I have to say, June is really not when I would expect to be buying a lot of berries at the market, but today had a definite berry theme. Admittedly, most of the berries on offer (at three separate stalls) were frozen, but I was interrupted in my first circuit of the market by the amazing sight of fresh raspberries. In winter.
Apparently, these are the last raspberries of the season (as I can well imagine – I keep trying to eat seasonal, but if local farmers are growing berries in June, this does rather confuse any idea of what is in season). The same stall also had cherry guava, a fruit I have never tried. Sadly, they were a little under-ripe, so the one I tasted made my teeth go furry, but the chap at the stall earnestly assured us that the guavas would ripen in a few days on the table, and told us how to recognise when they were ripe. I am not entirely convinced that cherry guava is the fruit I have been waiting for all my life, but it seemed against the spirit of the farmers’ market to see a brand new fruit and not go home with it, so we bought some of those, too.
Of course, the same farmer then tried hard to sell us feijoas, but one has to draw the line somewhere. I said a firm no to the nightmare fruit of my childhood, and moved on…
Take Me Home Pasta was there again, and we had our usual catch-up, while I eyed off lunch prospects and Andrew chose something for dinner (I’ll be out this evening on a ghost walk with my walking group from work). We wound up with pumpkin lasagne for Andrew and a wonderful ricotta crostata for lunch – half flavoured with pumpkin, the other half with leek and prosciutto. I bought some rigatoni for later in the week, and our friendly stall-holder threw in a garlic pizza base, just for fun.
Our next stop was Under the Pickle Tree, where the stall-holder seemed somewhat taken aback by our efficiency! But we’d been trying all her wonderful products a couple of weeks ago when we weren’t allowed to buy them, so I already knew precisely what I wanted: the amazing, sweet spiced apple sauce to go with roast lamb, the zingy lemongrass paste whose ultimate fate I’m not sure of but which is far too good to overlook, and a bottle of fruity and indulgent wild lime and blood orange olive oil. Gorgeous.
I don’t actually need to go to the chocolate stall, but I was kind of enticed there by the sight of uncharacteristically non-elegant chocolate things on sticks. I had to find out what they were. It turns out that the chocolate stall has joined forces with one of the apple sellers and is now doing chocolate-coated toffee apples and pears (which, incidentally, are vegan). They are possibly the ugliest thing I’ve seen at a farmers’ market, with the exception of bitter melon, which really is kind of warty and creepy, but who could seriously resist the combination of pear with chocolate, toffee, and nutty chocolate? (Andrew, in fact, which is why he got an apple instead of a pear.)
I’ve been reading The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook again, and eyeing the recipe for apple cake in particular. (Though I’m inclined to mess with it by using a certain amount of chestnut flour or chestnut puree in the batter.) Apples were therefore absolutely necessary. Also, of course, that’s the really pretty stall with the apple-print tablecloths and the chestnuts, and I feel compelled to buy something from them every time we go to the market just on the basis that they make the market so beautiful. This time, we went with a kilo of Fuji apples, which the stallholder advised us would be the best for an apple cake.
“Are you going to blog about us?” asked the stall-holder at Happy Fruit. I hadn’t even remembered telling him I had a blog, but yes, it appears I am… Once again, we were charmed by their little mini-muffin cases full of dried fruit and nuts to nibble on as we investigated the market. Now that I’m allowed to buy things for the pantry again, I couldn’t resist their dried apricots and nectarines, which are beautifully soft and very full of flavour. My favourite discovery today, though, was their seedless sun muscats, which are technically raisins but taste to me more like the best sultanas ever. My imagined apple cake immediately acquired a handful of sultanas to sweeten the chestnut flour batter…
Our friendly stall-holder threw in a big bag of grapes, too. I have no idea what variety they were, but they taste as though they might be the source of the sultana/raisins. Yum. I do like getting spoiled by friendly farmers’ market people!
My fridge is fairly well-stocked for veggies, but there were one or two things I wanted this week. Pumpkin, in particular, was on my list, so I wandered over to one of the vegetable stalls to discuss which pumpkin I truly needed. The stallholder really entered into the spirit of this conversation – clearly, his pumpkins were important to him (in fact, he said they were like babies), and he questioned me at length on what I planned to do with the pumpkin, before declaring with satisfaction that I obviously wasn’t going to let it go to waste and selecting a truly enormous one for us. Which probably weighed more than a baby – that was a lot of pumpkin. I sort of feel compelled to save the seeds and roast them now, so that I really don’t waste it. I wonder if one can do anything culinary with pumpkin skin?
The same stall also had very lush spinach, which I was informed was fragile and should be treated gently. This is clearly someone who really cares about his vegetables – I’ll be returning to that stall in future.
We paused for a chocolate croissant breakfast at the bakery (still no crumpets today, alas!), and then considered what was still needed. The answer was clear – frozen berries! I still have a few of Wild Dog’s frozen strawberries, so I bought a punnet each of frozen boysenberries (something I have never seen before) and mixed berries.
Mushrooms were the other thing we needed, and the mushroom man had one gigantic mushroom with my name on it. It weight 360 g all on its own. You don’t mess with a mushroom like that. I bought a few junior mushrooms to go with it – I haven’t quite decided what I’ll do with the Monster Mushie but it will be something special. The mushroom man was pleased that we appreciated the giant mushroom – I always tend to get the big ones if I can, because I think their flavour is better – and offered to set aside any more monster mushrooms he gets for us, since he sees us pretty much every week now, between Coburg and Flemington.
And that was about it for us. We lugged our produce back to the car, and then I abandoned Andrew to drive it home while I walked. This weekend is the one where we have to beat our best step-count, and virus or no virus, I am determined to do so…