26 March 2011
Headington Farmers Market.

"The economic downturn threatens many things and we must hang on to our local monthly Farmers’ Market in Headington. Use it or lose it!"

By: Julia Gasper
Fortunately, using it on a sunny Spring morning like yesterday was a treat and it seemed to me that quite a lot of people were there. I bumped into two old friends and went to all my favourite stalls, as well as discovering a new one. On the list of unmissable things are always the bakery stall and Eadles for yummy chickens and meaty pork sausages. Apparently we’re not allowed to call anything a Cumberland sausage now unless it’s made in Cumberland, so I will describe these as a Cumberland-style ¬sausage, solid and lean. Do Yorkshire puddings also have to be made in Yorkshire? What about Irish stews? Dundee cakes? Bath buns? And Jerusalem artichokes? I also bought, on impulse, some lamb’s kidneys, which can be grilled, fried or put in a stew. The stall selling smoked trout is another one I stop at automatically. No need to nibble their tasters - I know their products are delicious.

The cheese stall is a great delight. We are very lucky to have Crudges’ artisan cheeses presenting their wares at the market.
The prize-winning cheeses have wonderful names like Haddon Gold and Titcomb. You can choose between cow’s, ewe’s or goat’s cheese. These cheeses are expensive, but you are getting a full flavour and some unusual textures that are worth lingering over at the end of a meal. I’m going to use some of my Haddon Gold to make a sauce for the cauliflower I bought on the vegetable stall.

Lastly and most exciting of all, the fish stall. I am enthusiastically supporting Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight at the moment, and it has convinced me that TV chefs are not just useless celebs, but splendid public-spirited people who campaign for noble causes. Hugh has been encouraging all of us to buy unusual fish, caught in British waters, to promote variety in the shops and discourage wasteful discards. I often buy skate and this time I splashed out on some little skate gougeons which will be quick and easy to cook (like scallops), but I also bought a whole gurnard which is something I’ve never done before. The gurnard or gurnet is mentioned in Victorian cookery books and seems to have gone out of fashion because it is rather an ugly fish. According to Elizabeth David, it is sometimes put into a bouillabaisse. I decided to follow a Victorian recipe and stuff it with breadcrumbs, then bake it, wrapped in slices of bacon, with an onion and some butter. The Victorians recommended adding Harvey’s sauce, a strong-flavoured anchovy sauce, which is optional. I didn’t think it was necessary. The baked fish made a tasty meal, probably enough for four people (or two greedy ones).

A real discovery! Thumbs up for gurnard! There’s more to life than just frozen cod! The total of what I spent on the fish stall was only £10.80, hardly enough for one main course at a typical fish restaurant. Of course, you do have to wash up afterwards at home. Well worth it. See you at next month’s Farmers’ Market.

 1st Aerials Oxford




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