Spice it up as autumn leaves its mark on Hackney

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. As usual, 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. All will be vegetarian.

NB: this website uses metric measures but a few Ridley Road traders cheekily sell in imperial, some in metric and some also by the bowl. They all give good value. 

This week’s £5 basket, above

6 Spanish onions 50p (1,939g)

Cauliflower £1

3 aubergines £1

Okra (akna lady’s fingers) £1. Too many to count (TMTC)

Pickling onions £1. TMTC

9 bananas 50p

Total £5


Equipment: kitchen knife, paring knife, 2 lidded saucepans. Wash all vegetables

Recipe: Vegetable curry, serves 2, leaving enough to freeze for later in the week

Curries are not quick to make and are best eaten the next day. Preparation: 20 minutes, cooking: 50 minutes


1 aubergine, sliced to the thickness of a £1 coin, then cut into quarters

2 potatoes, from last week’s buy, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces

I Spanish onion, peeled and thinly sliced

20 okra

1/4 cauliflower cut into bite-size florets

Tin chopped tomatoes

Tin coconut milk

2 tablespoons oil

Ready-made curry powder *

Bay leaf



Heat the oil in the saucepan and add curry powder. Cook for 10 minutes. The seeds will pop and everything will become soft by the end of cooking the dish. Add onion and aubergine and cook gently for 10 minutes with the lid on the saucepan. Put the potatoes in a separate saucepan and cook until soft but retaining their shape. Stir the curry to prevent it burning every few minutes. Add the okra and cauliflower and mix to cover the vegetables in the curry mixture. After 10 minutes, add the tin tomatoes and coconut milk, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked through, for 25 to 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and add to the curry pot. Check regularly to ensure that it doesnt over-cook, disintegrating the vegetables. 

Serve with plain rice and lentils (dhal) and yoghurt with some of last weeks coriander. I often substitute couscous for rice.


The remaining items in this week’s basket can be used for a tasty mustard cauliflower cheese dish. The aubergines can be sliced and  marinated in lime juice, mint and honey and grilled. The pickling onions can be prepared and pickled ready for hot, crunchy, pickled onions on Boxing Day or, to accompany other meals in winter, the bananas for banana sandwiches and a banana custard. The okra will be added to a chilli dish with quinoa and the Spanish onions into soup and almost every other dish I shall cook this week.

Tip: Several stalls have been selling fresh corn on the cob this week. It’s worth walking through the market to look at the produce and prices then walking back to buy. I saw corn sold at three cobs for £1 — further on four or five cobs were being sold for the same amount. And they all looked the same size. The cheapest were at the east (236 bus stop) end of the market.

* Rather than using a ready-made curry powder you may want to make your own curry power. Here’s what I do: 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, teaspoon mustard seeds, teaspoon fenugreek (methi), 2 teaspoon turmeric, 2 kaffir leaves, 2 star anise, 2  teaspoon cumin seeds, seeds from 3 cardomon pods. I do not use a mortal and pestle but put everything in the saucepan and cook it in the oil. 

You can add anything to a curry. As well as the above spices, chilli, ginger and garlic will make the curry taste hotter and the addition of chilli, ginger and garlic will give subtle taste differences. The spices will stay pungent for three or four months.

Tip: On the east side of Kingsland High Street, north of Ridley Road,  is a narrow-fronted grocery shop that sells packaged herbs and spices more cheaply than in mainstream supermarkets. Turnover is high so the spices are always fresh.

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