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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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!