Melton Mowbray Farmer’s Market Game Auction

Game, foraged mushrooms, veg, just a few of the things you can bid on at the auction

Tuesday mornings are my favourite because I head across the road to Melton Farmer’s Market, eat a bacon sandwich and head into the auction sheds to see what treats are on offer. One of the many things I love about this bustling weekly market is that you never know what you are going to find.

A couple of months ago I nominated Melton Farmer’s Market for the Best Food Market category in the BBC Food and Farming Awards. A couple of weeks ago I was stood in the kitchens prepping Sunday lunch and listening to BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme on the little radio, as I always do, when I heard Valentine Warner read out my nomination. I really like Valentine’s approach to food and cooking, in fact the only cookbook I have in the work kitchen is his “What to Eat Now – Autumn/Winter” book, which sits next to the radio. I recognised my words instantly, Melton Farmer’s market had made it to the final three from hundreds of nominations, I was ecstatic! I’m still ecstatic about it, Melton Farmer’s market is the heart and soul of countryside living and it really deserves to be celebrated.

Earlier in the year I took Radio Leicester’s Ben Jackson to the market. Ben is passionate about the county and it’s wonderful food and we had a blast, as we always do when we hang out together, and I promised that once game season kicks off we would do it again. Well game season is in full swing and yesterday morning off we went to see what was on offer in the Fur and Feather shed.

Melton Farmer’s market never disappoints, you can listen to me and Ben and find out just how easy it is to bid at the game auction by clicking on this link:

Melton Mowbray Game Auction – Radio Leicester (audio)

There were pheasants, partridges, pigeons, rabbits, hares, ducks, venison and grouse hanging on the racks and on the tables were boxes of huge turgid savoy cabbages, bags of onions, plenty of massive squashes, a giant pumpkin and lots of boxes of foraged mushrooms, marvellous!

What I love about the auction is that the people around you love to talk about the food that’s being sold. Recipe tips are exchanged and foraging spots shared. Unlike pretty much everyone else that attends the auction I’m not a huge fan of the blewitt mushrooms which are called Blue Legs here. I prefer the meaty parasol mushrooms and am always the solitary bidder (likewise when I buy squirrels!) so people are always happy to tell me where they’ve seen lots growing.

Whilst there on Tuesday morning we chatted to the bidders around us, swapping hanging and cooking techniques, discussing how the price for the venison was high this week and the price of live chickens so low (just £1 for 4 birds) and that you could pick up two big plump live turkeys for just £30 today. I wish I had more outdoor space I really do, I think my chickens would object to sharing their coop with a huge turkey or two.

Lots of people outside of such a community seem to view game as being something for the upper classes, for the toffs to shoot and eat, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Game is cheap, healthy and plentiful. Game isn’t a “food trend” on people’s plates round here, it’s a seasonal feast that’s looked forward to each year and welcomed back into our kitchens with gleefully hungry, open arms.

Pheasants were going for £1.50/brace, Grouse went for a whopping £13 this week as there was just the one brace and the mallards just £1.50. That huge pumpkin was sold to me for a mere £1!

The veg is always top quality and we walked away with the most perfect savoy cabbages and a whopping pumpkin that weighted in at 7.4kg for just £1. So far that pumpkin has been turned into a huge pumpkin and porcini lasagne, 50 yes FIFTY rich and fudgy pumpkin, walnut and chocolate brownies and I STILL have 1/4 of it left to use up.

It’s not just the auctions that draw me to the market every week but in the food shed you will find the wonderful Maria and her homemade delights. Maria’s homemade butter is just incredible and this week her husband Tony, who makes wonderful chilli sauces and wooden chopping boards, had been out shooting and whipped up lots of venison pâte.

In the 3 years that I’ve been living in Melton Mowbray, and using the cattle market twice a week, it has become my main source of food and enjoyment in this town. It never fails to enrich my cupboards, larder and dining table and will hopefully continue to do so for many  years. If you ever get a chance to come over to Melton on a Tuesday morning then make sure you have a wander around all the different sheds; you’ll find antiques, collectables, firewood, building wood, clothes, kitchenalia, not to mention all the ferrets, pigs, sheep, cows, canaries, geese, well the list goes on and on. Come over, come early (auctions kick off about 9:30am), grab yourself a wild boar bacon sandwich from Paul (aka The Roosterman) and take it all in, you won’t be disappointed.

 

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Wild Wood Pigeon, a Lemon Verbena Surprise and Glen gets naked…

Thursday morning and I’m in a bit of a flutter. I’m recording a baking session with Ben Jackson for BBC Radio Leicester in an hour, I’ve been frantically cleaning and mopping the kitchen and I’ve just discovered that Poppy Bumface (our kitten) is locked in the cottage next door and I can hear her crying through the wall. I’ve no idea what time my neighbour is coming home (or how she got in there for that matter) and I haven’t managed to prep any ingredients

Whilst I’m peering through the neighbour’s letterbox at a crying Poppy Bumface, (probably making her much more distressed) unbeknownst to me Boris Cat has brought a present into the kitchen. I return to find a flurry of grey and white feathers, a smug looking Boris Cat and a decapitated, still warm, plump wood pigeon on my freshly mopped floor. Feathers are stuck to the still wet floor, cupboards, fridge door and there is a little trail of blood leading to the back door. Brilliant.

Boris Cat, hunter extraordinaire

As bad as his timing was,two things are very impressive about this, 1: Boris wears not one but TWO bells on his collar and therefore sounds like a herd of reindeer as he moves (and looks like a feline Mr T.   2: The body of the wood pigeon was completely untouched, it was a clean kill, just the head removed which I don’t eat and the body presented to be by the oven. Couldn’t help but be massively impressed by this.

The back door was wide open and there on the doorstep stood my 2 chickens looking rather shaken at the murder they had clearly just witnessed! The last thing I wanted was for Ben to arrive into this scene of blood, feathers and traumatised chickens so I very quickly plucked the pigeon, removed the breasts, heart and lungs, popped them in the fridge and cleared the kitchen (and fed the chickens some hemp seeds and grapes to try and reassure them that all was well!).

Despite my somewhat flustered state the recording went well and if you want to listen click here. I am 1hr 41mins into the broadcast.

So I had 2 wonderfully plump wood pigeon breasts, a heart and liver, what to make? I just kept it really simple and pan fried it with butter, seasoning and sherry. A forage about in my garden delivered lots of edible leaves and flowers. By picking lots of different leaves and flowers I was able to try different combinations. It was absolutely beautiful. The big surprises were how incredible the combination of lemon verbena and pigeon was. The sharp herbal lemon twist just balanced the earthy pigeon and sweet sherry. The lovage leaves were another surprise combination that I’m going to be exploring. In fact everything was just delicious.  The liver was like the most delicate mousse, far superior to any chicken liver, more like foie gras. I’m guessing it’s down to the wood pigeons gorging themselves on the chicken corn and mash that I put out every day.

“Give me back my wood pigeon, I caught it, it’s MINE!”

Ingredients:

  • 2 plump wood pigeon breasts
  • 1 pigeon heart
  • 1 liver
  • big knob of butter
  • salt and pepper
  • sweet sherry (big splosh)

Salad leaves:

  • chard
  • wood sorrel
  • lovage
  • beetroot
  • lemon verbena
  • tarragon
  • fennel fronds
  • chives
  • nasturtium
  • celery
  • pea
  • lollo rosso
  • frisee
  • rocket

Flowers:

  • chives
  • fennel
  • viola
  • runner bean
  • rocket
  • borage
  • french bean
  • nasturtium

Method:

Melt the butter, season the breasts and fry for a couple of minutes each side. The outside was nice and caramelised but the inside still pink. Towards the end of cooking add the heart and liver, cook for a minute then add the sherry, flame and spoon the juices over the meat. Add chopped chives, transfer to a plate and rest for a couple of minutes. Arrange leaves and flowers on a plate, slice the breasts in half and place on the leaves along with the heart and liver and spoon over the juices from the pan.

It was such a beautiful afternoon in the garden, eating free food and drinking red wine. I even gave myself a whole hour off from working just to enjoy the garden with Glen…

Wood sorrel, my giant sunflower, courgette flower and my aces trainers 🙂

I don’t think Boris was ready for Glen doing some naked sunbathing though…

Boris can’t believe it when Glen starts stripping, no idea what he’s laughing at

BBC Radio Leicester: I take Ben Jackson to Melton Farmer’s Market

A few of the things you will find at the market during the course of the year

There is SO much more to Melton Mowbray than pork pies and stilton cheese, not that you  ever hear about all the other wonderful producers around here.  The town’s PR people concentrate so heavily on these 2 products and just seem to ignore the rest, and for me it’s “the rest” that actually makes Melton so special. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pork pie (preferably with lots of trotter jelly, a good crust and plenty of black pepper) but you only hear about one shop that sells them in a town where actually, each different butchers sells a different pie.  My Butchers (Derek Jones) sell Baileys pies who were featured in Jamie Oliver’s Channel 4 show Great Britiain which highlighted Britain’s best producers. Another butcher sells Walkers pies who actually won the best Melton Mowbray Pork Pie category at the 2012 British Pie Awards (also held in Melton Mowbray).

