Tag Archive for: Market

My modest home town of Todmorden boasts four butchers. Which is remarkable these days. Three in the Market Hall (voted Britain’s best small market in 2018) and another around the corner. There’s one I go to especially for good value game birds; another is the place for rose veal, Dexter beef and free range chickens, while Bracewell’s regularly buys in whole Pitlochry venison carcasses and salt marsh lamb from Cumbria. And stocks trip, too, if that’s your bag.

An extra bonus on Saturdays is the outside stall run by Long Causeway Trading. Run by Alison Eason and Sharon Akerboom, once of Levenhulme’s legendary That Cafe, it offers a home-made cornucopia from imaginative savoury and sweet tarts to addictive Seville orange and Jura whisky marmalade. But the real draw for me is the lucky dip line-up of cool boxes containing all manner of meats, frozen and fresh, from their farm. 

A recent Saturday serendipity was offal driven. I lifted up one lid to discover lamb hearts. I had to buy. Just an hour before over my breakfast coffee I’d had a ‘nose to tail’ flashback (I know it sounds painful) as I read Giles Coren’s Times review of the unlikely, belated arrival, in Marylebone of all places, of a third St John restaurant. Hearts, kidneys, trotters, roast bone marrow. As with so many folk, they all formed part of our Fergus Henderson epiphany at the original restaurant near Smithfield market. Alas, rolled pig’s spleen, say, was a step too far.

With his revelatory elevation of cheap cuts Fergus is arguably the most influential chef/restaurateur of the past three decades. When in New York I couldn’t resist the allure of April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig in the West Village. This uncompromising gastropub, which closed in 2020, used to hold an annual Fergus-Stock event with its culinary hero in attendance – “known for his kooky demeanour and round, large eyeglasses” wrote one starstruck critic. 

All of which is a roundabout way to those 60p a shot lamb hearts… and what did I do with them? I followed Fergus, of course. Not the recipe in 1999’s Nose To Tail Eating, which entailed (sic) elaborate stuffing, stock and red wine. Instead I went for the fresher treatment given in The Book of St John (2019) – Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint. It was quite a treat for me and the dogs enjoyed the fatty carapace I cut off the grilled hearts.

Here’s the recipe (to serve 6, or 3 as a main course, 1 good-sized lamb’s heart will suffice as a starter, 2 each as a main course)… I had  to substitute frozen peas.

Ingredients 6 lamb’s hearts, marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, parsley stalks, sliced garlic; 8 spring onions, trimmed and cleaned; 3 heads of little gem lettuce, washed and separated; 2 large handfuls of freshly podded peas; a handful of pea shoots per person; large handful of extra fine capers,

thoroughly drained. 

For the mint dressing: 1 large bunch of mint, picked and stalks retained; 80g demerara sugar; 200ml malt or red wine vinegar; 100ml extra virgin olive oil; sea salt and black pepper.

Method First make the mint dressing. Bash the mint stalks with the back of a knife and place in a small pan with the demerara sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer for just long enough to melt the sugar, then set aside to cool thoroughly and infuse. Once ready, finely chop the mint and strain the cold vinegar over the leaves. Whisk in the olive oil, seasoning to taste.

To cook the lamb’s hearts you will need a cast-iron griddle or barbecue. Your hearts should be room temperature, not fridge cold, and the grill should be ferociously hot. Season boldly and place the hearts on the grill, cook for a minute and a half each side, then set aside to rest. A rare heart is a challenge, so aim instead for a blushing medium within. Now season and grill the spring onions in much the same way, charring with intent.

To serve, slice the hearts into slivers about half the width of your little finger, being careful to retain the delicious juices that are exuded in the resting. Place the little gems, peas, pea shoots and capers in a large bowl, then introduce the heart, resting juices, spring onions and mint dressing. Serve with chilled red wine.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28) 

It has been an epic journey across time and space and I’m understandably nervous when I encounter a scribbled sign at the picket gate into the Brewery of St Mars of the Desert. Private function today? Shut by Covid scare?

Phew. ‘Please don’t let Grimbold the dog out’ with a silhouette of the jet black bundle of fun I get to pat once I step across the ‘Welcome To Mars’ threshold. Fun is a good word, indeed, for everything that greets me inside this colourful cottage of a taproom. My benchmate, who budges up for me, recommends the ‘SMODFEST’ Festbier for its soft maltiness, continental hop character and absence of excess carbonation that can bedevil a lager. 

OK, I’ve made him more eloquent than he was. Yet it is a great introduction to SMOD, who specialise in “hoppy koelship beers, foeder-soured stingos, rustic lagers, deep malty dark beers and Benelux-inspired creations”, according to their website. Koelship? Pronounced cool ship, it’s a long, slender, open top stainless steel vessel akin to those traditional Flemish/Dutch koelschips, originally made of wood, whose high surface-to-mass ratio allows for more efficient cooling of the wort in the brewing process. Won’t go into more detail – this is a nerd-free zone.

It’s the centrepiece of a modest scale brewing operation behind the taproom, where SMOD co-owners Dann Paquette and Martha Simpson-Holley, plus apprentice Scarlet, produce some splendidly niche and nuanced beers in the old industrial district of Attercliffe, surrounded by ranks of contemporary factories/depots.

Not the easiest place to get to, hence my ‘epic journey’ lead-off. On my last adventure in Sheffield my last port of call was meant to be here but my phone charge went dead and no local could guide me, even though I was within a couple of hundred metres. Even this this time, on a trek from a tram halt, I feel rudderless.

Once I arrive, then, I am in no hurry to leave, sampling in turn Clamp Koelship IPA, hazy and hoppy yet like all the beers very clean, Koel It! Jingly Bells, all my Christmases come early with oodles of hops married to a festive fruitiness and, finally, The Battle of Frogs and Mice, Dann and Martha’s ‘tribute to the original craft brewers of Belgium’. Artisan or what?

At 8 per cent, Frogs, a dark special brune, outmuscles the 6.3 per cent Mice, a Flanders golden bitter, but it is also smoother, fruitier and more complex. According to the SMOD beer menu it is “brewed with a recreation of the water profile of West Flanders”. Now that is an attention to detail.

Bizarrely, when the globally influential RateBeer site announced its 10 Best New Breweries in the World 2020, two of the three British breweries named had this Belgian resonance (SMOD and, understandably, Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire) and two had American founders/brewers (SMOD and Suffolk’s Duration, incidentally many of whose ales are farmhouse and saison, too).

Bostonian Dann met North Yorkshire lass Martha across the Pond and the pair ran the acclaimed Pretty Things brewery for eight years before embarking on peripatetic journeys across Asia and Europe. Along the way they fell in love with a smallholding near a village called Saint-Mars-du-Désert in France’s Pays de la Loire region, named after an eighth century hermit. 

Maybe but for the prospect of Brexit they might have set up there; after considering Leeds and Manchester they went for Sheffield and took the monastic moniker with them. After all it was monks who first consolidated the brewing industry.

The pair’s fascinating story is recounted in a Pellicle online magazine piece by Matt Curtis,  ‘Everything in its right place and SMOD is a featured brewery in his recently published Modern British Beer (CAMRA Books, £15.99). Read my review here.

It’s not just about the beer, though. The taproom faithful are a civilised lot, Dann and Martha host it all with real warmth and Grimbold is irrepressible.

St Mars had been on my radar since its inception in 2018. My yearning to visit has since become a catalyst for discovering a Sheffield beyond my Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker affiliations. This time around I was smitten by the diversity and raw vitality of The Moor Market and found Cutlery Works the most relaxing street food hall I’ve ever visited.


Chicken livers, gizzards and hearts are all the same price – 90p a pound. The adjacent pig’s feet are priceless (in a nose to tail photoshoot way). Across the aisle a specialist Persian food stall offers ingredients I’ve only ever read about in Sabrina Ghayour or Yasmin Khan. On one fish stall I encounter a sturdy carp, not seen on most slabs. There is tripe and various intestinal siblings, feathered, ungutted game birds and a whole, skinned rabbit still defrosting I enquire about, to be told “it’s French, farmed, you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for the English, wild, fresh.” I loved all this from the moment I walked into find a fine bottle shop, Beer Central, to welcome me.

The building is less than a decade old, cost £18m and includes 200 market stalls and eight shops. Situated off a pedestrian precinct rammed with every high street name you can think of, what a relief to discover this haven of independent traders, offering an affordable, browsable, diverse alternative to control freak supermarkets. 

Its main northern rival, Leeds Market, benefits from its Victorian monumentality and better dining-in opportunities, but Sheffield’s really is hard to beat. Obviously not in comparison with the great markets of Spain, Barcelona’s Boqueria or Valencia’s Modernista-style Mercado Central. They reflect a whole different food culture. It has been interesting, though, to tick off across the Iberian peninsula the rise of markets morphing into food halls – in Bilbao, Madrid, Seville and notably Lisbon’s waterfront Time Out Market.


