When I die, I want to go back to the English market heaven I experienced on our recent trip to England.
Overall, I tend to have a limited patience for shopping…except when it comes to food! Open markets are my playground, and I can easily spend hours at one browsing the stands and chatting with the vendors.
If I see a basket of strawberries, I have to breath in their aroma. If I spot an artichoke, I’m compelled to marvel at its leaves. I love watching the fish monger arrange his salmon and haddock. I hover over baskets of mushrooms, imagining all of the dishes one could make with them.
It really is a shame that I don’t live in England where fresh fish is readily available and produce springs from the earth like weeds. In the town of Littleport where we stayed with friends, a few people had set up little veggie stands outside their homes with a sign for how much each item cost and a little bin to place your money in. No locked box, just an open plastic container. Imagine such trust!
Yes, this is my idea of heaven.
The brussels sprouts were calling my name so I purchased a large stalk of them and roasted them with some dried cranberries.
The first official open market we visited was the market square in Cambridge where I hoped to find the sour cola gummies I’d enjoyed so much a decade before.
Miraculously, they were there!
Apparently, this candy booth has been setting up at the market for the past 20 years, and the vendor seemed pleased that I remembered his sour colas. He mentioned that he’d recently switched distributors for that particular candy because the former brand was neither sour nor fizzy enough. That’s the kind of excellence and attention to detail that makes the world go round, folks. I made sure to give the mate a big ol’ pat on the back.
Sucking on a sour cola, I breezed past all of the boring clothing and jewelry booths, and found my way to the much more interesting produce section.
I admit I giggled like an immature middle schooler after reading this sign. Apparently, wet walnuts are green walnuts and are a UK kinda thang. I decided that photo was enough for me.
Meanwhile, I was mesmerized by this display of figs.
Each velvety purple globe was the size of a tennis ball, and I eagerly grabbed one.
You have no idea how hard it was for me to buy just one.
Imagine all of the rich preserves and jams that could be made with these beauties! Sigh….
Instead, I decided to make the most out of my solitary fig by slowly savoring each slice with a crumble of sharp, pungent English Stilton which I purchased the next day from the market in Bury, St. Edmunds.
I could have easily taken home a sample of the whole lot, but, again, I had to choose just one. I asked the vendor which cheese represented Britain the best and he suggested the Stilton hands down.
Aside from the fig, my cheese needed a loaf of fresh bread to keep it company and the offerings from the neighboring booth were more than suitable.
I really, really, reeeeally wanted a challah, but knew I’d never finish it before we left. Even if I wrapped it up tightly and squirreled it away it in my suitcase, customs would have surely confiscated it. In the end, I settled for this snack-sized treat:
Food doesn’t get more British than this! Scotch eggs are boiled eggs that are wrapped in a thin sausage and then rolled in bread crumbs and baked. I guess you could say they are England’s version of the breakfast sandwich. 🙂
Just half an egg made for a hearty snack. (The other half was swiped by my friend’s speedy-greedy doggy.)
I wouldn’t have minded swiping an olive or two from these antipasto buckets myself:
Olives in buckets. Such a simple, beautiful thing.
The next fruit that caught my eye were these Italian plums which I just couldn’t resist buying.
Since all the fresh produce had me itching to bake or cook something, these plums provided the perfect opportunity to whip up a dessert I’ve always wanted to try: Plum clafoutis.
This simple dish is essentially custard poured over halved plums and baked. A dusting of sugar and a dollop of ice cream finish off the dessert nicely. For the recipe click here.
At the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, I began forming a food bucket list starting with this breathtaking paella:
I say “bucket-list” because I didn’t wind up buying most of the foods I saw.
I know, I know. What a big dummy I was! But sadly, I was still full from my tasty lunch of Indian food. If anything, I enjoyed the sights and smells for free.
This fresh coconut water served straight from the fruit itself also looked tempting, but simply watching the gentleman prepare the coconuts was satisfying enough.
Mmm, there’s those buckets full of olives again….
As we made our way out of the crowded market, I decided a little dessert couldn’t hurt…
I’ve got to get me one of these huge griddles! They made the perfect golden crepes.
When I asked the vendor how many jars of Nutella she went through each Saturday all she could do was sigh and say “a lot.”
Saturdays in Notting Hill can be exhilarating, but sometimes it’s nice to escape of the throngs of people…
…and enjoy a breather in one of the signature colorful side streets.
I’d like to think that in Eternal English Market Heaven you can sample everything and never get full. This means one of each berry and mushroom and gyro and panini and grilled sausage and gelato….
Or maybe I should just move to England and slowly take my time.
What’s your favorite market fare?