No doubt about it, our Farmers’ Market (which is the one in Debney Park / Flemington, for those who are wondering) is definitely growing. I’m finding it increasingly hard to stay within my nominal budget, because there is so much to choose from! True, there are the regular stalls, from which I get so many beautiful things, but increasingly there are new faces, who may show up once or twice and think better of it, or who may turn into regulars.
The man with the goat, for example, is now there every time we are, as is the fish man. But I don’t need fish or goat every fortnight, so I feel kind of guilty when I bypass them for the much rarer free-range chicken place or the free-range wagyu beef (not previously encountered, but quite promising). The pasta man is now a regular, and we get the Bedouin lady increasingly often, along with Outback Spirit. Today, there was a new place selling treats for pets, and a listening booth for the local MP.(“Look! There’s a politician stall!” “I don’t think I want one of those. Actually, it doesn’t matter – he’s a Green, so he probably can’t be bought anyway…”)
I did my usual somewhat hyperactive tour of all the stalls and quickly realised that there was no way I was staying within my budget today (I have to get those free-range chickens whenever I see them, because they are about the only ones I trust, but they are not cheap), before winding up, as was inevitable, in front of Rita’s vegetable stall for my cardoon and wild greens fix, and to ask how her husband was doing (still in hospital, but doing well).
The problem with wild greens, of course, is that I cannot for the life of me remember what any of them are called apart from the rapa (though I am getting better at remembering which ones I don’t like, even if I can’t remember what they are called – milk thistle, I think, is the one that is not for me). Once again, I asked Rita to tell me, and once again it went in one ear and out the other. So I have rapa and something else that isn’t a milk thistle…
She had a lot of garlic, more beautiful cauliflower and the little sprouting broccoli which I really like because it’s so much easier to prepare than proper broccoli heads – no peeling the stems to use them, no separating of florets, just chop the whole thing into lengths and sauté it with onion, chilli, garlic and good sausage, a splash of white wine, and then serve it with pasta and parmesan.
(Why yes, I do know what we are having for dinner later this week…)
Then we went and looked at the various meat stalls, and decided that today was the day to try the wagyu beef stall, especially because they had sausages on special and I knew just exactly what I wanted to do with sausages. So that was handy. The woman at the stall told me very seriously that these sausages should be cooked over moderate heat and rested once they were done, which is a whole new level of sausagemanship that I was not previously aware of. Maybe another time – the broccoli and sausage pasta is calling me.
The potato lady (not to be confused with the potato man, who also sells strawberries) had Winlock potatoes this week, which are apparently good to mash. I have a shoulder of lamb waiting for the slow cooker, so this sounded good to me.
Eggs are a farmers’ market staple, ever since I discovered that farmers’ market free-range eggs have all different coloured yolks, unlike the suspiciously homogenous supermarket variety (I am sad, however, that Koallah no longer sells eggs – for some reason, their yolks were particularly brilliantly yellow when used in cakes, and this always made me happy). And next to the egg stall was a stall I haven’t visited a while, mostly because their greens are lovely but they don’t have weirdly-coloured vegetables and I think we all know where my biases lie here…
She had teeny tiny little Brussels sprouts (very apt, since this weekend is the anniversary of Waterloo), slender little leeks, beautiful salad greens and red cabbage. I don’t really like red cabbage most of the time, but at this time of year I get a bit of a yen for it, cooked with onion and apple and butter and, ideally, served with good frankfurters and mashed potato (I can’t sell Andrew on the frankfurter part of the equation, but he eats the rest with pretty good grace for someone who doesn’t like cabbage *or* potato). I have a feeling that red cabbage would also be a good accompaniment for a really lush roast chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, so I may have to try that out.
The mushroom man was back, with more mushroom growing kits in addition to his mushrooms, and also little bags of lemon verbena, and a glorious string of bay leaves. I couldn’t possibly resist.
On to the colourful vegetable stall, which delighted me by having not just colourful carrots but more fractal broccoli romanesco! Which meant that at this point I had covered virtually the entire brassica family (cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sprouting broccoli, romanesco), but that’s OK. It’s that time of year, anyway. Fractal broccoli is absolutely a must for the birthday of my mathematician friend who is visiting tomorrow.
They also had some lovely looking pumpkins and onions and parsley, and the most handsomely dark green spinach I have seen in some time. I am not sure what meal it will be in, but it will certainly be gorgeous.
Next door, the potato man’s wife was selling broccoli (I declined on the grounds of having sufficient brassicas now), garlic (one can always use more garlic), strawberry vinegar and strawberry syrup – the proper kind, that really tastes like strawberries. I already have strawberry vinegar, so it was definitely syrup time. And that’s actually worked out quite well for me, because my local friendly choir conductor gave me a lift home from choir today and was very much in search of cake, so we wound up going to the local Italian cake shop, which sells, among other things, really wonderful sponge fingers. I can’t help feeling that sponge fingers, strawberry syrup, mascarpone and berries (maybe with a little berry liqueur and some grated chocolate) will turn out to be the dessert we had to have…
The Bedouin lady was back, and I decided that what we really needed in our lives was some felafel, which she does exceptionally well, and sells with a little container of tahini sauce on the side. And some baklava, of course. It never ceases to amaze me how every single person who makes baklava makes it differently. The Bedouin lady’s baklava is rather more buttery in flavour than I prefer, but the texture is the best I’ve tasted – divinely crisp and crunchy and melt in the mouth at the same time. Yum.
I don’t usually get much from the orange stall – we have an orange tree that provides us with too many oranges as it is – but I noticed today that they had the really lovely dried apples again, as well as lemonade lemons, a sweet lemon variety that I have heard of, but never tasted. The orange man then gave us a tangello which was apparently imperfect (I couldn’t see us), and then a navel orange, so that we could take them all home to try and then come back to tell him which was sweetest. I really wasn’t going to argue with that logic, especially given how beautiful citrus fruits are in this grey season…
At that point it was nearly choir time and I hadn’t had breakfast, so we went to see what the cooked breakfast chappie was doing. And then I couldn’t make up my mind, so he made me buy gnocchi with tomatoey sauce and parmesan and I think ground pistachios and spices over the top. I am usually a bit doubtful about both gnocchi and plain tomato sauces, but this was really good – the sauce was full of rosemary and the gnocchi were really melty and lovely, and the whole warm bowlful would have sent me back to my nice, cosy bed, if I hadn’t had choir to go to…
Actually, I could about go there now. But I still have to make at least two kinds of cake, and figure out dinner for tonight and tomorrow, not to mention singing practice and music theory and putting away the rest of the vegetables and sorting out lunches for work this week…
Maybe I can nap next weekend?
This time last year…In which I am unintimidating Leftovers for lunch: Roast Vegetable and Chickpea Salad Recipe: Beetroot gnocchi Review: Agnes and the Hitman, by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer