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Monday, 16 May 2011

A Food Revelation

Are farmers markets another branch of Rip-Britain? This question occurred me when I visited one at Alexander Palace. The company running most of London’s farmer’s markets insist that produce sold at them must be truly local.

Given that, I was not impressed to see carrots grown up the road costing more than twice what my local independent greengrocer charges for ones he imports from Cyprus. And don't get me started on the mushrooms at £65.00 a kilo!

The one point I continue to ram home in this blog is that local is (or at least should be), cheaper. The main road I live near contains many independent greengrocers selling fantastic produce at prices that put the big supermarkets to shame. I therefore see no good reason to tramp several miles on a Sunday morning just to pay Fortnum and Mason prices for basic vegetables bearing the 'farmer's market' label.

If the produce did not impress me, the PRODUCED goods certainly did and one provided me with a true ‘road to Damascus’ moment.

Having tramped to the market on a breakfast of thin air, I arrived at the market feeling really hungry. The stall selling cheese toasties looked tempting, but the long queue didn’t. A few nibbles at some of the yummy chutneys offered by one stallholder got my palate going. But I avoided the African chili sauce samples. I’ve had them before – and they are (deliciously) lethal and best avoided on a Sunday morning!

The Mediterranean/Middle Eastern nature of the area I live in means I am quite accepting of something spicy for breakfast. Thus, my first course was Moroccan flat bread with spinach, feta, mushrooms and harrisa paste. Though a little bit oily, it was utterly yummy and a bargain at £2.50.

For afters I had a massive lump of the best chocolate slab cake I have tasted in years. And at £1.50 a slice this was a real bargain, as was the fresh strawberry smoothie at £1.00 a cup.

But in between the flat bread and chocolate cake, I happened across a small stall right at the top end of the market. Now, this was a truly local stall. They don’t even have a name. The daughter selling her mum’s produce said they were going to call it the Indian Den but just settled on Mrs Amin’s after her mum (and I hope I got the name right).

I looked down at the small range of goods and the lentil loaf looked good. If anyone can do good things with lentils, it’ll be someone from an Indian background.

But what really caught my eye were these little pasty type things called a Kachori.

Containing flour, peas, moong dal, coconuts, ginger, chillies, coriander, salt and a touch of lemon juice, they looked rather tasty. And at just a £1, it was worth giving one a try.

Earlier in this blog, I talked about my first taste of a true Cornish pasty. Well, the first bite into this thing was a repeat of that moment! ‘It hits every spot, doesn’t it?’ said the stallholder. It certainly did.

Firstly, there was this lovely sweet blast from the peas. Then the rest of the flavours had a little dance round the inside of my mouth. The chilli and ginger hit their spots closely followed by the coconuts and the lemon juice with the salt and coriander providing the encore.

Earlier in the week, I’d watched Scottish chef Tony Singh get pipped at the post in the Great British Menu semi final with his Indian-based food. I reckon if he’d put a couple of these true delicacies from ‘Mrs Amin’ on the menu, he’d have romped home. Served as a starter with perhaps a thick dal, they wouldn’t look out of place in a Michelin starred restaurant.

One thing is for certain. Next time I go back there, I’m taking a sealable box with me, because a few of these little stunners would be ideal for a lunch at work.

I’d only decided to visit the Farmer’s market on a whim. As I say, where I live I don’t need to go anywhere to get food. But just finding mum’s Kachoris made the trip well worth it. Thanks mum! :)