- Food & Drink
On Saturday I went shopping at East Street Market for the first time in a few years. I used to shop there every week, buying scoops of fruit and veg for a pound a pound and stopping at the egg stall, fishmongers, butchers and grocery stores. Practically everything I could need would be taken care of in one backpack load (looking forward to the day when I can crack out the wheelie shopping bag).
But the market seemed to slide downhill for a couple of years. Perhaps I just got jaded with it and dreamt of the luxury of supermarket chiller cabinets and the artificial smell of freshly baked bread. When I went to the market I saw more and more jumble stalls, string vests and cheap shoes, kung fu DVDs and gospel albums. The food lost its connection to the seasons and merged into an all-year-round ratatouille of peppers, onions, aubergines and courgettes.
However, with a new sense of financial prudence making me reconsider my rotting bags of pre-washed salad and regular take-away lunches, I decided to give East Street another go. And if the recession has been kind to anyone, it has been kind to East Street.
There’s still a big range of vests, sequined skirts and incredibly sensible polyester nighties on offer, but the food stalls look lively to me. The tyranny of the aubergine is not yet at an end (you wouldn’t expect it to be in the middle of summer, would you?), but other vegetables are getting a look in again.
Artichokes, beetroot, peaches, strawberries, watermelon – summer for sale and selling cheap. I was close to buying a bowl of artichokes when my eye was caught by the best offer in the market: a box of cherries for £3.
I did my sums and I could have that box of cherries if I forgot all about buying fancy vegetables and saved the meat for best. I didn’t have to think twice. I embraced that box of cherries and am spending this week getting to know it very well.
The first thing I made is a small jar of Cherries in brandy. Brandied cherries in chocolate are one of my favourite things to eat and on Friday I’m having friends for dinner. I want to make a dirty chocolate cake for dessert. Serving it with brandy soaked cherries should ensure that no one is able to get up from the table for at least 15 minutes.
Cherries in brandy
Makes 1 jar
60g caster sugar
1 You’ll need a 450g sterilised jam or Kilner jar (see Rhubarb gin on sterilising jars). Stone the cherries – I used the round end of a skewer to hook out the stones. If you don’t mind spitting out the stones when you eat the cherries, you can leave them in but you won’t need quite as many cherries.
2 Place a layer of cherries in the bottom of the jar – about 6 or 7 cherries. Cover with 30g of the sugar. Then top with most of the rest of the cherries. Cover with the remaining sugar and top with the last of the cherries. Pour in 50ml of the brandy. Put on the lid, give it a shake and leave for a few hours. You should be able to pour in the remaining brandy once everything has settled down.
3 Put the lid on tightly and leave somewhere dark for at least 1 week. Keep it for a couple of months if you want to make a cherry brandy for drinking.