‘The traders are like a family and the market is a lovely mixture of tourism and local eccentricity’
Brown Lentils: Ethiopian Vegetarian Food
You don’t see Ethiopian food in many markets, and Helen’s stall at Greenwich is a real find. Her food sings with simple clean flavours: tiny, crispy samosas so hot from the fryer you need to juggle them; warming, spicy chickpeas; a wonderfully soothing lentil and spinach soup, golden with turmeric. And these lovely little brown lentils, cooked simply with garlic, ginger and turmeric – guaranteed to turn around any cold winter’s day.
• 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
• 3 garlic, finely chopped
• thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
• 1 teaspoon turmeric
• 250g brown lentils
Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, and throw in the onions. Fry them until they are very soft and golden, then add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and turmeric. Give it all a good stir, add a pinch of salt, and fry for another 5 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit and the fragrances are starting to sing. Pour in 1.2 litres of water, then add the lentils. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and leave to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour – the cooking time will vary according to the age of your lentils so if they’re not tender, give them a little bit longer. Add salt to taste and serve with rice and maybe some spinach on the side.
Q&A with Chef Helen Partridge
Name: Helen Partridge
Stall name: Ethiopian Vegetarian Food
What are your main culinary influences?
I am from Ethiopia and serve vegetarian food influenced by the flavours of the Horn of Africa. In Ethiopia they don’t use ovens – all the food is cooked over an open fire which is something you can really taste. Unfortunately I can’t do that in the market, but otherwise it’s really authentic!
What’s so special about Greenwich Market?
I trade at quite a few markets – Brick Lane, St Pauls, St Katherines Dock – and I think Greenwich has the best atmosphere. The traders are like a family and the market is a lovely mixture of tourism and local eccentricity. Just wonderful, crazy characters against a backdrop of stalls selling everything from vintage tins to toy cars and of course beautiful food!
This Ethiopian lentils recipe is from The Greenwich Market Cookbook (£15.99, PB), out now published by Kitchen Press