Lemon couscous, spicy mushrooms, Dalston style

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.

ridleylogDThis week’s

£5 basket

Sack of onions (4kg) £1.50

Bunch asparagus 50p

Bowl mushrooms £1

Bowl small plum tomatoes £1

Bag cherries (454g) £1

Total £5


THERE WERE so many enticing fruits in the market this week: pineapples, avocados, melons of all types, cherries and Alphonso mangoes — eight in two boxes — for £5 (a few weeks ago six in one box for a fiver).

Recipe: Lemon couscous with spicy mushrooms

Ingredients: 100g couscous, 120ml stock or boiling water,  2 teaspoon oil, 1 onion peeled and chopped, 1 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, sizeable pinch chilli flakes or seeds, 100g mushrooms wiped and thickly sliced, 200g tomatoes washed, and thinly sliced, herbs of choice, juice and grated rind of 1/2 a lemon*.

Equipment: bowl, paring knife, frying pan.

Preparation and cooking time: 40 minutes

Method: tip the couscous into a bowl and add the water/stock. I cheat here by adding a teaspoon of bouillon to the grain before pouring on the boiling water. Set the couscous aside to absorb the liquid. Heat the oil in the frying pan and add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until soft and translucent. Add the cumin and chilli cooking for a few seconds before adding the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the flavours have infused. Meanwhile, add the grated lemon zest and black pepper to the couscous.

* If I want to use rind, I buy organic or unwaxed lemons.

With the other items in my basket this week, I’ll be making a soup — a delicious mushroom, herb and garlic soup — because of the disappointingly chilly weather. That still won’t empty the basket so I shall make some roasted stuffed onions and the cherries — well, they’ll be eaten from the bowl.

A reader asked for a substitute available for creamed coconut and/or coconut milk in my golden soup recipe. The ingredient is for thickening the soup as well as adding a subtle flavour. But butter will add flavour and some thickness. Otherwise, use arrowroot or cornflower mixed with a little water and added five minutes before it’s finished.

All for a fiver, ridiculously rich pickings from a trip down Ridley Road (with free alliteration)

* Two websites have written about this column. Hackney Post has published an interview with Shooey, as has the Food Bankers. Hackney council journalist Marcel Reinard has made a video about markets, including Ridley Road. 

Italian artist Lorenzo Vitturi has assembled an exhibition of what he calls photo-sculptures of Ridley Road. You can see his work  in the market, pictured below, and at Fishbar, 176 Dalston Lane E8 1NG (0207 241 6340). — Ed.


*Previous articles hyperlinked: Lurgied 7 June 2013At last, the Alphonso 31 May 2013Aubergine salad 24 May 2013; Asparagus with hollandaise 17 May 2013Stuffed beef tomatoes with guacamole 10 May 2013Hackney snackney 3 May 2013Bell pepper salad 26 April 2013Gnocchi and tomato sauce with zucchini salad  19 April 2013 Tomato soup with soda bread 12 April 2013Broccoli mornay 5 April 2013Easter redemption song 29 March 2013 Less  is enough 22 March 2013A 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 2013Samphire surprise 8 February 2013Two dishes from £5 1 February 2013Ae fond neep 25 January 2013Cauliflower cheese 18 January 2013Hackney frittata 11 January 2013;  Tasty and easy Christmas snack 21 December 2012The shops behind the market stalls 9 November 2012Chutney 2 November 2012;  Piccalilli 26 October 2012Golden soup 19 October 2012Roasted, stuffed squash 12 October 2012Vegetable curry 5 October 2012;Carrot and coriander soup 28 September 2012Ratatouille Gypsy stew 21 September 2012Bubble and squeak Shooey styleBakewell 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 2012The column sets itself a challenge 15 August 2012

* Emboldened or tinted words may indicate a hyperlink, a special service for Loving Dalston readers who may want to look further into a topic. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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