To market, to market

Justin Field | VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3

Be tempted by these warming dishes full of flavour and goodness, made with fresh ingredients from the market.

When I need fresh vegetables for the family, I simply walk out to my back yard and see what’s ready to harvest. I love the challenge of growing as much as I can organically, but I always need more than I can grow – that’s when a weekend trip to a local farmers’ market, where everything is at its freshest, is required. If there isn’t one happening at the time, my choice for fruit and vegetables is Melbourne’s Prahran Market, which is known as the ‘food-lovers market’. It’s the oldest market in Australia and has been on its current site since 1891. It originated on another site just up the road back in 1864, which is now covered with gardens and a fountain.

There’s an ever-growing trend for consumers to turn their support to the numerous farmers’ markets that spring up on most weekends.

The rise of these markets has tripled over the last 10 years and it has a lot to do with the price war between supermarkets and producers. The producers are having their rock-bottom prices stripped back even further and would rather sell their produce directly to the public.

The advantage of shopping at the markets is not just because you can purchase good, fresh, flavoursome, seasonal foods, but that you can talk to the growers. They can tell you where it was grown, how it was produced and even who harvested it. Compare that with the produce found in supermarkets, which is there because it ‘ships well’ with little regard for what we consider important: taste.

I love the idea of going to the market, seeing the freshest produce and being able to chat with the vendors. I’m there because I love the variety of seafood that has just arrived from rivers, lakes and oceans; just-picked herbs, in-season fruits and vegetables and freshly baked breads; a man selling eggs of all varieties; the never-ending line of people darting into the organic food supplier … it’s this hustle and bustle that makes the market a market.

When I need potatoes I go to Michael, who lives, breathes, and deals just with potatoes. And there’s my good friend Damien the mushroom man, who treats each mushroom with the same love one gives to a newborn. We all know each other by first name and everyone is so friendly. Do I shop at Coles and Woolies? Of course I do; that’s where we buy our toothpaste, detergent and milk.

In this issue I’ve been shopping at the markets to put together a fine range of winter dishes, starting with a thick, spiced pumpkin soup that’s really a meal on its own.

The oil-based pasta with chorizo and eggplant is so quick to make and strong on flavour. Or for a Chinese taste, I have included two choices: the Hokkien noodles with black vinegar will not disappoint, and the glazed chicken with gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and broth is stunning.

I’ll share with you my favourite, fool-proof way to cook the most succulent and crispy crackling pork belly – it’s all done on the barbecue. It’s so easy, as is the marbled chocolate and ricotta brownie that’s made using just a saucepan and spoon. It’s best to make two because, at least in my household, one just isn’t enough.

Spiced pumpkin and coconut soup

This is a great combination of sweet, hot, and spicy with all components coming together beautifully. During winter, I often serve this at home accompanied with roasted garlic and basilbutter bread.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

1 tblsp unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 leek, just the white section, sliced

2 medium shallots, sliced

1lt chicken stock

250ml coconut milk

¼ red capsicum

¼ yellow capsicum

1 spring onion

¼ cup coriander leaves

¼ cup fresh coconut shavings

Roast pumpkin

750g butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced small

1 tblsp cumin seeds

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil

Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To roast the pumpkin, pre-set the oven to 175°C. Combine together the diced pumpkin, the cumin seeds, chilli flakes, olive oil, and seasoning. Spread onto an oven tray and roast for 30 minutes or until tender, then remove and set aside.

Slice the red and yellow capsicum very finely and place into a cup of ice-cold water to curl it up. Cut the spring onion into thin cross-cut slices and add to the capsicums.

In a heated deep saucepan, add the olive oil and butter and when combined add in the crushed garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then add in the shallots and leek. Stir well but do not allow them to brown.

Combine in the stock and roasted pumpkin; bring to the boil, and then turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, then blend with a stick blender until smooth and thick.

Fold through most of the coconut milk, keeping some as garnish.

Drain the thinly sliced capsicum and place into a small bowl with the coriander leaves and the sliced coconut shavings.

Present the soup in warm bowls, garnished with a little coconut salad, a grinding of pepper and a tablespoon of the coconut milk.

Glazed chicken with gai lan and fragrant stock

I love the way the golden caramelised palm sugar adds its sweet magic flavour and amazing colour to the chicken. Be careful not to overcook it – time it well and you’ll be rewarded with moist, succulent chicken.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2

2 tblsps palm sugar, shaved or grated

2 cardamom pods, flattened slightly

2 whole star anise

1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

2 chicken breasts

3 tblsps Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)

3 tblsps chicken stock

2 tblsps dark soy

Salt flakes, to taste

½ lime, juice only

1 bunch gai lan (Chinese broccoli)

Begin by heating the oven to 180°C.

Place a heavy-based saucepan onto the heat and add in the shaved palm sugar. Swirl around until dissolved and then combine in the cardamom pods and the star anise. Allow the melted palm sugar to turn a light caramel colour and then add in the olive oil and chicken.

Grill for several minutes until well browned on all sides, then combine in the Shaoxing wine, chicken stock, soy, salt, and lime juice.

Place into the oven and cook for 12 minutes, or until just done.

Place the gai lan into salted boiling water for several minutes until the stems are just tender. Drain well and place into the serving bowls.

Slice the chicken and ladle some of the strained fragrant broth over the gai lan. Top with the chicken and serve.

