Wednesday, 14 September 2011

September highlights

Six weeks on, I’m still waxing rhapsodic about my recent South East Asia trip. But there’s been lots of other shopping, cooking and eating going on. A few highlights:

Some of our plants succumbed to root rot, a likely combination of months of bad weather and too few holes poked in the bottom of the industrial-size tomato tins which served as pots. But it’s still been a highly credible first crop; we should finish with upwards of 800 cherry tomatoes.

There have been salads and pizza toppings aplenty, as well as roast tomato sauces destined for the freezer. A fair number never make it out of the bowl on the table. For slightly deferred gratification, however, it’s been hard to beat slow-roasted tomatoes, sliced in half, tossed with a bit of olive oil, fresh thyme or oregano, bay leaves, salt and whole garlic cloves, and put in a low oven (100 C) for 2 hours, or until they are wrinkly but not entirely desiccated. They then go in the fridge topped up with more oil, perfect for sandwiches, pre-dinner drinks and tossing through pasta.

Pho @ Cafe East
Amongst the best bowls I’ve ever come across (the saté pho at Pho Dong-Huong in Paris’ Belleville remains a sentimental favourite, but it’s not completely echt) is served at a simple cafe situated in a Deptford parking lot, next to a bowling alley, multiplex and bingo parlour. Its unpromising location is perhaps less surprising when you learn that the surrounding area is home to lots of second-generation Vietnamese. I’m partial to the spicy broth; the rice noodle dishes are good here too.

100 Redriff Road
Surrey Quays Leisure Park
Tube: Surrey Quays or Canada Water

Closer to home
Just underneath the Brixton rec centre, a new meat and grocery shop has opened. Its Algerian-born owner is selling loose olives, lots of fresh North African pastries and French-branded groceries, and, most excitingly, making his own merguez. A rotisserie is set up outside, awaiting the arrival of British Gas.

And in the market(s) proper, the eating options just keep getting better. I’ve heard that a Beijing-style dumpling stand is on its way to Granville Arcade, and I’ve met the very excited British-Oaxacan family pushing to get their Market Row taqueria open by the end of the week.

Notwithstanding the rain, the stands at Sunday farmer’s market have been full of beautiful, cheap fruit and vegetables, the last few weeks of the courgettes, corn, tomatoes and berries overlapping with the arrival of apples, pears and pumpkins. And I can only imagine the weather must be good for beets, because the ones for sale right now are large enough to feed a Ukrainian family for at least a few days.

In the kitchen
It’s been simple—but good—eating around here: lots of stove-top pizza, tacos, grilled meats and salads. A notable success has been finding an aubergine dish that didn’t involve buckets of oil and was worth repeating. I’m not sure why it took me so long to look in the obvious place—one of the Moro cookbooks. This recipe began with the predictable steps of grilling and scooping out the flesh, but then called for sautéing the resultant mush with tomatoes, fresh coriander, cumin and cayenne until the water was cooked out, and the puree rich and caramelised. Perfect alongside grilled lamb kebabs, roasted peppers, flatbread and a tzatziki-like dip.

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