Samphire and surprise in Hackney’s best market

RidleylogocEVERY WEEK I spend £5 in Ridley Road Market in Dalston, Hackney, London E8 2LH, and on Friday I tell you what I have chosen and publish a recipe. 

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. 

This week’s £5 basket

Bowl mushrooms £1

Bowl peppers £1

Sack of onions (4.5k) £1.50

Bag of samphire (1k) £1.50

Total £5

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to buy British-grown seasonal vegetables for my basket. This week, apart from the onions, I have bought imported vegetables. Samphire was once a commonly eaten food during the summer months by coast-dwellers. It was a free harvest for our ancestors for hundreds of years. Fashions change and samphire is rarely seen, except in specialist markets and expensive grocery stores. So to see it in Ridley Road market at an affordable price was a delightful surprise. I had to buy it. 

Vegetable tempura.  Serves 2, preparation 20 mins, cooking 30 mins

Equipment: kitchen knife, deep-sided frying pan, mixing bowl,  metal spoon, draining spatula, scales, colander, kitchen paper towels. Wash/scrub or wipe all vegetables

Ingredients: 1 medium-size pepper, 1 onion, 4 mushrooms, good handful of samphire, vegetable oil. Batter ingredients: 100g plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1 egg, about 1.5ml ice-cold water.

Method: make the batter first. Put the flour and paprika into a mixing bowl and add the egg and mix together. Slowly pour in the iced water (add a few ice cubes to the water to lower its temperature) and stir, do not beat, until it has the consistency of cream. Set aside to rest in the fridge.

Peel the onion and chop into bite-size pieces. Chop the pepper and mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Wash and rewash the samphire weakening the saltiness of the vegetable.

Cover completely the base of the frying pan with about a centimetre of oil and heat to just below smoking. Put the chopped vegetables into the batter and stir so they are all evenly coated. Take a small handful of the battered covered vegetables and drop them into the hot fat. Cook for a minute and turn over. Again cook for a minute, lift with the draining spatula and place on a kitchen paper towel. Repeat until all the vegetables are cooked.

Serve with a soy sauce and a wedge of lemon.

With the remaining items in my basket I shall make a samphire salad with roasted sunflower seeds. The mushrooms, peppers and onions will contribute to a Chinese-style dish to acknowledge the New Year (of the snake). The remaining peppers will be char-grilled, peeled and used in a marinated mushroom-and-pepper salad. The onions will be used over the next month in almost everything.

Tip: the fruit quince that is available now can be used to make a delicate pinky-red quince jelly to be eaten with soft cheeses.

Ridley080213 basket
Superb haul from Ridley Road Market this week included the very special samphire — and all for £5

* Previous articles hyperlinked:

Two  dishes this time 1 February 2013

Ae fond neep 25 January 2013

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;

From a fiver in the market: the column launched 15 August 2012

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