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Return of the Farmers’ Market!

I’m back!  I’ve survived my exam (though I’m still annoyed with myself for getting nervous and going flat – something I have never done before and hope never to do again), and I even have some videos from my practice recital, if you’re curious…

The onion is curious, but not as curious as the interrogatory leek.

… But I must admit, much as I love every piece of music I got to sing today, I am even more delighted at the prospect of learning something new now.  I think I spent a solid hour fiddling around with random bits of Dowland and Purcell when I got home from the exam, just because I could.

Anyway, because I am mildly insane, I went to both the market *and* choir this morning, before running home, photographing vegetables, and sticking a chicken in the slow cooker in best domestic goddess style so that I could serve a lovely dinner to my accompanist after *he* had finished with the Evensong he had to play for after my exam (Sunday is a busy day for us church music types).

Fortunately, Mayhem is very willing to assist in the inspection of vegetables.

And that means that not only do you get a market post, you get a market post from a Catherine who has been very well-fed this evening, because she just doesn’t know when to stop once she starts making roast vegetables and goose-egg aioli and tirami-trifle and that sort of thing…

It’s officially Spring out there, now, and the weather seems to agree, in that special Melbourney way which involves even more enthusiastic changes of weather than usual, with bonus high winds.  But because it’s early Spring, things are still a little bare in the vegetable department at the farmers’ market.  I was noticing recently that we are eating a lot more meat at present, but I think the reason is that in Summer it’s really easy to go to the market and buy lots of vegetarian and vegan goodies to build a meal around… whereas at this time of year, there are greens and brassicas and root vegetables, and none in particular abundance, I might add – so the exciting ingredients tend to be things like goat or venison or cheese or goose eggs.

And speaking of goose eggs…

They are lovely, aren’t they?  The hen eggs were actually delivered by our lovely beef and lamb people at Koallah, but I wanted to show you the size comparison.  No quail eggs, alas, because we are in the wrong fortnight for Rita and her husband, but goose eggs are still excellent.  And yes, they make great mayonnaise.  I’ve been told they aren’t much good for meringue but they make excellent sponge cake, which sounds inconsistent to me – most sponge cakes require whipped egg-whites to rise – so I may try for goose egg pavlova sometime this week, just to make a point…

I actually went to the market today with a Plan.  It’s unusual for me to have concrete ideas about things I want to cook, but I knew I wanted to make the chicken aioli for dinner tonight, and I knew I wanted something easy for lunch.  I also knew I wanted lamb shanks, because I recently bought this rather amazing Australian-Sicilian cookbook that reminds me of my Nonna (who was not Sicilian, but was Southern Italian), and was written by, I think, a cousin of Rita.  If I have the right book, which I might not.

Gratuitous broccoli. Actually, the third one is kind of gratuitous, because I picked up one of the broccols and commented that it must be the end of the season because it looked a bit sad, and the girl told me that no, actually this was a different variety which was more yellowy in colour and was her favourite – and put an extra one in the bag.

Anyway, it’s called My Cousin Rosa, and it’s fabulous and talks about where to find wild cardoons and fennel and how to make salami and ricotta, and all sorts of lovely things like that, and there’s this recipe for Pasta al Forno which is so clearly the meal you make when all the cousins are coming around and you want something big and festive but can’t afford all that much meat – so you make this ragout which has 500g of mince beef and 2.5 kg of tomatoes and a couple of lamb shanks (which you later cannibalise for an extra layer), and a few slices of mortadella, and hard boiled eggs, and all sorts of things like that in layers with ridiculous quantities of pasta, and it looks really interesting, so I’ll be making it when we have friends around this Wednesday.

Well, I could have had lamb shanks, but then there was the goat lady who gave me the goat I really liked last time, and she had goat shanks.  I seem to recall that goat is much easier to come by in southern Italy than lamb, so I called Tradition, and went with the goat shanks instead.  I’m really curious to see how this pasta bake will taste.  I also got some goat sausages (it turns out that Andrew really likes goat), and some pies for lunch – venison for me, and beef with cheddar and Guiness for Andrew.  I have Plans for the second pie, too – the AFL Grand Final is coming up soon, and it looks as though Hawthorn may be in it, which means I am honour-bound to watch football for once, and this cannot be done without pie. (I draw the line at beer, even if one is supposed to get a whole slab and use it to stand on so that one can see over the heads of the people in front of one).

