Farmers Market – Battle
There can be few markets that occupy as historic a site as the Battle Farmer’s Market in Sussex, located in the south east of England. The famous Battle of Hastings of 1066 took place in Battle and the marketplace nestles alongside the battlefield in the shadow of the impressive Battle Abbey.
On a sunny spring morning there was no sign of conflict with the French as took place there centuries ago. Yet an economic battle seemed to be confronting the stallholders who were trying to keep the market afloat despite fewer shoppers than desired. Farmer’s markets have become very popular over the past two decades in the UK and many are flourishing as foodie destinations as well as feeding local residents. Is it possible that the thousands of visitors who make the journey to the Abbey and battlefield are not frequenting the market? For my family this makes a perfect day out – historic sightseeing and a food market on the doorstep.
This market, although small, had a good selection of produce from the nearby area.
Sedlescombe Vineyard produces organic wines and fruit juice. The local vineyards can be visited for walks through the vines as well as wine tasting. The wines have won several awards which is testament to the growing success of English wine production. So good are the prospects of wine making in this region, that some of the large Champagne houses have crossed the channel to buy up tracts of vineyards. (www.englishorganicwine.co.uk).
The Traditional Cheese Dairy provides a selection of from its award-winning cheese. Eating cheese made from the milk from local herds is one of the joys of travelling into the countryside outside of the large city markets where the cheese on sale is certainly less local, often brought in from abroad. (www.tradtionalcheesedairy.co.uk).
More award-winning products were on sale at Stratta where the raspberry vinegar and smoked garlic infused olive oil had bagged the Great Taste Gold Award in 2011. The range of infused olive oils was delicious including fennel seed, tarragon, orange and garlic. A great selection for pepping up home cooking with ideas a plenty on their website. (www.stratta.org).
Farmer Palmer Meats sold delicious lamb chops from the world-famous Romney sheep which have been farmed in the area since the 19th century. At that time there were more Romney sheep in the area than anywhere else in the world. In fact this breed formed the basis of the New Zealand sheep industry. (www.farmerpalmermeats.co.uk).
I have a long-standing love affair with shellfish of all sorts so I was particularly excited to come across local scallops, crab and shrimp at Botterells. Harvested from nearby Rye, the scallops were very tempting but since we were having a beach picnic we picked up a few tubs of peeled brown shrimp which were fresh and sweet. Regretted not buying a few crabs too. (Botterells, Harbour Road, Rye, Sussex; 01797 222875).
An enticing array of unusual flavours of chutney, marmalade and conserves are available at Strangefruits. We especially enjoyed the plum and garlic chutney as well as the coconut and banana variety. When I was a child I thought there was only one type of chutney – the one my mother bought repeatedly – so I have enjoyed discovering new flavours on our travels. (www.strangefruits.co.uk).
The Community Fruit and Veg Project is an enthusiastic group that sell produce from local growers and use any profit to educate local communities on the benefits of eating 5 portions of fruit and veg each day. This non-profit organisation sells local produce to local people through their fruit and veg box schemes delivered to homes and businesses. They also sell at this market. This is a green and ethical business which deserves support. (www.fruitandveg.org).
In fact this whole market deserves more support than it appeared to be getting on the day I visited. I do hope it flourishes.
Battle Farmer’s Market takes place on the 3rd Saturday of the month. (email@example.com).
RealFood Market Southbank, London Return to Top
On the first sunny weekend in months it was a delight to wander around the RealFood Market at the Southbank in London. Situated behind the Southbank Centre on the Thames, it provides a tour of the world’s cuisines. Unlike the farmer’s markets which are popping up in wonderfully obscure locations around the United Kingdom and sell all one needs to cook a meal at home, this market offers foods that are ready to eat or can be taken away. It is located near the London Eye in a spot popular with London’s tourists, but is also a destination for locals who may be visiting one of the nearby theatres or music venues or enjoying a stroll along the river. Either way it is a great stop for lunch, dinner or even just an ice cream.
The best way to enjoy a market of this size is to arrive hungry. Give yourself time to wander about before deciding which cuisine tempts your palate. On previous visits I have succumbed too soon to the irresistible aroma of frying burgers only to have regrets when rounding the next corner and discovering a Middle Eastern feast at a stall I had not yet reached. Of course the danger is that no decision can be made as so much of the food looks like a must have. There is an obvious solution to this conundrum – go frequently.
