Markets: Cambridge 25th & Hamilton 26th May

Hello all. The season of the big wet is here. Don’t you just love it? The shivery feel of cold drips down your neck as you try to buy something from a stallholder who in turn is trying to keep the rain off the bread/pickles/cakes by covering them over with large bits of plastic or old sheets. The sudden awareness you get after sitting down on a drenched outdoor café chair, that when you get up you will have a soggy bottom. The fun you have when your brown paper bags disintegrate in the rain and the contents spill out onto the soaked ground. But these are small irritations to put up with when you realise that if you don’t make the effort to don the waterproofs and wellies, you may well have to miss out on your Volare San Francisco Sourdough, your Wholly Cow and Lamb organically raised roast, your sausages and homemade hot water crust Pork Pies from Soggy Bottom (I can’t bring myself to say Soggy Bottom Pork Pies. It just doesn’t sound right.) So just as one must suffer for one’s art, a loyal Farmers’ Market customer will suffer for his or her grocery shopping and we salute you! Probably with the famous Market Salute – the one where every stall holder reaches up to grab a gazebo crossbars in order to prevent the prevailing wind from lifting them (the gazebos) up and sending them flying across the carpark! Challenging is right. Character Building is right. But hail, rain or shine we stallholders will be there and we are soooo grateful when the customers turn up too. We love you guys!
Someone who really understands the discomfort of bad weather are the crews of the 3 Raglan based fishing trawlers owned by Mark Mathers who heads up the wonderful ‘’Raglan Fish stall’’ which you will find at both the Cambridge and Hamilton Markets every weekend. If you ever watched the Deadliest Catch series on Sky, you may have some appreciation for the conditions at sea that the winter can bring for some of the boats that head out of Raglan Harbour whenever they can, to catch the fresh and local gurnard, snapper, trevally, lemon fish, monk fish that we know and love so much. Oh okay, they aren’t exactly in the North Atlantic but getting over the Raglan Bar is scary enough for most people. As well as fresh fish, Mark and his sales team, headed by the American Beauty Jordyn (who has found love in Raglan which explains why she is staying there throughout the bitter winter) offers a range of value added products; Smoked Kahawai and Smoked or Garlic Mussels and delicious marinated raw fish salads available in $5 pottles. They even have Bluff Oysters and scallops occasionally. Fresh fish is not just a treat, it is an essential part of a healthy diet so go ahead. Treat your body to some fresh local fish.
Very shortly now we will have those gems of the winter months, persimmons and tamarillos. Winter is almost worth the pain when these beauties come on the stalls. Keep your eyes peeled in the next week or so. Quinces are around too if you look carefully. Feijoas are also still available as well as lovely apples and pears. Bob Teal who is well known for his spring and autumn raspberries, comes to the market once or twice a month during the winter with his stock of frozen berries and Monovale Blueberries also come once or twice a month with their anti-oxidant rich blueberries. The fruit from the market can be used in so many ways during the winter, as toppings for hot porridge, in yoghurt smoothies, in crumbles – feijoa, blueberry and pear crumble is one of my very favourites or as cooked cheesecake toppings. Apple Turnovers or Strudels or deep dish fruit pies are somehow less naughty during winter than they would be during summer and when served with hot homemade egg and cream custard you would be forgiven if you had a little orgasmic gasp of sheer delight. Want to know how to win friends and influence people? The secret is a decent pudding. Dale Carnegie never told you that..

Several years ago a few Farmers’ Market loving friends from diverse backgrounds who enjoyed the challenge of cooking and the use, where possible, of local foods, decided to start up a Dinner Party Club and now 5 years later they are still enjoying themed pot luck dinner parties once every 3 months. The core principal is that you must cook something you have never cooked before so you are challenged to explore your stash of cookbooks and the web for something completely new. I happen to be a fortunate member of this club and I thought I would share with you the menu we enjoyed last Saturday at our Autumn Harvest themed dinner:

Homegrown Parsnip and Market Pear Soup
Sauteed hand gathered Wild Field Mushrooms with homemade potato gnocchi

Slow cooked Pork and Quince with cider. Buttered spaghetti squash (homegrown)
Root Vegetable and Lentil bake with a Gougere Crust (Savoury Choux Pastry)

Homegrown Lime Meringue Pie made with market free range eggs
Market Pumpkin Pie with Dutch Chocolate Pastry Crust

Mmmm, it was a delightful evening filled with good food, good drink, good conversation and good friends. Winter is a great time for cosy dinner parties and the above menu which spontaneously emerged out of the variety of pot luck dishes brought along by each of the guests was perfectly balanced and quite delicious. So far we’ve explored Carribean, North African, Jewish, Hungarian and Spanish cooking to name a few. For the cost of your contribution plus a bottle of grog, you can enjoy a first class three or four course meal in the company of good friends. I reckon this should replace the Summer BBQ tradition during winter. The Winter Pot Luck Tradition…why don’t you give it a go?
With that comforting thought, I will bid you goodbye and will talk again next week! In the meantime keep cosy and warm and don’t let a little spot of rain stop you from visiting the market next weekend.

Meg Daly
Celtic Cuisine