Num Num

eat. cook. write.

January 11, 2011

Market Pickings

On Saturday mornings I try to avoid the glare of  supermarkets and head off to the HermanusPietersfontein Food and Wine Market.

My first stop is always the cheese man. He’s a big fellow, with a whiskery face and a large apron with a towel tucked in it. He stands behind a large table, sagging under the weight of his hard parmesans, oozing camemberts, ripe blue cheeses and shiny, light goudas. There are flies flitting about, but he ignores them, leaving them for the obliging customers to bat at.

It’s not the cheese that draws me to the table. It’s the cheese man. You ask for a taste of this and that, and he slivers off pieces and poffers the large knife blade in your direction. For every bite that you take, he pops a bit into his own mouth, as if to remind himself for the hundredth time this morning what his pecorino tastes like. His method of charging is also interesting. The prices for all the meats and cheeses are chalked up behind him, but he pops each slab onto his scale, allows a second or two for thought then announces a random (I assume), rounded off figure. We don’t complain.

Sunday night dinners back home are always light- sandwhiches and maybe some left overs. Mrs X and Mrs Y went out for dinner so I treated  C and myself to a market- tribute cheeseboard. The balls on the left are Greek Yoghurt Cheese balls ( that are delish! with olives) , the ham is the Cheeseman's parma, sliced as thin as I could dream of and perfect on the palate with his parmigianno and sharp pecorino. Since I find bocconchini (from Woolworths) quite dreary and disappointing, I marinade it in the best balsamic and olive oil, and chiffonaded basil from the garden. Biltong belongs on cheeseboards in South Africa, I think, and tomaraisins are my special ingredient find of the year, available for a limited time at Woolworths.
The next stall along sells artisan chocolates: handmade on a small scale they focus on drawing out the flavours of different beans from the America’s, Africa and Madagascar. I always appreciate stalls that have loads of tasters, and the DV chocolatiers are generous. As I approach the stall, the owner leaves things up to his two young sons to manage. They cannot be older than twelve at most, but they take their job seriously, explaining earnestly how their microbatch, pure chocolate can make you age slower, and make exercising easier.  I buy two slabs, at a reasonable R25 each. They are truly delicious- snappy and bursting with flavour. The perfect after- dinner treat. See their list of nationwide stockists at

Hermanus is a small town. The lady who runs the Greek food stall is married to the man who comes to fix our intercom and lights. She’s lovely and her home- made Greek yoghurt is heaven in a cup with fruit and granola. I walk away laden with yoghurt, greek cheese, olives, feta and sun- dried tomatoes.

Next up is the grey- haired oyster-and- bread man. The oysters are expensive- but they are huge, with gorgeous silky molluscs inside, and so fresh that you can see the little sea shell animals living on the outside still breathing in and out. The queue is long; he apologises sweetly to everyone that has to wait as he skilfully shucks his luxurious goods.   

I bought a healthy brown loaf from The Incredible Fish Stall (Which also sells bread and traditional pumpkin fritters that are all sold out by 10 30). I sliced it into 1 cm wedges, and stuffed it with the Cheeseman's Pecorino, fresh basil and generous helpings of butter for a new take on supermarket garlic loaves. I  wrapped it in tin foil and popped it on the braai while I cooked Rick Stein's amazing Cambodian marinated steak and some wors. Lovely.
The Swiss lady is my best. She sells vegetables, home- grown and delicious. ‘Yez, yez,’ she mutters. ‘Zis one is five rands, zis one is ten rands.’ I have big love for anyone who sells bags of soft- leafed basil, and potatoes with earth still clinging on to them.

Crispy Potato Wedges
  • 4- 5 large potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise into wedges
  • 40ml cake flour, seasoned well with salt and pepper
  • 30ml canola oil
  • All Gold tomato sauce, to serve, (because I can't fit 36 tomatoes in one bottle and they can.)
  1. Heat the oven up to 180C.
  2. Pour the oil into the bottom of a deep roasting dish. 
  3. Dust the wedges in the season flour and shake off the excess. Place the them, skin side down, in the roasting tray and pop into the oven. 
  4. After ten minutes, remove from oven and shake around to coat in the oil. Place them all skin side down again and return to oven for another 30- 40 minutes until crisp. 
  5. Serve immediately. 

The market also holds a terrific spice and preserve shop, a jaffle and pancake stall and a collection of other baked goods. There is also a coffee stall that, by some ingenuity, produces fresh filter coffee in Styrofoam cups. The tables in the square courtyard are all packed, as families try to inch all the benches into shady spots under the umbrellas. I perch on the wall next to the fountain. I love how they place floating ducks, boats and toys in the water for the children’s amusement. A gorgeous little boy comes to befriend me (shame, he was probably thinking, who is this lady who sits by herself?) He says ‘ice- cream, ice- cream’ and pokes at my yoghurt. Then he starts drinking my coffee, spilling the remainder of my cup into the water as he bangs it down. He ends up finishing my yoghurt by licking it out with his finger, and batting his eyelashes at me. More grown- ups should do this, I think.

As I leave I hesitate at the HermanusPietersfontein wine stall. I glance at my watch; it’s not eleven o’ clock yet, so can I start drinking?  I shake my head at this silly thought, and ask for a glass. I enjoy the nr 7- a white blend, and the red Arnoldus, but it’s a bit pricey. And then I try the limited edition sweet wine, on ice. It’s soo refreshing. Called ‘Bloudruk’, this light, non- syrupy sweet(ish) wine made of viognier by junior winemaker Kim McFarlane really tickled my fancy. I bore it home and dared to offer it to Mr Y, a wine connoisseur as a dessert treat. 

Niles came into the kitchen, looking grim. “They want to talk to you chef”. Imagining that I was about to be disgraced by my wine choice (I never get to pick the wines on other days) I was delighted to hear Mr Y in raptures about it.

The HPF food and Wine market is a classy and fun venture which I heartily approve of (and not just because  I get to share my yoghurt with strange men and start drinking at ten) 

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