Monday, 23 August 2010

More SW9 time

With each day that I spend there, I seem to become yet more enchanted by Brixton Market. I must have clocked up hours in the last couple of weeks, wandering through the arcades and alley ways, peering with marvel at the plethora of new and exciting goods that adorn the shops and stalls there.

An unassuming doorway on Market Row opens out into a vast, Tardis-like cash and carry, shelves full to bursting with everything from huge sacks of yam flour to graphically-labelled bottles of 'Stamina Tonic'. A tiny archway on Cold Harbour Lane, barely the size of a broom cupboard serves as streetwear boutique in miniature, the concaved wall displaying Air Max sneakers in every conceivable colour way. Meanwhile, next door, a man sells his collection of soul CDs, and a couple of dozen R&B records, whilst his subwoofer-come-stall top pumps out rare groove classics at block party volume. In the butchers hang whole goats, piles of smoked cow's hooves, and quite frankly vile looking dried catfish, that not even the manager knows what to do with. There are scotch bonnet and bread fruit bidding wars on Electric Avenue, as the tradesmen jostle for attention with one another, adorning their stalls with the flags of various West African and Caribbean nations. Life and energy are in abundance.

A one minute peek inside Nayme Bekyere Mini Market on Electric Lane soon turns into a twenty minute guided tour of the shop, as the owner, David, gives me the lowdown on every single product he thinks I might be unfamiliar with, and what they're used for in his native Ghana. And there are a lot! In the end, I leave with a tin of Ghana Best Palm puree, a few plantains, and half a dozen yellow baby aubergines, or 'garden eggs', as he calls them. Palm stew with plantain for tea tonight then... "You're going to enjoy this," says David, "it's good for your belly, and it''ll make you strong!"

Ghanian palm stew

I didn't use a recipe for this, but did have the benefit of fairly thorough instructions from my personal shopper and new buddy at the Mini Market. Against David's advice, I went fairly heavy on the hot chilli, but it works with the richness of the palm and slight sweetness of the plantain. Serve with rice and peas (or rice and kidney beans), and some plain yogurt to cool off with if you come across a stray scotch bonnet seed.

Serves four
a large onion, chopped
two cloves of garlic, chopped
two hot chillies, de-seeded and chopped
an aubergine, or six mini yellow aubergines, chopped into bite size pieces
a couple of plantain, peeled and sliced
a large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
a tin of palm puree (available from African and Caribbean grocery stores)
a tin of chopped tomatoes
stock or water
a tin of black eyed beans
salt and pepper

In a large sauce pan, sauté the onion and garlic in a little oil for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add the chilli, then the aubergine, plantain and sweet potato, and continue to cook for a few more minutes. (Alternatively, you can roast the aubergine and sweet potato separately and add to the mix after the palm puree.) Add the palm puree, and stir so everything is coated evenly.

Add the chopped tomato and stock or water as required, so there's enough liquid to cook the vegetables. Cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the vegetables are tender. Add the black eyed beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve with rice (and peas), and yogurt.

The opening shot of the market is taken from the Friends of Brixton Flickr group.

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