I love the atmosphere of produce markets and could happily spend hours pottering about in them. To be honest I don't feel the same way about the supermarket, where I am in and out as quick as I can. I had two quite different experiences doing my food shopping on Saturday. Seren and I were up and off to Mumbles Produce Market early (I was up at 5.30 to watch Wales beat Ireland in the Rugby World Cup) to get the best stuff and to beat the traffic.
We spent a pleasant hour buying food for tea that evening and meat and veg for Sunday lunch. We tried a few samples of olives and tapanade and bought both, I chatted to a few of the stallholders about their produce. I love to hear the passion in their voice when proudly showing off their best lamb or magnificent romanesCO cauliflower. You know that the dedication they put into growing, rearing or making their produce will reward you on the plate, and give you lasting satisfaction.
That feeling of satisfaction lasted until I went to Sainsbury's to do the rest of my shopping. I have, like most people, a negative or at best, nuetral experience when inside these giant food stores. People don't seem to be enjoying themselves, the food is not sold with knowledge or passion, and customers seem accept it as an unpleasant but necessary part of their week. To top it off I had a row with another customer and her husband who brazenly pushed in front of Seren and I at the checkout (I later got my own back by waiting by the crossing for them to stop for us and Seren and I proceded to inch our way across the crossing at a snails pace).
Buying local is important to me, I'm not too interested in whether the food is organic or not, but I like to feel that I contribute to the local economy rather than line the pockets of a huge corporation. I am not anti supermarket and they have a place in our food landscape but they have come to dominate, as big business is wont to do. Small producers cannot compete with them on price or convenience, but are head and shoulders above their bigger, greedier brothers when it comes to personal service, knowledge, quality and choice. I think to buy local at a produce market is logical and to me, a 'no brainer' as they say. You get cracking produce, grown, made or reared with care, it is a sustainable choice, keeps our communities alive with interest and stops our towns and cities from being just another identikit place to live. I have included some of the best producers in the Food shopping section at the top of the page.
Roast lamb with root vegetable mash and red wine gravy
It is quite satisfying to know that all the ingredients I needed for this dish all came from Wales (except the Rioja). Indeed it is the very best produce from this area and deserves a simple approach so that you can taste the love and dedication that has gone into producing this food. I think that food is more than just fuel because you can show your love for your family through it and support your community while your at it. Just a meal huh!
You can use any cut of lamb you prefer, but I chose breast because I am on a budget. The cooking principle will be the same for tougher cuts like breast or shoulder i.e. slow long cooking but you will need a shorter time for a premium cut like leg. The root veg mash works with any veg you fancy. I used a little potato, swede and parsnip but could have chosen celeriac, carrots or butternut squash - whatever you fancy really but I'd keep it to 3 maximum or the flavours will be lost. By the way if you just use the white or pale veg you can fool your kids into thinking it is just mashed potato.
1 roasting Lamb joint (breast, shoulder or leg)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
125 ml red wine
100 ml stock (I used veg)
25 ml oil
3 - 4lb vegetables of your choice for the mash
1) Set your oven low to moderate. Pour the oil into your roasting tin and heat on the hob. Season your meat and brown all over. Pop the veg in and give them a little colour too. Add the red wine and stock. Cover and cook in the oven for about 4 hours.
2) While the meat is resting make your gravy by straining the juices from the tin and reducing a little. Thicken with a little cornflour if you prefer. I don't.
3) For the root veg mash - peel and chop about 3kg of the veg of your choice and boil until cooked. Drain, mash and season with a little butter, cream if you wish, salt and pepper. Do this about half an hour before the end of the lamb cooking time so they are ready roughly the same time.