Markets: Cambridge 13th & Hamilton 14th April

I can’t wait to write down all the new information I gleaned from market stallholders at Cambridge and Hamilton this weekend. I didn’t take any notes so it is all in my head – hope I’ve got it right.

Gill from ‘Fruition’ who only comes to the Cambridge Market (Hamilton misses out – sad face) has fabulous home grown limes at the moment – at the peak of perfection and extra juicy. She pulled me aside last Saturday and pointed to The Tomato Man’s Tomatillos and large mild chillies and then she grabbed a pot of coriander from Organic Herbs and Plants on the other side and said ‘Look – everything you could possibly need for the perfect Lime and Tomatillo Salsa!” “Hold it right there” says I, “what in the blazes are Tomatillos?”  Before I could say – Holy Guacamole! Johan, The Tomato Man trusts a large Cape Gooseberry lookalike into my hand and says ”Try it. It’s not anything like you would expect.” Sure enough after peeling the papery skin off and revealing the slightly sticky surface of a green tomato like fruit, I bit into it and experienced this strangely appealing apple and lime flavoured tomato textured sensation. Apparently Tomatillos are best when prepared as a salsa with the above mentioned, chillies, garlic, green onion and masses of lime juice and a little salt. And incidentally Celtic Cuisine’s Scottish oatcakes would be the ideal dipper for that salsa. Any of Volare’s sour dough breads would go pretty well too. – Gill also has figs, Passionfruit, avocados, lemons as well as limes and she has an outstanding range of chutneys, dips and spreads all made from her own produce. I love her homemade lemonade and lime cordial.

Okay, next goodie is the arrival at Hamilton Market of ‘Raglan Fish’. I nearly fainted with excitement when I saw them setting up last Sunday morning complete with their white wellies. A truly local fish supplier – now you can buy the freshest of fish caught off our very own west coast out of Raglan Harbour– Gurnard, Snapper, Monk Fish Terikihi , Flounder and more. I usually have to drive all the way to Raglan Wharf to get their fish and now it is right here at the Hamilton Market. Joy, oh joy.  Prices are reasonable too.  Support them people and make it worth their way to stay for the long haul in our Market. Good on ya.
At the end of the Market I managed to snag a true bargain – a whole bag of Egg Plants for only $4 from Clif’s Gardens. This evening I sliced them up and dipped them in a tempura batter (made simply with soda water and cornflour), fried them quickly and served them with garlic yogurt. I got the giant garlic for the yogurt dip from Chris at the Macadamia Nut stall – love using it. Plenty of mild garlicky flavour but not the repeating kind. As well as oceans of Egg Plants, Clif has mountains of great veges at the moment – tomatoes and pumpkins and he still has watermelons. I even got a yellow Honeydew Melon off Clif and ate it sprinkled with a little ground ginger after my fried eggplant feast this evening. Lovin’ it.

And finally David from Plainsview Orchard wants everyone to know that next week he is doing special tastings of fresh wheatgrass and apple juice. David has a cool slow juicer which preserves the nutrients intact so if you’ve ever been curious about what wheatgrass juice tastes like and what it can do for you from the health point of view, rock on up to the Plainsview Orchard stall beside the Sweetree Honey stall at the far end of the market. David also sells a truly astonishing array of heritage tomatoes including – Black Cherokee, Bull’s Heart, Aunt Ruby’s Green, Pink Roma and Purple Krim.  David sold me a bag of slightly softer tomatoes for sauce and I was thrilled to hear that I didn’t have to peel them before rendering them down into puree. The old fashioned tomatoes have a softer skin which dissolves nicely in the cooking process. Modern tomatoes are bred to have tougher skins for the purposes of transport and handling. I do love the shape and colour and of course the flavour of the Heritage Tomatoes – especially the Aunt Ruby’s Green. David and his wife Jan grow tomatoes all year round in their covered but unheated greenhouses near Thames. Check out their Microgreens too. The pea feathers just keep coming even when snipped.

Last Sunday 7th April was the final day for two old retainers at our Market in Hamilton – Cloudy Mountain Cheese, a stall which has been with the Farmers’ Market since the beginning for almost 7 years, has decided to stop production due to the escalating costs of compliance audits. Their small operation cannot manage such prohibitive costs and still make a profit. This is such a sad day for the market and I urge customers to voice their disapproval at how small boutique cheese makers are being squeezed out of existence by the unrealistic and unfair demands of the regulating bodies.

Secondly Craig Nobel our longstanding Market Manager has also retired and his successor Sarah (don’t know her last name yet) will be taking over the on-site management of the market from next week. I asked if Craig was going to donate his famous orange cap to Sarah because it used to make him easy to spot at the market but regretfully he said no as three years of constant use had rendered it completely knackered. So Sarah will have to find something unique to make her stand out at the market and whenever there is a problem all we need to do is say – ‘look for the lady in the pink/orange/red/hat/anorak/scarf’ and she will sort it out.

Happy end of Daylight Saving everyone…cooler days are on their way.

Meg Daly
Celtic Cuisine.