Since I moved to West London about a month ago, I’ve been trying to make it to my local farmers market at Queen’s Park almost every weekend. It’s a different style of market for me – my favorite markets back east were all about discovering and eating the incredible prepared food, from eating extravaganzas and grilled cheese happiness at Borough Market to wild mushroom risotto and salted caramel cupcakes at Broadway Market just behind my old flat. In contrast, my new local market has some good snacks, but here it’s more about the grocery shopping – you can buy everything from excellent free-range meat to fresh eggs to heritage cheeses to lots of local produce all grown within 100 miles of the M25. I’ve been trying to maximize farmers market shopping and minimize supermarket shopping as much as possible, so each Sunday has been a big shopping spree to buy as much as we can for the week.
We’ve been obsessively experimenting with happy chickens – here you can see Old Hall Farm and Fosse Meadows Farm stands, both of which offer a perfect bird for a Sunday night roast with market vegetables. And pretty bunting.
Perry’s Farm and Ted’s Veg are great for stocking up on produce – I’ve been trying all sorts of fun and colorful things like green and red kale, red cabbage, Isle of Wight tomatoes, sorrel, cress, local apple and pear varieties, rhubarb stalks, and purple sprouting broccoli.
It’s all excellent quality, grown by small farmers and producers, and a great way to get involved in supporting the local community. Plus, it’s delicious. Showing up at the market and buying whatever looks exciting is a great way to try out new vegetables and play around with different recipes.
I love broccoli, especially when it’s pretty and purple. I think it’s delicious on its own, but let’s be honest…isn’t everything a little bit extra awesome when you add cheese into the mix?
This fantastic creamy feta dip is adapted from Sarah (fellow Rambling Restaurauteur) and her amazing Persian dishes that we’ve enjoyed at Nowruz new year celebrations for two years. She’s made addictive rhubarb lamb khoresh and homemade baklava and all sorts of deliciousness. I borrowed her lovingly worn Persian cookbook to play around with some recipes for a dinner party and ended up with a version of a Cheese and Walnut Spread that goes perfectly with lightly steamed broccoli.
You have to start with a really good feta cheese and our choice of cheese the past few years has been this delightful can of unintelligibility.
Having just got back from Berlin yesterday, I actually think it’s in German, although the writing also implies Bulgarian? Who knows – it’s creamy, salty, and fantastic and that’s all that matters. Go comb the corner stores for it and you won’t regret it.
If you happen to be so lucky as to have received a Slap Chop (of incredible infomercial entertainment value, including the remix) for Christmas from your brother, you can use it to crush some nuts. You won’t regret that either.
Add some chopped parsley and mint to the dip, along with lime juice, some olive oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper. I happened to have some creme fraiche in the house from Ottolenghi’s amazing caramelised garlic tart which added a nice smooth tartness to the dip.
It’s great with crackers, great with flatbread. Great on carrots or probably any other raw or lightly steamed vegetable. I bet it would be good stuffed in a chicken breast or rolled up into meat or spread on a sandwich. Cheese spreads like this are great multitaskers. Make it and I’m sure you’ll find another ten great ways to eat it. Like by itself on a spoon…
Super Easy Cheese, Herb, and Nut Dip
What You Need:
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really measure any of this, so don’t worry about the proportions too much. Try, taste, adjust as necessary, and I’m sure it will be delicious.
A good hunk of feta cheese (the Persian book says 1/4 pound)
1/2-1 cup of nuts – traditionally walnuts, but I didn’t have any, so I used almonds. Also delicious.
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped into little shreds
A handful of fresh mint, also chopped into little shreds
Other herbs that would be good but I didn’t have – scallions, basil, tarragon, etc.
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup olive oil – I think I left this out
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper
What You Do:
Ummm…put it all in a bowl and mix it up. It doesn’t get any more complicated than that and it will take only about 5 minutes of your life. Scoop onto a piece of broccoli or animal flesh or grain product and eat. Happy times.