A taste of the east

During one lunch hour this week I went for a walk up the Uxbridge Road just to stretch my legs and to get some fresh air. About ten minutes into the walk I came across the most wonderful culinary Aladdin's cave.

Al Abbas may only be a small supermarket but it is packed to the ceiling with an exotic array of middle eastern foods from fresh fruit and veg to exotic spices, pickles and meat. I have a real weakness for strong spicy tastes and this shop was my idea of heaven.

There were huge glass jars full of all sorts of pickes - garlic, chilli, aubergines, mixed vegetables - in a variety of spicy flavourings. There were ranks of tins of various types of beans, chickpeas and other pulses - again in exotic and interesting looking recipes. Huge barrels full of nuts and dried fruits greet you when you walk into the shop and the walls are lined with vast jars and tins of a wide variety of olives.

This mix of colours and tastes was made all the more potent by the sound of a muezzin playing on the PA system and the scent of joss sticks wafting through the building. Add in the sound of people around me speaking Arabic and I could have been transported to the middle of Alexandria all in the space of a lunch break.