My pay cycle lined up again with the Slow Food Market this month, which meant it was time to mosey down to the Abbotsford Convent again and see what gorgeous temptations were on offer. The answer is: many. We are in that glorious time of the year where some farmers still have stone fruits and raspberries and eggplant, while others have new season apples and blackberries and pumpkins and quinces.
Oh yes. Quinces. I never quite understand my own fascination with quinces, to be honest. They are something I can never resist buying when I see them, and I will even seek them out if we get to late April and I haven’t found them, but if I’m really honest with myself, I have to say that I don’t entirely like them. The texture is too grainy, and the flavour can be a bit too much. And yet… they are the most compelling fruit I can think of. It’s their magical way of going from rock-hard and yellow to soft and deep pinkish-red, I think. And, of course, the way the house smells when you are cooking them. Whenever I’m planning to cook quinces, I choose the recipe that has them at the lowest possible temperature and going for the longest possible time, so that I can maximise their wonderful perfuming effect. I suspect that I’d want to cook them even if I actively disliked the flavour.
Anyway. I bought quinces. Obviously. But back to my first round of the market, which is the part where I generally scout things out and don’t buy anything. So many delights today, and I noted the locations of several stalls that I needed to come back to before turning into a little alcove and discovering that Take Me Home pasta and pizzas was there! The lady who makes all these delights actually lives quite close to us, and used to go to Flemington Farmers’ market, but went on an extended wedding trip to Europe last year, and never really came back. Since I absolutely love her pizza bases and her pasta, and she is also just a really lovely person (whose name I really must ask one of these days!) this has been a real loss, so it was wonderful to see her again. I may possibly have over-reacted, buying penne pasta, a ricotta and pumpkin tart, two pizza bases and a potato and rosemary and garlic pizza bianca, which we just had for lunch and which was *amazing*.
She told us, to my delight, that a new market is starting up in a month or two, just around the corner from us in Coburg. This is very exciting news, and I can’t wait to see how it pans out.
We continued our stroll, and it quickly became apparent that pies were going to be necessary – the stone fruit stall had roasted peach pies with blueberry, the pie man had apple and rhubarb, the apple woman had apple and blackberry crumble, the rhubarb lady had rhubarb with cream, and there was an entire stall that was tarts and nothing but. I’m a huge fan of hot fruit desserts, so I think it shows considerable restraint on my part that we only wound up with two fruit pies, one iconic of late summer, and the other of early autumn. Both look absolutely glorious, and I can still smell the cinnamon that came from handling them.
You may be noticing a bit of a theme, here, and it’s true that this particular market has been a big one for me buying pre-prepared foods. Partly, this is about my inability to resist pie. Partly, it was because Andrew was casting longing looks at the pumpkin crostata (he’ll do that). But mostly it’s because I’m being run off my feet in a few directions at present, and am about to go into Easter, which for me involves singing in at least five different church services over a four day period, all of which require rehearsal at some point. Having a few dinners ready to go seems wise.
Especially if they are glorious things like the veggie burgers from the lovely lady at Larderfresh, whose burgers I really can’t recommend enough – they are vegan, gluten-free, onion-free, and taste like you made them yourself, on one of your better cooking days…
Also, of course, I still have all those beautiful vegetables from Farmhouse Direct, so I didn’t really need to stock up on vegetables as much as usual. Though that all goes out the window when I see things like half a kilo of raspberries for $12…
I have no concrete plans for these raspberries as yet (maybe I should make them into a pie), but there was no way I could walk past that bounty. And then Rita’s nephew was there, with baby eggplants and zucchini flowers!
I do have plans for the zucchini flowers – I think they will be just lovely stuffed with the buttermilk ricotta I accidentally ordered last week.
And speaking of things I really shouldn’t have ordered last week, I just have to pause in my market gloat for a Farmhouse Direct gloat, and show you my gorgeous marshmallows…
They really do taste as amazing as they look. And, since I didn’t make a Christmas Pudding last year, it was of course necessary to buy a chocolate and cherry pudding for Easter Sunday. I’m already planning to make Rita’s cousin Rosa’s amazing pasta bake for Sunday lunch – the one with pasta mixed with a sauce made out of lamb shanks and beef mince and lots of tomato, and then layered with provolone and mozzarella and basil and hard boiled eggs. Sounds like a traditional Easter Sunday meal to me…
But back to today’s gloat. Because I am *far* from done gloating. We sat down for a bit at the tables outside the convent bakery, so that I could enjoy my gruyere and asparagus tart and fresh orange juice without dropping everything else. From this angle, we could see the back of the stalls, which was handy, because for some reason the only person who I have ever observed selling tomatillos in Australia had hidden said tomatilloes right up the back of his stall.
Why would you do that? I didn’t even think you could grow tomatilloes here – they are one of those American mystery ingredients that appear in recipes and have to be ignored. They are kind of fascinating to look at, really – you have to peel off the skins, and on the inside, they look like green tomatoes, very round and shiny and a bit sticky. I gather they need to be cooked before eating.
Now, of course, I’m going to have to remember where I found all those tomatillo recipes, because I honestly don’t have a clue any more. But, on the whole, I really just need a recipe for proof of concept, because I already have a pretty good idea of what I want to combine them with. I recently bought some of that really black, 99% cocoa chocolate, with vague thoughts in mind of mole sauce, and of course I have that wonderful pumpkin seed meal to thicken it, and chipotle chilli powder for smokey heat. And then, of course…
… I do have one or two peppers at present. And the tomatoes I bought today. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen tomatilloes paired with all of those things, and if I can’t come up with something rather glorious with all those ingredients to hand, I’m just not trying. Some black beans might be a thought, too.
The next stall we went to was all about nuts and citrus fruit and mangoes and avocado. It’s interesting – I know at least two different market stalls with this combination of foods. I wonder if they are plants that grow well together? Or perhaps they just like similar soil? In any case, this particular stall, in addition to selling fresh orange juice and pistachios, was also selling citrus fruit powders, made from drying the flesh or rind of citrus fruits, and then pulverising them. I bought pink grapefruit rind and lemon flesh and was given orange with my voucher.
Also, you have to know (and I really should have photographed this) that this stall was also selling the most beautiful Easter baskets – they had made nest-like baskets out of twisted and dried vines, and then taken pistachios, still in their furry pink and green shells, and nestled them in the baskets to look like Easter Eggs. So incredibly pretty! I wish I’d thought to take a picture.
Our next stop had to be for more of that amazing strawberry wine from Sunny Ridge strawberry farm, somewhere I really need to visit. I haven’t picked strawberries since I was a child (largely because any attempts to grow strawberries here are stymied by Mayhem’s insistence on sitting on them). Their wines, I have just discovered, go by the name Rebello Wines and can be bought online. Honestly, I’m so incredibly excited by these wines – I’m not a drinker, in general, but these actually taste good. And their ciders (apple or pear, which you can by plain, or in mulled versions, or in versions which have been infused with strawberries or raspberries) are deliciously fresh and taste properly of fruit. Just amazing. (Oh, and I’ve just seen – on Easter Sunday, they have pick your own strawberries *and* Easter eggs. I so want to go there now…)
Anyway, it’s wonderful wine. And a wonderful market.
But I must admit, the idea of a Farmers’ Market within walking distance is just about irresistible…
(Now I have to go and decide between menu planning, a nap, and going out and being sociable. Currently, the nap is winning…)