Sometimes I get annoyed when Prince Charles bangs on about how everyone should eat properly. It’s easy for him to say, isn’t it? I’d eat pretty well too if I owned half the bloody West Country. And don’t get me started on Poundbury.
Yes, yes, I know I should only shop at local organic butchers and fishmongers, and only buy seasonal veggies, and Tesco is the root of all evil. But sometimes I don’t have time to go to the local butcher and I’m still scarred by the experience of being charged 11 quid for some bacon and a few sausages at an organic butcher. I asked him to check and he said, oh, yes, my mistake, that should be six pounds*. And some of them only take cash. And quite frankly the checkout staff at Sainsbury’s are often a lot friendlier than some of these local organic our-chickens-are-freerange-and-have-half-an-hour-of-internet-access-a-day butchers. Having said that, some are excellent, like the Ginger Pig in Victoria Park and the ones at Broadway Market who sell pork & apple cider brandy sausages.
But… supermarkets are convenient. You can get everything you need for dinner in ten minutes with no cash, something that cannot be underestimated when blood sugars are plummeting and you’ve forgotten your umbrella. I don’t go to Sainsbury’s to hang out or anything – well, not very often – but you have to be realistic. And everyone loves a bit of shopping-basket observation, don’t they?
However, I also like going to TFC, which is a Turkish supermarket just off Ridley Road market.
Here, the meat comes as lamb shoulders, whole corn-fed chickens, trays of delicate chops and buckets of chicken livers. The ricotta is wrapped only in paper and there are about fifty yogurt varieties, and least ten tahinis and more halloumi than you could poke a hot tong at. The fruit and veggie section is full of dark red vine tomatoes and unwaxed lemons and rocket and quinces and sorrel and clementines still with the leaves on. There are no farmers’ names on anything.
And then there’s the bakery. When my parents come to visit it’s one of their regular haunts, with freshly baked flatbreads, baklava and all sorts of syrup-drenched almondy cakes. Lahmacun at lunchtime. Plus they have vats of olive oil and big bags of jasmine rice. A million different packets of beans. And an ongoing multi-buy discount on chickpeas and flatbread.
There’s lots of things I like cooking from here, but my all-time favourite, which is great for breakfast, is Morrocan eggs (from the Moro cookbook, but adapted by me). It’s good on weekends, especially in summer when tomatoes are so good. And I don’t like to be a snob about it but it’s worth getting decent (organic) eggs. I’ll add a photo the next time I make them, but here’s one to give you an idea of how they should look.
You will need:
A dash of olive oil
A clove of garlic, thinly sliced
half a teaspoon or so cumin
half a teaspoon or so of ground coriander
three or four fresh tomatoes, depending on size.
a pinch of sugar
fresh coriander if you have it
yogurt and flatbread to serve
Get some coffee on. Slice the garlic thinly (you can also use spring onion) and fry gently in the oil while you chop the tomatoes. Sprinkle over the cumin and coriander and salt, sizzle for a moment, then tip in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil.
Let it cook for five minutes or so, adding water if it looks dry, and a little sugar if the tomatoes are acidic. Then make four little holes in the sauce with a wooden spoon and gently break in the eggs, frilling out the whites so they cook on top of the sauce. Cover with a lid (a small, heavy-based deepish frying pan works best) and leave the eggs to poach while you toast the flatbread, pour the coffee and get your bowls ready.
When they look cooked, sprinkle with pepper and fresh coriander and spoon over the toasted flatbread. Season with salt and pepper, add some fresh yogurt (TFC also sell labne which is a very thick version) and eat immediately, although be careful as the tomatoes can be very hot.
• PS It was the butcher in the caravan at the Hackney Road end of Broadway Market if you’re interested.