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And that’s it folks…

And, that’s it folks.  No more crazy early mornings filled with  intense baking sessions, vats of soup and spiced bramley apples. No more frenetic tweeting of mes petits désastres. No more waking to the intense  savouriness that is the smell of  kilos of slow roasting pork, wading through the aroma and the sleepiness down the stairs, and opening the oven to a rush of steam and porky goodness. The draining of the fat and the crisping of the crackling. Dipping my hand into the meaty cavern and pulling out the tender shreds of juicy meat.

That’s it The last week is down. A snow filled Wednesday, but cheery to the end and committed to the market, we carried on. We went out with a bang. Yeterday at market was a fantastically busy day and a perfect day to go out on.

The night before, I was exhausted, and really not in the mind for cooking. On the way home from work, I stopped at Selfirdge’s, knowing they had Brindisa chorizo which I wanted for my stew. Sadly, I was too late for Brindisa itself. Then  a quick pit stop in Covent Garden to collect my enormous stock pot, which I had loaned to Denise of The Wine Sleuth, who had taken my place at the market for the previous two days while I was at work, selling her Spicy Tortilla Soup and toasties. Finally, a quick stop in King’s Cross, to see a visiting friend from Tokyo.

By the time I got home, lugging pots, chorizo, kilos of Bramley apples, and what was left of me, I had no energy to cook.  But I had to. That pork ain’t going to slow roast itself. So, in I went, preheated the oven to 220, prepared the pork, put it in the oven, and went to wait the 20 minutes before turning it down to allow it to roast gently. Perfect, no?

No. I fell asleep. I was so very tired, and it was only for half an hour or so, but that was enough to destroy that precious crackling. Luckily I had some extra meat in the fridge, so I could start again. Although, I felt terrible, guilty and annoyed. What a *waste* of lovely meat. I could save the inner portion for my own use later, but I would not be selling it at market.

I decided against boiling the soaked dried chickpeas for the stew, as clearly, I could not be trusted to stay awake, and left this for the morning, setting the alarm a little earlier to fit it in. I went to bed annoyed and, ironically, unable to sleep, worried that I would not have enough food for Saturday, or the time to prepare it

Roll on the morning. I am tired, and it is very cold, I’ve had very little sleep. A peer out the window reveals a carpet of snow on the roof tops.  Shivering, I proceeded down the stairs, by now loathing that porky fragrance.  I sorted out the pork, boiled up the chickpeas and started the stew; sauteeing onions, garlic, chorizo, paprika and adding several good glugs of good red wine, before adding the tomatoes and the chickpeas. Things were smelling good. Bay leaves for extra fragrance, and then it was  time to start the spiced apple, peeling all of those apples, how I’ve come to dread it! Some time later, they’re bubbling in the pot,their sturdy mass  slowly giving way to the water, the spices and the sugar, and transforming to the sweet and spicy condiment that would nestle next to the pork, conspiratorial in their bread blanket later that afternoon.

All done, it’s time to turn my attention to me, and get ready. Bolstering myself with layer after layer, fleece socks over wooly tights, thermals under polo necks under jumpers. Time to call the cab, and collect the bread, get to Covent Garden and set up the market.

At the market it’s busy, and things are looking good. I set up, ask my neighbouring Argentinian stallholder to make me a quick coffee (as that is what he does), and, lastly, as always, I reveal the pork. I’ve come to learn that once this is exposed, I get busy, and there really is no time to do anything else.

It’s the last day, and it’s nearing Christmas. There’s a lovely atmophere. Lots of smiles, is it me or the mulled wine? I expect the latter. It’s lots of fun, and non-stop for 3 hours. I am desperate for a break and a bowl of my lovely Chorizo and Chickpea stew, for I have not eaten since I got up. A girl cannot live on coffee alone.  In the end I have to steal bites in between customers, and in the end consume most of it cold. But who can complain, when everyone is enjoying what I am serving? It makes me very happy.

Several hours later, the pork is gone, and I am relieved. The stew follows shortly after, and friends arrive. We chatter, and indulge in some Bisol Jeio Prosecco. We eat gorgeous shot sized desserts from The Dessert Deli, chocolate mousse and panacotta, and follow with chocolate marshmallows from Sugar Grain. We’re indulgent and we’re having lots of fun. It must be Christmas.

It’s time to pack up! Hooray, it’s been a long day.  I hate this bit normally, but I have lots of helpers, and swiftly, the stall is deconstructed, the wash up is done, everything is put away and it’s time for dinner and wine at Terroirs.

And that’s it. No more market until mid February 2010. Hopefully, I’ll be back. Market days are rumoured to be Fridays and Saturdays next year, which hopefully is true, as I can no longer do Thursdays and I want to continue and explore further. Who knows, maybe I will learn to drive, get some equipment, try new things. I really, really want to.

