I am back, having survived the St Matthew’s Passion with my vocal chords intact! It was a glorious, glorious thing, and I am itching to sing it again and also to learn all the soprano and alto arias and maybe sing them one day, and *also* I have the biggest music crush ever on Andrew Goodwin, the brilliant tenor who played our Evangelist. He has absolutely the most superb tenor voice I’ve ever heard – he just floats over those top notes so easily and gently, but he can also be wonderfully dramatic in the sections where this is called for. Swoon. Being in Choir Two, I was able to appreciate this from pleasingly close quarters. Though not as close as the altos. Another reason I should have sung alto. Yes, I am a very sad case. But a voice like that doesn’t come along every day, and he seemed like a thoroughly lovely human being, too.
(And that was the sound of me losing several minutes to looking up said tenor on YouTube and listening to the sadly small number of his recordings I was able to find. No CDs yet, alas…)
(Also, the Palm Sunday service I was at read the entire text of Matthew 26 to 27, which is basically the text of the St Matthew Passion, with different readers being different characters and the congregation doing all the crowd responses. It was all I could do not to burst into song. In German. Because it turns out that somewhere along the way I memorised all the German crowd bits. Oh dear…)
I have even more singing ahead of me, with Easter coming up next weekend, but this is probably not why you are here, so maybe I should consider getting to the point of this post, which is that Andrew and I actually managed to get back to the Coburg Farmers’ Market this weekend, for the first time in over a month. We did manage a flying visit to Flemington last week, but there was no time to write about it afterwards, what with choir followed by Bach. Due to singing, work, and the resulting extreme levels of exhaustion, I’ve been having to resort to the local greengrocer, and sometimes even the supermarket, for my fruit and veg for about the last six weeks, and it’s really not the same. In the meantime, Melbourne has moved from high summer into quite definite autumn, with more varieties of apple than I can poke a stick at, and nuts of all kinds, as well as the last of the corn, eggplants, beans, capsicums, and even a tomato or two.
I have to admit, one nice thing about being a Farmers’ market regular is that when I come back after a break people actually remember me and seem to have missed me. I feel very special. (Also slightly astonished that so many people ask me about my singing. I mean, I know I tend to go on about my singing, but I somehow expect that people will tune this out because it’s boring to people who are not me.)
This week, we had the novel experience of shopping from an actual list on behalf of a friend who wasn’t really up to leaving the house this morning, which was very strange. We wound up deciding to do the Shopping With A List on our first circuit of the market, and then going back to do a second circuit for our own, more random, purchases.
I couldn’t believe that there were still raspberries at the market in April, so they were the first thing I picked up. I can’t imagine that I’ll be seeing too many more of them until December or November at the earliest. The same stall also had strawberries, and I started having visions of all sorts of lovely farewell-summer desserts that I could make for my birthday this week, and picked up some of those as well. Another end of summer flourish came from the beautiful little tomatoes being sold by the mushroom man – clearly the end-of-summer harvest, as they were all sorts of different shapes, colours and sizes.
(I am reminded that I need to bed down my garden for the winter. But not today. I am far too tired today.)
The raspberries have already found their way into a purée that is chilling in the fridge with plans to become sorbet tomorrow. As for the strawberries, well, this is a very fancy-pants dessert from Huxtabook, so some will be macerated with basil, others sliced finely and dehydrated and yet others – I do love this – turned into pearls, a process that apparently involves a syringe. I can’t wait to explain that one to a pharmacist…
Still in late summer mode, I moved on to Rayner’s Stonefruit, to see what they had available. The guys from Rayner’s Stonefruit are always *very enthusiastic*, and today was no exception – we have to visit their orchard! They are open seven days a week! There is an orchard! And a café! And tractor tours! We should visit! I really do intend to visit sometime, but probably not in Autumn, when most of their fruit is done. I did, however, buy some of their bottled peaches (peach melba, anyone?), and some enticing-looking semi-glacé peaches. I’m not too sure what the latter are, but they couldn’t possibly be a bad thing in my book…
I haven’t seen Felicity from Take Me Home since February, so her stall was obviously my next stop. I’m currently going through a big phase of dinners that consist of of toast with melted cheese and random veggies (sometimes with soup on the side, sometimes not), so I figured I might as well get a few pizza bases and formalise this arrangement. Cauliflower, caramelised onion and blue cheese pizza is in our future, and maybe a ratatouille pizza, too.
