Blackheath Farmers’ Market*

*aka Waitrose in a car park.

BLACKHEATH MASSIVE 4 LYFE
BLACKHEATH MASSIVE 4 LYFE

Moving to Lewisham was a joy in many ways. Suddenly I was a (longish) walk away from Greenwich, I was within a bus route’s journey of Brixton and Peckham, and suddenly I was that much closer to London Bridge. But a large part of me will bitterly miss being close to Ridley Road Market. This is, if you didn’t know, the best damn market in all of London. It’s nestled in a busy drag off Kingsland Road in Dalston, and sells fruit and veg and cloth and stuff and cane rat (allegedly) and it’s bloody marvellous. There’s a TFC Turkish shop at one end which sells the softest, pillowyest most delicious sesame-sprinkled bread and gorgeous drippy decadent baklava. God I need to go back.

In between visits to Ridley Road were trips to Walthamstow Market (europe’s longest street market and the place to buy a uselessly massive stockpot), Walthamstow Farmer’s Market (Giggly Pig – le amaze and a wonderfully inspiring story) and dear old Chatsworth Road Market (the newest of the lot and already chock-full of Jacintas and Hesters and Tarquins but also former home to Fumio’s all-conquering Okonomiyaki stall – hangover vanquisher, all round good chap and former housemate. Now most notable for Deeney’s, an amazing crew who make Haggis Toasties. I’m serious. You wouldn’t think it works but it does).

Anyhow, Lewisham market was something of a shock. It has the pahnd-a-boll merchants and a couple of stalls but it lacks a certain… something. There’s the Sausage Man, purveyor of fine german sausages, but aside from that I need to really get under the skin of Lewisham Market, become a regular.

I needed something to get my market fix. And so I was really pleased to be told about Blackheath Farmer’s Market by my new landlord when I first rocked up this side of the river. Landlord beamed. “It’s lovely. It’s got real farmers and everything.” Growing up in Somerset with a positive surfeit of “real farmers and everything” I rather thought this might mean ropey badger cider and old hunter wellies. It’s a bit different. For a start, it has a jazz musician.

Blackheath is too legit to quit which is why we have a dude playing jazz on a saxophone. Yeah. A SEXophone. I went there.
Blackheath is too legit to quit which is why we have a dude playing jazz on a saxophone. Yeah. A SEXophone. I went there.

I’ll be clear. There may well be jazz in Zummerset but we have the decency to keep that shit on lockdown. Our farmers markets are just markets, innit. That aside, between Bruton turning into the chic-est town in the south west (I’m still processing that one) and pop stars moving to Frome (FROME?) I’m not sure anything is safe from gentrification so I’ll stop my whinging.

Having now lived in the area for 10 months I’ve still got an uneasy relationship with BFM. It’s as expensive as Borough or London Fields markets without the range or choice of either. And it is a little bit full of pretentious people wandering around pretending that they totally know what to do with game (“Oh, we get the waitrose magazine. Yah, Sybil Kapoor does a WONDERFUL curried quail”). Having said that, so am I, so you’d think it was a match made in some Sartre-esque vision: “Hell is other people. And they’re all buying artisanal goat’s cheese.” But even I get out-twatted in this kind of environment. I tend to shuffle round the edges slightly enjoying the fact that I’ve brought a ratty old tesco shopper instead of a hand sewn hessian jute sack. It’s the closest I come to a sense of rebellion (Rock and ROLL, huh?).

In any event, it’s a damn fine place to buy meat which you can feel pretty confident wasn’t entirely mistreated and it’s home to a very good sausage roll indeed.That’s a black pudding sausage roll, and it’s the best lunch indulgence around for £3 a pop. One of these bad boys and a mug of yorkshire gold and you’re set.

I'll be honest. I can't mock these. They are the finest piggy treat on god's green earth and if you're a vegetarian I PITY YOU. Black pudding sausage roll. Heaven.
I’ll be honest. I can’t mock these. They are the finest piggy treat on god’s green earth and if you’re a vegetarian I PITY YOU. Black pudding sausage roll. Heaven.
This wholesome organic bread is much better than mine because it is more expensive.
This wholesome organic bread is much better than mine because it is more expensive.
MOAR ORGANIX
MOAR ORGANIX
The approach
The approach
This place is called "Cakehole" - edgy.
This place is called “Cakehole” – edgy.

Overall feel? It’s a good place to get quality food as long as you treat it as a treat – a place to obtain a really nice thing for nibbling on or buying the centrepiece of your sunday lunch. But hold the jazz.

Recipe -Best Stuffing Boss (serves 4)

I’m not the kind of patronising twat who is going to tell you how to roast a chicken. That’s how Jamie and Delia made their millions and who am I to mess with that kind of authority? All I’m saying is that you want to try madeira in the gravy. *kisses fingertips*

Market Chook. Damn fine eatin.
Market Chook. Damn fine eatin.

So I’m going to leave you to fend for yourselves vis a vis the chook, and much good may it do you. Instead, I’m going to reveal the secrets of my stuffing prowess. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to do you quantities as frankly it’s a general approach, a philosophy if you will, as opposed to an actual receipt of ingredients used (which is where we get the concept of a recipe, incidentally. If you want to find out more about the history of eating in Britain, I highly recommend Taste by Kate Colquhoun).

I also eschew the concept of having to put the stuffing in the bird. Generally I find this a waste of good stuffing as you don’t get the lovely crispy bits that everyone likes. Each to their own, but stuffing was originally a way of padding out a bird with bread and scraps so that families could make the beast stretch further. In a world where arseholes eat the breast and throw away the wings, the idea of “stretching” becomes a bit more precious and while I’m a passionate stock-maker (if you don’t make stock with your leftover bird then I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU HANG AROUND HERE, “MATEY”) I think it’s better just to make sure that stuffing has a proper role rather than sitting in the middle of the bird getting soggy and preventing it cooking through properly.

This kicks Stove Top’s arse. You’ve been warned. You’ll want it all the time.

Ingredients:

1 x largish onion

Bacon – either about 150g lardons or 4 rashers streaky

1 x celery stalk, finely chopped

at least 3 x handfuls of breadcrumbs

parsley, thyme, chives – whatever, you want a large handful of fresh herbs, chopped fine

poppy seeds – I tbsp

1 egg

Optional: grated rind of 1/2 lemon, parmesan (either or both are good)

Highly recommended – 1 x handful of pearl barley, cooked in chicken stock, drained and cooled.

Method:

First, take your bacon and chop it into little squares, then sizzle in a frying pan until the fat runs and it goes crispy. Be patient – you want little crispy nuggets of bacon-y joy in your stuffing so make sure you get this right. Chop the onion and add to the pan with the bacon and celery, cooking down until softly translucent and smelling good.

Take the pan off the heat and let cool slightly. Then add your optional extras. I quite like lemon but sometimes it’s a bit much, so consider just the parmesan and barley. I can’t stress enough what a good idea barley is, it’s just stunningly good. I also have the poppy seeds as a must. I just love the instant crunchiness they give to the stuffing.

Stir in the breadcrumbs and herbs, and mix until you have a kind of wodgy paste. This is the crucial moment. Egg time. You have to decide if it’s needed. If the mixture is dryish and not clumping, you need egg – but don’t go chucking it in all at once – be deliberate, careful, bit by bit. Get it to the texture you want – be the master of the stuffing mix. If it’s already reasonably damp and holding together well, you don’t. If it’s WET, get more breadcrumbs, stat. You’re looking for a texture you can do this with:

Get stuffed.
Get stuffed.

Yep, I wedge it in a lined tin. I have no time for rolling little balls or the like. You want to make a cake out of stuffing, then pop it in with the potatoes and cook it for about 40 minutes. If it goes a bit brown stick foil on the top (or cleverly do as I do and have the excess over the sides ready to fold back in if you need), but ultimately this is a well-behaved dish and you’d have to work hard to screw it up. Plus, the loaf-cake shape means that you can essentially leave it in the oven as long as the taters, if you like. This has so many advantages – stays warm on the table, can be cut beautifully, fits neatly into the oven next to the bird. And – importantly – everyone gets a crispy bit. Say no more.

Enjoy your sundays, everyone.

 

Dinner is served. Chook, stuffin, peas a la francaise and sweet potato.
Dinner is served. Chook, stuffin, peas a la francaise and sweet potato.
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