Rollini pasta with eggplant, chorizo and goat’s cheese

This pasta is combined with a fragrant oil-based sauce with a delicious chorizo flavour. The garlic and anchovy fillets dissolve at the start of the cooking process and impart a lovely savoury flavour to the whole dish. I love the way the rollini pasta grips and holds the sauce, but you can use whatever pasta is available.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

300g dried rollini pasta

1 chorizo, skinned and sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 anchovy fillets

1 small eggplant, sliced into small pieces

1 cup basil leaves

1 cup baby roma tomatoes, halved

4 tblsps goat’s cheese

To peel the thin skin from the chorizo, make a shallow cut down one side of the chorizo and place into boiling water (you could use the pasta water) for 10 seconds. Remove, cool slightly, gently peel away the skin and slice thinly.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just done and retain half a cup of the pasta water.

Heat a saucepan, add the chorizo sausage and cook until slightly crisp on the edges. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the pan (using gentle heat) with the chorizo oil still in it and gently cook the garlic and anchovy fillets, stirring until they become a paste.

Turn up the heat and add in the eggplant, stirring until almost cooked.

Add in the chorizo slices, tomato halves, basil and pasta, tossing gently until well combined. Finish by adding the pasta water and lastly the goat’s cheese.

Serve in warmed, deep pasta bowls.

Hokkien noodles with snow pea sprouts and black vinegar

These thick, satisfying noodles are available as egg noodles or are lightly coloured to look like egg noodles. Because of the noodle size, sauces like this one tend to cling to them beautifully. Do not attempt to loosen the plastic-wrapped noodles before they are heated, as they will break into small pieces.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 4 minutes

Serves: 2

2 portions Hokkien-style wheat noodles, fresh or dried

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tblsp peanut oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

½ red capsicum, sliced

6 slices lotus root, fresh or frozen, cut into halves

2 tblsps Chinese black vinegar

2 tblsps oyster sauce

2 cups snow pea sprouts

If the noodles are dried, cook them as instructed on the packet. If they are fresh in sealed portion packets, simply remove from the wrap and microwave for one minute. Add the sesame oil and gently fold through to separate the hot noodles.

Heat a wok to moderate temperature and add the peanut oil. Add in the garlic and cook without allowing it to colour for 20 seconds. Increase the heat, then add in the shallots and cook for 30 seconds, followed by the capsicum and lotus root slices, tossing well for a further 30 seconds.

Combine in the black vinegar, oyster sauce, wheat noodles and the snow pea sprouts, keeping some aside for garnish.

Roast pork belly with orange, apple, sage and garlic

There are many fantastic methods of cooking pork belly but this one is hard to beat. What you want to achieve is roast pork that has the crunchiest crackle and moist, succulent meat with a delicious flavour. You could strain the juices, boil them down to produce a glaze, and then serve with crispy roast potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Serves: 4

700g pork belly

1 tsp salt flakes

1 red onion, cut into 1cm slices

1 Granny Smith apple, cut into 1cm slices

1 navel orange, cut into 1cm slices

1 small head organic garlic, cut in half

1 small bunch sage

2 fresh bay leaves

1.5lt chicken stock

Pre-heat a hooded barbecue on high with the hood down for 10 minutes or until it reaches 200°C. Alternatively, set the oven to 180°C with fan-forced mode on.

Carefully remove any bones from the pork belly and discard. Dry the skin with kitchen paper towel then, using a sharp knife or a Stanley blade, cut 5mm-deep score lines 1cm apart through the skin all the way from top to bottom.

Sprinkle the salt over the cuts on the skin and massage in well, and then place the pork belly into an oven tray.

Surround the pork with alternate slices of red onion, apple and orange. Add the garlic, push the fresh sage and bay leaves under the sliced fruit, and then pour the stock over the fruit and vegetables (not over the pork belly) until half the pork is submerged. Ensure the scored skin remains above the stock.

Place the tray in the barbecue or into the oven and allow to roast for 30 minutes, then turn down to 160°C and cook for a further 30 minutes, until the skin is crisp and the pork’s internal temperature reaches 71°C. Add more stock to the tray during the cooking process if excessive evaporation occurs. A skewer inserted through the centre should encounter no resistance.

Remove the pork from the pan and place onto a tray, loosely cover with aluminium foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Marbled chocolate and ricotta brownies

This recipe is very simple to make and only requires a saucepan and a mixing spoon. You could easily expand on the base recipe and add in various nuts, or use different chocolates. Using Dutch process cocoa will result in a darker colour and a richer flavour than normal cocoa powder.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Makes: 16 small serves

Chocolate mix

180g unsalted butter

3 tblsps Dutch cocoa powder

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

125g plain flour

Ricotta mix

250g ricotta

40g organic raw caster sugar

1 egg

300g whipped cream

Begin by lining an 18cm square oven pan with baking paper and pre-set the oven to 175°C.

Place the butter into a saucepan and slowly melt until it is liquid, but not too hot. Remove from the heat and when slightly cooled, mix in the cocoa powder and castor sugar. Beat in the eggs and when smooth, combine in the plain flour and pour the mixture into the prepared oven tray.

Combine together the ricotta, sugar and the egg. When smooth, spoon the mixture randomly over the chocolate mix, then lightly stir through to form swirls through the mix.

Place into the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until slightly firm in the middle. Remove and allow to cool in the tin. Cut when cooled and present with whipped cream.