That Lisbon operation is a showcase for the city’s Michelin-starred chefs. Sheffield’s stand-out food hall is an altogether more modest affair despite its claims to be the North’s largest. Set in a converted cutlery factory, in the post-industrial corridor that stretches out from Kelham Island, Cutlery Works offers 13 different vendors across two floors, ranging from China Red’s Szechuan sizzlers to chocolate counter Bullion and coffee roasters Foundry, taking in Thai, pizza, fried chicken, burgers, sushi and Mexican along the way.

Foundry provide bottomless batch coffee for freelancers taking advantage between 9am and 5pm of designated co-working spaces with plug sockets and 10 per cent food discounts. All very cool and relaxing in my mid-afternoon slot, it lacked the buzz of Manchester’s Mackie Mayor, which I still love – despite my general weariness with the whole food hall experience. 

The Guardian restaurant critic Grace Dent summed it up nicely: “I need to ask a very honest question here: are food halls ever a truly satisfying dining experience? I’ve no doubt they seem so on paper and in the marketing meetings, they’re fantastic for filling old, unloved but historically important spaces and they’re good news for downward-spiralling city centres. Yet in reality they’re noisy, unrelaxing and the food is often patchy, with the occasional gem hidden among the colossal choice of menus.”

That was in last month’s review of the GPO in Liverpool, as the name suggests, a post office repurposed into a food hall. She was unimpressed by Nama, a Japanese small fish plates counter, created by Luke French and Stacey Sherwood-French of Sheffield big hitter Jöro (my restaurant review here), who have also transferred their other new venture Konjö.

The original of this Korean-influenced, fire-based “Robatayaki” Kitchen was my choice at Cutlery Works. It’s the first vendor on the left as you reach the first floor – preferable to the ground floor if only because it boasts the proper craft beer bar, Boozehound.

I spent £30 at Konjö, mainly because I over-ordered in my eagerness (and a desire for ballast ahead of my beer destination). Don’t expect a spin-off from Jöro down the road. There’s no comparable finesse. And yet my combo was hugely enjoyable. A duck bao was basically a take on the old Peking/hoisin sauce stalwart while chilli beef was sticky and punchy. Sides of subtle kimchi and refreshing sesame greens provided perfect balance ahead of my journey  to Mars.

Brewery of Saint Mars of the Desert, 90 Stevenson Rd, Sheffield S9 3XG. The taproom is normally open Fridays and Saturdays 2pm-8pm.

Cutlery Work, 73-101 Neepsend Lane, Neepsend, Sheffield S3 8AT. Open Sunday-Thursday, 10am-10pm; Friday-Saturday 10am-11pm.

So you think you know what Provencal rosé is all about? At the pale end of pale pink, ripe fruit with (you hope) some fresh acidity and a dry aftertaste? There will be a wide price range but a reassuring homogeneity, especially when chilled to within an inch of its roseate existence. 

Every summer now there seems to be a mad scramble to think pink, especially Provence. Hence an obligatory tasting of 300 in the current issue of Decanter magazine. Verdict of their rosé expert, Elizabeth Gabay MW: “Quality was consistently high, with some squeaky clean wines at all price points. The downside was an almost unending monotony of style.”

In the resultant Top 30 recommendations the rosé at No.5 (with 93 points) stands out as a ruddy maverick interloper among the pale brigade.

She describes Château Gasqui, Silice, Côtes de Provence Rosé 2019 as: “Pale red copper. Perfumed, almost grapey, red fruit aromas. On the palate a beautiful explosion of ripe red fruit, creamy apple compote, a touch of orange peel, marmalade, crushed citrus and some pretty leafy acidity. Quirkily different, intensely fruity and fresh. A gorgeous wine from a biodynamic producer, who is not afraid of ripe fruit and who makes wines which age with ease.”

What did also surprise was the UK supplier, https://www.owtleeds.comOWT of Leeds. Weren’t they the outfit that set up in the city’s Kirkgate Market with a menu generated from what was freshest on the stalls daily? ‘Owt!’ being the answer to what was available. It was a natural extension of co-owner James’s time as a volunteer chef at Real Junk Food Project flagship Armley Junk-tion. 

How does all this link to Southern France’s fields of lavender, sunflowers and vines? Bear with me for a paragraph. Well, OWT has now decamped from the Kirkgate to a cafe unit in the nearby Corn Exchange, Grade 1 listed, domed Victorian gem. The casual but precise food offering remains much the same – from breakfast to late afternoon but with a more expansive Thursday evening menu that wasn’t possible under market hours. 

Esther and James are, step by simple step, rising stars of the Leeds food scene

Oh and on the left as you go in among some chic OWT merchandise you’ll find a trio of exclusive Provencal wines from the family vineyard of James’s partner, Esther. Her surname, Miglio, is a clue to an Italian bloodline way back, but she is the very French daughter of Francois, winemaker for 30 years at Château Gasqui.