It’s been a fun 5 months. 5 whole months! I can’t believe it either. Getting out there, cooking, trying new recipes, selling my food, seeing what people like, talking to people about my recipes and getting tips from them. I’ll miss the regulars, I never would have imagined that I would have lunch time queues. Most of all I’ll miss the camraderie with my neighbouring stallholders. Even in Wednesday’s snow, people were smiling, and that helped me smile too.

End of a chapter, but not of an era. Bring on 2010 and it’s culinary adventures.

PS. Photos are from my iphone, forgive the poor quality.

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Festive Frolics at Covent Garden Real Food Market

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I’m not one for noticing detail. One market day recently, I glanced upwards after the lunch time rush, and spotted evergreen gracing the top of my stall.

Of course! We’re getting close to Christmas, and the market is embracing it. We have chocolate salamis and spiced pecans, gorgeous homemade Christmas puddings and mulled wine. I’m serving up my 8 hour slow roast pork with spiced apple, but I am also including spiced soups to warm the senses on these very cold days. Recently I served up a very traditional boiled Irish gammon sandwich, we always have these over Christmas, particularly on St Stephens Day (Boxing Day in the UK) and it filled me with a surge of nostalgia and a longing from home.

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I would love to do more festive dishes, like Irish spiced beef, very popular in Cork. Cured for weeks with spices like cloves, allspice, ginger, mace & bay, it’s then boiled and served up over the Christmas period. I adore the leftovers in a sandwich. It’s not to be this Christmas period though. I simply don’t have the fridge space for pork shoulders and spiced beef, not to mention the food I eat normally week to week. Maybe next year. I have however, rolled out the Christmas decorations, and have a new festive red tablecloth, which kept me cheery through the bitter cold.

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Soups this week, were all aromatic. Thursday was pumpkin and lentil with a spice paste made from galangal, lemongrass, red chillis, garlic & ginger. Kaffir lime leaves and bay also added some fragrance. A similar base graced Friday’s white bean, pumpkin and spinach soup.

willie-market

This last week was particularly special, as Sig, blogger behind Scandilicious, had a Scandi Christmas stall On Thursday and happily shared mine with me. She served up some delicious specialities Gingerbread with Lemon Icing, Chocolate & Cardamom Cake and my favourite Potato Pancakes filled with Cinnamon Buttercream. Sig has posted the recipes on her blog, with a fun photos of us, where I am Michelin Man esque (in size only), I blame, in part only, multiple layers of thermals, that market is bloody cold.

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We had lots of visitors, and there was much quaffing or prosecco, pork and cake. The simple pleasures life brings! I had a great day, thanks to Sig for being such charming company. Normally by 4pm I am bored and wondering who I can ask to cover my stall while I nip off for a loo break.

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Not only that, the market is all inclusive and we also had latkes for Hannukah from Daniel of Young & Foodish. I adore latkes, I’ve blogged about them before, both the traditional latkes with apples sauce and some more avant garde beetroot ones with goats cheese. Daniel’s latkes were delicious, served solo, or with sour cream and salmon roe. Very popular, he sold out early both days, and I, nipped down to catch the last two, as I was desperate for seconds.

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So, one more week left of market, and then we close until mid February. This week, it opens Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I will only be at market on Wednesday and Saturday this week, but I am lining up a guest stallholder to take my place on Thursday and Friday. Watch this space!

Come by and say hi! It will be the last of my slow roast pork, soup, and Bisol Jeio Prosecco, for a couple of months. I do plan to come back in February though. I initially only committed to Christmas, but I really enjoy it and want to see if I can push it further. Maybe it can become a real business? Right now it only supplements work, and on bad days when the weather is grim, I am lucky to break even, but I’ll give it a try. The only question is, when combinging it with work, how long will I be able to work 7 days a week for?! I think I can manage.

Some photos are from my iphone, so forgive the quality. Thanks to Willie Lebus for the photo of Sig & I.

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The art of the tart and making an impression

Another week has gone by, and we’ve spent another Thursday at the market. This week started with a bang with me spectacularly locking myself out of my house whilst signing for some post. I wasn’t even wearing shoes, just a dress, whose hemline was too north of the knee, to feel anything but freezing and ill prepared for the situation.

I have a tricky relationship with my postman at best. He has told me off for “neglecting” my post. I explained I work(ed) for a living. Sheesh. So, you can imagine how we both felt when the door slammed behind me with me standing in my porch with nothing on my feet, bare legs, no phone, no keys, no wallet, and I don’t know anyone’s number.

No neighbours were in, I was well and truly stuck. Even if they were in, I am much shorter than the fences at either side of my garden. The postman, now transitioned from sworn enemy to personal hero, persuaded an elderly Caribbean neighbour two doors down of the severity of the situation and she allowed him to climb over her fence so that we could get at the one next to my garden. No small feat, the man is my height (= short). The relief when he opened the door and let me in, the poor guy was horribly stressed. I resumed my task of menu planning at the kitchen table whilst telling the twitterati my woes, wondering if it was too early to have a stiff drink to calm my nerves. It was.

