It’s been a couple of months since we visited a weekend farmers market (we’ve been quite diligent about going to the ones at Melbourne Uni, since they are so convenient to where we work, but the range of produce is much narrower there, and one doesn’t really want to be carrying bags and bags of veggies home on the tram), and in that time, the season has changed from summer to winter.
Though, this being Melbourne, the red cabbage and Brussels sprouts at one stall were being blatantly upstaged by the eggplants, sweet corn and strawberries available at the stall across the way. Apparently, these were grown in Wandin. I was wondering if Wandin has a wormhole to the Northern hemisphere, but it’s probably just really good hydroponics and glasshouses…
Seasons and wormholes aside, Bundoora has always been a largeish market, and I think it’s become even bigger since we last visited in February. It definitely has more fruit and vegetable stalls, which made me happy – at least nine or ten, I would think – as well as several pasta and sauce stalls, a number of bakeries, the vegan dairy stall, chocolate stalls, peanut butter stalls, muesli stalls, and pie stalls. And let’s place particular emphasis on the latter, because one of the main reasons we try to get to Bundoora for their market is Gum Tree Pies from Yackandandah. Since Yackandandah is up near Canberra, they only come down to our end of the world once a month, and fair enough too.
They usually sell out early, so you have to make sure you are at the market by 10am, or sometimes even earlier, if you want a choice of flavours. The pies are completely worth getting up for, however. We bought lamb and mint, beef and burgundy, and Penang Pumpkin, and had our lamb pies for lunch on Saturday. Yum.
Since it really has been a long time between markets for us, we were determined to buy nothing that wasn’t either pie-related or breakfast on our first tour of the stalls, which meant that I got to see just how many new veggie stalls there were. And there were a lot. But our tour of the market ended with a new bakery stall, and since I had just remembered about the sausages I had bought that needed eating, I decided that some rye bread would be just the thing to go with them.
Vegetables really were the goal of today’s outing – having been mugged by the Mediterranean Wholesale Supermarket last week, I really had no need for cheese or pasta or salami, or pasta sauces no matter how appealing – so I thought I’d check out the first in line, not least because they had really rather beautiful Dutch Cream potatoes.
They also had some lovely red onions and butternut pumpkins, and I was feeling soupish, so I invested. (Though having returned home, I now realise that I have shallots and brown onions in addition to the red onions I just bought. I may have to make French Onion Soup this weekend, in self-defense.
Despite my newfound enthusiasm for chickpea foam, I did still need eggs, so we headed over to the Green Eggs stall, where I mentioned my chickpea experiments to the stallholder. In detail. Because I am obsessed with chickpea meringues. Actually, my next quest is chickpea macarons, and I’ve decided that the first step in this quest is to make them properly, with eggs, as proof of concept that I can make macarons that look good, before messing with the recipe – hence my need for eggs.
Anyway, I explained all this to the stallholder, with bouncing, and he told me that chickpea was the magic word of the day, and gave me a bag of organic puy lentils with my eggs. I still have no idea whether chickpea was really the magic word, or whether he was giving all his customers lentils today, or if he just really, really wanted me to stop talking about chickpea meringues and thought that lentils might shut me up. Either way, I scored some lovely free lentils, and immediately began contemplating the possibilities of lentil foam…
Next to the egg stall was a man making macaroni cheese. This was so clearly a stroke of brilliance in Melbourne’s cold weather that we were drawn to his stall as if magnetised, despite having had pasta bake for dinner the previous night. Let’s face it – macaroni cheese in cold weather is basically heaven. This was a four-cheese macaroni cheese, and it had a choice of toppings – pesto, salsa, chilli, bacon or crispy breadcrumbs. We went for plain mac and cheese with breadcrumbs, since it was too early in the morning for strong flavours and Andrew has a strong anti-bacon stance. It was very good and very comforting. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Twisted Mac in future.
