Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Guest post: It's the food baby!

I'm so glad I finally got a Common lyric in a blog post title.

Anyway, on to the next guest post by another local blogger, Iain. I met Iain and his lovely girlfriend Claire at Bush Festival and not only are they pretty passionate about all things Shepherd's Bush but they also have very cool hobbies; Iain is an exceptionally keen cook and Claire is very keen on knitting and crafting as was shown by the lovely things on her stall at Bush Festival.

Now over to Iain to explain more about his blog and a really great insight to the potential of local shops for ingredients and inspiration.

I am relatively new to the world of blogging. I recently started a blog called Food is the Theme in which I ramble on about many things - often related to Shepherds Bush (where I live) and food (which I like a lot).

I have had the pleasure of meeting Birdie in person recently and was delighted to be asked to write a guest post for her blog. When looking for inspiration for my post I thought about favourite blogs of Birdie's that I have read in the past, and the first one that sprung to mind was her Shepherds Bush falafel off. I have recently been mucking about trying to make healthy falafel recipe so it made sense to type it up, and it can be seen here.

To tie in with this recipe, I thought I would write about the excellent shops on Uxbridge Road where you can find all the ingredients you will need to make your own falafel.

Uxbridge Road has a smorgasbord of grocery shops of variable quality, including the world famous Shepherds Bush Market (unfortunately, the market's opening times and my shopping times rarely coincide.) But to keep this post to a reasonable length I am going to focus on the two I most commonly go to, Al Abbas and Damas Gate. These two shops, I suppose, would be the behemoths of the Uxbridge Road grocery scene and they are almost certainly my two favourite shops in the area.

I assume they must be each others' main rivals but I go to one or the other of them at least once a day and would be hard pressed to choose a favourite.  They are situated almost opposite each other a few hundred yards down Uxbridge Road from  the green. They aren't open 24hrs but they are open surprisingly late for grocers, especially Al Abbas which I think I have seen open as late as 11pm. 

Al Abbas is the first you come across on your right as you walk down Uxbridge Road with Damas Gate further along on your left. Both have an excellent selection of fruit and veg on display outside which adds wonderful colour to a walk along Uxbridge Road. I had always assumed that Supermarkets were cheapest for this kind of thing, which had led me to believe that bell peppers were expensive. At these shops you can pick up a bell pepper for a third of the supermarket price - about 30p for a red or green one or a bit more for a yellow one (not sure why!). Aubergines are also loads cheaper here than in supermarkets and don't even get me started on how much better the herbs are than the puny expensive packets you might pick up in Waitrose. There is also a wide range of chillies available for you hot heads out there. Not only are you helping out your local shops by shopping here but saving money too!

Both supermarkets have a butchers and in the case of Damas Gate it can get extraordinarily busy. If you're going to the butcher counter in Damas Gate remember to get a ticket to ensure you get a place in the queue! Also in Damas Gate it may sometimes seem like only speaking English puts you at a disadvantage but you will get used to it after a bit. If you want to avoid the whole ticket and ordering system, there is pre weighed and packaged meat stuffs at the end of the counter. 

In Al Abbas there is no ticket system, there is no pre packaged meat but this isn't a problem because it always seems quieter. Al Abbas also sells goat meat. If you're looking for pig, this is not the butcher for you as they only stock halal meat.

If you're looking for spices this is somewhere that both shops excel. particularly Al Abbas which has a very well organised and aesthetically pleasing spice section. You will save loads of money buying spices here rather than a supermarket. You can also buy in massive packets if you get through spices quickly enough. Pulses, both dried and tinned are also great purchases here. If you are looking for chickpeas for example, the tinned ones here are not only loads cheaper than a supermarket but loads better quality which is important if you want to save time by using tinned chickpeas (if for example you are making falafel) as they give a much smoother texture.

Dairy products from the Mediterranean are available in both and they have a good selection of olives.  Coming back to the point of this post and making your own falafel, let's have a look at the cost of some of the ingredients for the recipe that I posted earlier this week.

Chickpeas 3x 400g tins - £1 (we use 2 to make falafel, so 66p) 
Halloumi  - £1.69
Large bunches of parsley and coriander - £1.20 (half of each used, 60p)
7 Lemons - £1 (half a lemon used, so about 8p)
4 vine tomatoes - 42p (we used 2, so 21p)
5 Khobez bread - 59p (we used 2 so 30p)

Spices - ??p (we had all the spices in, and they would have cost literally pennies)

So with some rough maths, I reckon that meal cost about £2.00, with half the mix being saved for later in the week. The added halloumi bumps the price up slightly, but still represents excellent value.

To summarise, these shops add a lot to the character of the area but they are also a great resource for your daily groceries and certainly have more character than Tesco Express... Give them a try!

As a final note, if you venture in before the end of Ramadan and have a sweet tooth, they currently have a great selection of baklawa...

Thanks so much Iain! I hope you all have fun trying out his recipe for falafel. It's saved to my favourites already...

1 comment:

  1. I love the nut place on Uxbridge Rd - so much more than nuts and much better value that those others - you know who i mean!