Also, how about that strange, mushroom-shaped one? Apparently it goes by the name of a Turk’s Turban – I’ve seen it in catalogues, but never actually tasted one. That is clearly going to have to change.
All of which is to say it is definitely, definitely autumn around here, and the markets are showing it. No more eggplant or tomatoes or peppers, corn and beans are coming to an end, and the March of the Cucurbits has begun. Along, of course, with all the root vegetables and dark leafy greens that are going to see us through the winter.
The pizza lady was back again today, but told us she wouldn’t be around for a few months now, as she is going to Italy to get married and then she will be travelling around Europe. But she made sure we knew where to get pizza bases if we needed them before August, which was nice – and she also asked me if we had a big feast over Easter – apparently she did, and she was thinking of me. I’m fairly impressed that she even remembered I was fasting for Lent, to be honest.
Anyway, I got a couple of pizza bases, and also some chocolate gnocchi, because who would not like chocolate gnocchi? Not that I’ve ever tried it, but actually, I can think of some deluded people who wouldn’t like such a thing, because I used to enjoy making chocolate ravioli as a dessert thing a few years ago, and some people were very weirded out by this. So maybe they wouldn’t appreciate such a delicacy, but I certainly would, and the pizza lady seemed rather pleased when she started describing how to prepare them and I started chiming in about white chocolate to look like grated parmesan, and berry coulis passata and so forth…
My next stop was for eggs, because I’ve been wanting to bake Frugal Feeding’s caraway seed cake, which does need them, but I didn’t have any, and I don’t trust the ones from the supermarket to be sufficiently free-range. I think I’ll make some to go with the ruby quinces with rosemary and red wine I’m making for dessert tomorrow night tomorrow night. Quinces are the entire culinary point of autumn, in my view…
A newcomer to the market was a fishmonger, with all sorts of interesting goodies. We don’t eat fish much – Andrew doesn’t like it, and I am afraid of bones and of the fish not being fresh, and when you put these things together with the fact that it is usually terribly expensive, it doesn’t seem worth the bother. Also, recipes from European or US recipe books invariably call for species of fish that my local fishmonger doesn’t have, and if I ask them what might be a good substitute, they gaze at me blankly. But not only did this chap have rather nice fish all vaccuum packed and filleted (and in some cases marinated) and surprisingly cheap, he was also able to answer questions like “If I wanted to put fish in a sort of stew with tomatoes and olives and potatoes, what kind of fish should that be?”. Rockling fillet, as it turns out. We will see if I can make this Andrew-friendly, since fish is allegedly good brain-food, and tuna (which is about all he will eat in the fish department) is not very environmentally sound.
Then I thought it might be a good idea to get some vegetables. Which is to say, I spotted the potato and garlic people and thought I’d see what exciting things they had to offer today. Incidentally, have I mentioned that they really have the most beautiful garlic I have ever seen or tasted?
I decided to be dull and get some Nicola potatoes, on the grounds that there is limited use in getting exciting new kinds of potatoes if I am just going to forget what they are by the time I get home.
I also got some strawberries, because this is compulsory. Balsamic strawberries for dessert tonight, yum!
Most excitingly, she also had garlic bulbs to plant – quite edible, of course, but she told me that these were the ones they had found grew best. My garden is currently in a stage of autumn neglect (with rampant Jerusalem artichokery), but the possibility of garlic in spring was too good to pass up.
The berry lady has no more berries at this time of year, and has thus become the jam lady. Now that we can have lamb again, I decided to try her mint jelly, which is a lovely golden colour flecked with bits of mint, not disturbingly green like the kind you get at the shops. Lovely.
I carefully ignored the cupcake stall, even though it was calling my name in dozens of sweet little cupcakey voices, because we really needed some leafy greens, and moved over to the next stall for some kale and leeks and baby spinach. And some wild fennel and green beans, because why not?
The Bedouin lady was back again, with more fascinating savoury things including toasted pita bread with za’atar – not difficult to make, but delicious with labneh and an excellent place to start tomorrow evening’s dinner.
And, oh how handy, I had just enough money left for half a dozen cupcakes after all! How very convenient. I must say, the sticky date ones were particularly fine, though the sparkly red apple one had a certain panache.
Alas, the sixth cupcake met its fate before I was able to return home from choir to photograph it. Apparently, getting all the veggies in from the car is hungry work.
Why the pumpkins are going after the cupcakes, I’m not sure. Perhaps because baby pumpkins are very cute, but still not as cute as sparkly cupcakes? If you ask me, they are absolutely and definitively doing West Side Story, and Tony Pumpkin is just about to fall in love with Maria Meringue Cupcake. Anita is the red sparkly one, of course. Because she’s an mezzo, and being a mezzo is all about the red sparkly things. Their love is doomed, because we fully intend to eat all the cupcakes today, and stuff the baby pumpkins for tomorrow’s dinner. Alas, poor pumpkins! I knew them, Horatio – cucurbits of infinite flavour. I hope…
(for never was a story more half baked, than this of pumpkin Tony and Maria cupcake)