Andrew has, it seems, spent most of the day laughing at me. First, we decided to visit a different market, just for fun. This was the Slow Food Market in Abbotsford, held in the grounds of the old convent. We haven’t been there before, and I wasn’t able to adequately explain what made it a Slow Food Market, but it did have some interesting sounding stalls, and I thought it was time for an explore, especially since I have the Little Brown Book to play with now. Only I’m a bit of a zombie, because I’ve been using my brain pretty hard all week at a voice course, commuting three hours, and getting very little sleep, so Andrew had to take charge of the book because I was having trouble reading it. Such things happen.
It’s a gorgeous market. There’s a certain delight and excitement in the way it’s set up, with stalls hidden around corners and along pathways in a large area of the convent along at least three main branching paths so it’s not always easy to find everything or be sure that you’ve seen everything. One can hunter-gather a bit. And it’s much, much bigger than the markets we are used to, with lots of new stalls.
I kept on wandering around the market going “Oh, wow! Wow! Oh, wow!” at everything, which amused Andrew greatly, and sounded a bit silly even to me. Then I would forget where I had just been and we would have to go back there again. Sometimes twice. By about halfway through the market, I had totally forgotten what I had bought so far, so when I got home and laid everything out on the table, it was this fabulous surprise, like some wonderful person had made up a hamper just for me, and with all my favourite things in mind!
Then I went to download all my photos a few minutes ago and was again excited to discover all the lovely things I had to play with. I had no idea I had been so clever at the market! (I’m not saying that Andrew isn’t justified in laughing at me, incidentally. I imagine it is fairly amusing to watch Enthusiastic Goldfish Attention-Span Catherine With No Memory at work.)
Anyway, I have Exciting Treasures which were clearly chosen by me with *some* attention paid to what I already had, because I was pretty good about not buying zucchini this time, despite massive temptation along these lines, and I did tend rather towards partly-prepared foods this time, since my fridge is still fairly well-stocked with fresh veggies from last week’s market.
Oh, you want pictures? And perhaps for me to get to a point, any point? Well, I can do pictures…
(Oh my goodness, I’ve just realised it’s Australia Day! I absolutely have to make Pavlova this weekend, since my several-hours-younger self apparently decided I needed all the berries in the world when we were shopping this morning…)
So, let’s see if I can dredge up some coherent descriptions of this morning. We went into the market, where I became instantly fascinated by a stall selling lots of different kinds of peppers and then even more fascinated by one selling, among other things, smoked garlic. Smoked garlic is one of those ingredients you see occasionally in recipes, and it just sort of smirks at you in a superior fashion, knowing that it is terribly exciting and you will never have it. Well, I have it now, so now I’ll just have to find the recipes! It’s not, on first sight (or smell) a subtle ingredient. When we got home, the bags all smelled like smoked garlic, and now that the garlic is hanging from a hook in the kitchen, there’s a decidedly smokey garlic whiff in the air as one passes. Yum.
Anyway, I was, in my view, quite legitimately excited about the smoked garlic, and had to be prevented from spending all my money at the first two stalls. So we moved on to the rest of the market. The market has, as I mentioned, an interesting geography. The main street of it seems to be mostly devoted to vegetable, nut and herb stalls, with some stalls selling savoury prepared items such as dips, felafels and so forth. A side branch has more vegetables but is mostly devoted to fruit, and the other branching street, furthest from the gate, has all the meat, egg and dairy stalls, as well as a baker. I don’t think there was any fruit or veg past that corner.There were raspberries in that first laneway, though, and since I haven’t found raspberries all summer, they were an immediate purchase.
So we wandered up and down the streets several times, getting increasingly distracted trying to find stalls from the Brown Book with very limited success (it’s a great little collection of vouchers, but either an index or some sort of alphabetical order would be helpful). I eventually took to just asking every stallholder who looked like he/she had interesting wares if they were in the book. We did find the honey and mead stall, which sadly had no mead, but who did have beautiful honey-scented beeswax candles. He also had honey and pear cordial, but he had left his sampling gear behind, so we couldn’t taste it this time. Apparently, mead is really hard to license under liquor licensing laws, since it doesn’t count as wine or beer or as proper liqueur, either, which was causing delays for him. My suspicion is that he was having as vague a day as I was, but I’ll definitely be going back to try the mead and cordial another time.
