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Little pig, little pig, there’s a fair over at Ostend this afternoon. Will you go there with me?

June 6, 2012

Going to the local market in Ostend for me is like discovering that you know you are one with the universe, or a bit like being sperm compulsively swimming towards an alluring ovum, or maybe even like secretly discovering the last chocolate biscuit in the Christmas sampler box. I dunno, but I want to convey the feeling of being along for the ride and gleefully unable to turn back.

I recently developed a duo of condiments and I was hoping to sell my wares at the local market. I reawakened the dormant Nantucket Trading Co. Ltd. I resurrected the stagnant bank account, I carried out product research and development, I turned my family and friends into lab rats and located a commercial kitchen for a short while, I found fabulous local mentors, I sourced containers and an infinite supply of herb with guaranteed continuity, I signed up with a local wholesaler, and visited more on the mainland, I hired local graphic designers and printers, I approached retailers and oh, I so wanted a stall at the market.

I was told there was only room at the market for ‘serious vendors’ (as opposed to silly ones?) ‘those people trying to make a living’ (as opposed to those who start businesses for a hobby?). This all sounded infuriatingly similar to the local real estate agent who, the very same year, told my newly childed child that rental property on this island would go first and foremost to ‘proper’ families, implying Asian lesbian Hebrew couples perhaps? Or possibly miserable middle New Zealand mom and pop investor heterosexual couples on minimum wage with a crippling mortgage, student loans, 2.5 kids and 0.5 of a cat? I haven’t figured out what either of them means.

So, it seems the Saturday market has gone in a similar direction to the rest of  the greedy old world, excuse my cynicism, all exclusive not inclusive and rampant with protectionism or perhaps a growing fear of not having enough or missing out on money to be made? However, if I don’t go to watch the mighty Minxes (our under 15 girls soccer team) come wintertime; then you will find me wandering the market on Saturday, and gaining pleasure from doing so.

I took a few snaps this Queen’s birthday weekend. Ostend Market is not solely a food’s paradise, it is a communal meeting place, it is upcycling, recycling and unicycling, it is straw into gold, new lamps for old and Mr McGregor’s garden! It is all the people you see at op shops who stop you in your tracks before you find a single item, now 100% certain that if there was anything worth getting it was already got. It is the Speaker’s Corner, the street corner sidewalk subway underground metro busker, it is a Cook Street souvlaki, egalitarian fair-trade greendollar, oliveoil gourmet blessed are the cheesemakers type of place that Waihekeans call “The Market”.

At this time of the year, locals may possibly outnumber the visitors, even if it is a long weekend, and on a nice morning it is still worth the effort to grab a few bags of don’t need-that-anymore and convert some cash. The acoustic busker gives the karaoke guy the evils, but stays for the performance, a few dogs and their humans risk the wrath of the dog ranger now that the summer crowds have dwindled back to town. There are people searching for some soft sweet morning sun, coffee and a bit of a chinwag, you will find poets and authors, gardeners, singers, stalkers, walkers, violinists, farmers, nurserymen, omnis and v*gns who all gather if the weather permits. The best thing is the familiarity without contempt and bumping into people, literally. It’s nice.

This is not a farmers market as such, the first five ships lot came bearing dubloons, rose quartz and Joni Mitchell LP’s ages ago and procured the most suitable land on Waiheke to grow stuff like grapes, olives and other Mediterranean fare. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, I mightily adore olives, their oil and such, but it means that surrounding countryside, the hinterland if you will, is unavailable for local agricultural sharecropper serf types to grow and therefore sell local seasonal produce, not with any continuity or volume anyway. But look, it’s awesome, it’s local and I love it.

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Okay, enough ramblings and obtuse descriptions, here are some lovely recipes I tried recently, the eggplants were cheap up the fruit and veg, two yul brunners for $2.50, rather small and rather late, but rather welcome. I have a penchant for eggplant that never wanes, they are mellow, meaty and capable, so George Clooney. I made two different eggplant dishes. I wish I could sell the excess from my home kitchen *sigh* doh! born in the wrong century AGAIN.

First up is  Braised Eggplant w Tofu in Garlic Sauce, a fruity little number that packs alot of punch for vegan dollar. This recipe is based on one from Serious Eats – one of my most favourite American cooking sites. The website is packed with free TESTED recipes and mucho information,  rather like a big food day out. Reviews, obsessive comparisons and blind tastings, gourmet food is dissected and replicated as is hawker, bistro and foodtruck fare. It is everything stateside (well mainly New York & Chicago) mildly related to food, dining and ginzu knives. Executive Ed Levine has pulled together a large dedicated team of foodinistas full of fresh food facts, recipes and reviews. Love it so much I bought the book. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a serious food scientist over at Serious Eats did the vegan thing in February and I took note of some of the recipes – they looked and sounded terrific, and I knew that they would have been tested to within an inch of their lives – this is not a vegan cooking vegan food, this is a dedicated makes-his-living from pork products kind of guy – so I knew they would have to taste great and they do.

