As much as I like meandering around supermarkets and acquainting myself with new products, there is something quite satisfying about visiting farmers markets and checking out what's in your local area.
Solihull's Farmers Market this weekend gave me the opportunity to meet some great local traders with tasty veggie offerings which included these great finds......
I'm a great fan of garlic and it's used heartily in Eastern European cooking so with my Slavic roots, my family's house (and now mine) always has at least one bulb of garlic in, ready to use. Its benefits are fantastic but its reputation sadly doesn't follow suit. This little member of the Onion family can be unfortunately left out of recipes purely because the after-effects are so strong. However, good news is on hand, as I found some odour-less garlic at the farmers market which contain all the good qualities that garlic possesses and yet isn't a passion-killer if you're having a romantic meal! 'The Snoggable Garlic Company' (SGC) based in Shropshire (http://www.snoggablegarlic.com/) sell pearls of odour-less garlic which allows you to eat it and still have a cheeky (garlic-less) snog afterwards! In addition to their smoochy-friendly goodies, they offer home-made nut roast, marinated olives and dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). Usually, shop-bought dolmades are stored in brine to preserve them which can leave them a little bitter but SGC's versions are stored in olive oil which gives them a gentler and more authentic taste. Check out their contact details on their website to find stockists.
Being a Warwickshire girl and proud of this picturesque county, it's been hard to think of food or dishes that are synonymous with it, whereas other counties have established food links such as Devon (Cream Teas), Lancashire (Hot Pot), Somerset (Cider) etc. So I was delighted when I saw Fowlers of Earlswood (http://www.fowlerscheesemakers.co.uk/) and their array of vegetarian friendly Warwickshire Cheeses. These handcrafted, traditionally-made cheeses contain no animal rennet making them wholly veggie. With so many to choose from, I decided upon sampling 'Fowlers Warwickshire with Real Ale & Mustard', which was a lovely textured cheese using ale from another growing popular Warwickshire enterprise, Purity Brewery (http://www.puritybrewing.com/). Also, seeing as I can never resist blue cheese, I just had to have some 'Fowlers Forest Blue'. A creamy yet mild blue cheese, I bought some to use for an adaptation of Sophie Dahl's Aubergine Parmigiana recipe which in fact worked very well. Fowlers cheeses are available from deli's, independent stockists and are present at local Midlands farmers markets.
Walking through the market I was led from the tastes of Warwickshire to the Middle East courtesy of KusKus Foods. Described as holistic vegetarian and vegan food, there was a variety of tabbouleh salads, spiced sweet potato and falafel wraps on offer. The difference between standard falafel and KusKus's were that theirs is wheat-free, making it suitable for those with a gluten allergy and as such they tasted lighter which allowed the other flavours to come through more. In between food fayres and farmers markets, KusKus Foods also offer vegetarian cooking lessons in the Birmingham and West Midlands region. Lessons focus on Middle Eastern cuisine with choices including 'An Introduction to Lebanese Food' and 'Host Your Own Moroccan Dinner Party'. For class details and list of where you can see KusKus Foods exhibiting see: http://www.kuskusfoods.co.uk/
As for me, I was in Solihull to buy a gift for a friend's wedding and I came away with my lunch sorted (a falafel wrap plus dolmades) and with one of my dinner ingredients (blue cheese) ready to use. Proving that Farmers Markets are a cornucopia of hidden culinary gems that allow you to try all sorts of things you won't find in the hypermarkets.