If I could put my loft on a magic carpet, fly it to New York and land it somewhere in Chelsea within walking distance of Union Square, I would do so in a heartbeat. I love the city. It is actually my favourite! And I love Union Square Farmers market and wish we had something similar in London. It is not that we don’t have enough farmers market. We have plenty. But what they don’t offer is the tremendous variety that you find in Union Square. Take the top photo for instance: beautiful, graceful hands picking okra from a selection of red and green ones. As some of you know, I was brought up in Lebanon and Syria where okra is a common vegetable but I had never seen red okra before. Nor for that matter fat okra as pretty as those with the reddish tops in the picture below. It is not my favourite vegetable but if I lived in New York, it would certainly become one. At least at this time of the year.
Every now and then I find myself in a rather disgusting food market where I find beauty amongst the horror. A few years ago, it was in Karachi where I couldn’t believe the number of flies swarming inside a tiny fish stall but they looked beautiful against the stone counter and the fish. And again the other day, there was beauty amidst the filth at an offal stall in Sayida Zeynab in Cairo, where I noticed a piece of honeycomb tripe hanging over a red tub with flies feeding on it. Naturally, there was nothing appetising about the scene but the pattern of the pale tripe with the black flies dotted over it was just as beautiful as it was repulsive, so, I took a picture, which I cropped further to add to my edible abstractions series!
I didn’t cook much when I lived in Paris, preferring to go out to restaurants or friends but I loved going to the market. Like in Beirut where I grew up, most of the produce was seasonal and it all looked gorgeous. Sadly, there are few places in London where I love to shop in the same way: La Fromagerie, Pimlico Road farmers’ market and Leila’s Shop which fortunately is closer to home and where I bought this gorgeous radicchio the other day for my lunch. I am not sure why I don’t go back to my old habits of shopping daily, walking over there every morning to buy my lunch. I think I will make it my new resolution for this spring if it ever arrives. Shame I don’t also have a butcher and fishmonger nearby. Or just a farmers market!
As most of you know by now, I love Iranian food, and I have been cooking it a lot recently. One of the dishes I discovered on my last trip to Iran is a Gilaki (from Gilan province) classic, a simple vegetarian dish cooked with beans, that are not unlike cannellini, and dill with eggs broken into the mixture at the very last minute just before serving. I make mine slightly differently, leaving it fresher and drier than they do in Iran because I don’t like to lose the definition of ingredients. When I sent my picture of the dish to my friend Nasrine, who I stay with when I am in Iran, she said it was more like art than food! Not so sure about that but it is beautiful, and delicious, and very easy to make.