Our SWL reporter makes the perfect meal for St George’s Day
Whenever I hear of farmers’ markets, I’m ashamed to admit that an abundance of clichés spring to mind, much akin to the first line of that much-loved farmyard nursery rhyme.
Scenes of The Good Life flit past while I imagine a tweed-capped farmer toiling away in his field from dusk until dawn until the season’s grand harvest.
The Wimbledon Farmers’ Market itself is a humble affair, situated in the grounds of Wimbledon Park Primary School, in a very quiet and leafy part of South West London. Though not quite the Home Counties, it is far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the City that life really does seem to move a little slower here.
Not entirely sure what to expect, I go in with an open mind, leisurely perusing the fresh and organic produce with the idea that, if I find the right ingredients, I might do my best to rustle up a quintessentially English dish in light of the feast day of the country’s patron saint, St George, on April 23.
It doesn’t take me long to decide on the meal – I’m hard-pressed to think of a more traditional British recipe than a roast beef dinner, which is always a firm favourite amongst family and friends.
Though the market is small, there is plenty of choice. I was surprised at first to find out how far some of the market traders had travelled to be there, but was reassured when I found out that all the produce comes from within 100 miles of the M25.
From one of the butcher’s, March House Farm, who have come from Leicestershire, I opt for roughly 1kg of topside beef. I’m amazed at what they have to offer. Not just your plain old lamb loin cutlets or chump chops, they have the largest selection of free range rare breed meats at the market, and a wide variety of foreign delicacies, including mergeuz and Moroccan lamb sausages. I’m feeling peckish so I treat myself to a lamb hettie, a rustic-like burger with a generous helping of some home-made tomato relish, with mustard seeds, raisins and apples. For the greedy amongst you, this is definitely the place to be.
Just next to them, I was surprised to see a rival butcher with venison, quail, duck breasts, wild boar burgers and rabbit on offer. They even offer seasonal pheasant and partridges. Naturally they were dearer, but is worth the expense if you’d like to try something different, something I would definitely consider doing next time, budget permitting.
Next up I purchase some organically grown parsley, a punnet of potatoes, so covered in dirt that they look like they’ve been just been torn out of the ground, some carrots, shallots and two humungous garlic bulbs. The whole experience is made even more pleasant by one of the stall owners who greets with me a chirpy ‘Ey up me duck’.
With my bag bursting full of treats, I decide to head home, delighted with the success of the day.
For those who feeling like leisurely whiling away a few hours on a Saturday morning, or those who feel like awakening their inner country bumpkin, head down to Wimbledon Farmers’ Market. With a wealth of organic produce in a charming setting, you would be forgiven for thinking you had suddenly found yourself lost in the countryside.
Here is a recipe for a delicious roast beef dinner (you can of course opt for more greens on the side if you wish) with the ingredients I picked up.
I thought I’d keep things simple with a traditional, easy-to-follow recipe, but there is plenty of room to experiment.
Roast beef with potatoes and carrots
1-2kg topside (or brisket) beef
A pinch of salt and pepper
A bunch of fresh parsley (50g)
A small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, bay or sage, or a mixture
Four or five medium-sized shallots or onions
Two large garlic cloves
Seasonal vegetables optional (cauliflower or asparagus)
Take your beef out of the fridge 30 minutes before putting it in the oven, which should be preheated to 200°C or gas 6.
There’s no need to peel vegetables, though it is advisable to thoroughly wash your potatoes to get rid of any grit or leftover soil. Give the other vegetables a quick wash too and roughly chop them. Break the garlic club into cloves, living them mostly unpeeled though finely chop a few to scatter amongst the meat and vegetables.
Season the beef generously with salt, ground pepper and parsley and cover with olive oil. Place the roasting tray with the beef in the preheated oven. Cook for one hour for medium beef. If you prefer it medium-rare take out 5-10 minutes earlier. For well done, leave in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Roast the potatoes vegetables on a separate baking sheet or alternatively pile them up and place the piece of beef on top and roast altogether. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and parsley and place whole garlic cloves into dish to roast.
When the beef is cooked to your liking, take the tray out of the oven and transfer to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so. Cover with a tea towel and put aside or leave in the oven on a lower temperature to keep warm (be careful to not let it dry out) whilst you make your gravy.
For the gravy, use four or five beef stock cubes and roughly pour in red wine (any wine you have leftover will do) and some port into a measuring jug until it is roughly a quarter full, then fill with boiling water. Season with salt, pepper, oil, garlic and parsley and any remaining juices from the meat.
I cheated and nipped into a local butcher’s, W.A. Gardner & Son, just opposite Wimbledon Park tube station, on my way home, to buy some hot horseradish sauce and redcurrant jelly with port, though of course you can be adventurous and make your own.
Enjoy and most importantly, happy St George’s Day!
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