Farmers Market

This week Henrietta Green’s Farmers Market Cookbook arrived on my desk.  Henrietta Green is quite a lady, a respected journalist, broadcaster and author of the multiple award winning The Food Lovers Guide to Britain.  She has also written several cookery books and is the winner of an IACP Julia Child Award. Widely acknowledged as the country’s leading expert and champion of Britain’s small speciality food producers, Henrietta was awarded the prestigious BBC Radio 4 Food Programme ‘Campaigner of the Year 2000’, by HRH The Prince of Wales. She was also recently voted one of the Evening Standard’s movers and shakers of London and her role in shaping the British culinary scene was acknowledged by House and Garden who included her in their ‘who’s who of British design for the end of the millennium.’ Henrietta currently sits on the steering committee of the advisory panel for the Countryside Agency’s new local food initiative ‘Eat the View’.  Ever since the 1980’s she has been instrumental in encouraging the British farmers’ market revival. She’s also quite beautiful and a bundle of fun.  Britain’s first Farmers Market set up its stalls in Bath in September 1998,  since then 250 more have mushroomed up around the country, some are weekly,  others fortnightly, others monthly. All are set up for the express  intention of providing an outlet for farmers and small food producers to sell local seasonal produce to the consumers who are desperately seeking this kind of food.  In the US there are now 2,700 from coast to coast, they estimate that over a million people shop at them each week, and the growth from 1996 when they were first counted there has been in the area of 40%.. This extraordinary development has baffled and intrigued the futurologists and business gurus who note with some dismay that the growth in retail food is static and expected to decline, while growth in the speciality food business and farmers market continues to grow apace.  It doesn’t surprise me, even while a large segment of the population seem happy to live out of the forecourt hot counters, a growing number of not necessarily affluent people, are craving fresh naturally produced seasonal food that they can trust, and are prepared to go out of the way to find it. For this reason, I believe there should be a weekly Farmers’ Market in every city centre and reasonable sized town in Ireland. It has already been proven that these markets not only attract more local people but also tourists into the town and so enhance the business of other shops. In fact in both the UK and US there are examples where local supermarkets have invited the Farmers Market Stalls to set up in their car park.  These markets are different from some of the established markets, they do not sell clothes, cd’s, tools, bric-a-brac… they simply sell local food to local people , the producers themselves or an appropriate representative must man the stall.

When Henrietta Green was asked to address the Oxford Farming Conference, she expanded her dream, she explained that while she didn’t see the Farmers Markets as the panacea to all our ills, almost everyone would benefit from the existence of countrywide farmers markets.  They enable local farmers and food producers to sell their goods locally which benefits both them and the local community. They keep the money circulating within the local area and attract people to adjacent retail businesses. Farmers Markets benefit the environment by encouraging sustainable agriculture and small scale less intensive production. They reduce the effects of the long distance transport of food and the need for excess packaging (more welcome than ever in these days of clogged roads and waste disposal crisis.) Furthermore they provide a thoroughly enjoyable opportunity for the consumer to meet the person who produces their food and helps to rebuild the bond of trust which has been so badly damaged between the producers and consumer over recent years. In the words of Dee Nolan , editor of YOU Magazine, ‘Farmers Markets rebuild that all-important relationship between the producer and the customer that had all but died out over the past few decades. It’s good for the producer to be able to meet the customer face-to-face and know their needs. Likewise, its great for the customer to actually see where their food comes from and understand what goes into producing it”. Henrietta Green’s Farmers’ Market Cookbook, published by Kyle Cathie Ltd. London.  Here are some recipes from Henrietta’s book.

Scrambled eggs with smoked eel

Serves 4

5 large eggs
50g (2oz) unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated horseradish
1 tablespoon double cream
4 x 250g (1oz) fillets of smoked eel
cayenne pepper

Although it is not essential, it is much easier to make these scrambled eggs in a non-stick saucepan. I have come across various cooks who make theirs in a frying pan and it just will not do. In a frying pan the eggs cook far too fast and, no matter how hard you try, you cannot achieve that unctuous creaminess that is essential to properly scrambled eggs. In a suitable bowl, whisk the eggs together, then whisk in 25g (1oz) of the butter, a knob of a time. Season lightly with no more than a tiny pinch of salt – remember the eel may be quite salty – freshly ground pepper and horseradish. Over a low heat melt the remainder of the butter in a saucepan, and then pour in the eggs. Using a wooden spoon. Stir constantly until all the butter has melted, then carry on stirring for another minute or so. Turn up the heat slightly and continue stirring until the eggs are just beginning to set. At this point, lift the saucepan off the heat while still stirring them, then replace the pan over the heat and repeat the process, the point is to slow down the process of cooking. Just when you think the eggs are almost – but still not quite – as scrambled as you like them, lift the pan off the heat, as they will carry on cooking for a while even if they are not directly over a heat source. Stir in the cream to cool them down and to make them even more rich and creamy, then turn them out on to warmed plates. Serve with the eel fillets arranged on top and dust with a little cayenne pepper.

