To quote Homer Simpson, ‘mmmm, donuts!‘ These are no ordinary doughnuts though: they come from St John and they’re filled with beautiful fruity concoctions courtesy of Lillie O’Brien’s London Borough of Jam. Eat Hackney visited Lillie in her welcoming and attractive shop (open Sat & Sun 11am–5pm), where jars of jam and chutney are displayed alongside ceramics, designer food mags, aprons made from bright African fabrics and vases of glowing dahlias.
Interview with Lillie O’Brien
Lillie came to London from foodie hub Melbourne six years ago, and worked for four years as the pastry chef at St John Bread & Wine. Inspired by the seasonal menu at St John, Lillie makes jam as a way of sealing in summer berry flavours to savour when winter comes along and sweet produce is otherwise limited to orchard fruits, lemon and chocolate. She never mixes two berries, but combines fruit with a complementary ingredient: raspberry and liquorice, fig and Earl Grey tea, quince and rosewater… To warm fruits like blackberry she adds a spice or herb, and her products have a lower sugar content than commercial jams, letting the flavours sing.
With their brown luggage labels and chunky jars Lillie’s products are a big success. She is now supplying east London cafés to the point where she can’t take on new orders, and is looking to move production out of the kitchen and into wholesale premises.
After checking out the jams, bright aprons (Lillie buys the fabric from Ridley Road Market and commissions her next door neighbour, African dressmaker BJ, to make them up) and cutting-edge foodie mags, Eat Hackney bought a jar of fig and Earl Grey jam. This is a gorgeous combination, with a dark and smoky tea taste boosting the flavour of the juicy figs; Lillie recommends it with cheese, though it’s good enough to eat straight out of the jar. Lillie shared her recipe for fig and Earl Grey jam with Eat Hackney. And if you want to go all the way and make your own doughnuts, click here.