To market, to market to buy a fat hog
My weekly trip to the Borough Market is a test of my won’t power (as opposed…). It is gradually evolving into a working market to rival the French and the Italians, and minus the endless junk stalls that one increasingly encounters all over Europe. Even though it has become a popular tourist destination, with endless varieties on offer of the ubiquitous burger-in-a-bun, the standards remain high, and vegetarians are offered food that’s as easy on the eye as on the tongue.
There are good sources of meat, cheese, condiments and various hard-to-find ingredients, nor will they necessarily make you bankrupt. The prominently located greengrocer Turnips may offer its produce at mind-boggling prices, but tucked off to one side is Booth’s, with a very good selection and a reasonable mark-up.
Every Friday morning through the summer I go to the Furness Fish Market for a fresh crab.
They’re at the far left end of the counter, where it’s easy to duck around the mass of customers waiting for fish. But I don’t usually have to fight the crowds. At lunchtime, both Friday and Saturday, the Borough Market is like opening day at a new Ikea branch, but between 11 and 11:30 on a Friday it’s easy to shop and everything is freshly laid out. (That’s when these photos were taken; otherwise they’d show merely the backs of people’s heads.)
There’s a good French cheese stall with lots of bargains. Its home base is Au Pot au Lait, Cremerie/Fromagerie, 17, Place de la Republique, 14100 Lisieux, Tel 31.61.04.03.
Dan Schickentanz of De Gustibus offers a wonderful selection of breads made with total integrity. There he is, waving at the camera.
The essential reason for the day’s visit is the pork and lamb. For pork, I’m happy with the purse-friendly Sillfield Farm, with its jolly rustics straight from Central Casting.
Over on the other side is the fresh meat, including an excellent Toulouse sausage. That’s what I’m here for, along with a couple of pig’s trotters and kilo of pork belly.
In the middle is a sign that reads Pork Haslet. That’s a Northern version of meat loaf, made of the sort of odds-and-ends that go into a haggis. They’re chopped fine and usually mixed these days with a bit of rusk to help hold it together. Sliced thin and eaten cold, it’s very satisfying with a pickled onion and a generous helping of home made apple chutney.
Next, it’s Farmer Sharp for a half-shoulder of mutton. To buy it these days, you usually have to go to a hallal butcher. On a large scale, mutton is available mainly to (as a butcher once told my wife) “the army, schools, hospitals and prisons”. Prince Charles has been doing effective PR on its behalf, and the flavorful stuff is once more becoming available from specialist suppliers.
There’s the cold case, where it sits waiting for me to give it a happy home.
Finally, to Booth’s to bick up a celeriac.
There it is, on the bottom shelf. As a first course before the cassoulet, I serve a remoulade of celeriac, essentially the recipe in Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables.
And there’s the check-out counter, behind an ever-changing array of wild and tame mushrooms, including the portobello. The name was a PR invention, designed to sell the large tasty brown mushrooms that fashion had replaced with the more “refined” but less flavorful white varieties
And so, back home on the Northern Line, having successfully resisted a plethora of tempting snacks. When I get home I’ll reward myself with something wicked, thus undoing all my noble self-denial.