I’m always writing these apologetic posts about being an absentee blogger, and yet I never manage to mend my ways! This week, I’ve been out a lot, but if I’m really honest, the thing that is really keeping me from food blogging is the insane project I inflict upon myself every time there is an election. You see, I am a big fan of voting below the line in the Senate, partly because it’s interesting and fun (especially when the two main parties both depress me), and partly because I don’t necessarily think the same way as any of the parties out there, so I don’t want them determining where my preferences go.
Of course, this logically means that *I* have to figure out where my preferences will go, which invariably means I spend the three weeks leading up to an election madly reading all the policy documents I can find by every single tiny little party contesting the senate, and then writing about them, because if I’ve done all the work of reading them and taking notes for myself, I might as well share this with anyone else mad enough to care. With thirty-nine parties plus a few independents on the Victorian senate ticket this year, this is a lot of reading and writing, and so this project is basically taking up every iota of my spare time just at present. I regret to say, therefore, that Cate’s Cates will be a very quiet blog from now until September 7.
(If, incidentally, you are interested in reading my highly partisan assessments of said tiny parties, feel free to drop in at Cate Speaks for a look. But bear in mind that there is a *lot* to read.)
Yesterday’s Farmers’ Market at Coburg was a bit special, because they were celebrating Fair Food Week with a Fair. So you could go and attend workshops on composting or making raised garden beds, or hear talks from various stall-holders, or – yes indeed, this election is inescapable – go and hear politicians from three sides of politics talk about food security and farming and fair food and their policies around these things. Of course, this is Wills, so when I say three sides of politics, I naturally mean Labor, the Greens and the Socialist Alliance.
We arrived later than intended, but just in time to see Naomi give a demonstration of butter making, using her grandmother’s butter churning jar. This is a big glass jar with a paddle inside, which you turn with a paddle until your crême fraiche has turned into cultured butter. Naomi talked about their fermenting process, about what she had learned from butter-makers in France, and about the difference between Australian and European butters. One piece of new information was that our butter is much more yellow because our cows are outside getting vitamin D and beta carotene in their diet, whereas European cows usually live inside in barns. This seems rather sad.
After all that, I was raring for some butter, so we headed over to the Myrtleford Butter Factory stall to see what we could see. I’ve just bought the Great Australian Bake-Off Cookbook – which is really astonishingly good, both the book and the show have surprised me like that – and was itching to make coffee scrolls, so I needed unsalted butter. And they had ghee, which I’ve never seen at that stall before, fitting in with my vague plans of curry later this week. I was also seduced by their honey and toasted walnut butter which I *do not* need, and yet which somehow made it into my bag regardless.
We somehow missed Happy Fruit last time, which was a terrible shame, so I made up for it this time by going there and trying all their different dried fruits and varieties of sultanas, all the while making the stallholder’s mouth water as I talked about the coffee scrolls that were on my afternoon’s agenda! The dried peaches were particularly amazing, and I bought some of those and some dried apricots while I dithered over sultanas. The stallholder solved my dilemma by bringing out some of last season’s sultanas on special – a bit dry, perhaps, but perfectly fine to be reconstituted in a bit of sherry for my scrolls…
A new stall-holder from Greenvale Farm, who raises free-range pigs, was there, too. I’m not a fan of pork, but I do frequently have a yen for the kind of spicy, cured sausage that my Nonna used to make (and that my great-uncle and father and aunt still make, occasionally), and which I like to use in carbonara. I always feel bad about buying pork products in supermarkets, however, because non-free-range pigs tend to be treated pretty appallingly – but very few people make ethically-raised cured meats. To my delight, the man from Greenvale was selling a cacciatore sausage which, while not identical to my Nonna’s, was pretty close, and entirely delicious. I gleefully snapped some up… and then went next door for the eggs I would need for carbonara and to enrich the coffee scrolls that were now becoming an absolute inevitability.
At this point, I’d spent most of my money without buying a single vegetable! Oops. We dutifully trotted over to the Mushroom Man, and collected our traditional portobellos, before getting wholly distracted by the bakery. No! The apricot and vine-fruit bread (which is a totally silly thing to get when one is bent on coffee scrolls, but never mind) was clearly the perfect complement for honey-walnut butter, and the granola, while something I can make perfectly well myself, is also something I never get around to making perfectly well myself – seriously, it’s been on my to-do list for about three weeks now! – so of course I bought some.
OK, now we really, really needed to get vegetables. I was convinced that I had seen pumpkins somewhere, and dragged Andrew all over the market in search of them. Eventually we found pumpkins of many kinds, camouflaged at a stall which sold mostly oranges, as well as some very pretty, if under-ripe, avocados. They will be ripe in a few days, and ready to turn into raw margarita pie for work…
Having been reminded of the existence of oranges, I then decided we needed some blood oranges from the other orange stall – there’s also a recipe for blood orange sponge cake in my new cookbook, and I am keen to try it! This reminded me that I needed apples, and if you are getting the impression that I was zig-zagging madly all over the market, you would be correct. We delightedly bought some of the giant pink lady apples that we didn’t get last time – I have plans for a tarte tatin when we have guests on Tuesday night.
I then settled down to some proper vegetable buying. We bought broccoli – because you can never have too much broccoli – and an absolutely perfect cauliflower from one stall, thinking of raw curry and cauliflower pilaf. The savoy cabbage and beetroot were clearly going to be part of a hot pink coleslaw to go over baked sweet potatoes which I already had at home, and spinach really requires no reason. I will use it.
We finished up with a bag of Nicola potatoes, and I sent Andrew home while I stayed to listen to politicians (what was I thinking?) and to see if we had won the raffle. We hadn’t, so I walked home to make coffee scrolls – cinnamon scrolls, really, because I don’t like coffee.
My favourite part is the bit where I used blood orange juice for the icing and it turned out the bright pink of bakery sticky buns, but with a much better flavour.
So delicious. And that was the end of my fabulous market adventure for this week! Now I must return to my self-imposed task of reading and writing about small and somewhat crazy political parties. If I manage to dig my way out of this self-inflicted pit before the election, you will certainly see me here, probably making apricot and cardamom scrolls. They seem like the obvious next step.
Otherwise, you will certainly see me back here for the write-up of all the Pasta Please Pasta Bakes at the end of the month. It’s not too late to submit yours – I’d love to see what you come up with!Farmers’ Market Post: What Season Is This, Anyway? Two years ago: Review: Breakfast at Veri Koko