I’m pretty sure those Starks would be considered far less bad-ass if that was their motto. But moving right along…
I have a rotten, depressing sort of cold right now, and am feeling very negative about the whole thing. But the house smells richly of tagine – chicken, pumpkin, sweet potato, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, dried apricots and raisins with ras el hanout and harissa to give them zing. That will be dinner, alongside the onion rolls I bought at the market this morning, and dessert will be apple and rhubarb pie, with Jonesy’s superlateively good cream. I may feel entirely vile, but things are looking up.
Someone apparently told Melbourne on Friday that it was winter, and Melbourne responded with characteristic enthusiasm and flash-flooding, much of which was coming down sideways, because Melbourne also thinks that rain is much more fun when it isn’t really vertical. Fortunately, after spending a day or so on that, Melbourne lost interest in the whole rain thing, and today was accordingly sunny and cold at the farmers’ markets, if a trifle damp underfoot.
Still, the weather was much under discussion, because while farmers do, on the whole, like it to rain, they prefer to have their annual rainfall in multiple showers, rather than as one job lot dumped on them from above and washing away their crops… There were one or two stalls missing from the usual array, possibly due to the farmers in question dealing with damage at home, though most of the farmers we talked to had done OK, and one had apparently missed out on the rain entirely.
My quest today was to get lots of veggies for tagines. Tagines are perfect for this sort of weather, being very easy to cook but very warming, and I’d stocked up on beautiful spices and slow-cooking cuts of meat with this in mind. We started, as is becoming traditional, with a quick drop by to chat to Robyn from Misty Spring Berries. She got quite a nice amount of rain, and was therefore one of the cheerier stallholders present. We caught up, and established that our friends at Wild Dog were on holiday rather than underwater, before heading over to Rita’s stall to see what goodies she had available.
Cardoons are back in season at last, and I have a plan for a beef and cardoon tagine later this week, so I snaffled some immediately.
Rita also had my favourite sprouting broccoli, Fat Hen (which I have learned to recognise as one of the less bitter wild greens), lots of onions, lovely bright wedges of pumpkin, and her little sweet peppers.
And she had crumbed artichokes! Crumbed artichokes never stop being exciting…
Our beloved Gum Tree pies have decided that the trip from up near Canberra is no longer sustainable (and fair enough too), but my favourite purveyor of apple and rhubarb pie was there. We had a good catch up about pies and market politics, and planned to come back at the end of our market trip to see if we could afford a steak and onion pie, too. We could.
I need carrots for most of my tagine plans, so I bought carrots from just about everywhere today. The organic vegetable stall had lovely fat orange ones, and the colourful vegetable stall had baby carrots in purple, yellow, orange and even red, as well as larger purple, orange and yellow varieties. I made a nuisance of myself digging deep into the pile of carrots for the lone reddish one, but they didn’t seem to mind.
The colourful vegetable people also had fractal broccoli, which is a guaranteed buy whenever I see it. It’s such a beautiful vegetable.
Now that the pantry challenge is over, I’m allowed to buy pantry items in moderation (though I’m still drawing the line at honey and jam). A new stall called Spread had a number of dips and pickles, and also a rather remarkable blackberry vinegar. The stallholder told us with great enthusiasm about the hazards of picking wild blackberries – which are a major weed in Australia – and the number of scratches she had acquired in harvesting the berries she needed for this vinegar. Even without her valiant tales of battle with invasive vegetation, we would have bought this vinegar – it was sweet and sharp and tasted strongly of blackberries, and when she suggested roasting onions with it, I was sold on the spot.
I’ve been ogling the new season’s pistachios for weeks now, but have been unable to buy them, and have twice picked up dried mangos and then put them down again, remembering that they are, quite literally, forbidden fruit during the month of May. But no longer do I need to hold back, and I can’t wait to use these pistachios in couscous or fruity nutty rice to accompany even more tagines… (The mangos require no recipe and will simply be devoured as they are)
Time for more vegetables! The organic vegetable stall also had tiny leeks…
… and the colourful vegetable stall also had bags of green beans, and fennel bulbs. It’s easy to forget how beautiful fennel is, but sometimes it seems like a piece of artwork in its own right.
I wasn’t planning to go to the bakery today, but there’s just something about their onion rolls that is very hard to resist…
I didn’t try very hard. Nor did I resist the cake shop that sells the sort of afternoon-tea-ish cakes that I adore. In fact, I was having all sorts of weird cravey-dreams about those cakes last night in among the strange feverish nightmares. It would have been wrong not to buy them.
I still rather wanted potatoes, so with Wild Dog away, this cat decided to play at the other potato stall, with some Bullarto Pink potatoes.
After which it was clearly my duty to find something luscious for breakfast, the better to fuel the morning’s singing efforts. I found it at the breakfast stall, where this fortnight’s version of poached eggs on polenta and brioche involved pickled cabbage, carrot puree, cauliflower puree, fig chutney, and a variety of other things that I lost track of. I do love the way the breakfast chef offers the same menu all year round, and makes it taste different every week.
Then onto choir, which was given an extra level of difficulty today by the fact that I couldn’t really hear myself except distantly. Did I mention that I have a cold and that it’s turning me into a huge sook? Apparently I was still singing in tune, which was probably luck. The music deserved better.
And back home for lunch and the photography of vegetables – you don’t want to know how much time I spent trying to persuade those broccoli sprouts to balance on their stalks – and a sooky, lazy afternoon, full of Codral and German cookies (mostly, admittedly, just the consciousness of their presence – I didn’t really feel like eating them), and just enough cooking to get the tagine into a slow cooker in time to make dinner plausible.
There are definitely worse ways to spend a Sunday.
~~~~~~~~~~Two years ago: Review: Gingerbread: Timeless Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Ice Cream and Candy, by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn