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Dordogne

And back to France we go – the next instalment of our summer holiday to the Dordogne (you can catch up on part one and two if you like).

We had one proper day trip out, having done some research before we went away on places that looked nice to visit, we decided to head towards Sarlat. I’d heard there was a seriously good market here, and there were a couple of little places along the river that looked nice, so we filled our bellies with sourdough spelt bread spread with honey and strawberries and off we went.

Sarlat

The market at Sarlat did not disappoint.  It was incredible!  I always worry “are we going to find the market?” when we head somewhere new, but you couldn’t miss Sarlat market, even if you weren’t looking for it, you would stumble across it on a wander around the town.  It goes on and on down the narrow winding streets, tumbling out into squares.

Sarlat market

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This past weekend we went to Bath for a weekend away with friends.  On Saturday morning whilst I was waiting for Mr Rigg to arrive by train, I ventured in to the Bath Farmer’s Market – and what treats awaited me!

Incredible veggies – like these pink stripey beetroot and mixed carrots.  I bought a bunch of each.

Wonderful cured meats and sausages – bottom right is pancetta and Coppa, both of which found their way into my shopping bag, along with some Italian pinwheel sausages (back top left). 

Mushrooms of all kinds – I bought a box of those teeny tiny ‘Paris Browns’.

Cheeses of all kinds, including the award winning Bath Soft Cheese – somewhere between a Brie and a Camembert.

This is the lovely oil man, selling rapeseed oil made from his farm’s crops, and also making a selection of delicious dressings.  I usually make all my own salad dressings, but I couldn’t resist a bottle of his creamy Quince and Cider dressing.

The quince lady…well that’s not her real name (a bit more on her soon) selling a selection of beautiful homemade quince products.  Syrups, jellies, sweets and quince paste.

The choice of vegetables available at the farmer’s markets is outstanding.  All farmers markets around the country should have this kind of choice.  Everyone around the country should have access to vegetables like these.  Dark bunches of cavolo nero and pumpkins of all sizes and colours.

The aforementioned flowerpot bread – cheese and herb I think, baked in a terracotta flowerpot to give it that unusual shape.  Also deliciously tasty!

If you ever thought winter vegetables could be boring, here’s a picture to change your mind – amber pumpkins, pinky-purple onions, muddy carrots, fat beetroot, stalks of sprouts, bundles of spinach, dark curly kale, crisp stalks of celery, fresh broccoli, and the wrinkly savoy cabbage or those tinged violet.

And this stall selling their own cheeses, and various cheese products and accompaniments – chutney, cheesecake, soft cheese, and curd tarts.  I bought some of their ewes cheese which was incredibly delicious.

Our pre-dinner nibble – cheese and herb flowerpot bread (from Bath farmer’s market – more on that to come!), Mrs Kirkham’s crumbly Lancashire cheese, and Killerton Estate apple chutney.

Scrummy.

I’m not doing very well at keeping up with … well … updating!  There’s so much I want to share and yet I must find more time!  And so many promised posts and recipes … I haven’t even finished off my food memories of Italy (part 1 and 2), and that was last September!

Note to self: must try harder.

On a jollier note, we had a scrumptious and so SO simple tea of roasted summer vegetables.  This is my idea of cooking, of eating, of tasting.  And what a Nigel Slater way to eat dinner – just a plate of roasted vegetables and some hunks of good bread to mop up the juices.

In my pan of delicious roasted vegetables were the following: baby orange peppers, red pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, red baby plum tomatoes and homegrown yellow courgette.  All cut into similar sized chunks, drizzled with good olive oil and roasted. 

The added extra that make this dish really simple were liberal dollops of sundried tomato paste, hunks of buffalo mozzarella, finely chopped garlic, a sprinkling of dried herbs, and some good old fashioned seasoning (salt and pepper). 

I also whizzed up lots of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a good handful of grated Parmesan which was drizzled over everything towards the end of the cooking, and extra served fresh.

All this was munched up with gorgeous foccacia bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread – bought that morning at Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market.

You can’t get better than that!

Soul food for wintery weekends – a bowl of homemade French onion soup and chunky slices of bread smeared thickly with butter.  We ate Miracle Bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread bought at Abbey Ley’s farmers market spread with white goat’s butter.

cheshirefm

I thought it was about time I created a list of the farmer’s markets in Cheshire to share with everyone.  I have only been to a handful of these that are closest to me, but if anyone has any recommendations on others that are worth the drive I would love to know.  If I’ve missed any off, or the details need updating, please let me know.  For a printable version, click here.

~ ABBEY LEYS FARM ~
1st Sunday of the month
9am – 2pm
Abbey Leys Farm, High Legh

~ ALDERLEY EDGE ~
2nd Sunday of the month
10am – 2pm
The Festival Hall, Alderley Edge

~ ALTRINCHAM ~
1st Friday of the month
7am – 2pm
Covered Market, Market Street

~ CHESTER ~
1st Wednesday of the month
10am – 4.30pm
Chester Town Hall Square

~ CLOVER BANK FARM ~
3rd Saturday of the month
8.30am – 12.30pm
Shellow Lane, North Rode, Macclesfield

~ CONGLETON ~
1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month
9am – 2pm
The Bridestones Centre, Congleton

~ CREWE ~
3rd Saturday of the month
9am – 3pm
Municipal Square, Crewe

~ CRONTON ~
2nd Saturday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
Cronton Nursery, Cronton

~ ELLESMERE PORT ~
4th Saturday of the month
9am – 4pm
adjoining Market Hall, Ellesmere Port

~ GOOSTREY ~
3rd Saturday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
Methodist Church Hall, Main Road, Goostrey

~ GROSVENOR GARDEN CENTRE ~
2nd Friday of the month
10am – 3pm
Pulford

~ HALE ~
3rd Sunday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
St Peter’s Assembly Rooms, Cecil Road, Hale

~ KINGSMEAD ~
4th Saturday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
Kingsmead Primary School, Northwich

 ~ KNUTSFORD ~
1st Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
Silk Mill Street, Knutsford

~ MIDDLEWICH ~
1st Saturday of the month
10am – 2pm
Boosey’s Garden Centre

~ MOBBERLEY ~
4th Sunday of the month
10am – 2pm
Mobberley Victory Hall

~ MOLD ~
1st Saturday of the month
9am – 3pm
St Mary’s Church Hall, Mold

~ NANTWICH ~
Last Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
The Square, Nantwich

~ NESTON ~
3rd Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
Neston Town Hall

~ NORTHWICH ~
2nd Saturday of the month
9am – 3pm
Market Way, next to Northwich Market

~ POYNTON ~
1st Sunday of the month
9am – 1pm
Poynton Civic Hall, Park Lane

~ RODE HALL ~
1st Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
Scholar Green, Allsager

~ VALE ROYAL ~
3rd Saturday of the month
10am – 2pm
Eddisbury Fruit Farm, Yeld Lane, Kelsall

~ WARRINGTON ~
2nd Sunday of the month
10.30am – 4.30pm
Walton Lea Project, Walton Gardens Heritage Yard

~ WIRRAL ~
2nd Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
New Ferry Village Hall, Grove Street, New Ferry

~ WOODFORD ~
3rd Sunday of the month
9am – 1pm
Woodford Community Centre, Chester Road

Abbey Leys Farmers Market :: Cheshire ::

I am still defrosting after spending the morning in a draughty barn at the local farmers market.  I am a volunteer with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and am the sole volunteer responsible for their local food work.  I had a stall at a number of farmers markets in Cheshire over the summer, handing out leaflets and gathering nominations for a ‘Buy Local’ food awards we have been running. 

This time I was helping with a project that is being piloted round the country called Mapping Local Food Webs.  It sounds confusing and it is quite – but in brief it’s researching and documenting the relationships between farmer/producer, retailer and customer, and if there are any challenges.  If you’re interested more information can be found at http://www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk/.

The pilot project in the North West is being centred around Knutsford (if you’re reading this and from Knutsford (!) and are interested in getting involved please leave me a comment).  We had a great map of Knutsford and the surrounding area of about a 15 miles radius.  We asked people to put a coloured sticky dot on the map to show us where they had come from.  It was really interesting to see where people had travelled from – from the really local who had walked down the road, to those who had travelled over 15 miles and had to stick their coloured dot on the edge of the map. 

