Ae fond neep: a Burns touch in auld Hackney

RidleylogocEVERY WEEK I take £5 to Ridley Road Market in Dalston, Hackney, London E8 2LH, to spend on seasonal food. On Friday I tell you what I have chosen and publish a seasonal recipe. By seasonal, incidentally, I refer to its availability in the market, which tends to depend on seasons in the growing regions around the world.

As usual, expenditure on any extra ingredients, eg, a pineapple, 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. Ridley250113bask

This week’s £5 basket

Bowl carrots  (8) 50p

Bowl white cultivated mushroom (848g) £1

Packet chestnut mushrooms(500g) 75p

Bowl beetroots (2488g) £1 

2 bunches spinach £1

Swede (725g) 65p

TOTAL £4.90

Two recipes: pickled beetroot, enough for a few meals, and mashed swede or neeps

Equipment: kitchen knife, paring knife, pressure cooker or a tight-lidded saucepan, masher, colander. Wash/scrub all vegetables

Pickled beetroots. Preparation: 5 min; cooking: 45 min in saucepan or 15 min in a pressure cooker

Ingredients: 6 small beetroots, red wine vinegar, 4 black pepper corns, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed bay leaf.

Method: Place the unpeeled beetroots and other ingredients in the saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to boil. Turn the heat down so the beetroots cook in a steady rolling boil. Keep a check on the water level, and if it looks low, add some boiling water to cover the beetroots. I have used small beetroots which will take 40 or 45 minutes to soften. In a pressure cooker they will take 10 to 15 minutes to cook.

Strain and rinse under cold water, discard spices. Top and tail the beetroots and remove  the skins by rubbing them with your fingers. Slice the beetroots to your desired thickness. I like mine to be as thick as a £1 coin. 

Place the sliced beetroots in a bowl and pour the vinegar over them. Seasoning can be added. Leave the beetroots to sit for a while, turning the slices so they are covered with the vinegar. 

Best eaten the next day cold with salads, but I like mine in sandwiches.

Swede or neep for Burns Night. Preparation: 5 min. Serves 2

Ingredients: 1 swede, teaspoon butter, seasoning

Method: Peel the swede and chop into bite-size pieces. Put the peeled chopped swede into a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until soft enough to mash. Mash with the butter and seasoning until smooth and creamy. Serve with vegetarian haggis, which in Hackney usually has to be bought in advance, and potatoes tatties, if you insist also mashed. 

Before you tuck in, acknowledge Robert Burns with a least a snippet of one of his graces, such as:

… if it please Thee, Heavenly Guide, Scott

May never worse be sent; 

But, whether granted, or denied, 

Lord, bless us with content. Amen!

And don’t forget to be upstanding for a toast tae the Immortal Bard.

With the other vegetables in my basket I shall make my beetroot salad. The white mushrooms will make a mushroom-and-garlic soup and the chestnut ones can be grilled for breakfast. The spinach and carrots will be used in salads and a Chinese-style dish.

Root vegetables are often seen as a poor man’s food and thus overlooked. Yet pizza, pasta, rice, noodles and couscous are also peasant foods in their country of origin but are readily accepted as tasty exotic foods here so, reader, take a fresh look at our own local specialities and remember, too, the humble cauliflower.

Tip: Waitrose has organic Seville oranges in stock at £1.99 a kg. Good for making marmalade. I have never found any in Ridley Road.

* Previous articles hyperlinked:Rid13

Cauliflower cheese 18 January 2013 

A Hackney frittata 11 January 2013  

Tasty and easy Christmas snack 21 December 2012

The shops behind the market stalls 9 November 2012

Chutney 2 November 2012 

Piccalilli 26 October 2012

Golden soup 19 October 2012

Roasted, stuffed squash 12 October 2012

Vegetable curry 5 October 2012

Carrot and coriander soup 28 September 2012

Ratatouille Gypsy stew 21 September 2012

Bubble and squeak Shooey styleBakewell pudding 14 September 2012

Coleslaw and radishes 7 September 2012

Turkish spinach pie 31 August 2012;

Tomato tart, marinated aubergines, fresh mango chutney 24 August 2012;

Roasted butternut squash soup and beetroot salad 17 August 17 2012;

A dish to make from a fiver in the market: the column launched 15 August 2012


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