Balham Farmers’ Market – dinner for a fiver

Being budget conscious and enjoying good food needn’t be mutually exclusive, as we found out during another trip to the Balham Farmers’ Market (held by the London Farmers’ Market, every Saturday, 9am-2pm). Much as they are delicious and tempting, food markets often have reputations for being on the expensive side, left for treats and showing off at dinner parties. We decided to see how far our five pound note for dinner time would go. We wanted rich, comfort food to satisfy us during the cold snap.

Our first craving? Sausages. Forever a winter staple, they largely remind us of fireworks night, served with jacket potatoes and baked beans. We stopped by Priors Hall Farm for our meat, where they displayed all manner of pork. We went for the original classic pork sausages, £2.30 for a pack of 4. We picked up red potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli from Ivy’s Farm Shop for £1 (4 potatoes, more than enough) and £1.50 respectively.

 

Cooking took about thirty minutes in total. The sausages weren’t pierced and actually plumped out in the oven. We added about 1/2 tbsp of butter and a splash of milk to the potatoes to help it form a creamy mash. The result? Dinner for two, farmers’ market style, for under a fiver. Lush.

 

Lunch at The Fat Delicatessen

The Fat Deli is a bit of an inbetweener – more formal than a traditional deli, but more laid back than a restaurant. Basically it acts as a great place for a slightly posh lunch, which is what we opted for one chilly December weekday.

The menu boasts a large amount of regular favourites including addictive tapas bar snacks. Think cured meats, salty cheeses, olives, pickles… there’s a whole lot of smorgasbord action going on. For a little pre lunch nibble we opted for the ham croquettas; cheesy, potatoey breadcrummy, um, croquettes which the Fat Deli sprinkled with extra rock salt, as if we needed them to be any more addictive.

For our main lunch we went for spinach and ricotta ravioli with pumpkin and a sage butter dressing, and a lentil, pancetta and chorizo stew.

The pasta was plentiful (available as a small or big portion, we of course opted for the larger plate), as was the parmesan (big thumbs up from fromage fans at SJ) and the sage butter dressing really addictive, but we could have done with a few more chunks of pumpkin dotted around the dish.

The stew was served in a deep tapas dish and initially we had a false sense of “oh, that’s a little small”, only to find that what lacked in size made up for in richness and flavour and that actually, we were full when we finished (always the way – eyes bigger than our stomach!).  Particularly impressive was the quality of the meat. Chunks of pancetta fell off the bone and the chorizo sizes were generous, adding an intense smokiness to the sauce.

The ambience was casual, just as you would typically see in a deli at lunch. The clientele at the time of eating consisted of young mums finishing off their morning coffees but it was peaceful, not rowdy. Including tip and soft drinks our bill came to around £25, pretty good going for a homemade lunch that satisfied our bellies until dinner (well, we’re only human…).

Enq: The Fat Delicatessen, 7 Chestnut Grove, SW12 8JA.

Reviewed: London Farmers’ Market & Hildreth Street Market

There’s nothing more dangerous for your wallet or your waistline than a farmers’ market, but hey, it’s worth it. Besides, there’s so much healthy, fresh produce in gigantic proportions (did you SEE the size of those garlic bulbs? Enormous!) that the satisfaction levels are much higher than just sticking to your weekly shop in your local supermarket.

Highlights from this weekend’s London Farmers’ Market and Hildreth Street Market include:

*Wild Country Organics – (Chestnut Grove School & Hildreth Street) who knew that so many types of edible leaf existed? We purchased sorrel leaf, which had a light, citrusy flavour; indeed the stall holder used to find them in fields as a child and call them ‘yummy leaves’.

*Artisan Foods – (Chestnut Grove) small savoury tarts full of bite, plus cakes baked in loaf tins served by the slice; our favourite so far was lemon and poppy seed – the perfect, light flavour for this weather.

*Seafayre – (Chestnut Grove) huge chunks of upmarket restaurant-worthy fish from the Kent coast at incredible value (6 scallops for £5.50, anyone)? Plus ask and you’ll get recipe suggestions with your purchase.

*Little Jack Horner’s -(CG)  buy a pie, keep the dish, or return it next time for a small refund. Foolproof dinner party fayre.

*Bread-Ahead Bakery – (CG) a decent variety of bread (soda, rock salt, walnut) at very reasonable prices. We picked up a wholemeal pain for £2.50. Keep it plain; a smear of butter is all this loaf needs.

* Comptoir Gourmand – (HS) a beautiful patisserie selling doorstep brownies and the biggest meringues we’ve ever seen.

*Kath’s Cakes – so, so pretty, almost too good to eat (but it’d be rude not to). The chocolate and beetroot cupcakes are ones to look out for (that’s healthy, right?). Next time we’ll be trying their vanilla and blackcurrant flavour.