Illustration by Marcelina Jagielka

I have a confession to make. Something I have been hiding for far too long. It is something that I have kept all to myself, and now wish to divulge to you, dear reader. 

At the risk of ruining my special discovery, every Saturday morning at East Oxford primary school, an incredible market is held. This is the home to all sorts: fresh strawberries by the punnet, veg straight from the earth (with the soil to prove it), and home bakes ranging from British classics to Indian sweets. But what keeps me coming back, week after week, is the falafel stall. 

I don’t think I will ever get bored of my Saturday lunch falafel. I make the trip up to Cowley, often do my shopping at the wonderful supermarkets there, and then visit the farmers’ market. To be entirely honest, I don’t think I have ever bought anything from another stall. Every week I make a beeline for the falafel stand. 

I call it the ‘falafel stand’ because that is what I buy, but the seller offers a range of Middle Eastern dishes to take away. This often includes a tomato-based stew, complete with cinnamon bark. Or the baby aubergine curry, which can also be folded into an oily, light flatbread to make an alternative sandwich. What is on offer always changes, ensuring that I can never guess what I’m going to try next week. 

image taken by author

The falafel on sale are not your typical falafel. They are not the oily, hard-shelled ones as sold at Hassan’s. Nor are they the quintessential type on offer just down the road at Za’atar Bake. No, these are enormous, parsley-filled heapings of chickpeas which are entirely unique and excitingly homemade. They seem the result of generations of falafel-makers, who stick rigidly to an ancient formula. Three generous falafel come in a box, topped with smooth, creamy hummus and the option of some of the sauce from the tomato stew on top. It makes for a hearty, filling, and delicious meal. 

I often get two of these boxes: one to eat now and one to enjoy later. Last week, sweets were available – of course I had to try them! I had homemade baklawa, which was dense and not overly sweet: more nutty and caramelised. I also tried harissa, which is not the spice paste but small squares of semolina which are solid to touch but crumble in your mouth. I will certainly be returning for more soon!

But then again, if Indian home cooking or traditional British pies are more your thing, there is something for everyone at the East Oxford farmers’ market. So, hopefully, I’ll catch you there next Saturday morning!