I took Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester along to the farmer’s market near my cottage to show him how fantastic not only the food scene in Melton is but also how vibrant and wonderful our Tuesday market is. Its’s a real farmer’s market where you can buy a herd of cattle, a flock of sheep, some wild boar and pheasants along side your bread, home-made butter, veg plants for the garden, home cured bacon and antique furniture!

Maria’s butter and boxes of local mushrooms and game birds

You can hear our trip around the market here, it is 1 hr 39mins in from the start of the programme *WARNING: a courgette plant was harmed in the recording of this broadcast*

Bidding at the game auction and my partridges and pheasants from earlier in the year

I then took him down through the town market to the Fish Man who travels from the Grimsby fish market every Tuesday morning and has the freshest, most beautiful array of fish and shell fish. He had some wonderful wild sea trout from Scotland and plenty of bright green salty samphire which just had to be bought!

I then took Ben to Coco Cakes to meet “the Cake Lady” (also known as Jane) who makes the best chocolate fudge you will EVER taste, sadly she didn’t have any ready though as she had literally just popped it in the fridge to set – sad times.  Luckily her shop is about 20 seconds from the end of my lane though so fudge crisis averted.

A trip to my favourite butchers Derek Jones for some of their incredible home cured and smoked bacon and a few slices of their own haslet and it was time for me to head to work for a day in the kitchen, and Ben to head back to BBC Radio Leicester fully laden with wonderful food goodies, and not a pork pie or piece of stilton in sight.

Radio Leicester food friday: ginger and caramel trifle

The lovely Ben Jackson from BBC Leicester in my kitchen

So every month the wonderful Ben Jackson heads out to my cottage in Melton Mowbray to record a cooking session.  Last time we made my divine Melton Mess which went down a storm with the radio team and listeners so this time I made another really simple dessert, in real time, for people to make this weekend:  I made a rum, ginger, chocolate trifle….yum!

What happens each time is that Ben arrives, we spend about an hour and a half catching up, geeking out about food and inevitably about knives! I was at the BBC Good Food Show on Wednesday and saw the gorgeous Natalie from I.O.Shen knives and came home with the most beautiful new Sahm Khom knife. Now Ben loves a good knife just as much as I do so when he felt it slice through a potato using just it’s own weight it really was love at first slice!

This link will take you to the recording, I am 1hr:42 into the show .Now I’ve just listened to it again as lots of people have sent me messages saying how rude it sounds! Yes, I *may* have sniggered at the name “Willy” but it would seem the whole 10 mins is all a bit naughty…something to do with the sounds of the cream and custard being whipped and our noises….

The mini version with oozy caramel filling

Ingredients:
  • 1 x Jamaican Ginger Cake
  • 35-100ml Golden or dark rum (depending on how boozy you like it, obviously I used 100ml!) or for non  alcoholic version use stem ginger syrup.
  • 100g milk/dark chocolate
  • 1 x 500g pot fresh custard
  • 1 x capful vanilla extract
  • 300ml pot whipping cream
  • 1 x 400g tin dulche du leche/tinned caramel (or make your own from a tin of  sweetened evaporated milk)
  • buttons/grated chocolate to garnish
Method:
Slice your ginger cake and lay it on the bottom of your trifle dish and pour over your rum and spoon over a layer of dulce du leche. Melt the chocolate, add your vanilla extract then whisk in your pot of custard.  Allow the custard to cool then layer it over the caramel. Whip your cream, spoon it over the chocolate custard and garnish with your grated chocolate/chocolate buttons. See, dead easy!

I always open my cupboards and introduce him to fab food products that I come across and send him home with a bit of a goody bag! We spent a long time talking BBQs, Ben has just acquired his first Weber and so I introduced him to the wonderful Laissez Chef new Orleans spice blend, yep he fell in love with that too! Her is now also a new convert to Essential Cuisine powdered stocks having tried their powdered veal and Little Doone Ginger Balsamic which I discovered at the show which also blew me away.

