The Main course

Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come. Arts on Main — a block or two of gentrified buildings near the highway on the edge of Jeppe in downtown Johannesburg — seemed in danger of being a place you would go to only if there were shows opening at the galleries.

But now on a Sunday, any Sunday, the place is overflowing with the well-heeled visiting the food market. A large indoor parking lot holds all sorts of interesting food — from unusual soups (cranberry and beetroot, curried prawn) to a stall selling raw honey, tacos, bagels, rotis, empanadas, designer cupcakes and artisanal coffees. ­

Last Sunday the grass courtyard was full of people sitting under the olive trees eating giant pizzas with rocket and fresh fig. There were also couples, their knees touching, sharing trays of Ethiopian food.

Kassahun Gebrehana, from the southern section of Addis Ababa, had his stall set up under the shade of a lean-to. He had a stack of at least 50 injeras — large, soft white flatbreads made from rice and cake flour — and many different toppings to put on them.

With delicate fingers he loosely rolled up the injera and then tore it in half. On one half, unrolled on a small silver tray, he spooned the side dishes or red stews known as wats — the other half is used to scoop up the food.

Pleasant heat

Gebrehana had what he called a “beans gravy”, as well as stewed chickpeas, one with brown lentils and another with pink. There were also cooked cabbage dishes and fluffy cottage cheese made from sour milk, which had the texture of ricotta. The wats consisted of onion and carrot, spinach and onion, and spicy beef, chicken or lamb.

Many of the dishes had a pleasant heat derived in part from the use of berbere, a ­­complex spice mixture used in Ethiopian cuisine that includes but is not limited to pepper, fenugreek, chilli, paprika, garlic, onion, ­cardamom, allspice and the seeds of bishop’s weed.

Gebrehana said some of his ­clientele were new to Ethiopian food but others “know the taste and take it without asking any questions”.

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