Market to Table

AUTUMN FEAST

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Autumn harvest at the Lewes, East Sussex, farmers’ market

As we travel through English country towns and villages, from Sussex to Gloucestershire, to Lincolnshire and Yorkshire I’m impressed by the abundance of farmers’ markets and the autumn bounty they offer.

The weather has been spectacular on this visit to England, one of the longer trips we’ve undertaken in recent years. We’ve seen to family affairs in Lewes, the county town of East Sussex, shopped and visited the cathedral in Chichester, the county town of West Sussex, house hunted in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, a delightful Regency town on the western slopes of the Cotswolds, toured historic Lincoln and are now back at our retreat in South Yorkshire.

After a hiatus of a couple of years the pub has reopened under new ownership, the farms and fields which come right up to our back hedge are being harrowed, and all seems well in the land.

It was as I walked round the recently restored walls of historic Lincoln Castle with my daughter, who now lives in England, that I looked down on the farmers’ market beneath the battlements, that thoughts of comfort food came to me. The market is bustling, the stalls packed with autumn produce and the labour of artisanal cheese makers and much more.

In every market there are beets and carrots and other winter roots. I start to drool at the thought of roasted winter veggies. I wrote about them a few weeks ago in conjunction with my recipe for Oven Roasted Roots Frittata in Do Men Fear Veggies? Today’s recipe has the same roots–please forgive the pun!

A few words about Lincoln Castle which I visited a couple of years ago and wrote about in Lincoln Green. At the time much of the castle was under renovation in anticipation of their anniversary. Half the prison was closed, most of the wall walk was closed and the Magna Carta exhibit was under construction.

Fast forward a year or so and on a flying visit I just had time to speed-tour the expensive and disappointing Magna Carta exhibit. OK, this is one of only four authentic copies of the historic document signed under duress by King John, that is the foundation of British law. But the presentation is not worth the price. There’s an interesting new building custom built for the purpose. A good intro video. Then the let down: in a very dark room the ancient doc sits dimly lit. Where are the explanations of what it means? Where are the close ups of the words? Where is the translation into modern English? Where is there anything? At Salisbury Cathedral, where another copy is exhibited, a disgruntled punter tried to smash the display case with a hammer last week. I rest my case. Fifteen minutes and £15 lighter of pocket and I’m back out in the sunshine.

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The new Wall Walk at Lincoln Castle

On this visit with my daughter, my darling wife decides to shop Steep Hill (aptly named…it really is steep), we skip the prison and the above mentioned document and try out the new Wall Walk. It’s fabulous. First a new lift (elevator to my North American readers) takes us up to the battlements. Then there’s a strong looking stainless steel railing to stop us falling into the castle’s grassy ward, with stainless steel netting to prevent youngsters slipping through. In places it cantilevers out from the wall, allowing us to pass by formerly difficult spots. All the way around there are amazing views of the city and flat countryside beyond. We stop briefly at a recently uncovered gatehouse with murder holes, the Lucy Tower, where inhabitants could retreat to safety if the walls were to fall, and the Observatory Tower, where a former prison governor enjoyed his astronomical hobby. Each has its own charming moments.

Finally we end up back at the lift, with a view down into the market on the the side of the main gatehouse. There’s my wife, far below, enjoying an ice cream cone and chatting with some folk at an outdoor cafe. She’s finished shopping and my wallet isn’t too much damaged.

Time to buy some fresh farm veggies and head home for supper back in South Yorkshire. Tonight we are feeling vegetarian, but the dish below is equally good as a veggie side or with your choice of meat.

ROASTED WINTER VEGGIES
VEGGIES 8

Shopping list

  • About 1 1/3 lb / 600 g mixed winter vegetables: approx. 2–4 shallots or onions, 2–4 carrots, 2–4 beets, 2–4 potatoes). NOTE: If you want to omit the potatoes, add more carrots and use rainbow carrots in red, yellow, purple and white for contrast, to make the same total weight.
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • Bunch of fresh asparagus (optional)
  • 3 TBSP canola (rape seed oil) or EVOO
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Garnish

  • Parsley, and/or chives

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C. Prep the veggies: parboil the beets for 30 minutes to make peeling easier; peel the shallots or onions and quarter or thickly slice; peel the carrots and cut into rounds, about ¼ in thick; peel the cooled beets and cut into cubes, about ½ in thick; peeled and halve the garlic cloves; peel and cut the potatoes into cubes, about ½ in thick. New potatoes don’t need peeling.
  2. Toss all the veggies (except the asparagus) in oil, season with plenty of salt and pepper and marinate for 30 mins.
  3. Lift out of the oil and lay out in a baking dish.  Put the asparagus in the oil and toss, adding more oil if necessary.
  4. Roast for about 40 mins, stirring at the 20 min mark and adding the asparagus, until the veggies are tender and starting to caramelise.
  5. Plate individually or present in a serving dish for guests to help themselves. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or chives. Serves 4 to 6.
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Featured image: One of many stalls at the Lincoln farmers’ market

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