A little less — yet still the market gives value

EVERY WEEK I take £5 to Ridley Road Market in Dalston, Hackney, London E8 2LH, to spend on seasonal food, obviously not including items likely to be already in a kitchen, such as sauces, oil, herbs and spices. On Friday I tell you what I have chosen and publish a seasonal recipe.

As usual, expenditure on any extra ingredients, eg, flour, 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.

RidleylogocThis week’s £5 basket

Bag of bobby beans 50p

Bowl peppers (7) £1

Bowl sweet potatoes (6) £1

Bowl bananas (6) 50p

954g red potatoes 80p

Bunch thyme 50p

Bunch mint 80p

Total £5.10


THE market again gave good value this week, although not such quantity. But there were other bargains. A large red cabbage cost 50p, a bag of 10 navel oranges £1 and samphire £1.50 a kg.

A cook at a Hackney fast-food outlet this week claimed that people were buying too much of what he makes. Regulars went to Chicken and Pizza, in Amhurst Road, Hackney E8 2AH, to buy chicken and chips, sometimes twice a day. The cook, Abdal Khan, thinks that people should not be eating the seemingly cheap fast food every day but should be cooking fresh food.

I spoke to a Ridley Road stall-holder this week who lamented that his regular customers looked at his vegetables and told him many items were just too costly. A cauliflower costing £1 cannot really be eaten on its own whereas a portion of chicken and chips for a quid is a complete meal in the eyes of many. The battery hen is deep-fried, the chips thin and the batter or crumb coating mixed with water to stick to the bird. The meal may satisfy for an hour or two but it lacks fibre, yet such fast food saves the buyer preparation time, cooking costs and washing-up costs if eaten from takeaway cartons. My concern is that even the market, which sells some of the cheapest fresh foods in London, may seem expensive to some shoppers.

Recipe: Peppers stuffed with couscous. Serves 2. Preparation: 20 minutes, cooking: 30 minutes. Oven 200C

Equipment: kitchen knife; teaspoon; 2 lidded saucepans  — 1 small, 1 medium; baking dish. Wash all vegetables.

Ingredients: 2 peppers slit on one side and the seeds and membranes carefully removed, 1 onion peeled and finely chopped, 10g butter/margarine, 130ml water, 1 teaspoon oil, 125g quick-cook couscous, pinch of salt, 10g raisins, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, seasoning, 1 tablespoon pine nuts (optional). Dressing: 2 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint.

Method: melt the butter in the small pan and fry the chopped onion until soft. Bring the water to the boil and add the oil and salt. Stir in the couscous and leave to stand covered for 5 minutes. Add the raisins, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar and mix thoroughly. WIth a teaspoon, carefully stuff each pepper with the couscous filling. Do not overfill the peppers because the couscous will swell more during baking. Grease a baking tray and place on the peppers. Brush the peppers with oil and bake for 30 minutes or until the peppers are juicy and soft.

While the peppers are roasting, make the dressing. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and mix thoroughly. A quick way to do this is in a small screwtop jar. Pour the dressing over the peppers and serve. This dish can also be eaten cold, which is why I made an extra pepper. The extra pepper will be shared with a friend at lunch. I shall cut the pepper in half and serve it with a green salad.

With the remaining food from my basket, I shall make a roasted sweet-potato soup. A bobby bean salad, a potato dauphinois and the lovely fresh herbs will be used in most of this week’s dishes. The Fairtrade bananas will be used in a banana-and-walnut loaf for afternoon tea.

Tip: stall-holder Bob gets his herbs from local growers. His stall is the first vegetable stall on the south (railway) side as you enter the market from Kingsland High Street.


* Hackney Post, a student website, has published an interview with Shooey as part of a market article. The site also reported on the  fast-food excesses in Hackney described above by Abdal Khan. — Ed.

* Emboldened, coloured words may indicate a hyperlink. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.


Less than full: not as much as usual this week, although it was good to see Fairtrade bananas again



Wrapped up: Shooey shows her hand at Bob’s stal


Previous articles hyperlinked:

A tart in the mart 15 March 2013 

Polenta verde and sauté mushrooms 8 March 2013

Caribeasy 29 February 2013;

Feeling fruity 22February 2013

Kashmir delight 15 February 2013 

Samphire surprise 8 February 2013

Two dishes from £5 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 style,

Bakewell 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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