The thing I like, in particular, about shopping at markets is that you are confronted by seasonality. I don’t mean just British produce, but rather the time of year in the UK when the offer changes and the Mangoes arrive from far away or at Christmas time when it used to be traditional for the citrus fruits and pineapples to be ‘shipped’ in.
In supermarkets, it seems to me, very little respect is paid and the proposition remains more or less the same throughout the year.
Whilst meandering around the market last week I was staggered by the many seasonal offerings that endorse the time of year and I was wholeheartedly overwhelmed by plums….all types from beautiful golden and yellow, lightly pink tinged with ochre to richly indigo. These ones were from the Organic Chegworth Valley Farm in Kent. I’m not going to lie to you – I wanted them, and had to have them. There were all types, so I did have to reign myself in and purchase just a few.
When I was a child, my dad worked near North End Road Market in west London. On a crisp cool evening, when the curtains were already drawn across and lamps lit by the time of my return from school, Dad would walk through the front door and ask me what he had in his pockets. I grew to know that there would be a pomegranate for him and one for me (also for my brother when he was still young enough to be excited by such things). It was ritualistic, pomegranate season was upon us and you just didn’t see them at other times of the year. I loved the dark jewels of the seeds and picking around the bitter pith, feeling safe in the knowledge that this would happen again next year.
Many years later, after Dad was gone, I too started working near North End Road, and revelled in the year round selection of great value fruit and other produce to be found.
My first ever ‘fresh’ date was experienced at the market after years of only ever having the preserved variety, as is the Christmas rite. The fact is, you can now get almost anything at any time of the year and on reflection, I’m not sure if I was experiencing seasonality or simply tradition, probably both.
One thing is for certain, my dad saw such things as a treat to be shared and savoured, his life long penchant for bananas still makes me smile. A child during the war, Dad told us how excited he was to see a banana when the war ended.
Is my passion for pomegranates due to their juicy and somewhat exotic deliciousness or because it was a communal delight shared with my dad, year in and year out? I’ll never know, but I do feel a frisson of excitement for the changing seasons and I like autumn – I was an autumn baby, just as he was. I love autumn clothing, autumn colours…
Back to the tale, so I had this bag of plums….
I thought to make a cake and stumbled over this recipe for a Polish plum cake by Ren Behan – you can find it here. not being a natural baker I rather foolishly and stubbornly wanted to make a round cake, as opposed to the rectangular tray bake in the recipe (who can climb inside my mind? ). My friend, The Marmoset, a baker of epic distinction will be smirking about this…
So, I made the cake in a round cake tin but had to cook it for considerably longer than prescribed, almost an hour in total, meaning it was a little darker than I would have liked, depite the remedial application of tin foil. My lovely plums sunk to just below the surface….they can still be seen lurking if you look very closely!
For all that, the cake remained deliciously moist, it contains yoghurt and light olive oil in place of butter… I also replaced some of the flour with almonds because I enjoy almonds and plums together.
And let me just say – this track is a corker isn’t it? It makes me feel ‘all Seventies’ and like swishing around in a peasant skirt.. very evocative of those chill evenings spent picking the seeds out of pomegranates with Dad.