There’s another new market in Coburg, this one even closer to where we live! Coburg is seriously getting into this whole markety trend now. It’s a little alarming – I’m not sure I signed up to live in a posh suburb. This one is up at Pentridge, the old prison which is now a rather expensive housing estate (giving a whole new meaning to the idea of a gated community, I must say. This market is part farmers’ market, part craft market, with the farmers mostly outside and upstairs and the crafts (which include a lot of foodie crafts) down a steep flight of stairs inside the old prison itself.
It’s amazingly picturesque, but after Saturday’s exertions, I was walking like an old woman, and my knees did not appreciate the stairs one bit!
(I liked the way the old prison cells are being used as storage for the stall-holders, too. Most amusing.)
There is no ATM at this particular market, so I scoped out the outside section and then went inside and downstairs to get an idea of what was there. I then sent Andrew off to find a bank, because his legs are currently much more operational than mine, while I investigated the Spice Fusion stall, which specialises in every form of savoury spice mix imaginable. Gorgeous. Judy, the stallholder, had Thai beef curry to taste, which was absolutely delicious, and… well, let’s just say that when Andrew returned fifteen minutes later, I was still at the spice stall sniffing spices and chatting away to my new friend about the other markets we go to! Judy is now considering the Coburg Market, which would be excellent.
I decided to be moderate, given my recent depredations at Gewürzhaus, and came away with the Thai Curry mix and an African Veggie Curry mix. Both of these come with little collections of recipe cards, which I think is an excellent idea.
I managed to tear myself away from contemplation of spices to explore the downstairs part of the market more fully. This of course meant that I immediately got waylaid by the chocolate and macaron stall. The macarons were incredibly pretty, but I was more intrigued by the rosemary caramel chocolate (which did, indeed, have a strong rosemary flavour infused into the caramel – very, very good, but I’m not 100% sure it’s to my taste) and the chocolate lollipops full of freeze-dried strawberries and raspberries (delicious, but I wanted more freeze-dried fruit!).
We resisted the marshmallow stall, but the stall selling savoury cakes was certainly worth investigating – we tried the one flavoured with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and Andrew bought some for his lunch. Meanwhile, I breakfasted on tastes of everything from everyone, but eventually settled on a blackberry and apple pie with cream…
A fascinating stall called Le Baobab, specialising in marinades and sauces from West Africa was the next to grab my attention. The Yassa marinade / sauce was clearly too gorgeous to resist, and I’m really looking forward to trying that one out later in the week. Incidentally, all their sauces are vegan friendly and work happily with tofu, which is great.
We then ascended the stairs – with difficulty, in my case – to investigate the more farmerish part of the market. My first stop was, of course the vegetable stall.
I’m not quite sure what I think of the stall. On the up-side, the produce was all very beautiful to look at, and they had tomatoes and capsicum and the happiest looking spinach I’ve seen in ages.
On the down-side, they had tomatoes and capsicum in the middle of winter, and there wasn’t a single weird-looking vegetable to be seen. It was all good quality, and very fresh, but it reminded me of shopping at the supermarket. While it’s very exciting to be buying all these out-of-season veggies with a clear conscience in terms of food miles (they came from the La Trobe Valley), and supporting farmers, they lacked that dodgy, scruffy, what-the-hell-colour-is-this-carrot, this-is-what’s-available-now-and-that’s-all-you’re-getting authenticity that I expect from farmers’ market vegetables.
God, that sounds like inverted vegetable snobbery, which is what I get for being shy about saying that I suspect these veggies were grown for the supermarket circuit, not the organics one. And I’d be very surprised if they were organic (I hasten to add that they did not claim to be). The La Trobe Valley is not known for its balmy weather in July. Though they clearly *were* fresh and good quality.
On the other hand, the veg were also supermarket-cheap, which isn’t a bad thing for a change! We bought sweet potatoes and mushrooms, spring onions and broccoli and fennel and parsley, pumpkin and garlic and zucchini, and yes, the out of season tomatoes and capsicums. Because I *like* tomatoes and capsicums.
Andrew then went off to snack on Gozleme, while I investigated the apple stall. I couldn’t resist the two kilo sack of Royal Gala apples, especially once I’d visited the berry stall and bought half a kilo of frozen blackberries… blackberry and apple crumble, anyone?
The one stallholder I’d seen before (at Fairfield, I think) was the sourdough baker. I remembered his fig and fennel bread from last time, so I made certain to get some of that for my breakfasts this week. I have evil plans once it gets past the stage of just slicing and eating fresh, too – toast it, top it with melted gruyere and serve it with French onion soup, since I still have at least nine kilos of onions left. Yum.
My final stop was the lamb stall, which was selling merguez sausages, a kind of spicy Moroccan sausage which I am partial to (and will go nicely with those capsicums and sweet potatoes later in the week).
I have to say, this is a very different market to any others I’ve seen (and, notably, I only saw one stallholder whom I’d seen before). It’s sort of half farmers’ market and half tourist destination. Above, we have one very good vegetable stall (of which more later) and three fruit stalls, as well as several meat stalls, a sourdough bakery and a few places doing hot food – standard farmers’ market fare, but on a smaller scale than we are used to. Below, we have craft stalls – jewellers, clothing, nappy bouquets and such – but also what I think of as artisinal food: handmade chocolates, boiled sweets and other confections; macarons, cakes and pies; the aforementioned spice stall and another stall selling West African sauces (some of which smelled *amazing*), and a place selling dried fruit and nuts.
Apparently, the make-up of this market will change each week (it’s on every Sunday); it’s a little light on vegetables to become a market for every week, but it does actually have sufficient sensible foodstuffs to be used as a weekly grocery shop with a browse among the gourmet and crafty side of life. It will definitely join our market cycle, not least because it is such an easy walk from home. Or it would be, if I still had knees.
I do hope the dodgy vegetable index will rise, though. It feels weird bringing home all these totally unblemished tomatoes and capsicums…
~~~~~~~~~~~~One year ago: Slice! Which is sort of a review of a cookbook, but mostly about me being obsessed with slice. Two years ago: Leftovers
Two years ago: