I love the Hampshire Farmers Market! The Editor and I enjoyed another cracking morning at the Winchester occurrence of Hampshire Farmers Markets today. We thought it would be a great service to you, our dear readers, to share our selection of the best stalls there in the order we enthusiastically march around the market.
Of course, there are many other stalls at the market and we apologise to the others we have not mentioned — there is a limit to the amount we can carry and definitely a limit to the length of even an Elitistreview blog post. There will be more in future!
King’s SOMBORNE EGGS
We are always happy to start by loading up with plenty of Kings Somborne eggs. A sign on their stand proudly proclaims their eggs have won a Radio Solent egg-tasting competition, but that’s nothing! They are essential for making a Hampwich — the ultimate Hampshire sandwich! King’s Somborne Eggs have started selling guinea fowl eggs on a regular basis which The Editor fashions into incredible Scotch eggs. Get lots — if you limit yourself to a paltry half-dozen you’ll regret it the moment one of the gloriously flavoursome orbs passes your lips.
New Forest Bee Products
Recently I have been petulantly whining on Twitter about the quality of pickled shallots and onions available to the quality-seeking pickle hunter. We have got experimental jars dotted around the kitchen but until they are ready we are never less than happy to crunch into the honey-pickled shallots from New Forest Bee Products. If you value food of character then these will titillatingly tickle your tweakables. I am hoping by the time I have finished writing the The Editor will allow me to try some of their pickled garlic with honey for the first time — I have great expectations!
Dwayne Bartram of Perfect Pickles sells the best pickled onions known to man , but sadly only for a couple of months around Christmas. He only pickles onions when they in season and at their best and, as he does it all by hand we can allow him limits on the time he can spend peeling them and sloshing vinegar around.
The rest of the year he keeps the Elitistreview team charged with fire thanks to his various chutneys, particularly the Red Hot Tomato Chutney. As far as hedonistic delights go, larding this on a thick portion of triple creme cheese like Vignotte on top of a piece of decent seedy bread is a roller-coaster ride of flavours, textures and temperatures. The Editor tells me that it also works brilliantly with Philadelphia, perhaps justifying the existence of that cheese like little else does.
New Forest Smokery and Trout Farm
Right next door we always hope the New Forest Smokery and Trout Farm will be selling smoked eel so we can cook our favourite nursery dish, smoked eel with bacon and mash. Their Test Valley smoked eel is the best we have eaten, and the same goes for their oak-smoked brown trout, another necessary ingredient in the Hampwich. For a spiffing variation on that super sarnie we have also tried it with their hot smoked trout and I assure you it is good enough to get you grunting.
Beechcroft Direct’s back bacon is consistently the best we have ever eaten and so also makes it into smoked eel, bacon and mash — it is the only bacon that can match Test Valley smoked eel in quality. This bacon also provides the meat that powers The Editor’s double spiced egg and bacon sandwich. King’s Somborne eggs only, please. Have this with their spiffing sausages, ideally Old English Pork Chipolatas for a beyond beezer brekkie.
Beechcroft’s beef has provided many of our friends, Ricard, Per and Jinke among them, with serious pleasures of the flesh. Their chickens are obscenely good, the kind of attractive bird even The Editor and I want to pull as often as possible.
Finally, we did not buy any today, but their pork cuts, from Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, go far beyond showing that pork is just not ‘the other white meat’ and transport you to new boudoirs of dissolute experience.
Speaking of dissolute experiences, I am almost slightly hurt that no one has tried to sue me for killing their relatives with my cracking hot chocolate recipe made with Meadow Cottage Jersey cream. The cream is irresistible in its decadent simplicity, but their new salted caramel ice cream shows they can do trendy too. Qualitatively it’s vastly beyond almost all other ice creams of its idiom, with an exciting balance between sweetness and salt complemented by the glorious richness of their milk and cream.
Lainston House Hotel Bakery
There are a few bread stalls at the Hampshire Farmers Market. Our favourite is the Lainston House Hotel bakery . Their bread is all baked in the early hours of the morning just before the market, so I am always a bit surprised that the baking team, who sell the bread themselves are not totally exhausted. I think the good humour that everyone buying their bread feels gives then the jollity to manage the day with mirthful twinkles in their eyes.
They are the source of the most orgasmically fabulous pain au raisin to ever have been trapped in my hiatus hernia (because I have gulped them down with rather too much greedy enthusiasm). Avoid the hiatus hernia, if you can, but seek out any of their baked goods.
Hampshire cheeses – TUNWORTH
Hampshire Cheeses make Tunworth, the undisputed heavyweight champion of Hampshire cheeses. It is rather unfairly characterised by Raymond Blanc as the ‘best camembert in the world’. In so doing he has the temerity to suggest Tunworth doesn’t have a distinct enough a personality to stand on its own. Anyone who has had a Tunworth sold ‘ready for eating this weekend’ will know that one thing it is not short on is personality.
Sure, it is a bit like camembert, but by that token Morey-Saint-Denis would be a bit like Gevrey-Chambertin and a bit like Chambolle-Musigny. That may be fine if you are pig ignorant, but the Elitistreview team care enough to say that Tunworth is a thin, white, thin-rinded cheese of grassy, nutty and sweetly creamy flavours (we care about Morey, too[ref]Just to make it clear a winemaker there (who I’m too scared to name): we really care about Morey too so please don’t thump us![/ref]). Its personality is primarily one of complexity in the array of flavours it shows, which become more sophisticated as it ripens. The makers like them quite ripe, but I would not get too worked up about leaving yours for weeks on a radiator in the sun — I have loved every one I have had, whether firm or flaccid.
They have begun producing a second cheese, Winslade, although it won’t be on sale until late summer at the earliest. It is described as a Vacherin Mont d’Or-style cheese, which I think sounds spiffing!
Broughton Water Buffalo
We did not buy anything this time, but one of many reasons to get to the Winchester Hampshire Farmers Market early is to get a water buffalo burger from Broughton Water Buffalo before they sell out. Ask for yours medium-rare, load it up with chilli jam and smirk as if you’ve just discovered delight. Broughton supply their marvellous meat to the beezer Bengal Sage, and have also supplied us with many quality cuts, as well as lesser (but no less worthy) portions of meat. Just make sure to cook them more slowly and gently than you would do with beef.
Hill Farm Juice
Long time readers will know that here at Elitistreview we despise lacklustre wines; we simply don’t drink stuff unless it is throbbing with interest, or at least pulsating. Sadly, writing bodily function jokes about food and wine does not earn enough to allow us daily consumption of several bottles of appropriately engaging wine. This does not mean we are bereft of throbbingly compelling fluid, thanks to Hill Farm Juice .
Their apple juices thrill and fill me, much more so than almost any wines at £10 or less; it is simply far more interesting than those wines, whilst being a lot less expensive. I do not need alcohol as much as I need edification, and Hill Farm Apple Juice deliver. I admit that it is also handy that the only other drinks close to the Broughton Water Buffalo burger stall are Mr Whitehead’s ciders and I do not always need cider with my breakfast (the apple juice is better too!)
The Tomato Stall
I have written about The Tomato Stall’s Isle of Wight tomatoes recently and after trying today’s haul of dimensionally varied, multi-hued fruit I am no less convinced that these are the best tomatoes one can get in the UK. They grow varieties chosen for excellent flavour and carefully harvest them when they are in peak condition. Consequently, when they are sitting on the stall in Winchester they can even convince you that plants other than Pinot Noir vines, can be beautiful.
Lyburn Farmhouse CheeseS
The other great lactobacillus products of Hampshire come from Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers. Clearly it is impossible to compare the hard cheeses of Lyburn with the soft Tunworth, so they are both the best ever! I suggest you follow our normal course and, in addition to your Tunworth, buy a kilo of Lyburn Gold and plead with whoever is the equivalent of The Editor in your purchasing team to let you buy a wedge of Winchester Mature or Old Winchester. The Lyburn Gold is simply scrumptious with its creamy, silken texture and your editor really should capitulate and let you revel in the wonderful mature complexity of one of the other two. (Stop whining, Davy! ED)
Woodlands Jersey Beef
Our final stop on this tour of the Winchester Hampshire Farmers Market is Woodlands Jersey Beef. I’ve written fourteen posts on this site about them (here they all are). In my most recent post, I summarize it best, calling it ‘quite possibly the best beef there is’. If you cannot make it to a Hampshire Farmers Market to buy this beef it is on sale in their farm shop. I often pity foreigners, perhaps most so when I contemplate that the vast majority of them will never eat Woodlands Jersey Beef. Make sure you don’t suffer the same fate!
Meeting the stallholders and purchasing their produce is pure pleasure; the only probable pain of your visit to Hampshire Farmers Market is hauling your bulging sacks of goodness home. When you get them there, I suggest you put your ice cream in the freezer, grab some tomatoes, a glass of apple juice before contemplating the glories of the shopping experience, and those to come when it is time to eat!
By the way, the green but totally ripe tomatoes from the Tomato Stall are the best tomatoes I have ever tasted.