rights, and against sneaky developers who claim to do one thing and build another. These pictures were taken at a campaign to save the 300 Cressingham residents from the landlords who evicted them so that the flats could be gentrified for higher rents. He doesn’t give up.
It only takes 5% to change a community, for good or ill. Activists need acknowledgement. Praise. Support. Nurture. Celebration. Take care of your own — they make us look at the injustices we choose not to see.
Mushroom Stroganoff(ish) for an Activist
Simon is a Vegan, so I made this recipe for him. It’s gluten-free, incidentally.
Immerse 25 – 50 grams (1 small package, 1-2 ozs) dried porcini mushrooms in a cup of warm water until soft, about 30 minutes.
Strain and finely chop the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking water. Saute 1 large or 2 small chopped onions in 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Then add the chopped soaked dried mushrooms and go on frying. Add the soaking water and cook on high heat until the water has disappeared but the mushroom flavour remains. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of dried herbs (I use herbes de provence, but there’s also thyme, marjoram, or if you want to be amazing use tarragon.) Add a can of fat-reduced coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Thicken with 1 – 2 tablespoons of ground almonds.
Meanwhile, put a roasting pan in the oven with 1 tablespoon coconut oil in it. Heat the oven to moderately hot. When hot, roll fresh quartered mushrooms into the oil and roast until lovely, succulent and brown but not dried out (around 20 minutes). Use about 130 grams (about 5 ozs) fresh mushrooms for each serving.
When ready to serve, tumble the roasted mushrooms into the sauce, along with 200 grams (7 ozs) or so of unsalted cashews (you may wish to roast these for a few minutes in the oven, at the same time you’re roasting the mushrooms). If too effete or insubstantial, bung in a can of beans (like flageolet, haricot, or butter beans). Heat. Season to taste. Serve over (preferably) brown rice.
A NUT FREE version: thicken the gravy with gram flour (chickpea flour) or cornflour (cornstarch) instead of ground almonds . Add a couple of tins of drained sliced water chestnuts for the crunch, and use more mushrooms.
The food pictures (with warm thanks to Ben Ruckman, photographer) were taken as we tried out Version 3 of this recipe, over a suppertime meeting. This time we had it with jacket (baked) potato. It was fine.
Lovely article Judy, thanks a lot. Just a note to say the residents of Cressingham Gardens haven’t been evicted yet. They are still battling the corrupt Lambeth Council to save their homes. More details can be found here: