Farmers’ Market Post: Fairfield Market!

This weekend is a busy one for the Casa della Catherine, with lunch for my mother-in-law’s birthday today, Catholic choir tomorrow, and… well, actually, that isn’t so much, but it does start to look like a lot when one is determined to shoe-horn a market visit in there somewhere.  Sending Andrew off to the market is all very well, but he really doesn’t enjoy it the way I do, and while the surprise factor of what he might have bought is always fun, he is distressingly sensible, even frugal, in his vegetable purchases.

Happy birthday, Betty!

Happy birthday, Betty!  Have some lollipops on cheesecake!

(this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, actually.  Excessive enthusiasm is all very well for me, since I usually have at least some idea about what I might cook, but if Andrew suddenly developed a yen for, say, bitter melon and daikon radish, that might be a problem if I were not in an adventurous mood, culinarily speaking).

Anyway, we were left with the choice of a fairly local market first thing this morning, or a market in the Middle Park area even more first thing tomorrow.  A survey of the Victorian Farmers’ Market Association website showed that there was nothing doing tomorrow in a useful location, and our closest market today was Fairfield, a market we have not previously visited, unless you count me being totally muddled and confusing it with Preston farmers’ market.  I don’t think you should count that, though, because they are quite different markets…

Fairfield turns out to be another really good market (I know you probably think that I find all the markets really good, but honestly, I’ve been to a couple of disappointing ones in my pre-food blog days, so it can happen), though a bit further away than I thought it would be, mostly on account of it still not being the Preston farmers’ market.  Which is in Preston, not Fairfield, in case you were confused.

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It’s the sort of market I would have liked to visit on a day that wasn’t the day after I paid my winter gas bill, because there were so many gorgeous and luxurious stalls that we couldn’t justify at all – a truly beautiful tart and pie stall, the truffle man again, a woman selling home-made (and exceptionally good) pastry dough and shortbread, several bakeries, a proper milk, cream and yoghurt stall, and at least two other cheese stalls, not to mention several butchers, an egg stall, and an assortment of fruit and veg stalls, including one womanned by Rita’s daughter, who probably thinks we are stalking her.

Oh, and also, she says innocently, just as if she hadn’t been stalking Dr Marty’s Crumpets for weeks, trying to work out why she keeps missing him at Coburg, yes, also, there was a crumpet stall.  So we bought crumpets.

Beautiful baked things!  Bread, crumpets and crumble, with pistachios.

Beautiful baked things! Bread, crumpets and crumble, with pistachios.

The aforementioned birthday lunch was actually hosted by me, and my brief had been a light lunch, of things like bread, cheese, dips and salads.  Did I mention that it was freezing cold and pouring with rain today?  So the other main purpose of this visit was to try to figure out what on earth to make for lunch that would fit the birthday girl’s request, but would actually be somewhat warming, too.  We started the easy way, at the dip stall, where we found a delicately green herbed tahini dip, a beetroot dip with Dukkah and a sort of spicy tomatoey capsicumy thing that I can’t describe very well.  Dips were officially sorted.

I just want to climb into this photo and eat it.  And that's *after* having a lot of this dip at lunchtime.

I just want to climb into this photo and eat it. And that’s *after* having a lot of this dip at lunchtime.

About two stalls down from Dips was Bread, where we hesitated over rye sourdough and pumpernickel, but eventually bought a plain sourdough, and a beautiful apricot, honey and walnut sourdough, which we were informed would be excellent with cheese.

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The cheese stall, next door, was the lovely French-style one, so I quickly picked up stinky Raclette (which I do adore), a reddish-rind blue cheese called Old Mountain Woman, and a soft curd cheese.  Delicious – and bread, cheese and dips were now officially sorted.

One of these things is not like the other thing, one of these things is not the same...

One of these things is not like the other things, one of these things is not the same…

This still left salads and other foods unresolved.  I sort of wanted to go wholly vegetarian, because my brother and sister in law don’t eat meat, and because I don’t have a good source of lunch-ish meats that are ethically raised.  My Green Kitchen App (which is hands-down the best $4.99 I’ve spent this year) has a recipe for herbed pistachio felafel which I’ve been eager to try, and right before me was the most gorgeous stall full of bunches of herbs of every kind – mint, parsley, sorrell, watercress, rosemary, bay, and so much more.  I collected mint, coriander and parsley, and then crossed to the stall across the way for pistachios.

A bouquet of green leafy wonder - sprouting broccoli, kale, parsley, fennel, coriander and mint.

A bouquet of green leafy beauty – sprouting broccoli, coriander, kale, parsley, fennel and mint, with the herbed tahini dip.

The stall three along had a sign up “Strawberries – picked yesterday!”.  This was a slightly alarming notion, given the time of year, but apparently they have a greenhouse, and with the weird weather we’ve been having, the strawberries just keep on growing, and growing, and growing.  But the stallholder is fairly certain that these really will be the last.  I make a rather lovely salad featuring strawberries and fennel, so this was an easy choice.

strawb

The fennel, of course, came from Rita’s daughter, along with a gloriously purple cauliflower (which is going to get served with stinky Raclette sauce and sourdough toast tomorrow night, oh yum), lots of sprouting broccoli and a big wedge of pumpkin.  Because I wanted something else hot, and roast pumpkin is simply glorious when baked into a tart.  Ideally with stinky Raclette cheese (I’m really making the most of this cheese).

