Another farmers’ market Sunday, and one at which I had to exercise a certain amount of self-restraint. It may seem obvious to you that the last thing I need when I’m harvesting radishes by the handful from my own garden – and then wondering what to do with them – is more radishes, but you know, there are such *pretty* radishes to be had at the farmers’ markets at present! And of course one of my favourite stall-holders had salad greens and beans as well as radishes, and not much else, so I had to apologetically tell her that actually, my own garden is supplying me rather well at present.
(This, incidentally, is still exciting. I’m reasonably accustomed to food turning out well, but every single time I dig up a root vegetable that I planted as a seed, it’s a minor miracle in my book, and totally unexpected…)
I had to start off with my lovely Italian lady, of course, because the cookbook I accidentally bought a few days ago (my favourite romance bookshop has just set up shop *right next to choir*, and has started selling cookbooks and gourmet ingredients – I may never leave) had a recipe using quail eggs and broad beans and basil and other beautiful things which are currently in season. Alas, there were no quail eggs to be had, so I picked up a bunch of rapa (I think this may be rapini or broccoli rabe in English) and then poked dubiously at a bunch of greens with bright yellow flowers that was sitting next to it. “What’s this one?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s rapa too. It’s just the top part.”
“OK, so what do I do with it?”
“Well, you put it in a pan with a bit of olive oil and garlic…”
“You put everything in a pan with a bit of olive oil and garlic, though!”
She didn’t deny it. She did suggest adding eggs to this one. The normal kind, not the quail kind. And then she interrogated me on what I had done with the quail eggs, and I got a nod of approval. I hadn’t put them in a pan with olive oil and garlic, but I had boiled them and tossed them with other things that had been in a pan with olive oil and garlic, so that was alright…
Her broccoli looked good, so I got a couple of heads, and was sternly told to buy another, because it was cheaper. I meekly obeyed. And then I got a bag of fresh peas as well, because I’ve never bought peas in the pod before, so now seemed like a good time to start.
My intention today was to buy a lot of vegetables, but I got distracted by the salsa guy, who was experimenting with a new, much hotter salsa. I told Andrew he could try it, and went to try the tomatillo one again. Then I decided that lunch could be nachos, and acted accordingly.
Outback Spirit had a stall there for the first time that I’ve seen. They do spice mixes, simmer sauces, salad dressings, chutneys and jams made from native Australian fruits and herbs harvested and prepared by Australian indigenous communities. I’ve only ever seen their stuff at Oxfam before, and never such a wide range, so that was pretty exciting. We had to make a quick exit, though, because the stall-holder was determined to sell us the entire shop, and I really did need vegetables! We came back later for the mango and lemongrass curry sauce, which apparently is excellent with the lamb that I just happen to have in my fridge…
There was a woman selling cheeses and yoghurt made from cow, sheep and goats’ milks. I must admit, I have tried to like sheep’s milk cheeses before, but find that they always taste rather a lot like… sheep. Still, sheep’s milk camembert did sound intriguing. I gave it a try.
It tasted like… creamy sheep. Not for me, I fear (though the texture was beautiful). I decided to be unadventurous and get some goat’s feta instead.
Eggs were next on my list, and I amused the lady at the stall by hesitating over which eggs to buy – I wanted a dozen eggs, but one of the eggs in a half-dozen carton was speckled! She put me out of my misery by swapping the speckled egg into a dozen carton, so that I could have practicality and *pretty* eggs.
(if anyone reading this posts is wondering if I really do act like a five-year-old let loose in a toyshop whenever I go to the farmers’ market… the answer is probably yes.)
And next to the egg lady was a woman selling brioche! Last time I had brioche was when I was in Paris when I was 18 or so, so I was definitely due for some this time.
And now I really needed to get some *vegetables!* The mushroom man was there today, and, conscious of half a loaf of sourdough reaching the toast stage in my breadbox and half a grilled eggplant in the fridge, I bought some nice big mushrooms to grill for a supper sandwich with tomato and mozzarella and salad greens. Yum.
Purple potato man was there with his lovely fresh garlic and strawberries again – he’s hoping to have potatoes in time for Christmas, but it depends what the weather does, of course. We discussed the fresh garlic – which has a texture surprisingly like a lovely, crisp apple, though I wouldn’t advise biting into one – and I told him I had a recipe for caramelised garlic tart that I wanted to try. I shall report back to him next fortnight. And of course I got strawberries. I can’t walk past a punnet of strawberries. It’s just how I am.
We talked about the weather a lot today, actually. The tomato lady had everything on special and was pressing tomatoes onto people with a somewhat hectic air – apparently the hot humid days and thunderstormy nights have made her tomatoes go crazy, and she has more than she knows what to do with.
So we got a few tomatoes.
The tomato lady also had a lot of pots of herbs, and we got some Vietnamese mint, which is new to me and reminds me of a spicy lemonade, as well as a cucumber to go with all the tomato salads in our future…
My friendly source of bootleg asparagus was also making comments about the weather – rather sadder comments in her case, because there was still no asparagus, and she wanted some herself. I consoled myself with kale.
I really do need to figure out sometime just exactly where the different farmers come from – I would say there are at least three different mini-climates represented at the market at present, with some farms still in deep winter, others in high spring, and one or two on the edge of summer.
Another favourite vegetable stall was back from a long break, with tiny leeks and baby carrots in many colours. Also multicoloured radishes, but multicolored radishes are absolutely the last thing I need right now. And – they had asparagus! Huzzah! I bought three bunches, and such was my enthusiasm that I also accidentally bought broadbeans, even though I know just how much of a pain they are to peel and shell (having had a surfeit of them last year, due to unexpectedly successfuly gardening).
Given that I already had peas, this was really very silly of me. I also bought red chicory on the grounds that I’d never seen it before, and it might taste nicer than green chicory (this would not be difficult).
So now all I have to do is figure out what to do with all my lovely loot! Actually, I’ve already made a quiche with the peas, broadbeans, yellow beans from my garden and assorted herbs, so that’s lunch for tomorrow sorted. And we had the mushroom sandwiches for dinner, which were lovely. I’ll do the mango lamb later in the week, and I’m contemplating an asparagus and tomato bechamel pasta bake as well as broccoli and sausage pasta early next week. And when we run out of quiche, I think I’ll make a calzone with assorted greens and the goats’ feta. Or maybe polenta with garlicky greens. And the caramelised garlic tart, of course. So many vegetables, so little time…