On my most recent visit I encountered Black Acorn, a stall producing chorizo from Iberian black pigs, acorn fed as the name suggests. Chorizo has become synonymous with Spain so it was interesting to encounter a Portugese variant. The stall holder informed me that he is the only outlet in London making a blood sausage chorizo. This was a full – on taste and not for those squeamish about blood sausage. For such diners there is a chorizo redolent with red wine, moist and spicy with paprika – a fantastic product. (www.portugesefinest.co.uk)
Keeping to the Spanish theme is a JamonJamon with its gigantic paella pans offering a choice of seafood or Valenciana with chicken and beans. (www.jamonjamon.co.uk)
For a Spanish dessert try some Churros – a delightful fried stick of batter dipped into the thickest melted chocolate. It is devilishly moreish not to mention Moorish.
When I have travelled in Spain I have found it to be a weekend breakfast treat, with people queuing outside Churreria for armloads of churros wrapped in paper and carried home, much like the French queue for croissants on weekends.
The French food on offer is cheese based with Comte being flavour of the day. I counted no fewer than three stalls selling Comte of differing lengths of maturation. I always find that cheese sellers are very friendly and keen to discuss the provenance of their products. Une Normande a Londres was, as his name explains, a man from Normandy living in London and selling French cheese and saucisson. He had a good selection of both, much as one would find in any French food market.
Another cheese stall named The French Comte had several varieties of this wonderful cheese from Jura. Also delicious was an oozing vacherin and an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese flavoured with walnuts.
With all that cheese you will need some bread so make your way to The Flour Station whose award-winning, hand made breads are so good that my kids polished off two sourdough with walnut loaves and a large rye bread within a day. If you happen to have any left for longer than that – and it’s unlikely – it makes great toast too. (www.theflourstation.com). Long gone are the days when you couldn’t get a decent bread in London, this bakery delivers to top restaurants and delis around the city and thanks to them selling their wares at many markets in London, home diners get to benefit. This succesful business grew out of the kitchen at Fifteen, Jamie Oliver’s project to train unemployed youth to become chefs. So it has a good backstory
Moving on to meat, Woodwards Farm stall, which has several London outlets, keeps mouths watering with their burgers fried to order. They also do a range of meat products from their family farm in Cambridgeshire. Reading their brochure puts me in mind of one of the storylines in my favourite radio programme, The Archers, where son Tom is trying to make a go of his sausage business and turns up at markets selling his wares. He would be happy to have the queues of salivating carnivores waiting in line at this stall. (www.woodwardsfarm.com)
Quite a different vibe at Love Me Tender where three men with attitude and tattoos cook up a mean spit roast hog served on a bap with apple sauce and rocket. The pulled pork is indeed tender very tasty and they will cater for your party with either pork, venison, lamb or even chicken. (www.lovemetender.co.uk)
Being a great enthusiast of foods from the the middle east and north Africa, one of my favourite stalls is The Arabica Food and Spice Company who serve up a variety of middle eastern mezze beautifully displayed in large trays. This is a great place to pack up a picnic to eat at your leisure. They also sell falafel in pitta and a range of sweetmeats. (www.arabicafoodandspice.com)
Selling sweet treats from another continent, Outsider Tart produces American style cookies (i.e. huge) and whoopees. I’ve never been sold on whoopees which seem to me to be a somewhat faddish item, a bit OTT unlike the more sedate cupcake. What I do like though is a chocolate brownie and this stall sells an inventive range including one made with Snickers which looks irresistible. (www.outsidertarts.co.uk)
East European food is big business in London and this is reflected at this market that has several stalls selling Slovenian beer, pierogi and, for those bored with apple strudel, there is the choice of spinach or red cabbage and ricotta. This modern take on a traditional food keeps foodies happy. (www.karantaniadeli.com)
A great foodie gift (well I would like one) is a grow your own mushroom kit. Looking like some sort of prehistoric vegetable it would make a great alternative to a bunch of flowers next time you’re invited out to dinner.
And so to ice cream which, for my children, is usually the first stop on any market visit. Sporting a great name, the new kid on the block is The Greedy Goat which provides a lactose free product for ice cream lovers. All the ice cream is made with goat’s milk, an idea I love as one of my favourite iced delights is made by combining goat yoghurt with blueberries in my ice cream machine. (www.greedygoat.co.uk)
And to drink? Well there is Ethiopian coffee and that Slovakian beer, apple juices and other pressed fruits. But on that first sunny day nothing beats a Pimms.
Alongside good food as far as the eye can see, this is surely the cherry on the top of this international food market experience. (www.graysandfeather.com)
The RealFood Market, behind Southbank Centre, Fridays to Sundays (12 – 8, 6 on Sundays)
Stratford Food Market Return to Top
The Stratford-upon-Avon marketplace has been in use since 1196 when King Richard I awarded Stratford the status of a market town. Throughout the centuries local farmers have brought their produce to the town and the market place is therefore imbued with a deep sense of history. While there is a weekly Friday market on this spot, the farmers’market takes place on alternate Saturdays. Organised by Sketts farmers’ markets, the Stratford-upon-Avon market has been operating since 1999. Reading the Sketts’ charter I discovered that all fresh produce has to be grown within 50 miles of the market (www.skettsfarmersmarkets.co.uk). As the Rother Street farmers’ market has been shortlisted for a FARMA best farmers’ market in Britain award, I was keen to find out what was for sale beneath the green striped awnings.
Rother Street proudly announces itself to visitors with signposts bearing the cattle after which it is named. Rother is the Anglo Saxon word for cattle with long horns. Nearby streets also evoke times past when live animals were brought to market – hence Sheep Street and Bull Street.
Nowadays local meat has already been butchered and is hygienically wrapped but remains local. Beef and pork from Woodhouse Farm in nearby Leicestershire are products William Shakespeare would have been familiar with.
Brockelby’s pies tempted with varieties such as wild beaver and salmon and broccoli sitting alongside the more traditional pork pie. This Leicestershire based company rears its own rare breeds and uses local products to produce their pies. (Brockelby’s, www.brocklebys.co.uk)
For those with a sweet tooth the Blueberry Hill Patisserie hit the right note. Amongst a display of cakes and cookies we sampled the best seed and nut bars I have yet tasted. Alongside the usual ingredients was something deliciously extra, a gorgeous toffee flavour. Certainly a recipe I would love to have. With dinner that evening in mind we bought a plum, apricot and ricotta cake to take home. I was advised to warm it before serving and duly did. It had a light and moist crumb thanks to the ricotta and made for a delicious dessert with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt. (Blueberry Hill, www.blueberryhillpatisserie.co.uk)
At Gorsehill Abbey Cheese we tasted a young St Eadburgha, similar to a camembert and made with the milk from an organic herd on a family farm in the Cotswolds where cheese has been made commercially since 2003. We took home a piece of St Oswald which was voted best English cheese at the British Cheese Awards in 2007. We found it pungent and satisfyingly both firm and creamy (Gorsehill Abbey Cheese, www.gorsehillabbey.co.uk).
What is most pleasing about shopping at local farmers’ markets is that the products on sale are unique and particular to the location. You will be able to buy local cheese at any of these markets but each time you will be tasting cheese from a herd that is locally farmed.
The same can be said for the local fruit and veg even if one carrot tastes much the same as the next. What impressed me at this market were the massive celeriacs, the wonderfully knobbly and muddy carrots and parsnips just calling out to be taken home.
There was an educational moment when some members of the family learned for the first time that Brussels sprouts grow on stalks and mighty fine they were too. I was delighted by the cavolo nero, a vegetable I associate only with being in Italy, eating steaming bowls of ribollita.
One of the joys of a farmers’ market in my opinion is the great apple juice usually on sale. I was not disappointed by the offering from Old Dunnington Farm in Warwickshire who were ladling out cups of mulled apple juice, most welcome on a very wet day.
I was especially interested in their bottled beetroot juice which is not a drink one regularly finds and which purports to lower blood pressure. Any drink that tastes good and has such medicinal value earns a place in my basket.
Spoilt for choice for lunch between a hog roast and local sausages gently caramelising with a tantalising aroma, we settled on a less traditional stall called Kuskus foods. This Morrocan food outlet sold a spicy soup which took the chill off the day as well as a rather unusual falafel. Although these are nowadays to be found on many markets, these were a somewhat different variety in having chunks of chickpea and tiny pieces of tomato.
These were very spicy indeed and seemed to have been baked rather than deep fried. They are advertised as containing 5 vegetables, 3 herbs, 15 spices and combined mixed pulses. Wow. Kuskus foods holds cooking classes such as preparing a Moroccan dinner party which sounds like a fun day out (Kuskus Foods,www.kuskusfoods.co.uk)
Walking to the market I noticed many shoppers with bags filled with fresh produce. This market seems to be aimed, as it should, at local shoppers who prefer their vegetables straight from the farm rather than from cold storage and their meat and cheese sold to them by the producers. It is such a joy to engage with the very people who have grown the food you are about to buy and eat. It is their pride and enthusiasm that adds value to their products.
Albert Cuypmarkt – Amsterdam Return to Top
Situated in Albert Cuypstraat, this market was a very festive place indeed a few days before Christmas. Although it sells all manner of goods including flowers, textiles and clothing, it was the food stalls we came to explore. The bustling street was packed with shoppers and some of the friendliest stallholders I have encountered.
The food stalls provided everything you could possibly need for a feast and much beside. As you would expect in Holland, the cheese stalls were overflowing with local varieties from both cow and goat. A long row of fish stalls displayed a vast array of fish and seafood; umpteen varieties of fish, boxes of oysters, smoked eels, crates of crab, lobsters – so much in fact as to make my favourite French fish markets look meagre by comparison. The poultry stalls were doing a brisk trade two days before Christmas with the most gigantic turkeys I have ever seen. Big enough to unbalance my bike. I loved the way the guinea fowl were sold with their tail feathers still attached, the plumage elevating the bird somewhat. A far cry from the plastic-wrapped variety to be found in the supermarket
The fresh haring stall did not tempt me. Some years ago on a visit to a Dutch seaside resort I first tried fresh haring from a mobile stall at the beach. I knew no visit to Holland could be complete without trying this local delicacy. With no offence to the millions of Dutch people and visitors who wax lyrical about this fishy snack, I found it to be one of the most unpleasant bites of food I have ever taken. Served cut into slices and topped with chopped onion and pickled cucumber, the herring is a matter of national pride.
As with so many local delicacies I often find that the casual visitor finds the dish to be an acquired taste. At the market I got into conversation with a couple who were tucking in to their plates of haring and declared it to be delicious. Did I not like sushi they enquired? Indeed I do but this looked like sashimi of herring. Moving on.
Our favourite stall was yet another Dutch specialty called Poffertjes. Translated as ‘puffed up’, these are delicious little discs of batter that taste like pancake with a spongier texture. A special cast iron mould is used to make the poffertje shape.
A stream of batter is poured into the moulds and the poffertjes quickly puff up and brown slightly. They are then placed on a small white cardboard plate on which a slice of butter is waiting. The hot poffertjes melt the butter beneath them and are, in turn, sprinkled with icing sugar.
These morsels melt in the mouth, just the ticket for a cold, wet day.
Lingering at one of the chocolate stalls I was amused to discover a display of erect penises which were available in small, medium or large. Customers could choose between a white chocolate shaft with a dark chocolate glans and vice versa.
Alongside these were a selectin of labia – these only in milk chocolate – and further along an array of breasts, milk chocolate topped with dark chocolate nipples and so on. Where else outside of Amsterdam would this edible erotica turn up in one’s Christmas stocking?
Boerenmarkt – Amsterdam Return to Top
Situated in the trendy Jordaan neighbourhood, this organic market is held on Saturdays on Noordemarkt. Although some clothing is sold the food is clearly the main attraction. There are many fruit and vegetable stalls – not sure whether there is a limit on how far the food can travel – but there was no sign of the exotic fruits available at the Albert Cuypmarkt so presumably not too many airmiles have been travelled. Quite a number of stalls sell vitamins and supplements, hemp seeds and the like. Some of the traders look as organic as their produce – natural, a bit rough around the edges and perhaps in need of a wash.