 

Mixed Vegetable Soup

Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes, halved, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 litre (1 3/4 pints) fresh vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 small potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
100g (4oz) baby carrots, quartered
250g (9oz) young spinach leaves
1/2 bunch or radishes, topped and tailed
100g (4oz) asparagus, chopped
Large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
To serve: 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the spring onions and garlic and cook gently over a moderate heat to soften for about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock and seasoning and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the radishes, carrots, young spinach leaves and asparagus, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil and serve the soup in bowls drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Summer Mixed Vegetable Soup

Prepare as for the spring soup but replace the spring onions with 1 peeled and chopped red onion. Replace the carrots with 3 medium courgettes cut into cubes. Replace the radishes with 100g (4oz) sugar snap peas. Remove the spinach and asparagus. Add 50g (2oz) grated Parmesan at the same time as the extra virgin olive oil.

Autumn Mixed Vegetable Soup

Prepare as for the spring soup but replace the spring onions with 1 chopped onions. At the same time add 1 teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds. Replace the tomatoes with 3 sticks of chopped celery. Replace the potatoes with 150g (5oz) brown lentils and the spring carrots with two peeled and cubed carrots. Replace the radishes with 450g (1lb) peeled and cubed parsnips. Remove the spinach and asparagus. Simmer for an extra 10 minutes. Replace the basil with a large pinch of finely chopped fresh thyme. Replace the extra virgin olive oil with 150ml (1/4-pint) double cream.

Winter Mixed Vegetable Soup

Prepare as for the spring soup but replace the spring onions with 1 peeled and chopped onion. Replace the fresh tomatoes with a can of plum tomatoes. Add 3 sticks of chopped celery at the same time. Replace the potatoes with 1 peeled and cubed celeriac. Replace the spring carrots with two medium peeled and cubed carrots. Leave out the radishes, spinach and asparagus. Replace the basil with a handful of chopped parsley.

 

Slow-roasted Chilli pork

Serves 6-8
1 shoulder of pork weighing approximately 4kg (8lb 2oz) skin scored
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
4cm (11/2in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 large red chillis, halved, deseeded and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas Mark 7

Place the pork skin side up on a rack over a roasting tin. Place the garlic, ginger and chillis in a pestle and mortar or food processor and pound or process until you get a rough paste, then slowly mix in the oil and vinegar. Using a spatula or – if you must – your hands (but remember to wash them thoroughly or the chillis might irritate your skin), rub the paste all over the scored skin of the pork. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven; reduce the temperature to 125oC/250oF/Gas-mark 1/2. Turn the pork over with the skin side down on the rack and return to the oven and cook for an unbelievable 23 hours. Remove from the oven and turn the oven up to the highest setting – 220oC/425oF/Gas mark 7. Turn the pork over to crackling side up on the rack and roast in the hot oven for a final 20 minutes to crispen up the crackling.
To serve:
Cut away the crackling with a sharp knife and break it up into pieces then start to carve the meat. Actually at this stage the meat is so tender that it is probably easier to break up the meat using two forks to pull it apart.

Rhubarb and ginger cobbler

Serves 6
For the filling:

600g (1lb 50z) rhubarb prepared and cut into 2.5cm (1 in) pieces.
175g (6oz) caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 small orange
2.5 cm (1in) piece stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons stem ginger syrup
For the cobbler topping:
250g (9oz) plain flour
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoons baking powder
Large pinch of salt
30g (11/2-oz) butter cut into small pieces
1 egg
125ml (4fl oz) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/gas mark 6.

Mix the rhubarb with the sugar, orange zest and juice, stem ginger and syrup, and spoon into a 23cm(9in) baking dish. To make the cobbler mixture, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat together the egg with the buttermilk then add to the dry mixture until it comes together to form a smooth non-sticky dough. Break off portions of the dough and place them on top of the fruit, pressing lightly. Carry on until the entire surface of the fruit is covered with the dough pieces to give a ‘cobbled’ effect. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of caster sugar on top of the dough. Bake in the preheated oven for 34-45 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately with lashings of cream.