Delish budget winners from the Dalston market

RidleylogocEVERY 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.

This week’s £5 basketRidleyRd12

Bag of parsnips (12) 25p

0.45kg (1lb) cultivated mushrooms 50p

Bowl cherry tomatoes: too many to count £1

Head Swiss chard £1

Bowl aubergines (3) £1

Bowl onions (16) £1

Total £4.75

Equipment: kitchen knife, 1 saucepan, wooden spoon, shallow roasting dish, frying pan, baking sheet.  Wash/wipe all vegetables

Recipe: Polenta verde and sauté mushrooms. Preparation: polenta 10 mins, cooking 15 mins. Leave to set for 30 minutes in a fridge. Oven bake 25mins. Preparation: mushrooms 5 minutes, cooking 8 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Ingredients: Polenta verde: 50g fat (a little extra for melting), crushed garlic clove, 1/2 onion peeled and finely chopped, 5 chard leaves’ stalks removed and shredded, 45g quick-cook polenta, 15g grated Parmesan, 1/2teaspoon dried oregano, 1 egg yolk, seasoning, 25g Fontina. (I used Emmental because I couldn’t find Fontina). Sauté mushrooms:25g fat, 60g mushrooms, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, herbs to garnish. I’ll use chives because they have started regrowing in my herb garden.

Method: Melt the fat in the saucepan pan and gently fry the garlic and onion for 10 minutes. Add the chard and cook over a gentle heat for another 10 minutes, stirring until the vegetables are soft. Place in a dish to cool. In the same saucepan bring 350ml salted water to the boil and add the oregano and polenta, stirring all the time. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the polenta is thick and smooth. Stir, and eventually, you should see the bottom of the pan, which tells you the polenta is cooked. Remove from the heat and add the chard mixture. 


Mix in the Parmesan and egg yolk. Season to taste. Transfer the polenta mixture to a shallow roasting dish, slightly greased or lined with cling-film, and spread evenly to set. Put the mixture in the fridge to set for 30 minutes. When set, cut into 4 squares and place on a greased baking sheet and brush with some melted butter and sprinkle grated Emmental. Bake for 25 minutes until golden.

To sauté the mushrooms, heat the fat in the frying pan and add the mushrooms and cook quickly on a high heat for 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for another 3 minutes.

Remove the polenta squares from the oven and dress with the mushrooms and chopped chives.

With the remaining food from my basket, I shall use the parsnips to make a creamy spiced parsnip soup. I’ll also roast a few. The aubergines will be marinated in a honey, lime and oil-seasoned marinate and grilled.

The onions will be put in more soups and used for flavour in other dishes. The mushrooms and tomatoes will be added to salads and  grain dishes.

The remains of the head of chard (what a beauty) will be steamed and mixed with a crushed garlic clove and lemon juice.

Tip: the chard stalks can be removed and cooked separately to eat as a side dish or added to a grain or pulse dish. Splitting the  chard by removing the stalks makes the vegetable last longer. It is also sensible because the stalks take longer to cook than the leaves. Otherwise, if the chard is cooked whole, you can end up with a limp, pale leaf and perfectly cooked stalk, or a perfect dark slightly limp leaf with a hard stringy stalk.


This week’s recession-beater: all these vegetables for less than a fiver — although not the flowers, noticed in a local park
This week’s recession-beater: all these vegetables for less than a fiver — although not the flowers, noticed in a local park

Previous articles date-hyperlinked:

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 2012Ratatouille Gypsy stew 21 September 2012Bubble and squeak Shooey style and  Bakewell pudding 14 September 2012Coleslaw and radishes 7 September 2012Turkish spinach pie 31 August 2012Tomato tart, marinated aubergines, fresh mango chutney 24 August 2012Roasted 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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