Lots of local cheese of every variety, a small fish stall with both Dutch and French oysters. I liked the herb stall with its large ceramic containers into the depths of which a small ladle disappeared and came back up filled with glistening green pesto. Pesto on sale was made from eitherbasil, rocket, coriander or tomato. Horseradish sauce, salsa verde and harissa also available.
We were really spoilt for choice when it came to choosing bread. Several stalls were crammed full of loaves, whole sections for sourdoughs of every description.
We settled on a stall called Le Perron that baked its bread on site. When I explained that we needed a large sourdough to toast and eat with mushrooms, we were directed to the appropriate loaf. Unfortunately they had sold out of the size we required but would bake us a fresh one and keep it until we returned. Perfect service. When we fetched our bread we were encouraged to feel and smell it before paying.
The bakery specialises in French style breads and pastries. The bread is sold in a waxpaper packet on which instructions are printed about how to store the bread. We had no opportunity to store it as our loaf was so delicious that no matter its huge size, it disappeared in an evening.
This market is well known for its mushrooms and I was not disappointed. In fact, not since gawping at the mushrooms selection years ago at La Boqueria market in Barcelona, have I come across such a variety on display.
Portabella Paddenstoelen sold both cultivated and wild mushrooms. The cultivated are Dutch and the wild mainly from France and South Africa. Too many airmiles there surely, but when we are talking fresh porcini I am not going to argue. Twenty euro bought us bags of fungal feasting. What joy to choose – not unlike picking individual chocolates in an exclusive chocolatier.
Could not leave the stall without treating ourselves to a piece of brie with truffles. We were warned that it’s addictive and it sure would be if I lived in Amsterdam.
That night we ate delicately sautéed mushrooms on griddled sourdough (see Recipes) and finished off with brie with truffles. Oh bliss!
Dappermarkt – Amsterdam Return to Top
On a cold and drizzly morning a few days after Christmas, this local market in the multicultural Oost neighbourhood was a somewhat downbeat experience. Rather than being an exciting destination for food fetishists, it is a market for real people who need to feed families on budgets. Having shown my children around many European markets bursting with exotic and often pricey foodstuffs, it was sobering to remember that food is essentially about survival and is not, for most of the world’s population, a form of expensive entertainment.. The market is situated in an area populated by a number of ethnic minorities who have made their homes in the city – people from Turkey, Morocco, Suriname, Vietnam – so I had expected a colourful event, stalls glistening with olives and exotic spices. Instead it had a subdued feel, unusual in a market. There were no organic excitements here, little by way of exotic fruit and veg, no shellfish at the fish stalls There were two, sad looking Vietnamese stalls, one chicken shwarma outlet, a haring stall and a cheese stall or two.
In addition there were fish stalls and many selling fruit and veg. Always on the lookout for local delicacies we were drawn to a stall making fresh appleflap – a slice of apple fried in batter and sold around new year.
Rather greasy, it managed to turn a healthy food into an unhealthy snack. Perhaps on a warm, sunny day the market has a more enlivened feel, but on our visit the atmosphere was a bit like the weather.
Marqt – Amsterdam Return to Top
I had been keen to visit this market that is relatively new to Amsterdam. One evening I noticed a full –page advert in the local newspaper and realised that this is in fact a new supermarket chain. There are a couple of outlets in the city. We visited the one on chi-chi Utrechtstraat which is packed with upmarket retail outlets. Marqt is a large, airy space with high quality products many of which are local and organic or fair-trade. It has all the usual supermarket sections but looks more like a covered market. While many areas are laid out in aisles, the packaging is often trendy and the overall effect is food meets fashion.
The vegetables may be organic but there are no knobbly, mud-covered vegetables here. The fresh produce is attractively displayed in gleaming piles.
Fresh breads and meals ready to take home, this is a lovely place to shop. I wondered how the prices compare to the regular supermarkets or to the Saturday Boerenmarkt. No cash is accepted. There is a cafe attached to the store called George. (Marqt, Overtoon,21-25 and Utrechtstraat, 17).
Copyright 2012, Madeleine Morrow
All Rights Reserved
ALL IMAGES TAKEN BY MADELEINE MORROW
IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHTED UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
Wander down the Sloane Square end of the Kings Road, Chelsea on a Saturday and you will come upon an encampment of candy-striped awnings. This food market, known as Partridges and run by the long-established store of the same name that is situated alongside, is a delight not only because of the wide range of foods, but due to the stall holders who are so enthusiastic to talk about their produce. All the sellers I spoke to are small specialist businesses some of whom sell exclusively at markets across London while others have expanded and also sell through independent food shops and delis.
