Rome might seem a long way from Brixton market but the Mercato Esquilino at Piazza Vittorio is our version of a multicultural celebration. Bangladeshis, Moroccans, Algerians and Romenians jostle amongst stalls laden with vegetables you won’t find anywhere else in Rome; chinese broccoli, okra, coriander – such a deal maker or breaker for Vietnamese noodle salad – eggplants long short purple striped and almost jet black, limes and sweet potatoes. I leave with bags cutting red into my shoulders, bursting with vegetables and spices, rice noodles and filo pastry, bags of fat egyptian dates and cous cous superior to that found in the supermarkets.
This is my mother’s recipe for a winner of a Date cake, find the sweetest and juiciest dates at Stall 62-63 from Mostofa Hazi’s selection of dried goods, spices, nuts and dried fruit. Add walnuts and if you have a thing for them.
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup dark brown sugar
60 g butter (or sunflower oil)
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 cup boiling water
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
In a medium saucepan mix well chopped dates, butter, brown sugar, teaspoon of bicarb and water. Bring to the boil and let it fluff up, that’s the bicarb in action.
Take off the heat and add sifted flours, baking powder, pinch of salt and one heated egg. At this point I would throw in half a cup of chopped walnuts. Bake in a 180 C oven for about 30 minutes depending on tin size. Really good eaten still slightly warm with a smear of quality butter.