The meaty part – goat shanks, and assorted pies.

Boy, am I digressing all over the place.  What can I say?  It’s been a long time.  I’ve missed you.  Anyway, having got our goat (sorry, I had to) (just kidding!  I’m not sorry at all!  As you can tell by the kid pun!) (ooh, and I could make another pun about how the Hawks beat the Pies, but I won’t.  Even though I may possibly be gloating about this a tiny bit…), we moved on to the French bread stall, for chocolate croissants and lovely chewy olive bread.

I do think these loaves are beautiful to look at, as well as eat.

Then I thought I’d better get some veggies before I accidentally spent all my money on frivolities.  So it was over to the green veggie lady, who had onions and carrots and tiny leeks (all of which I needed for my chicken), and baby spinach and salad greens (to make our pie-lunches seem a little healthier), and cauliflower to make ‘rice’ pilaf (my other new cookbook, Practically Raw, is also seeing a lot of use at present, and one of these days I must tell you *all* about my vegetable spiraliser), and the aforementioned funny-looking broccoli, which was sort of flat and a bit khaki and really did look a bit dodgy, but I will report back on it once I’ve used it.

Brassicas all together

I also needed potatoes, because while strictly speaking chicken aioli is just fine with bread and salad, I can’t do without my roasted potatoes.  And Dutch Cream are particularly nice.

This looks oddly stone-hengey or crop circle-ish. Not sure what, but I like it.

And speaking of chicken aioli, I wish I could figure out the Chicken Algorithm – the market chicken people are completely haphazard in when they show up, with an odd arrangement of weekends and a tendency to sell out on Saturday and thus not show up on their weekend anyway. All I know is that if I get the almost-certainly-proper-free-range chicken from the butcher on Saturday, they will be there on Sunday, but if I do not, they won’t be…

Which came first? The free-range chicken or the goose egg?
(Yeah, I know, but I had two pictures that I liked of the eggs, so I had to do something with this one, didn’t I?)

The nicest-looking pumpkin today happened to be at the olive stall.  Of course.  And the blood oranges must be coming to the end of their season, because they were enormous and a little past their best.  They still juiced beautifully, however.  Andrew, in fact, was completely hypnotised by the orange juicing machine.  I think he may want one of his very own…

For some reason, my orange vegetables wanted to be a hot-air balloon. I blame the exuberantly odd steampunk romance I’ve been reading this week. (I didn’t have enough oranges for a proper airship, you see…)

A new stall today was a lady selling all sorts of lovely Mexican goodies – tortillas, guacamole, and little soft taco packs, which had a complete meal ready to go – soft tacos, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, mole sauce, and either refried beans, chicken, or beef.  She was also selling ice-cream and cake and frankly, I could have moved in right then, it all looked so good.  Given all the meat we had, we chose the refried bean taco pack, which will be dinner one night this week.

This photo really does not do the pack justice, but it really does have all your taco needs in one little box.

And then it was off to church for me, to sing Purcell’s Bell Anthem, which is still in my head as I type this, possibly because it is one of the most gorgeous verse anthems in the English language.  Not that I’m biased, or anything.  But really, it’s Purcell, which is always a good start, and also it’s totally amazing, and I love the whole bell-sequence in the violins or piano at the start.  See what I mean? (I think we do it better, though.  Not least because I think I sing better than most male altos!)

And then photography and tidying and cooking and music exam and more cooking, and eating, which brings me back to where I started with this post.  I think I’ll be writing about cookbooks for a few days, while I get back up to cooking and recipe-writing speed, since I am strangely tired after all these singing festivities (and work hasn’t been exactly quiet).

It’s good to be back, though.

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This time last year…

Recipe: Smoked Trout, Sun-dried Tomato and Leek Pasta Bake
Recipe: Steph’s Sticky Date Pudding Cupcakes
Just some domestic cooking…
Recipe: Not Really Moussaka
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