Back to where it all began.


As I stroll past the display of pumpkins in the Market Garden, I am reminded that the very first recipe in the Essex Road Recipe deck is a Halloween stoup (see below).  Thinking back to when and why I started this project, I’m grateful to the people in my local shops who brighten my days, give me new recipe ideas, help me keep packaging to a minimum and make my food shopping so much fun. 


But I’m feeling anger and frustration, too. The Market Garden site is going to be developed into luxury flats, and the family who have run the business for more than 20 years have to leave in January, even though the developer hasn’t even submitted a planning application yet. So in place of a lively greengrocer’s shop with minimal packaging and excellent banter, we’ll have an empty, derelict site for at least 2 years.  In spite of a petition signed by thousands, and repeatedly contacting our local councillors, no-one seems to have any idea of how to stop this.

Our lovely independent local pub, the New Rose, is now empty and dark; forced into liquidation by creditors a few weeks ago. One less place for Rob, who has difficulty walking more than a few yards, to hang out. One less place for my diverse collection of neighbours to gather spontaneously and laugh and cry over life, Arsenal and everything…

The irony of my having to get 20 boxes of Essex Road Recipe cards returned to me from Amazon (not an easy task as any of you Amazon sellers out there will be aware!) because the local stores that inspired them have sold out, has not escaped me. If you’re in James Elliott Butchers, Steve Hatt Fishmonger or the Market Garden you’ll be able to buy one of the few remaining decks. But if you’re thinking of getting yours in the Market Garden while you shop for your stoup ingredients, better make it soon. Meanwhile, here’s your Halloween Stoup recipe:


200 g red lentils

The flesh of 1 small, innocent pumpkin that never did anyone any harm, chopped into small pieces.

1 eating apple, chopped into small pieces. Leave the skin on. (Throw the core away, or give it to a crow. Crows are my favourite birds.)

A piece of root ginger about the size of a small frog’s leg – peeled and thinly sliced

Teaspoon of turmeric

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small red chilli chopped up small

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon salt

a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaf

What to do:

Place lentils in a large saucepan in twice their own volume of water with the ginger, turmeric and a splash of oil. Bring to the boil and simmer until they are almost cooked – about 40 minutes.

Smash up the chilli, cumin and coriander in a pestle and mortar (or put them in a Ziploc bag and bash them with a hammer – on a sturdy surface of course!). Fry the spices in some of the oil and then add the pumpkin to the frying pan. Keep the pumpkin pieces moving around until they are coated in the spice mix and beginning to soften and brown at the edges. Then toss in the apple for a couple of minutes.

Add the spiced up pumpkin and apple to the lentils. Add a little more water if the lentils are almost dry. Put the lid on tight and simmer for about 15 minutes – until the lentils are properly cooked and the pumpkin and apple soft.

Serve as a stew with basmati rice or, if it’s a little thinner, as a soup with some chia seed bread.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s