To market, to market, to buy a fine hog;
Home again, home again, joggety jog.
A little ditty that I find myself singing when I set off for a good peruse of a Farmers' Market. But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself. Two Saturday's ago I visited the Wimbledon Farmers' Market - a weekend norm as it is incredibly close to where I live, and there is nothing better than picking up some great inspiration for the weekend whilst you look at all the produce available. It always amuses me that in Britain we have 'artisan bakers' at these markets, whereas on the continent they just have the local bakers who make the same types of bread but at a fraction of the price. However, undeterred and ready to support local business, I opened up the pennies purse and spent £3.00 on a loaf of bread, which I look to my sister's for lunch on Sunday. What was disappointing was that less than 12 hours after purchase, the loaf was completely stale and inedible. So when Man mooted the idea that we should go to Bedfordshire for the weekend, walk the dogs and visit a local Farmers' Market, I was a little nonplussed to say the least.
After a drive very much further north than I would normally tolerate, I arrived at Man's country pile and decamped the relevant Wellies, Walking Boots, Barbour, Fleeces and other all-weather outfits that had been stuffed into the boot and back seat of my car. No point being practical when the weather forecast was slightly schizophrenic - doing neither one thing or another for any long period of time.
We were up with the larks on Saturday morning, as the dogs were hungry and in need of their usual extensive walk. Of course Man was in practical mode and therefore provided me with a full briefing of where we were walking to, the overall direction, potential obstacles and time of arrival at final destination, which was set for the Four Seasons Farmers' Market. To be honest, I was amazed that I didn't leave the house with compass around my neck, full laminated map with highlighted route, hydration salts and a medical pack. Fortunately I did remember to stuff Twenty Quid into my pocket as a just-in-case-you-never-know-what-you-can-find-to-buy-at-the-market moment for later.
We marched off at a good pace across the fields and through one exceptionally smelly field where rotting onions had been used as a type of manure. The smell was so putrid that my eyes were watering and I had to wrap my scarf around my nose and mouth like a bandita. Of course the dogs thought the stinking onions were the most excellent toys, as they relished picking them up in their mouths and throwing them up into the air, from where they fell with an almighty splat on the ground, engulfing us both in the onions rancid scent!
After narrowly missing being hit by the dogs' aerial onion bombardment, and a very good stretch of our legs, we arrived at the Town Centre with two panting hounds next to us. The scene was really picturesque, as set out in the centre of the square was the loveliest little Farmers' Market. I was knowledgeably informed by Man, that the Four Seasons Farmers' Market was thus named due to the happy gathering happening only four times a year. Apparently something to do with keeping the stalls and produce full of variety and seasonal interest.
With little more than ten market stalls, I was able to make swift work of what to visit and what not too. But sadly, bringing two black labs to an open stall Farmers' Market probably wasn't the best plan. The poor girls were terribly confused by all the petting and of course by all the food smells - their little noses were twitching frantically and they seemed to be quite literally licking their chops. A little disappointed, we decided that we should abort the extensive chatting to stall holders/sampling and grab a coffee before finishing the route-march home. And this is when lunchtime inspiration happened ...
Sitting neatly on a Vegetable Stall where boxes filled with lovely blue duck eggs (6 for £2.00) and beside them were bunches of early season Asparagus. For those interested, Asparagus Season in Britain is April to June - a mere 8 weeks when you can consume as much as you like, as the prices are relatively cheap. So without much discussion, I promptly 'announced' to Man that we were having 'poached duck eggs and asparagus' for lunch. He didn't disagree much, just handed over the dogs and disappeared for a few minutes, to return with a 'pleased as punch' smile and a package under his arm, which he delighted in telling me was filled with freshly sliced 12 month-old Parma Ham. He had also bought a number of chorizo sausages for which I can't fathom a reason (other than he likes it roasted) but it's never time to quibble when he's done something right.
Without much further-a-do and a bit of a spring in our steps we headed home. I was particularly rejuvenated at the thought of lunch but also slightly apprehensive as getting poached eggs right isn't an easy task to do. The shape of the poached egg is important to me as I really don't like using any form of plastic cooking apparatus to support them in the water or using a poached egg pan - the egg whites just becomes too dense. So, if you are like me and enjoy poached eggs done the real way, then here is a fail-safe recipe that I was given by a friend who was Sous Chef at The Wholsey.
Poached duck eggs are so delicious, much creamier and richer than hen eggs and they complement pan fried or griddled asparagus and lovely young sweet Parma Ham so well. This happens to be a go-to-dish of mine, as you need all of twenty minutes from preparation to consumption.
Needless to say, we avoided the Bakers at Four Seasons Market, although now I've done a little more research, I think I may have missed a significant trick as the breads looked utterly amazing online. I guess that just means a return visit to Man's country pile will need to be made in 3 months time!