The markets in Brixton are places that I don’t go enough. Every time I do go I’m astounded by the massiveness, the buzz, hubbub and energy. Everything you can think of is sprawled out under ragged tarpaulins and ramshackle shop fronts displaying mass of produce. On a hot day when the sun is out one can temporarily escape London life and imagine you are somewhere markedly more exotic. Fishmongers, butchers, dub vendors and grocers line the narrow avenues hustling for custom. Vivid colours, thumping sounds and throngs of people make for an overwhelming assault on the senses. You can get almost anything you want and its not specific to any particular part of the globe, Portuguese delis, Afro barbers, Asian grocers and halal butchers make the melee what is it.
Over the past few years a more artisanal vein has crept into the market with small traders and new business opening up, offering a more boutiquey range of products. The exalted organic Neapolitan sourdough pizzeria Franco Manca, Rosie’s Deli, Cornercopia, and Wild Caper are some of the finer examples. Last week I bought a hefty wedge of pork pie from Cornercopia, this overly generous slice had a bright yellow opaque mustard jelly sealing in meat filling, are total joy compared with underwhelming pap that lesser pies irritatingly contain. The couple who run the joint refitted the shop for under £100 with love and attention. I picked up a recipe for plantain chutney that they had printed out for customers to take away. It’s a simple and delicious recipe that forced me to get to grips with tamarind and plantain, two ingredients I’d never used and wanted to familiarise myself with:
Ingredients (I used approx. 1/4 of the quantities stated, the list below will make about 4-5 jars worth)
4 ripe plantains diced into 1 cm cubes
2 Onions 150g soft brown sugar
200 ml tam
arind water (1/4 of a seedless tamarind block boiled in water and passed through a sieve)
1tsp cumin 1tsp fenugreek 1tsp brown mustard seeds 1tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ tsp all spice ½ tsp ground coriander ½ tsp ground cinnamon 3 cloves
juice of a lime
seasoning to taste
Sweat onion in oil with the mustard seeds, add the spices, when fragrant add the sugar. Add the tamarind liquid when the sugar had melted and the onions have caramelised, simmer till thickened. Add plantains and lime juice simmer for 5 minutes. Finally pack into some sterilised jars.... bingo. One thing to look out for is the ripeness of the plantains, make sure they really are ripe, mine were a bit too firm and took rather longer to soften meaning that I didn't get quite the zingy effect I was after. This is a great base with so much potential for experimentation, loads of different veg could be added as well as dried and fresh fruits extra chillies etc.
I can also recommend these accompanying tunes, on a dub tip, Click Here for a rather motley mix I made a while back.