So I will be cooking again in 4 weeks time with Ben but in a couple of weeks I am taking him around my local Farmer’s Market so he can meet my favourite producers. Ahhh we can geek out about food all morning!

BBC Radio Leicester and Melton Mess

Cooking on the radio you say? Well yes indeed! Last Friday morning I had the pleasure of the wonderful Ben Jackson from BBC Radio Leicester being in my tiny kitchen at Wyldelight Cottage.  I had been practicing the art of not swearing for 2 days and was still a bit nervous until it dawned on me in the middle of the night before that yes, I could practice not swearing, but the art of “not sounding like a total twat when nervous” has always eluded me. I’ve always done it at the most inopportune moments too, normally when in the vicinity of really handsome men (throw a uniform in there and I go from sounding a bit like a twat to talking full blown nonsensical rubbish!

Luckily we had a good half hour before we started recording just catching up and talking food, that ALWAYS relaxes me and puts me at ease. I wanted to keep the recipe really simple and decided to do something in real time so listeners could see just how easy it all was.  I made my Melton Mess with Vanilla Sea Salted Caramel Sauce, it’s outrageously good too and the recipe will feature in this months Great Food Magazine which is out tomorrow. There is lots of cream, custard, strawberries, meringue and yes plenty of salted caramel sauce involved! There weren’t any disasters; I didn’t swear, I did get very excited about what I was making, I probably sounded like a bit of a twat but all in all it went really well and I will have a regular slot each month!

You can click here to listen, I start from 1 hr 41mins in, and you can tell I’m smiling the whole time as you can hear my lisp (lisps are all kinds of sexy you know!).

Melton Mess with salted caramel sauce

Ingredients:

  • About a dozen or more large strawberries
  • 2 tblsp caster sugar
  • 520ml double cream
  • 1 large meringue base or 8 meringue “nests”
  • 250ml good quality vanilla custard
  • salted caramel sauce

Method:

  1. Slice about two thirds of your strawberries and put them in a bowl, sprinkle over the caster sugar, give them a stir and leave to macerate whilst you get on with the rest of the dish. Keep the remaining strawberries to one side for now.
  2. Using an electric mixer whip the cream until it’s firm, be careful though as it’s very easy to over whip double cream and it will start to separate (and you could accidentally end up with butter!).
  3. Crush your meringues into pieces, don’t make them too small, as you want different textures to run through the dessert, then stir them into the cream.
  4. Pour your custard and macerated strawberries and their juice on top of the whipped cream and very gently fold in. You don’t want it to be all mixed in completely, just folded carefully so you have pools of strawberries and custard amongst the cream.
  5. Carefully tip the mixture onto a big serving platter, scatter the strawberries you had set to one side over the top then drizzle liberally with the salted caramel sauce. Have the pot of caramel on the table so people can help themselves to more, I warn you though: this sauce is highly addictive!

Vanilla Salted Caramel Sauce:

  •  120g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tblsp water
  • 260ml double cream
  • 2 tsp Halen Môn Vanilla sea salt flakes

Method:

  1. Put the butter, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until bubbling it’s important that you don’t stir it though just swirl the pan to combine.
  2.  Once it’s all melted, let it bubble away for 3 minutes then whisk in your cream and remove from the heat. Add a teaspoon of salt flakes, taste to see if it needs any more (careful though it will be hot).  It will seem very runny but it thickens as it cools so make several hours before if you want a firmer sauce and pop it in the fridge.

I sent Ben off with a goodie bag of amazing local foods that are really overlooked in Melton.  There is such a big focus on the pork pies and stilton cheese that the other little known producers just get left behind.  This weeks goodie bag is a selection of my favourite things that I buy in Melton and not a pork pie or slice of stilton anywhere!

  • Blackberry vinegar from Bridget at Melton Sunday market
  • Smoked sausages – Grasmere farm (Tuesday market)
  • Smoked wild boar bacon – Paul aka The Roosterman (Melton Market Tues, Fri, Sun)
  • Homemade butter – Maria (Tuesday market)
  • Smoked middle bacon Derek Jones Butchers Melton (the BEST ever!) Plus a slice of their brawn
  • various jams/chilli sauce/chutney from my good self as I was spoiling him!

The next goodie bag will be equally as good and I have no idea what I’m going to cook yet but I’m really excited already!