Mayhem, on the other hand, is making the most of this pumpkin...

Mayhem, on the other hand, is making the most of this pumpkin…

(Lest you think I am abusing the Raclette, I assure you, I’m not.  I absolutely adore the stuff.  However, as my Swiss colleagues and I discovered last year, melting Raclette may smell wonderful at close quarters, but it has the power to stink out three floors of a not exactly small medical research institute with the aroma of feral socks on the rampage.  I have no idea how it does this, but it was pretty entertaining.)

"Seriously, that stuff smells.  You should stick to pumpkins!"

“Seriously, that stuff smells. You should stick to pumpkins, like I do.  Mmmm… pumpkin, lovely, lovely pumpkin…”

I did want to make another Green Kitchen recipe, a salad of Brussels sprouts and kale with tahini dressing and oranges and pomegranates, but while all these things were in season, the specimens at the market were a little disappointing.  I ended up getting them at the greengrocer after I got home.  It’s a fascinating salad, incidentally – you use the Brussels sprouts and kale raw, but massage the dressing into them until they soften up and absorb the citrus and tahini and honey.  Strange, but good.

brussels salad

This left me with very little money, so we decided to splurge the last of it on a blackberry crumble pie.  Totally unjustifiable, but clearly delicious…

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Besides, I might have needed the blackberry crumble if the birthday cake hadn’t worked out.  It would have been terrible if we hadn’t had enough dessert (because 84 chocolate lollipops from yesterday’s class clearly and obviously do not count as dessert in any sensible accounting).

Gratuitous photo of lollipops, so that you can see I wasn't kidding about there being 84 of them.  Only, it's not 84 anymore.  I'm not saying how many are left at this point...

Gratuitous photo of lollipops, so that you can see I wasn’t kidding about there being 84 of them. Only, it’s not 84 anymore. I’m not saying how many are left at this point…

Fortunately, the cake worked out just fine.  All the more blackberry crumble for us!  And lunch was delicious.  In fact, I was a little surprised at just how excited people got about it, because I really had not done much – just made two salads, a tart and felafels, and bought a lot of beautiful produce.

Gratuitous photo of our table covered with goodies for lunch...

Gratuitous photo of our table covered with goodies for lunch.  Isn’t it a delightfully *colourful* meal?

But that, of course, is why we buy this sort of produce.  You really don’t have to do much to make it spectacular.

 … which is why tonight’s slightly belated dinner will be a lot of leftover salads alongside another round of Take Me Home Pasta’s beautiful beetroot gnocchi sautéed with cheese and broccoli.

greendip

And then there will be blackberry crumble for dessert.  Unless we go for cheesecake.  Or strawberries.  Or, dare I say it, chocolate lollipops.  It’s a hard life we live here in the Casa Della Catherine…

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Two years ago: Tropical Chocolate and Amaranth Cake

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10 responses to “Farmers’ Market Post: Fairfield Market!

  1. Markets are tough places to be restrained, aren’t they? I think it’s particularly difficult because by being at a market, instead of a commercial store, there’s an element of “It’s okay to spend money! It’s going to people who deserve it!” that I just don’t get in, say, Coles or Myers. With that said, my husband can’t stand them so I can’t even send him off if I’m busy – it’s me or no one! It looks like you got some wonderful things and I suspect that birthday lunch will be a great one.

    • I barely even attempt to be restrained at farmers’ markets, to be honest! I view them as my main weekly grocery shopping expedition. I can’t imagine not being able to stand markets, though – unless they are a lot bigger and noisier out your way than they are here, I suppose. I think Andrew’s level of intrinsic market interest isn’t all that high, but he finds my enthusiastic response to them entertaining…

  2. I love your comment on Andrew’s vegetable frugality, followed by a picture of your fabulous cheesecake- my first thought was so that’s Andrew’s idea of a ‘vegetable’ 🙂

    • Yes, that was a bit of a silly juxtaposition.

      Though I’m not 100% certain that Andrew wouldn’t bring more cake than vegetables home from the market if left to his own devices and without any other preferences to consult…

  3. I don’t think I have ever been to fairfield farmers market but now I want to – love the sound of the honey and walnut bread – would be great with pumpkin and raclette – and mayhem is very cute with the pumpkin – can (s)he teach sylvia to love the stuff 🙂

    • It’s a really lovely market, with very little overlap in stallholders with the Coburg one, so it’s definitely worthwhile if you want to do something different on the 3rd Saturday of the month. We’ll certainly be going back.

  4. Well, I see you’ve got the blue cheese sorted, but where’s the oatmeal? [weg]

    It all looks super yummy; thanks for the vicarious & artistic thrills!

  5. a beautiful apricot, honey and walnut sourdough

    The problem with having outgrown much of my picky-eater-ness is now I’m far more prone to drooling over foods that are either too expensive, or can only be bought on the other side of the province/country/continent/planet. (Ten-year-old me would have been rather more suspicious of the apricots than I am.)

    ~

    I like your symmetrical strawberries.

    • Oh, I hear you. I’ve recently discovered that there are certain flavours which I normally detest, but if someone cooks *really well* with them, I actually like them… which, as a foodie, is a lovely thing, but on the other hand, do I *want* to cultivate a taste for expensive restaurant-quality food? My budget says no…

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