10-12 Granville Arcade
Brixton Village SW9 8PR
Telephone 020 7274 0005
Open 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (
closed Sundays) Now open on Sundays as well
There are lots of shops like this in Brixton that fall into the general category of Afro Caribbean food stores. I’ve often wondered what’s the difference. How do you decide to shop at Abdul’s Fruit and Veg rather than the A1 Superstore? Or SW Foodstore rather than Brixton Foodbase? I’ve got a theory that they are really all the same. Certainly there doesn’t seem to me much competition on price, or service come to that. However, Faiz is my favourite. I’m not really sure why but the people who work there are friendly and helpful, the fresh produce is good and it’s got what you need if you are interested in Caribbean food.
I’ve been buying my fresh thyme for there for some time but recently, along with a lot of other people apparently, I’ve been using it more. Interestingly this is partly because of the appearance of Champagne & Fromage, which is opposite their location in Brixton Village. Faiz previously had their dry goods in the unit that is now occupied by C&H but now the business is all together, dominating that part of the arcade. One of the people working at Faiz actually told me that their business is now much improved, with the increased footfall and better premises.
They sell the usual range of foodstuffs you find in this type of shop, including a good range of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. There’s always a wide range but obviously leaning towards everything Afro Caribbean. I haven’t got round to using the packet of cock soup I bought in a whimsical moment but they are a good source for everything you need to make an authentic ackee and saltfish.
Ackee is weird. There’s nothing quite like it. It most resembles scrambled egg and most people, when they first encounter it, are surprised to find it comes from a fruit. In the UK it only comes in tins but it’s mostly grown in Jamaica. And although it’s a fruit, it’s used in savoury dishes, usually to offset other powerful flavours, most typically saltfish (salted cod) and chilli. To be honest I mostly make the dish with smoked haddock (I can recommend the undyed variety from Mash & Son in Atlantic Road) but this time, in the quest for authenticity and to buy everything needed at Faiz, I used the real thing. The only difference in the preparation is that with salted cod you have to put enough time into getting the salt out, to make it edible.
- 250g packet of salted cod
- Large onion – chopped finely
- Red pepper – chopped into pieces around 2cm square
- Green pepper – chopped into pieces around 2cm square
- Four tomatoes – chopped roughly
- 2 large spring onions – chopped
- Garlic – finely chopped (to taste)
- 1 or 2 Scotch bonnet chilli – finely chopped (to taste)
- Piece of ginger – finely chopped
- Fresh thyme leaves
- Tin of ackee
The first thing to do, preferably starting the day before, is to soak the cod to get rid of the salt. The more time you change the water the better. Once this is done the actual cooking takes only a few minutes.
Start with frying the onion, followed when it has started to soften, by the peppers and then, fairly soon after, by everything else, except the cod and ackee. Stir regularly for about 10 minutes until it looks right. At the same time boil the de-salted cod briefly, just so it goes white, and then drain. Let it cool slightly and break it up into large flakes.
Drain the tin of ackee, keeping a bit of the liquid. Add the cod to the vegetables and warm through. Last of all, add the drained ackee, stirring it in very gently, so it doesn’t turn into mush. The ackee doesn’t need any cooking so, as soon as it’s warm, the dish ready to serve. Add just a little bit of the liquid from the can of ackees if it all looks too dry.
The traditional accompaniment would be rice and peas. But on this occasion we made do with just rice and a can of callaloo. The latter was a mistake and fresh would be better – it cooks just like spinach.