She’s proud of the Gasqui wines and so she should be. After hopping on a train to Leeds I can confirm what a complex belter the ‘Silice’ rosé is, like the Roche d’ Enfer! red, dominated by the Grenache grape. Yet just as striking was Esther’s favourite, the Roche d’ Enfer! white from 2013. The ageing has obviously benefited the Semillon that forms part of the cepage with  Rolle and Clairette. What struck was a hint of jasmine on the nose, a waxy mouthfeel and spice notes among the honeyed peachy fruit.

Château Gasqui’s vineyards are set in and support an idyllic natural landscape in the South of France

All three wines are available by the glass at £5, £25 the bottle (which is also the takeaway price). Not cheap but worth it for the purity of fruit extracted by Francois, driving force behind Gasqui being one of only two biodynamic producers in the region. Pictures of the vineyards radiate healthy, blossomig terroir. The brand-heavy fleshpots of Saint-Tropez and the Med Coast may be only 40km to the east but this is a world away, a sustainable enterprise, the antithesis of vinous bling. 

OWT’s food is a perfect complement to the wines. I lunched mid-afternoon off a small menu offering a choice of summer tartelette, aioli with prawns, ‘pepper patchwork’ or panzanella. I went for(and didn’t regret) the £10 steak plate that consisted of a 7oz Yorkshire rump steak, properly rare as requested, plus a herb salad and salsa verde. Fries had run out for the day (it was 3.30pm), so I ordered a side of OWT pickles at £3.50. Carrot, cucumber, ginger and red onion, all fresh and tangy as Esther recounted how after a history course at Marseille University she decided to check out Manchester and fell in love with it gigs and bars. There she met James and he persuaded her a future together lay in his native Yorkshire. God’s Own Country got the best of the deal, you feel, when you taste the wines she has brought with her.

OWT, Unit C12A&B Leeds Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7BR. 0113. 247 0706.

A swift guide to biodynamic winemaking and how it benefits Gasqui

Biodynamics is often referred to as ‘super-charged organic’. Its roots are in the theories  of the Austrian philosopher, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Rather than simply reducing chemical inputs, biodynamic production is a proactive attempt to bring life to the soil with the use of natural composts and organic preparations. 

It’s more than just an agricultural system, rather an altered world view that then impacts on the practice of agriculture. Winemakers drawn to this philosophy tend to be creative, spiritual types, deeply connected to their land and always experimenting to see what works best. Which seems to sum up Francois Miglio’s approach.

Gasqui holds Demeter biodynamic certification after the Château’s owner was persuaded to go down this radical route, which forbids chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Instead insect life and spiders are encouraged to control pests; manure encourages organic growth. After hand-harvesting the grapes the wine is produced in a gravity-fed cellar without winemaking additives. Ambient yeasts are used, with no or scant sulfites and no fining.

More controversially all significant vineyard activities –  soil preparation, planting, pruning, harvesting – are done in accordance with the influence on earth by the moon, stars and planets. Finally, the aspect that can spark scepticism – the use of nine preparations 500-508 (a bit like homeopathy), using  plants such as nettles, dandelion and chamomile, to be applied in powdered form or as sprays. Most divisive is Preparation 500’, where cow horns are filled with cow manure and buried in October to stay in the ground throughout the dormant season. The horn is later unearthed, diluted with water and sprayed onto the soil.

In a magazine interview Francois said of the Steiner strictures: “It is important to understand that 50 percent is symbolic and 50 percent is real… it all helps focus.” 

All of which reminds me of a memorable trip to Ted Lemon’s Littorai winery in Sonoma, California. In Ted’s absence his young deputy confessed to not being a total convert to biodynamics (the perfection of the Pinot Noir was proof enough for us). And yet, as he put it, “It sure does make you pay attention.” 

We loved the copper hue of Château Gasqui but if rosé has to be pale pink for you?

Much has been made of a celebrity influx of Provencal rosé providers, led by Brad and Angelina, whose Château Miraval is made by the Famille Perrin, Chateauneuf du Pape royalty at Chateau Beaucastel. Majestic have it at £19.99  bottle, £14.99 in a mixed six case.

My Provencal pink alternative from a celebrity duo would be Domaine de Triennes, a joint venture by Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, and Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. It’s a serious well structured wine without sacrificing all the  joyous fruit (£13.95 from Vin Cognito. A simpler favourite would be Coeur De Cardeline Rosé, better value at £8 than its Co-op stablemate, Brangelina’s ‘Studio de Miraval’ (£12).