Alcohol now being the theme, we had to check out the stall next door, which sold both strawberries and a variety of strawberry wines and liqueurs which could be sampled. These were absolutely fascinating, actually. There was a strawberry-infused sparkling muscat, which I really loved, another sparkling wine made entirely from strawberries, which was oddly not all that sweet or strawberryish, but very good. Then there was strawberry liqueur, which was one of those dangerous drinks that taste like a lovely strawberry syrup and then hit you over the head with a plank when you aren’t looking, and a Tawny Port made from strawberries, which I wouldn’t have imagined was even possible, but was lovely an mellow and port-like, with just a hint of strawberry to it. All beautiful stuff, but I barely ever drink and have a terrible tendency to buy expensive alcohol and use it in desserts, so we stuck to the strawberry muscat for now. We may well go back for the liqueurs, though.
Because we are perverse, we bought the strawberries at a different stall. (Actually, it’s not just perversity – I do try to buy small amounts from a larger number of stall-holders if possible.)
Back on the main route, there was a stall that sold all sorts of dried fruit – peaches, nectarines, apricots, pears, raisins, currants, and different kinds of sultanas. It was really beautiful fruit, too – very vivid and bright and alive – and the stall-holder told us that the apricots had been on the tree until Thursday, which is about as fresh as you can get for dried fruit. Having walked past three times and sampled things on every pass, we eventually settled for a bag of apricots, one of nectarines, and another of raisins. The apricots and nectarines are for eating as they are – the raisins are an invitation to the sort of raisin bread that will live in my memory for years.
We bought totally gratuitous rhubarb pastries from the store across the way from the dried fruit, and were then seduced by rhubarb and orange roll-ups from a stall that actually mostly sold rice but did roll-ups as a sideline. It’s going to be a good day for rhubarb, since I’ve been informed that this will be dessert tonight, too. How will we ever cope?
Around the corner, in the meat and dairy area, was a woman selling goat’s cheese (there was also a rather lovely looking bakery, but since the queue was about twenty people long, we decided to do without). She had four different kinds out to taste, ranging from a very pure goat-milk curd that tasted fresh and sweet and soft and utterly beautiful on the tongue, to a mild blue chevre that I instantly fell in love with, not least because if you combined it with the smoked garlic you could make the most amazing pongy tart that would just be fabulous. The only reason that isn’t dinner tonight is that we are eating out at a friend’s place, incidentally. (Apparently, I was really enthusiastic about said pongy tart, because I told Andrew about it on three separate occasions this morning.) I don’t yet know what I’ll do with the curd cheese, but it’s so beautiful, I know I’ll think of something.
Back to the main aisle again. Did I mention that we were wandering in circles a lot? With Lent approaching, I’m starting to try to get rid of my meat, and to work out good vegetarian options to see me through my 40 days of dietary challenge, so I was pretty excited to see a stall that had home-made felafel and two kinds of veggie burger, and that you could taste them. They were very, very good, too – I find that bought vegetable burgers tend to be very salty, but these tasted very much home-made, and were chickpea based, and flavoured with roast pumpkin, or roast carrot with kale. I’ll still be doing a big batch of mushroom burgers to freeze before Lent starts, but these will be a welcome addition to my stores.
There was a stall with zucchini flowers. Since you all know by now just how I feel about zucchini flowers, I don’t really need to say more, do I? I also bought a lovely bag of yellow frying peppers, some of which I’ve already used in our lunch today.
More random wanderings. One stall had asparagus! Which is rather unseasonal, but since my policy is that anything I buy at a Farmers’ Market counts as in season, I bought two bunches. Another stall had those lovely, sweet tomatoes that are half way between cherry tomato and roma tomato size. Irresistible.
At this point, I realised that I really had no idea what I’d bought or seen, which was ridiculous, so I’d better stop. But one can’t really go to the Abbotsford Convent without checking out their bakery, so we did make one last stop – for hot cross buns and cavatelli pasta. After all, one must have breakfast, and cavatelli pasta will go beautifully with the sprouting broccoli I have from last week, maybe with a few tomatoes and some smoked garlic to liven it up…
And then I came home with every intention of napping, but it turns out that I’ve just spent half the afternoon online catching up on the blogs I follow and listening to Katie Noonan sing ‘Blackbird’ a lot. Oops. But at least I have the best hamper ever. And there are quite good odds that it will be an equally delightful surprise when I go and look in the kitchen tomorrow!
This Time Last Year…
Things I probably shouldn’t know about… (hmm, still haven’t tried this… an oversight, or the intervention of a benevolent God?)