December 16, 2014

Brixton - Another side of London

A taste of the Caribbean with a hint of Africa

The rest of the world likes to make fun of UK and say that you can't eat well in England.

That's not true.

It is admittedly very easy to eat bad in UK, something went wrong once upon a time. This country that has a lot of wonderful traditions when it comes to hunting and harvesting, but unfortunately much of the knowledge got lost somewhere along the way. However Britain always had a big influx of inspiration from elsewhere, having been an empire you have people with their roots all over the world, not the least India. People who now are settled in UK, especially England, and have been for generations.

And with that, and with efficient transports, it has become increasingly easy to find good food in UK, you just have to know where to look. Brixton is one of the places.

Brixton fish shop
Personally I am in UK at least every year and very often the food is a big part of the reason I am going. It may not be for the restaurants, great restaurants can be found in most countries, but for the markets. 

I love the UK farmer's markets, whether it's a farmer's market with English and Scottish (or Wales and Northern Ireland for that matter) style food, or if it is one that is more exotic, from the Northern European perspective. London is fantastic for food markets. 

London? Really? Yes. I am not talking about central London, I like to venture out; Where the locals live, where they do their shopping, that's where you find the best food and spices; And forget what you heard about UK and especially London being expensive; It isn't, not when you go to the areas where the former immigrants live and work, here you get fantastic ingredients, and because they have a tradition of cooking and eating, there aren't many slow movers on the shelves - a good way to keep prices down - nor is there as much waste as there is in a big supermarket. This makes the real local markets very competitive. 

Scotch Bonnet Chili from Uganda
Recently I was back in UK again, and this time I took the underground to Brixton, to visit, once again, the wonderful Brixton Market (see link). Friday is the big market day, but food and spices are available all week - and I am not interested in the flee-market, all I want is food, to be inspired, to pick up spices and ingredients I have difficulties finding elsewhere.

Brixton in the south of London is a fantastic area, extremely multicultural with a lot of people from the Caribbean and from Africa, as well as from Bangladesh, it's very very down to earth, even a bit rough. It suits me. The very first time I came here I was very young and I had only travelled in Europe, mainly in the north, and when I got out from the underground I quickly realised I was the only native Northern European in the area. At the time it did make me feel a little bit at edge, and I didn't stay long - however curiosity got the better of me and since then I have returned several times. While Brixton has changed in some ways, it keeps being a multicultural, fascinating part of the world that even smells differently - I love it. It really is like coming to another world. 

Some of the results from my shopping...
Brixton this is too good to be missed for a foodie like myself; Brixton food market is incredibly inspiring. You can imagine what the market looks like - rows and rows and rows with spices, exotic fruits, fish you hardly see elsewhere in UK, special cuts of meat.

And chilies.

I was lucky enough to find the amazing chili you see above, chilies from Uganda. They look like little bell peppers, but they are incredibly hot and spicy, wonderful. It is not the African Bird's Eye Chili, also called Piri Piri, that may be more familiar. This is the Scotch Bonnet Chili - an amazing chili that you definitely don't want to cook with without first taking out your contact lenses, if you have these, hotness will stay on your fingers for days, regardless of how much you wash your hands. The Scotch Bonnet Chilli (more on Pepperscale via this link), grown in Uganda, and common in the cuisine from the West Indies - that you'd find it in Brixton in almost a given.

Next time in London, venture out from central London and down south to Brixton Market.

How to get here

It's easy enough: Just catch the underground to Brixton, Brixton Market is around the corner when you get out. Brixton is at the very end of Victoria line, going south. 

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