Exotica grocery shop (St. Helens Rd) is a rather wonderful mix of food cultures; too many to list, there seems no one who’s left out. The fresh fruit and vegetable section of this international store is enticing at the very least for fresh herb bunches (especially at the end of the week) and plump garlic bulbs. Frustratingly, labelling is not a strong point; maybe just too many languages to think of. It, and the smart Masala Bazaar further along the road, attracts a wide-ranging crowd but – as I’ve hinted – they could help their genuinely curious Welsh customers with some recipe hints. My botanical bent means I recognise such things as momordica, or the bitter gourd, but there are so many things which are intriguing but unknown. What I do know is that it pays to do one’s research beforehand on interior life of such things as drupes, berries and achenes. I had a delicious squelchy treat in the shape of a custard apple (cherimoya) recently but only after I knew that I had to handle the long seeds inside with my tongue which was poised in readiness.
The deep purple, snake aubergine from Exotica slices like a German sausage and griddles very well. After rubbing the cut slices with olive oil, the longest part of the process is the wait for the griddle to get smoking hot. The viridian onion shoots were grabbed on impulse as my usual rational caution was overcome by their look. At home I recognised them as the familiar ‘Welsh’ onions (Allium fistulosum); the hollow stems of a member of the onion family used in cuisines around the world – they’re actually the leaves, but I know what’s coming next so let’s leave that for now.
They’re not Welsh but welsche, the word that the ‘Old Germans’ used for ‘foreign’, a word that’s related to what ‘Old Anglo-Saxons’ called the Old Brits; but the onion’s native home is Asia (cf. Japanese bunching onion). However, I remember munching on them straight from my grandmother’s garden as a child, when they were widely planted herb known as sibwns (pronounced ‘shiboons’) that in turn comes from the French ciboule. So they are foreign, but aren’t if we’re not you but them or, alternatively, they are foreign (like us) if you are indeed them – which is ok, isn’t it? Let’s eat.
I seasoned some yoghurt to make a dressing cutting up some Welsh onion (I know it doesn’t strictly need an initial capital but everyone uses it; Wales is a small country, don’t begrudge us this). The little green rings of the snipped onion had lots of crunch but it needed my usual addition of some crushed good ‘Welsh’ garlic for full flavour.