Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2005

Ainsley Harriott takes us back to some of the culinary milestones of his South London youth – the market stalls still selling their global range of fruit and veg; the Greek matriarch and magnificent cook, now in her nineties, who treated Ainsley as an addition to her copious family; the kitchen in his childhood home, kindly lent for the occasion by the present occupants, now completely transformed but redolent with memories. In that kitchen, where his mother taught him how to cook, Ainsley prepares some Christmas favourites from forty years ago and invites along a few friends to share the moment, including another South London boy, comedian Arthur Smith.

Ainsley’s parents emigrated from Jamaica in the late 1950’s and made a new life for themselves in Balham, South London. By the time Ainsley and his siblings were born a few years later, the area was already home to a vibrant and diverse community. People newly arrived from the Caribbean, Greece or Hong Kong and their English-born children lived alongside Londoners who had been in the area for generations. Parents swapped neighbourly small talk, children were in and out of each other’s houses sampling the national cuisine of their hosts. The local shops and markets began to reflect this culinary cornucopia, stocking mangoes and sweet potatoes as well as apples and sprouts, and some of Ainsley’s earliest memories are of going shopping with his mother, her basket crammed with exotic produce.

Produced by Clare Csonka & Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd for BBC Radio 4



N.B. Some audio has been edited from the original broadcast version due to copyright restrictions


Ainsley Harriott


Clare Csonka/Neil Gardner


Clare Csonka




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