The market is a global culinary voyage which is best approached hungry. We had arrived with empty shopping bags, intending to take home food for a Moroccan lunch. We left loaded with pies and pasta, brownies and pastries. That’s aside from all the tastings that stall owners lay out temptingly.
Abdul, who runs the Moroccan Food stall, serves an excellent couscous with a choice of three tagines – salmon, chicken or lamb – along with flatbreads filled with lamb or spinach . He has an array of salads beautifully presented in Moroccan bowls which include beetroot, carrot, grilled peppers, aubergine, chickpea with pomegranate, lentils and broad beans. He caters for parties on request. Abdul’s business is called Nan (meaning mint) and can be contacted on 07979817918.
Our basket filled with our lunch, we made our way round the other stalls, several of which caught our attention. I was particularly delighted by one that sold pies filled with rabbit and beetroot – two of my favourite foods. The two charming young men of Timmy’s Pies were keen to share their enthusiasm about their business whose first outlet was at this market. Having taken a pie home to taste, I can recommend their light pastry packed with braised rabbit and thin slices of beetroot that stained the pastry lid with a ruby blush. Timmy’s Pies can be contacted on 07867786735, timmy’firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whilst I was deep in conversation with the pie man, my older son went off to check out the competition, Pieminister. This award winning business with market outlets all over the South East is a well known producer of high quality fare but I have never tasted any of its wares. When I caught up with my son a few minutes later, I noticed he was carrying an empty pie box. On asking where the pie was I was told it had been eaten. But I hadn’t tasted it yet. My son informed me that in his opinion this food thing of mine was getting a little, you know, obsessive. Ignoring such a truthful insight I enquired about the pie’s flavour and texture. S’allright.
The chocolate brownies from Galeta cookie heaven elicited a more enthusiastic ‘Oh my God this is unbelievable!’ It was indeed the best brownie I’ve recently eaten, rich but not cloying, moist with a slight crunch. Other offerings from this stall included pasteis de nata, both the traditional custard variety as well as those with the unusual addition of blueberries or raspberries. A variety of large cookies was also up for grabs including one with fresh strawberries and cream whipped into the dough. The business is owned by two young men who apparently bake from 5am. That’s the kind of dedication to my pleasure I enjoy.
More award winning food is on offer at Neustift where Derek Barton sells the youngest goats cheese I’ve tasted, fresh and light. Older and more mature cheese is also available. The goat herd is in Wiltshire but the cheese travels to London for our convenience. The Borough Cheese Company sells its 14 month matured Compte which is always a good buy and Swiss cheese is available from Jumi.
My younger son, who loves ravioli, was delighted to find La Tua Pasta, run by two friendly young women who encouraged us to taste their offerings. We bought a few portions to cook at home along with their wild boar tortelloni – another favourite of mine. What impressed me most on opening the plastic containers, was the care with which the tiny parcels had been packed. So often when opening fresh ravioli from even high end supermarkets, the ravioli have stuck together and tear before even getting into boiling water. This results in empty pockets, their contents having leaked out into the cooking water. Not so here. The ravioli and tortelloni had been packed in with lots of flour so that not one broke. The wild boar tortelloni came with a warning – contains real wild boar, may contain shot. They sat on our table like small yellow crowns, filled with gamey, small nuggets of boar, redolent with red wine. The ravioli were generously filled with fresh tasting spinach and a good burst of nutmeg, as light as a plump, goose-down pillow. La Tua Pasta, 0208 9618024, email@example.com.
We only managed to talk and taste our way across a small selection of stalls but many more are there for next time. I was particularly enticed by the aroma of frying chorizo, wafer thin slices of iberico ham, creative wholegrain breads filled with dried fruits, fresh coconut juice, sizzling burgers, vegetarian delights. Go and enjoy for yourself.
Partridges Food Market, Duke of York
Square, SW3, Saturdays 10 – 4.
ALL PICTURES TAKEN BY MADELEINE MORROW
All images on this website are copyright under international law. The images are licensed under a Creative Commons license.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.