We also got some rocket, mint and ricotta salata gnocchi, which is a lovely pale green and seems fated to go with those little tomatoes, some fractal broccoli, and maybe some pine nuts, if I have any around. Pumpkin and nutmeg gnocchi also went on the list. I’m really tempted to caramelise these with a little butter and sugar and serve them as dessert, except that I have a feeling that one would pretty much have to use pecans and maple syrup with them, and I don’t really like pecans that much… Finally, we bought a potato pizza, for lunch after the market. And of course we had a good catch up – Felicity, like me, has cousins in the La Trobe Valley and near Morwell, so we swapped stories of ashy cars and smoky washing. It’s really not fun down there.
Pumpkins and eggplant are always tempting in autumn, but I still had some from last week’s market (along with the fractal broccoli), so I eschewed these in favour of beetroot. I’m going through a big beetroot phase at present – I found this fabulous recipe for spaghetti with raw beetroot sauce and toasted almonds, and I’m making it about once a week at the moment. It’s very addictive.
Given my thing for brassicas, I also invested in some cauliflower, some green beans, and a couple of capsicums (a farmers’ market rarity – I like to think that this is because Victorian farmers have as much trouble making capsicums grow as I do…). Eggs are also a necessity – vegan baking is all very well, but I’m in the mood for a lemon curd-ish sort of birthday cake, and that really does require eggs and dairy…
One of the more exciting aspects of autumn at the Farmers’ Market is always the apples (well, and the quinces, but again, I got those last week). I’m not a huge apple fan, but I love getting to taste all the varieties and trying to learn and recognise the differences between them. This week, Hazeldean Forest Farm was offering us Jonagold, Snow apples and Bramley apples to try. Andrew loved the Jonagold, but I completely fell for the Bramleys, which look like they might be related to Beurre Bosc pears (as far as I can tell, they are not), with their brownish, mottled skin, and are tart and crunchy and supposedly excellent for cooking. (They are, too – I used them last night in a sweet potato and split pea soup with apples, ginger, cumin and mint for flavouring – very tasty, though next time I will add some chilli). I loved them raw, too.
Also, Bramley apples sound like something that a character in an Enid Blyton book would eat. Probably with blackberries, in a crumble (I should have bought blackberries…). This is intrinsically appealing. Hazeldean has a harvest festival coming up on the Australia Day weekend, which might be fun for a visit. Actually, it’s the time of year for harvest festivals – I’m also tempted by the Trentham Spudfest, which sounds like something my sister in law and I could have fun with.
Moving on from the apples, I decided to buy some dips from Shuki and Louisa. We have Andrew’s family coming for lunch on Thursday for assorted birthdays (mine, my brother-in-law’s, my father-in-laws), and I figure that if I’m doing a fancy-schmancy dessert, the main meal should be pretty simple. Bread, dips, salad, and maybe some ratatouille and a potato tortilla. Shuki did not have my favourite green tahini dip (very sad), which meant that I had to try all the other dips to make a decision. The smoky eggplant was irresistible, as was the carrot, which I haven’t tried before and which is sweet and tangy. Hummus seemed like the right third option.
By this point, I was reverting to my zombie-self (I haven’t been home much in the last few weeks, and unfortunately, when I do get home, I then don’t sleep. It’s very annoying.), so we decided to call it a day and trudge home with our goodies, for a two-cat-enhanced nap (Napping with two cats is not always a restful state – one feels uneasily like Poland, between Russia to the north and Germany to the south, with both parties glaring across the borders).
Lots of beautiful things in the fridge for the last week as a vegetarian for Lent. I don’t know what the difference is, but it has been easier this year. I think I’m finally getting to a point where I have a few more basic vegetarian recipes in my repertoire that aren’t Son Of Return Of The Pasta Bake Strikes Back. While I admit to having already ordered my meat for my post Easter carnivorous phase, I do have hopes of reducing meat down to 2 days a week this year. Maybe. Winter always makes this harder, but we shall see.
Also, a very Happy First Birthday to Coburg Farmers’ Market! Many happy returns – we are so glad to have you here!
Two years ago: Fresh Ginger Cake (Vegan)