Back to the task at hand! Prep was very busy this week as I changed the menu, so there was no blog post in advance. I was too busy standing in the center of a very hot kitchen wondering if I could possibly fall asleep on my feet, and how long for? I was feeling on the verge of a Rip van Winkle style coma following another extremely early start.

I did really enjoy the prep this time though, it was nice to have the variety. As much as I love brown Irish soda bread, if I had to bake another loaf, there may have been a soda shaped hole in my kitchen window or I may have just hit myself over the head with one to make the pain end.

For once, we had good weather. Actual sunshine and lots of it. We also had the fabulous company of fellow blogger Kavey of KaveyEats, who had a wonderful selection of condiments, jam tarts, jellies, nuts and jam tarts. You can read more about it on Kavey’s blog.

This week, I focussed on tarts, and quite by accident produced an entirely vegetarian range! All open, and savoury, with one exception, a sweet filo tart with blackberry, ricotta, mint & honey. All original recipes, I shall have to scrawl them down and share them. I enjoyed this little tart adventure with sweet foray, and will make more for next week. People seemed to like them too, and that is what this is all about after all!

I made 4 types of savoury tarts and two types of rolls. I reverted to puff pastry this week, filling the rolls with spinach, ricotta and roast butternut squash and spiced burnt aubergine with chilli, ricotta and roast tomato. The tart fillings were roast beetroot, goats cheese & mint; roast pumpkin, spinach and gorgonzola; spiced burnt aubergine with ricotta, chilli, feta & parsley and roast tomato, courgette and parmesan. All washed down with one of my favourite proseccos from Bisol: Bisol Jeio.

Not content with starting with a bang, I ensured that I finished with one also, with a spectacular fall in front of lots of people at the market whilst running to get some bread. The stunned stall holder, on the phone, stopped and said “Sorry, a girl has just gone flying through the air and is now lying on the ground. Are you ok?!”. I blame the cobbles. Others blame the prosecco.

All’s well that ends well, everyone was so shocked all we could do was laugh, and somehow I managed to gather a couple of impressive bruises on my left shoulder and right knee. I literally landed with a thud.

The verdict? We’re getting there, and I am still really enjoying it. I love making the food, and it’s great to meet readers, fellow bloggers & twitterers. Thanks to everyone that came and supported us.

We’ll be there weekly for the foreseeable future. Next week there’ll be more tarts, something sweet and one of my favourites – CHORIZO! Details as they evolve.

Thanks so much for all of your support and I look forward to meeting more of you, and cooking lots more food. I love it!

Ill stick with the cooking, I suck as a signwriter!

I'll stick with the cooking, I suck as a signwriter!

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Covent Garden Real Food Market Stall: Roundup Part 1

Our day at Covent Garden Market last week was so much fun! The other stall holders were friendly and welcoming, and we met some lovely people throughout the day.  It was worth the holiday day, and worth all the trekking. I’ll leave you with a quick roundup and some photos now, and will come back to tell the story properly soon. I will also share the soda bread and cucumber pickle recipe as promised.

I learned a few things last week.

  • Slicing 10 cucumbers by hand is a tedious task. Buy a food processor!
  • 5.30am is very early, especially when you go to bed post pickling and slightly pickled at 1.30am.
  • Don’t sandwich packets of butter between piping hot bread straight from the oven. Should you do this and carry it in a bag on your shoulder, it will leak on your shoes. And on the tube floor. And you may get startled by the sight of the yellow blood on your legs and let loose an expletive in front of some shocked elderly men. Elderly men of Turnpike Lane, I’m sorry!
  • If the market manager says you have the keys for the fridge, it’s likely you do. Don’t tell him 3 times that you don’t, only to discover, when he has given up all hope, that they are in the bottom of your handbag. Sorry Ben!
  • Always prepare for rain, just because you are Irish doesn’t mean you are impermeable (although I should be).


I learned some other things too:

  • There are lots of lovely people in London, and I met a lot of them last Thursday. Thanks for coming by!
  • I love food and I love cooking, but I get so much pleasure from other people enjoying it, much more than what I get from eating it myself.
  • Frank Hederman is a star, and he makes phenomenal produce. Everyone loved it.
  • Another star, Roberto from Bisol represents a fine, fine prosecco, and is great fun to boot.
  • Denise from The Wine Sleuth is a fun stall partner, I haven’t laughed so much in ages.
  • I love markets, and I loved having our little stall. The day flew, so much so, I hardly ate myself! As queen of the snack in the  office, this was quite a shock, for me and everyone who knows me.
  • Sneaky glasses of prosecco over the course of a day can result in spontaneous bouts of singing in the taxi on the way home. And you are the only one that will appreciate it.