02 December, 2007

a fine Sunday soaking

Have you ever heard of a Johnnie? That is, a PetitJean from Brittany who comes to Britain in the winter months to sell his pink onions and pink garlic? Well, neither had I, until today. That is, I had bought his onions and garlic but had never know that he had a National Identity. But he has.

Apparently a French gentleman in 1828 decided that there might be a better market for his lovely smelly veg, and headed across the Channel. And ever since (although in lesser numbers today than in 1828) French men in berets on bicycles have sold their wares throughout Britain. And one just happens to park his bicycle adjacent to the Marylebone Farmer's Market, where I spend nearly every Sunday of my life.

Including today, although I was sorely tempted to stay home. We had just dropped Avery off at the stable (the threat of all-day rain is no deterrent to her, even though she'll have the hated job of scooping wet poo from the streets), and the skies simply opened. I had an umbrella, but it was large and cumbersome and off-putting. "Sure you don't want to give up?" John offered, but no, I was determined that if the market people were there, I could be there. And in fact it rained heavily only for ten minutes or so and then subsided into the desultory but still drenching little drizzle that characterises so much of English life. And occasionally a stall awning that I was standing under chose that moment to invert itself and dump the hour or so's accumulated water on me. Ah, the devotion I feel to the market.

And it was worth the rain. I picked up two logs and one round of goats cheese from Nut Knowle Farm, my absolute hands-down favorite for goats cheese. Whether it's the logs covered in chives or hot chillies, or the round covered in garlic and herbs ("Little Garlic," it's called), you will not go wrong. Strongly flavoured, creamy, crumbly. Perfect with the rosemary bread from the Italian stall. And the lemon cake lady! I don't know the name of her bakery, but Avery is passionately devoted to the lemon cake, for breakfast. Her stall is simply piled with cakes, casually cut into slices right there for you, and I always wish I had a sweet tooth so as to enjoy the samples of coconut cake and Victoria sponge.

The Christmas puddings are back! Order one now, and some carrot cake to go with it. And then there was the butcher chanting, "We've got all your wild game needs: pheasant, quail, your Sunday lunch, our pleasure..." But I didn't succumb. A pork tenderloin from Downland Produce, simply the most tender bite of meat you will ever taste.

Pork Tenderloin with Sesame, Garlic and Lime
(serves 4 with leftovers for the sandwich of your life)

1 pork tenderloin
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsps sesame oil
juice of two limes, save the limes
1 white onion, sliced thick
dash of Maldon Salt

Put the tenderloin in a ziplock plastic bag and throw all the other ingredients in. Close tightly and massage the tenderloin around, then put in the fridge and leave it there while you do everything else for your dinner.

Spray a glass dish with nonstick spray and place the tenderloin in it, along with everything in the plastic bag. Roast at 400 degrees until done but still pink, about 35-40 minutes. Let rest five minutes before slicing.


And a new vegetable! Jerusalem artichokes: new to me, that is. Probably the rest of you cook with it all the time, and lord knows I've seen it on loads of restaurant menus and have occasionally ordered something containing it. But until today I have never bought one. I think I was lured by the burlap sack filled to the brim and accompanied by the charming sign: "Raised on pure mushroom compost." Yum yum. Seriously, though, the little mushroom purveyor looked so cold and wet that I felt I owed it to him to buy something, and there were the little guys, huddling together as if to gain courage in numbers. The seller assured me that they are very nutritious (something complicated about being useful for diabetics because of the way their starch is processed?), so I scooped up a handful of the nasty little tuberous things and managed to get my freezing hands to find some coins.

Then it was home with my burden and to find a suggestion about how to cook them. My instinct said, "Soup, dear lady, and puree it," so I obeyed. First, though, a quick internet search led me to this adorable blog, and a recipe not unlike what I was planning myself. And can I just kvell a bit? This was the best soup EVER. And a simpler recipe you will not find.

Veloute of Jerusalem Artichoke
(serves four as a starter, or two as lunch)

3 tbsps butter
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 large shallot or small rose onion, chopped
chicken stock to cover, perhaps 3 cups?
dash white wine
1 cup whole milk

Now, I must first say that if you can get raw milk, do so. I am a firm supporter of unpasteurised milk from reputable sources. SO delicious, and since it's not homogenised either, the cream stays at the top. If you carry it home carefully, ths milk at the top of the bottle will be really rich and perfect for your soup. Hurdlebrook are brilliant. You could easily use cream, creme fraiche or sour cream, too, whatever you have.

To prepare the artichokes, wash them well and peel them completely. You'll be amazed by the texture. Not an artichoke leaf or heart to be seen. More like a radish, only tasteless. Completely tasteless raw. I was seriously disturbed at this point and wondering at my wisdom in providing nothing more for lunch.

Melt the butter and saute the artichokes, garlic and shallot until the garlic is soft. Then cover with chicken stock, add salt to taste, the white wine, and cook at high simmer for about 24 minutes or until the artichokes are easily pierced with a fork. Puree with a hand blender, add milk and... you're in HEAVEN.


Well, I've dried off now, and am thinking of tackling the Christmas tree lights. Avery is most anxious that the annoying work all be accomplished when she comes home, so that after scraping the pony poo off her in a quick bath, she can hang ornaments. Here's the perfect present, by the way, for anyone who loves London, especially my little corner, Marylebone. "Between the Lines: The Howard de Walden Estate in 2006." I have bought so many copies as presents that my wallet is suffering. But you'll have to ring up Daunt Books to get it. Gorgeous and evocative photography, really informative historical commentary, and if you look closely, probably lots of people you know, if you live here.

Now as for those lights...


Anonymous said...

I hope you write your book because you make me want to cook (and buy lemons and thyme and rocket, whatever that is, which I thus far have lived without) and I don't cook.

Shelley said...

...and I just want you to come and roost in Connecticut so that I can come and be mesmerized by your cooking...rocket or no.