For me, I consider ‘local food’ to be food that is grown/produced within about 10 miles of where I live.  Nationally I believe it is defined as food that is produced within 30 miles of you, which is actually quite a distance if you look at it on a map.  It was a pretty quiet market today, the first of the year, but we are aiming to go back in a month when it should be back to its busy self, and hopefully the map will come with us and we should start to build up a really interesting picture of where people travel from to visit the market.

frosty morning

frosty morning

I am terrible at remembering to bring my camera with me when we go out.  This morning we went down to our local farmers market at Abbey Leys Farm (http://www.abbeyleys.co.uk/).  It’s a beautiful day – blue skies, sun shining, the countryside frosted with white icing – but bloody freezing.  All our favourite local producers were there, everybody wrapped up in scarfs, hats and mittens.  And I forgot my camera.  And didn’t even have my phone which takes pretty good photos.  I will learn, I promise – it’s so frustrating to want to share a lovely experience and not have any pictures to show of it.

For now I shall just have to tell you that we came away with a basket of farmhouse butter (from Preston), a string of onions (from Southport), half a dozen organic eggs (Abbey Leys), mini chocolate butter Stollen (from Warrington), a raspberry thickie made from Cheshire yoghurt (Tiresford Farm), and a french country loaf (from Love Bread in Knutsford).  We had a quick chat with Sue at Little Heath Farm and emplored her to start making cocktail-sized sausages over the Christmas period – I have been craving those little sausages you find at Christmas parties that have been baked in the oven with honey and wholegrain mustard – yum!  We also saw the Pie Man (Neil from The Great North Pie Company) who had, as usual, sold out an hour and a half into the market. 

It has been a nice week for local food – the first ever Lymm Farmer’s Market was held at Oughtrington Community Centre to raise funds for their badly needed new boilers.  I went down to volunteer and help out during the morning, and it seemed to be a big hit and a great success. 

There were some of the local food ‘big boys’ like The Great Tasting Meat Company (http://www.greattastingmeat.co.uk/) , who were cooking up sausage and onion buns for chilly customers.

The Great Tasting Meat Company :: Lymm Farmer's Market ::

Our local box scheme providers – Northern Harvest (http://www.northernharvest.co.uk/) – were there with some fantastic bundles of cavalo nero, the only kind of kale I seem to manage.  This was later cooked up into a fantastic Italian Bread and Cabbage soup.

Northern Harvest :: Lymm Farmer's Market ::

And some businesses from further afield who were new to us, like The Piemill (http://www.piemill.com/) from Cumbria. 

Pies from The Piemill :: Lymm Farmer's Market ::

N is busy in the kitchen whipping up some Smoked Mackerel Pate for lunch.  There was a near disaster when we discovered we were out of lemons, but the pate has been rescused with a few store cupboard staples – a glug of white wine vinegar (to give it a tang) and some lemon flavoured olive oil that we brought back from Croatia.  It tastes almost as good, and is about to go down a treat on the bread from the market…

lettuce :: Saumur market, the Loire Valley ::

As I sit at home recovering from an operation to remove one of wisdom teeth (eugh!) I am again thinking about happier times and things.  It is drizzling outside and I have let one of my bunnies out to roam the garden, although I’m sure he’s in fact hunkering down in his cosy house. 

Last night as I tried to get off to sleep I was thinking about the local farmers markets and the different markets I’ve been to around the UK and abroad, and ultimately got to thinking what it is that makes a great farmers market.  I have come to the conculsion it is vegetables.  There are some delicious offerings at farmers markets – homemade pies, deep ruby coloured streaky bacon, and crusty sourdoughs – but for me, a table heaped with fresh, straight from the earth, picked that morning vegetables is what I’m really after. 

My local farmers market it really good and swarming with people long before their advertised opening time, and has for sale many of those fantastic products I listed previously, but it does lack exciting vegetables.  There are two markets which stick out in my mind for great, stomach-tingling vegetables: Stroud Farmers Market (in Gloucestershire) and the Saturday market in Saumur (a bit far to go for most UK shoppers as it’s in the Loire Valley in France).  When I think back to my visits to these markets, it’s vegetables that I’m dreaming of – crisp lettuce the size of mixing bowls, boxes full of peas, heaps of heirloom tomatoes, new potatoes covered in soil. 

Vegetables are at the heart of what we eat, they make up (or at least should I believe) the bulk of our meals and can be so exciting.  Having a wide choice of vegetables encourages me to be creative, to eat simple, clean, refreshing food.  Some of my best meals have been made without a kitchen, just a bowl of beautiful vegetables, a sharp knife, some seasoning and perhaps the odd barbque-singed sausage and hunk of gooey cheese for good measure.  These are my best food memories.

simple tomato salad :: France ::

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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