Well, that was a longer break than I expected it to be. I’d like to thank the NHMRC’s insane grants schedule, Easter, and the cyst on my wrist for providing the synergy of silly working hours, non-existent weekends, pain, and general exhaustion that led to the blogging hiatus… hopefully, things will start to calm down soon, and you will see more of me here.
To be honest, I haven’t even been doing much new cooking – these busy months are when I revisit old favourites and am quietly thankful for a fairly good repertoire of simple recipes in my head, and a large array of take-away options in my suburb.
To read my blog this year, you might think that I’ve abandoned the Farmers’ Markets. This is truer than I might wish (those aforementioned missing weekends have rather curbed my enthusiasm for marketing early on Saturday mornings), but fortunately not entirely true. The good news in my marketing life has been that the Victorian Farmers Market Association recently began running a lunchtime market at Melbourne University on a Wednesday. This is conveniently close to where I work, and also conveniently not early in the morning, and Andrew (who is also currently working in the vicinity) and I have become regulars at its stalls. While the variety of fresh produce is not as impressive as at the weekend markets (they are still building their stable of stallholders), it has been a fine way to get *some* proper, farmer-friendly vegetables into our weekly shop, and it’s also a highly enjoyable way to spend a lunchbreak… and it’s always fun playing ‘spot the WEHI person’ as I wander around the market…
Still, between my Wednesday indulgences and my weekend madness, it has been over a month since I last visited one of the weekend markets. I was therefore pretty determined to get to the Flemington Farmers’ Market today, even though choir meant that my visit would be relatively brief…
We started with our traditional circuit of the market, which was made more exciting by a bit of a festival and cooking demonstrations by Emma Dean from last year’s MasterChef. Sadly, we missed the cooking demonstrations due to the aforementioned choir, but there were definitely several new stalls to explore among the old favourites…
We started off at the dairy end of the market, where Blue Bay had their stall, containing a few cheeses I hadn’t seen from them before. We picked up some gruyere, as well as some goats’ parmesan, which was much whiter than the normal, cow-based kind. I also got some of their breakfast cheese, a combination of quark, raisins and lemon zest, which I rather adore on fruit toast.
Millhouse Beef is a stall that is, I think, new to us. They had some lovely little meat pies that looked a lot like lunch to me, as well as some rather nice looking beef mince. I haven’t made bolognese for a while and it’s one of Andrew’s favourites, so we got some of that, too.
After that we thought we’d better get some vegetables, and where better to start than with Rita Faranda’s stall, which had, O happy day, cardoons!
Also eggplant in many colours, sprouting broccoli, Chinese broccoli, red onions, cauliflower, zucchini flowers and little sweet peppers. Gorgeous.
We caught up with Rita’s family news, then moved on to look at the goodies at the next two stalls.
We are always big fans of Happy Fruit, but we haven’t seen them for a while – though I understand that they will be starting up at Melbourne Uni Farmers’ Market in the near future. So it was good to catch up, snack on one of their little paper cases of fruit and nuts, and stock up on some of their beautiful dried nectarines, apricots and raisins. We’re just getting to the time of year when winter fruit salad seems like a very good thing, and their produce is perfect for it.
Next door was the pumpkin seed stall, who we have managed to miss consistently for over a year now. Their range has expanded in this time, and they now have, among other things, a truly beautiful hazelnut oil with such a vividly hazelnut flavour I could almost see using it as a flavouring extract in something like chocolate mousse. I can think of several winter salads which will also benefit from it, and am already wondering about adding it to my roast mushrooms. We also bought some of the pumpkin seed meal, just because it is so delicious for no-bake truffles.
I really needed eggs for the epic birthday cake I am currently baking (when you have to make cake for 80 people, all cake is epic…), so we visited the egg stall, and then dropped in on the mushroom stall to stock up. I haven’t had mushrooms in ages…
Our next stop was John at Wild Dog Natural Produce. We haven’t seen John for ages, and by this time we were definitely moving pretty fast in order to get to choir, but we got to say hello, at least. We got quite a nice haul there, too, with french shallots, garlic, strawberries and potatoes all making it into our bag…
… and then we found a brand new bakery stall and were completely hooked. They had scrolls, but not just any scrolls – rhubarb and rosemary, or berry and chocolate. They had croissants with chocolate or almond or plums. They had donuts with raspberry jam and clove and orange sugar, and more donuts with apple cider or with chocolate icing. They had wholegrain bread and sourdough bread and fruit bread and cornbread with chilli and cheddar.
We got very excited. Then we got two of the raspberry jam and orange clove donuts, one each of the scrolls, and the cornbread. Gorgeous.
And then it was off to choir for me, to sing a rather thoughtful and dramatic Alleluia written during the Second World War.
And now it’s time to make a lovely vegetarian chilli to go with my cornbread. Hope to be around here a bit more often in the near future.