Braised Eggplant with Tofu in Garlic Sauce

A Chinese style eggplant, and tofu dish – packed with flavour, it closely resembled an amazing vegan Chinese dish I ate in Los Angeles a while back. I made a few substitutions, but have given you the original ingredients in case you are lucky enough to live near a great Asian market.  Get these ingredients into your pantry – most last forever and make food like this go from meh to magnificent.

4 small asian eggplant, (or 2 medium )cut into chunks
2 tsp rice wine vinegar (original recipe = chinkiang or black vinegar)
¾ cup shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp shoyu or tamari (original recipe soy sauce)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp miso (original recipe had fermented broad been chilli paste)
1 tbsp chilli paste (added this with the miso as replacement for bean paste)
1 handful preserved blackbeans (not in original recipe – but I have to use them in something!)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic smashed  +4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
2 spring onions, sliced thinly and reserved
2-3 tbsp horseradish paste (original recipe used preserved mustard root)
1 packet firm tofu, frozen then defrosted & squeezed (original recipe called for 1 box silken tofu)
2-3 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped (original recipe said cilantro – but I speak English)

Steam or fry eggplant first, I fried it – heres a hint, if you soak eggplant in water for about 10 minutes then dry it off – it soaks up less oil when frying – cook until tender and set aside. I chopped the tofu up , coated in rice flour and fried off – I had some frozen tofu I wanted to use up – but in hindsight – use the silken, the taste and texture of the tofu I used was good, but only got really great when heated up in leftovers 2 or 3 times (Help! I need someone to eat all this food!) – if you are eating it all immediately definitely go for the silken, I will be next time – if you intend to cook and re-heat – got the frozen firm route.

Make the sauce – combine vinegar, wine, cornflour and stir – add tamari or soy, sugar, miso, chilli paste and sesame oil – set aside. Heat wok and add oil and whole garlic, cook around 5 minutes until golden and smells amazing – discard garlic, and heat oil till smoking, add spring onions, sliced garlic, and horseradish (mustard root). Cook stirring and tossing about 1 minute, stir sauce and add to wok, I now add the handful of dried preserved black beans, the eggplant and tofu and fold gently to combine.

At this point I added chopped broccoli florets because we needed greens – continue to cook, folding and stirring until thick and glossy, maybe 5 minutes more. Stir in spring onions, sprinkle with coriander and serve with white rice or not. Be careful if you use silken tofu – it will fall apart like a mother of three under five with no gin in the house.

I also made a mayonnaise with a roasted eggplant base – perfect for them vego types (no eggs) and again packed with creamy meaty capable (can I say George Clooney twice? yes I can) texture and garlicky flavour. Without any further ado – here is the recipe and some pictures.

Eggplant Mayo

2 small or ½ large eggplants, cut in half and brushed with oil, wrap in tinfoil
1 cup grapeseed oil (original recipe called for canola)
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard

Preheat oven to 200degC – place wrapped eggplants on tray and roast about 1 hour, cool. Scrape flesh from skin, discard skin. If you have a stick blender, use the cup and blend flesh with garlic, lemon juice and mustard. Carefully pour oil into cup, do not disturb! Put stick blender into bottom of cup and turn on – slowly pulling the stick up to point where the eggplant meets the oil. If you don’t have a stick blender make mayonnaise in your favourite drip by drip fashion. This forms a thick creamy emulsion – otherwise known as mayonnaise. Season judiciously, with seasalt and freshly ground black pepper – the lemon juice & mustard are negotiable also – taste taste taste. The original recipe was part of a roasted vegetable and mayo sandwich, but you can use it any which way but loose.

And as a parting gift – I wonder if by any chance they are related?

bon apetit!

From → Recipes

  1. Merrin Ruck permalink

    great pics Sis! I am hungry now! I want to try the Eggplant Mayo – but all my Mayo’s split and I have throwing good ingredients away argghhh!

  2. lynley ruck permalink

    Ahhh – the answer dear sister lies in the stick blender – I was the same, hated making mayo – bought Heinz seriously good mayo – but never again! – the stick blender makes everything ok again – everything!! You can even put your stick blender in first, then other ingredients in and then carefully pour ALL the oil on top AT ONCE – no more drippy drippy – then turn the stick blender on and slowly bring it upwards – it slowly emulsifies and incorporates the oil for you! worth one more try!

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