Recipes

Hampshire Farmers Markets – exploring our wonderful local food scene

Food has always been, and continues to be one of my greatest passions in life. It must be in my blood.  Both of my parents were amazing cooks, although very different. My father was classically trained, perfecting omelettes at the Café Royale in London in the fifties, whereas Mum was a creative intuitive cook, able to rustle up modest but delicious suppers with whatever was in the fridge.

A major part of my love of food, is the sourcing and buying of it, and so I have always loved markets, and many a holiday has been centred around going to the abundant daily markets in Europe. (She says with a wistful sigh…)

Hampshire Farmers Markets have been going for twenty years and it has been interesting to see how our local Winchester market has changed over the years, starting off in the carpark in Middle Brook Street and then in the high street, with a bit of back and forth and now in the Broadway.

The second and last Sunday of the month are firmly diarised in my calendar and it is definitely a highlight of the weekend, getting up on a Sunday morning and heading off to the market with whichever family member feels so inclined. Nothing gives me more pleasure than connecting to where our food comes from, chatting to some of the producers, finding out about new produce and products. It truly brings me so much joy.

Last weekend, I ventured to the pretty Petersfield market which is one of the only ones in a traditional square, as I had missed the previous week in Winchester. Many of the stalls are the same, as the producers travel around to the different towns in Hampshire, but there are a few different ones that caught my eye.

I tried some date coffee, aptly named Dafé, which is a new stall. I wouldn’t call it a coffee substitute as naturally it is caffeine free, so great for anybody needing to avoid the stimulus of caffeine. It is made in a similar way to coffee, by roasting the dates and then grinding them. The result was a light and fresh drink, slightly sweet, and equally delicious with added milk or plain black.

Late spring/early summer is probably my favourite season for the market, as it marks the wonderful arrival of our local asparagus, and at today’s market I wasn’t disappointed. There were several stalls selling beautiful asparagus, but I chose Durleighmarsh, as they are known for their asparagus and at this time of year it is their only crop. I chatted toPaul Abbott, owner of Durleighmarsh Farm and was fascinated to learn some top tips. Whilst I already know you should never cut the end of the asparagus off, but rather gently bend it so that it snaps naturally at the right place, thereby avoiding any wastage, what I didn’t know is that if you find your asparagus a little gritty, then you need to gently scrape the little brown triangular scales that grow on the spears as they can sometimes contain a little dirt! Paul’s suggestion is not to steam the asparagus, but to gently fry it in some butter and olive oil (that stops the butter from burning) for 4 or 5 minutes, perhaps with a little garlic. 

But do be sure to load up now as the asparagus season will be over before we know it!

Winter warmers for a cold and snowy week

Last week was certainly a week for winter warmers, if ever there was one, and I, for one, loved every moment.

Whilst our temperatures here in the South of England plummeted to a freezing -6C for several days, the snow fell and our already beautiful countryside looked even more magical. This was indeed an unexpected pleasure, as having had magnificent snowfalls in Istanbul over the past four years, it is not such a regular occurrence in Hampshire.

But back to the winter warmers – this sort of weather definitely calls for warm and hearty fare, usually meaty as far as we are concerned, and gave us all the inspiration we needed for some delicious suppers all week.

Sunday: was a traditional roast rib of beef, as Waitrose had one last rib going cheap (always an eye on a bargain), which we decided to roast using the untraditional reverse sear method, taking inspiration from Jess Pryles and her Hard Core Carnivore book. That means, instead of the usual sear in a pan to brown all over, and then whack in the oven for a short time, you cook it in the oven at a low temperature first, and when it has reached the right colour of pink for your taste, achieved by using a meat thermometer, you rest the meat for a while before searing in a hot pan, which gives it a gorgeous colour as well as wonderful caramelisation. The result was a beautiful even pink throughout with no grey bits around the edges where the meat has cooked a little more. We had this with roast potatoes and roast purple sprouts doused in walnut oil. A triumph, as Thomas would have said.

Monday: Cold rib of beef, of course! With sweet potatoes and horseradish creme fraiche.