I decided we needed more vegetables, so we tried another stall, which had broccoli and rhubarb, both things I can’t get enough of. And then we got distracted by the stall with all the fancy scrolls – cinnamon, chocolate and cashew, salted caramel, and lamington. Andrew had the cinnamon scroll, which was covered in so much icing sugar he started looking a bit like Santa Claus by the time he was done. I had the salted caramel, which was perhaps a little sweet for breakfast, but quite manageable after the macaroni cheese…
The next vegetable stall along seemed to think it was summer. They had cucumber, beans, zucchini, capsicums, eggplants and even sweet corn. And I’d just like to remind anyone who is reading this from the northern hemisphere that not only is it winter here, but we’re currently having a particularly cold winter, particularly for the start of June – I believe the maximum on Thursday was 9°C, but due to the fact that Melbourne rather specialises in rain and wind on cold days, it felt just as cold as a Parisian January to my cold fingers. In other words, not sweetcorn weather.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy sweetcorn in June, but I can never resist eggplants and capsicums, so I bought a couple of each. And then spent the next few minutes being nostalgic for Paris and Germany – in January or in any weather, really. (My penfriend is in France right now and has been sending me these summery pictures of the French countryside. I am wildly envious!)
While I was on a roll with the unseasonality, I dropped by one of the three separate stalls selling strawberries (seriously, I don’t understand this, it is NOT strawberry weather) for a large punnet. I’m feeling in the mood for rhubarb and strawberry crumble, I think. The strawberries were perhaps a little pale, but I could also smell them from a couple of metres away, and that decided me.
I’d noticed on Friday that my garlic had all started sprouting or going evil, so the garlic stall was a natural place to stop next. We bought a couple of bulbs – all the better to make your eggplant luscious with, my dear! – and moved on.
By this point, my cold was making itself felt again, and I was about ready to go home, but then I saw peppers – beautiful, bright, sweet, long peppers. I am a complete sucker for peppers – I buy them whenever I see them, no matter what I was planning to do previously.
Of course, I wasn’t expecting to see summery bright peppers at a stall that also had apples, kale, and that icon of winter vegetables – red cabbage. Obviously, having red cabbage meant that I had to buy apples at the same time, because everyone knows that you can’t have red cabbage without apples. And probably sausages and potatoes, both of which I also have.
(Digression: this year’s Eurovision, being held in Vienna, inspired me to try my hand at some Eastern European cooking. So I made Goulash and Red Cabbage and Spätzle, and Sachertorte and Strudel and then went out of the house to get something at the shops, and when I came back, the house smelled like visiting Oma when I was little and I nearly cried. And then I had to go out again and by frankfurters and potatoes to mash, because that is what you eat with red cabbage. It is the rule.)
Anyway. Earlier in the day, we had been enticed to try some popcorn from a man who was making it fresh. Well, I was enticed. Andrew is as strict in his anti-popcorn stance as he is in his anti-bacon stance. The popcorn was lovely – light and soft and salty and sweet – by far the best popcorn I’ve ever tried. So yes, I had to go back for a proper bagful. Which is mine, all mine…
I really did have enough vegetables, but the stall devoted to spinach and rocket looked so fresh and green and beautiful that I couldn’t resist. Since I’ve already used some of the spinach to make green scrambled eggs this morning, I think it was a worthwhile stop…
And that was about it. I was decidedly tempted by fancy pasta and fancy sausages – and even more so by the vegan dairy and the many, many cheese stalls, but I’m only just getting back into the swing of markets. To be honest, I’ve not been doing well recently at actually cooking the food I’ve bought, and I didn’t want to push my luck. Also, I am currently feeling compelled to make things with chickpea foam, as well as to make caramels, neither of which make buying a lot of chocolates or cakes look like a good idea.
Still, I never have managed to get Turkish Delight to work at home, and the maker had not just my favourite rose flavour, but also spearmint. Maybe we did need one more thing for our market bags after all.
I regret nothing.