Lately, I had been toying with the idea of doing my food shop somewhere other than Aldi* and since I live so close to the culturally diverse locality of Cheetham Hill, I decided to embrace the hybrid of cultures and do my weekly shop at the Manchester Superstore, which I pass twice a day on my commute to and from work. I have always wanted to peruse the outdoor fruit and veg stalls and always wondered what was inside.
As you can see, it is a little run down inside but Manchester Superstore holds a very unique sense of character, and I'm not sure I would've enjoyed my experience had it been more clinical and perfect. The entrance is adorned with its fresh fruit and veg crates, which you walk through to get into the main room. This is mainly stocked with frozen and dry goods, plus bulk stock and drinks.
The room this leads onto is mainly filled with tinned goods, snacks, miscellaneous, home and has a halal butchers at the back.
I appreciated the fact that the supermarket stocked cultural goods as well as commercial western foods, which in my eyes was the perfect analogy for the city of Manchester; a culturally diverse haven.
From the fruit and veg, I picked up spinach, plum tomatoes and a sarzana courgette. From the main room, I picked up green okra, a Jamaican locally baked loaf, anari cheese, paratha and De Vina sparkling fruit cocktail and a Basil seed apple drink. From the second room, I picked up multi-coloured Italiani pasta (I think), eggs, gormeh sabzi stew, rosecoco beans and Milkiz toffee. After completing my shop, I crossed the road to the local halal butchers and picked up some mince beef (although I'm sure it was lamb) and some diced chicken. This in total, cost more than my usual Aldi shop but was happy to fork out the extra cash to try something new.
These two cheap and cheerful goodies caught my eye. Firstly, this KGN basil seed drink looked strangely how chia seeds look when mixed in a liquid, so I had to give it a try. Not only is it delicious and more-ish but it's strangely satisfying to drink (but this is coming from a person who prefers juice with bits). After doing some research, basil seeds have incredible health benefits; not only is it cooling (which is why they're used in drinks), but they are great for colds, digestion, stress relief, skin and weight loss.
This bag of Milkiz toffee I still haven't finished but have made a significant dent into. I would provide more information about it other than the fact it's a milk toffee, but Google seems to not know of their existence.
Using the rosecoco beans, multi-coloured pasta, diced chicken and fresh spinach, I improvised a dish of my own. Upon tasting (why I didn't taste while boiling I don't know), I realised that this pasta was...sweet! However, there was no English on the packet so I had no way of knowing just what I was eating. While confusing to eat at first, it was definitely an acquired taste. However, I will not be making this dish anytime soon, even if it does look fabulous.
Using the Jamaican loaf, I sliced two thick squares of bread, toasted them, fried two large eggs and sprinkled them with chilli and anari cheese. Much to my surprise, the Jamaican loaf had a bit more sugar than I'm used to, but I enjoyed it. The contrast between the sweeter loaf and the savoury egg and cheese was interesting. The anari cheese is a Cypriot cheese with a peculiar texture. It appears structurally sound but crumbles easily and is very soft.
[WARNING: THIS LOOKS DISGUSTING BUT IS DELICIOUS]
When I saw this, I thought it looked traditionally middle eastern which is why I bought it. I like to think I have a strong gut so was up for the challenge, even though this does look daunting to try. Now don't get me wrong, at first when I opened this - I instantly regretted it...the smell was like no other. So I looked at the tin and saw it was packed with herbs. I continued cooking and added my mince meat in. After stewing on a lower heat for a while, I served this with rice and it tasted amazing. So much so that when I came in drunk from my night out, I craved it. Luckily, I had some left over and boy did it taste even better. I had only used half a tin so the next evening I made the stew and served it with boiled baby potatoes and it was even better. The smell became addictive as well and just writing about this is making me crave it more. With the dish, I sprinkled chilli flakes on it for a bit of a kick (because if you haven't noticed, I add chilli to everything).
Ghormeh Sabzi is an iranian dish; ghormeh actually means stew and sabzi means herbs. So if I spoke Iranian, I would have been prepared for what was to come...
Again, I picked this up because it looked very traditional and I thought to myself that if I was going to sample the delights of Manchester Superstore, I would do it right. Parathas can be plain or stuffed, I chose stuffed with potato and herbs. I cooked this when I fancied a savoury snack and all it involves is shallow frying from frozen. While this is a very basic food, the smell from this was amazing. This is perfect if you fancy a little something in between meals, and my guess is that this would taste great WITH CHILLIES.
Culturally we are all so lucky to live in such diverse and complex countries. Much like travelling, what you gain out of being immersed in varying cultures is incredible knowledge and respect. It's important to withhold judgement or discrimination especially when you know such little about other ethnic backgrounds. Living in the city centre, I am very close to the Middle Eastern/Polish cultures around Cheetham Hill and also the Jewish communities nearby and I feel grateful for having such remarkable people so close to me.
*I still love you, Aldi.