East Oxford Farmers’ & Community Market

Farmers' Market Today

Markets in September really come into their own. There’s an abundance of produce, some looking back to the summer, and other looking forward towards autumn, so there’s more variety than probably any time during the year. This is the best time to shop. But there’s also the slightly melancholic feeling that we should enjoy it while it lasts, because this bounty is soon to disappear. As such, it feels special. It is special. So go to your local market and enjoy its bounty. Maybe make some jams or preserves to stretch that taste of the warm months into the cooler days to come.

The Sandy Lane vegetables

I’m lucky to live near a particularly good local market: The East Oxford Farmers’ & Community Market. So good in fact that in 2011 it was one of the finalists in Radio 4′s Food & Farming Awards. The market, run by volunteers since 2006, is relatively small, but the variety of produce is fantastic: milk, veg, fruit, honey, eggs, meat, trout, bread, cakes, other baked goods, juice, salami and cured meats, salad leaves, cheese, flowers, fairtrade tea and coffee. If you don’t fancy cooking, then there’s a variety of cooked food to choose from: Japanese, Indian, Italian, Middle-Eastern, Filipino, Tibetan, British, etc. Eco-friendly detergents and dried goods, crafts  and local organisations can also be found at the market. It’s a fantastic place to get your weekly staples, as well as the special artisanal extras. Redcurrants from Sotwell Manor Fruit Farm Continue reading

Bream with garlic, saffron and preserved lemons

“As the Italian say, cook with love and passion. Which I translate as: enjoy it, give it time and patience, and be tender.Niamh Shields

I totally agree. Sometimes, cooking feels like meditation, all the stars aligned. I remember the first time I felt like this. Or perhaps the first time I consciously noticed feeling like this. It was over a big pot of ragu for lasagne. Everything felt just right: calm, complete, whole, balanced. I was happy and connected. And the dish turned out just delicious.

It’s similar with flavours, but the feeling is stronger and shorter. Like a dart of pleasure, a stronger connection, but one that lasts a shorter time. Some combinations just hit the right note. Like a culinary, gustatory G-spot. They’re simply perfect. Such as the flavours in Claudia Roden’s chicken tagine with lemon and olives, which were a springboard for this dish. I thought how well its flavours of lemon, saffron and herbs would go with fish. And then I made it and they did go together  so well.

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Back home

Blue wave

I dream of a perfect mojito on a summer evening, in a shadowy garden of the Havana restaurant in Bar Harbor Maine, at the end of a perfect day.

Perfect mojito

I laugh remembering the zing and the vivacious buzz of Provincetown in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Beautiful dining room

I savour the moments spent around a beautiful round dining table in friends’ house, and off. You’ve got to love a dinner that includes a dash to the seashore to photograph the sunset, alongside a wicked blueberry pie.

Thank you.

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Letter to Lina

English garden

Dear Lina,

Hello, my name is A. and I live in your house. Your former house, which is now our house, that is. We bought it off your family after you – well, there is no easy way to say this – passed away. I hope you don’t mind me disturbing your rest.

The neighbours have told me about you. How you liked to cook and entertain well into your 80s. That’s impressive. I want to have the same energy and spirit when I’m that age. And if I’m very lucky, that sort of friends, too, that would come to share the food and the laughter with me. I hope there will always be plenty of both.

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