Tuesday: A warming and divine Bengali chicken curry from Peter’s new cook book, Indian Kitchen by Maunika Gowardhan. I was full of cold and requested a warming curry from Peter, and he certainly delivered!

Wednesday: was the remains of the rib of beef made into a very warming and hearty ragu, which we had with fresh tagliatelle and a winter salad of red cabbage, little gem, goat cheese,broccoli and walnuts.

Thursday: we managed to nip out to Waitrose for a quick stock up before we became completely snowed in, and bought some beautiful fresh Cornish hake – might not sound hearty, but with the addition of chunks of chorizo, and crunchy cubes of potato, it certainly worked for us!

Friday: after several days of being confined to our cottage, with heating and fire blazing, we decided to break out and head to the local pub with some lovely friends and neighbours, and had a gorgeous homemade steak and ale pie in a rich gravy with light crispy pastry.

Saturday was homemade pizza – well, the kids were home from school, what more can I say? Topped with yet more chorizo, and local Laverstoke Farm buffalo mozzarella. Perhaps our least hearty meal of the week.

 

Sunday – we rounded the week off with a magnificent venison chilli – local venison cooked with several different types chilli, using a fantastic recipe again from Hard Core Carnivore. This was superb – rich, unctuous, with lots of flavour from the sweet chilli, but never overpowering. We ate this spooned in soft tacos with dollops of creme fraiche. This probably wins the vote of most hearty dish of the week.

Usually we try not to drink alcohol during the week, but sometimes you have to throw reason to the wind, and these suppers cried out for full-bodied rich red wines, from a Barolo, to Rioja, to a Southern Italian Primitivo. I have loved our winter week full of snow and hearty food, but I think my waist line will appreciate the spring weather when it arrives!

My January health kick

 

So the festivities are over, the tinsel is packed away for another year, the kids are back at school, and I, like millions of others out there, stood on the scales last Monday morning and got the fright of my life. Initially I was too shocked to move off the scales, but this was swiftly followed by disbelief as I got on and off the scales checking that it was true.

When I have been over-eating, or rather eating too many of the wrong things over a period of time, then I definitely find that part of the weight gain is due to bloating and fluid retention, as my system is inflamed from the amount of food thrown at it – in my case, far too many profiteroles, slices of Yule log, cheese, crisps, croissants, etc, so I figure if I can reduce the inflammation, then I can shed the first kilos quite easily.

But it was more than that, I realised I had had enough of feeling bloated, sluggish and even unwell, and with all the newspapers and online media full of every health tip under the sun and every different diet to try, I realised it was time for me to start being a bit kinder to my body.

 

For most of us, our biggest enemies are probably what I call the bad carbs – so the usual culprits that include anything with sugar, plus crisps, croissants, which are my personal downfall, and i know that if I just cut those out, then I will lose those extra kilos fairly quickly.

However, as it was not just about losing weight, I decided to kick start the healthy eating plan by also giving up dairy, fructose and red meat, so as to better give my system a bit of a breather.

My biggest discovery, and the one element of fun in this whole process, has been the food diary app, MyNetDiary. I absolutely LOVE it – it definitely appeals to my OCD tendencies. I cant help laughing when I say, or type, that, because it is something that Peter has been using for several years now, and boy, have I given him a hard time about it – weighing every nut that he consumes!

So now, it is my turn. I am having to eat my words (and sadly not much else), as I pedantically weigh every oat flake, houmous lick and oil dribble. But it is fun – i know, maybe not everybody’s idea of fun – I adore scanning all of the bar codes and adding all of the data (again, sad), and it sort of gives it all a focus. The scary bit is that it actually makes you realise how many calories you consume and what and where they are hidden. That handful of nuts I am used to chucking in my mouth, whenever the urge takes me, is practically 150 calories right there and then.

And the more activity I can add, the more calories it gives me to eat, so guess what, it definitely encourages me to fit an extra walk in where I can.

So far so good – day ten and hopefully it goes without saying that I feel much better already – slowly getting rid of the bad stuff from my body, as well as shedding two kilos of unwanted extra baggage.

Sunday morning treat – sugar free pancakes with low-fructose fruit and maple syrup