Downtown in Dalston, a hint of the Romany

Ratatouille, sometimes called Gypsy stew

EVERY WEEK I take £5 to Ridley Road market in Dalston, Hackney, London E8 2LH, to spend on seasonal food, and on Friday I tell you what I have chosen and publish a seasonal recipe.

Expenditure on any extra ingredients, eg, a litre of oil, will be recouped by usage over subsequent weeks. Some of the recipes will be frugal. They will all be tasty. Some meals will need additional ingredients. All will be vegetarian.

NB: this website uses metric measures but some Ridley Road traders cheekily sell in imperial, some in metric and some also by the bowl. 

This week’s £5 basketpicture below

3 courgettes 50p

2 aubergines £1

7 avocados £1

6 bananas 50p

2 bunches callaloo £1

7 peppers £1

Total £5

Equipment: kitchen knife, lidded saucepan. Wash all vegetables

Ratatouille (not rat-atouille), sometimes called Gypsy stew


1 courgette, cut into 2cm slices

1/2 aubergines chopped into cubes

1 red pepper, cut into 2cm slices

1 onion, thinly sliced (from last week’s basket)

1 dried chilli, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 of fresh

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

200ml vegetable water, stock or tap water


Heat the oil in the saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for 6 minutes. Add peppers, aubergine, oregano and courgette and sweat in the saucepan gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the vegetables are soft but holding their shape, add the tomatoes and stock/water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins. The liquid should have reduced by a quarter so that the ratatouille has a thickish consistency. Serve with mashed potatoes (potatoes from last week’s buy) or plain white rice and a simple green salad.

A lovely, colourful basket this week, above. What shall I do with the rest of the vegetables? The avocados will make a classic starter with a vinaigrette dressing and some guacamole. I shall split one of the aubergines almost to the bottom into £1 coin size slices and stuff the cuts with peeled garlic and roast for an hour. The courgettes and peppers can be stuffed or added to rice, noodle or pasta dishes, the callaloo (amaranth) cooked Jamaican-style.

In a little oil I’ll fry onion, garlic and tomato, then lay the callaloo leaves on top, add a knob of butter and tablespoon of water, and cover and steam. (My thanks to Latoya Scott of Saint Best in Dalston.) Similar to preparing spinach for a side dish.

Tip: I made some simple biscuits this week and to keep them crisp I always add a cube or two of sugar. Biscuits will stay fresh and crunchy for much longer.

* Previous spends and recipes, hyperlinked:

14 September 2012

7 September 2012;

31 August 2012;

24 August 2012;

17 August 17 2012;

15 August 2012

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