Monday, 23 February 2009

Lemons, Pancakes and Pancake Races

In my last post I mentioned the fantastic organic, unwaxed Lemons, I regularly obtain for Muchado. These are imported from Italy's Amalfi coast by L'Orto di Sorrento, and to digress a little from describing the Market run, I'd like to describe how some of the produce I buy is used.
Tomorrow, in the UK, it is Shrove Tuesday, and an UK tradition to make and eat pancakes.
so I'll be making pancakes and drizzling them with the juice of a few of these lemons, together with a litle sugar. Believe me, the taste is clean, pure and refreshing.

Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake day, falls between February 2 and March 9 each year, depending on the date for Easter. This year, 2009, Shrove Tuesday, falls on 24 February. The name 'shrove, originates from the old English word to 'shrive', meaning 'confess all sins', and is the day before Lent. It was, and remains popular for many, to celebrate the Lent period by fasting. Shrove Tuesday became the day on which to use up many of the ingredients to be given up for Lent, such as milk, butter and eggs, which would not be eaten again, until Easter.

Shrove Tuesday is not only celebrated here in the UK. New Orleans celebrtates it with it's "Mardi Gras", whilst Brazil's capital, Rio de Janeiro has it famously elaborate carnival. Here in Olney, the women of the town, take part in Olney's famous 'pancake race'. A tradition going back over 500 years, the race is run over a 415 yard (Around 380 Mtrs) course starting
outside The Bull public house, and ending at the gates of Olney church,
carrying, and tossing, their pancake. The winner receives the 'kiss of peace' from the Verger! which does not sound like much of a prize to me! Still I suspect there might now be a little more in it these day!

The team at Muchado Cafe in Olney will also be making and serving pancakes all day, and will be happy to provide a recipe, and suggest fillings.
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Friday, 20 February 2009

The market run

Going to bed at about 8.00pm is not, for me, a regular event. When I get there, sleep is the more elusive element, amongst other thoughts, like reflections on the day, anticipation of tommorrow, and making it through the night. At least, I get to rest and, sometimes, an hour or 30 minutes sleep, before I need to get up. So why is it so easy, at any other time, to lean back on the sofa after dinner and struggle, usually in vain, to stay awake, despite the TV or a good book (and I only read good books after all!) to entertain me before trotting off to bed at "the usual time"? Another of life's conundrums!
Still, 11:00pm arrives, and I'm off to drive around 60 miles to Central London, to do the buying of Veg, Fruit Fish and some pre-aranged pick ups, mainly for Muchado, a Caterer, Deli shop and Cafe, in Olney, Bucks. England, and a few of my own customers, mainly pubs & restaurants in the Olney area.
Now I've done my share of shift work, having started in Computer Operations before the term "IT industry" was even coined, but it still seems strange to leave the house just before midnight! It's drizzly and misty tonight, so I'll need to be more alert than usual. A clear run sees me arrive at New Covent Garden Market, just before 1:00am. Levels of alertness need to be four fold here, where lorries are moving, reversing, parking seemingly anywhere in an absence of visible roadmarkings, the scene is then a criss cross of people & fork lift trucks, some with blinding lights & some without any, and even though I judge this to be an accident waiting to happen, so far I havent seen one, and endeavour to do my best to ensure I dont contribute to any tonight.

Afer parking my van I normally inspect the goods on offer from various traders, looking for examples of really good fresh quality and mentally cross checking the best against what's on my list to buy. Tonight however, my prority is to find a trolley early, since recently the usual one seems to have been snaffled up by a new Thursday regular, and since first come, first served is the rule here, it's up to me to 'snaffle one up' and I spot and grab one from around the back of L'Orto di Sorrento. Actually this is a good place to start, as they are an excellent showcase of Italian produce . Robert Zaccarini who runs this organic Italian importer of Fruit & Veg (and Mozzarella!) is not there yet, but his porter acknowledges my use of the trolley, and makes a mental note of what I place on the trolley, knwoing that I'll be back later to pay. I also know that I'll pick up more later, depending on the quality & availability elsewhere. Here, I always buy Robert's unwaxed lemons, (as indeed do all the other traders in the market). These have leaves on, a twig with surprisngly sharp thorns, a dull look, and thick uneven skin, but they really are the tastiest Lemons I've ever bought in the UK. Today, he also has similarly presented Oranges & Clementines, again with intense taste, and thick skin, but easy to peel with your fingers, as well as boxes of redflecked skin Blood Oranges so it's a case or two of each of these straight on to the trolley.
Even though these cost about half as much again as similar examples of the fruits, I have no hesitation in selecting them since they reward the creative buyer and user twofold; firstly they have a sweeter, cleaner, fuller tasting juice, and secondly; as with all citrus fruits, their essential oils, and most concentrated flavour, is contained within the thin outer (coloured) skin, which, since they have only been washed rather than waxed, or treated with chemicals, remains unadulterated and ideal for zesting or candying, thus preserving the taste long after the juice has been used.
Richard also imports the best tomatoes I've ever tasted, and even though it's February, his are still the best on the market. I select cases of on the vine plum (not the San Marzano, which he doesnt have this week, due to snow in Naples! ...) Round, and Cherry tomaotes, and the next entry will detail these and the remainder of what I buy from L'Orto di Sorrento Ltd.

More to come, later
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Thursday, 19 February 2009

and in the morning....

What did I get? Lots of god stuff, more details at and when I've rested and done some more work, I'll tell you all about it...... well the interesting bits at least!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

To start at the begnining .....

...which follows on from a conversation this morning, with Jo Jordan . I've been persuaded to start a blog. Quite where it will end up, I'm not sure, but we all need to start somewhere. I shall tidy this up later, but right now, I'm short on time, but look out for my next entry, some time tomorrow, when I will recount thoughts followoing my overnight trip to London's New Covent Garden Market & Billingsgate fish markets on a buying trip for Muchado Catering in Olney, Bucks. UK. I'm neither Fruit & Veg retailer, wholesaler nor a fishmonger, but recent events have conspired to offer me this experience, as an opportunity, and although it's not my first time, I've a lot to learn, and so far, it's proving more interesting than I imagined, so I thought I'd begin by sharing thoughts. I have many other thoughts on diverse matters, and along the way, I'm sure I'll get to them, but first things first, a short nap if I can!, then off to Market! Watch for news sometime tomorrow!
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