I'm a big fan of a local market. At their very best, these are pretty much the perfect day out - stalls full of interesting crafts and delicious local food and drink produce, manned by the very people who have so lovingly made the goods, and often accessorised with live music, beer tents and nice sociable dogs who jump up at you, tails wagging, at the very whiff of a sausage. Not all markets are like this though, offering instead a few desultory tables of over-priced tat and sub-standard fare that people still buy just because it has the word "artisan" appended to it; these leave me saddened and frustrated and in need of the pub.
Not so the Makers Markets, which I have recently discovered and now salute as a shining example of all that is good and right. These are monthly events across four locations - Cheadle, Didsbury, Knutsford and Middlewich; I went to Didsbury last Sunday and have been to Knutsford today (which did in fairness leave me in need of the pub, but only because it was so cold). Didsbury is by far the smaller of the two but does score additional points for being near my house and for having the best live acts (I've seen Badly Drawn Boy and poet Mike Garry there amongst others), while Knutsford today was simply a revelation. Here's what I came home with...
Orchard House Pâté. I'm a sucker for pâté and have thus come to know the lovely Danielle quite well - she makes simply gorgeous creations that are (unfeasibly) both dairy free and low fat (most of the mini pots come in somewhere just over one hundred calories each, meaning that one may comfortably eat three or so at one sitting with no fear of losing a button). There are lots of different flavours - my favourites include the chicken liver with tequila and orange, the mushroom and walnut and the cashew nut, lentil and sun-dried tomato but they're all good. I think I've tried them all now (including some incredible luxury ones she made for Christmas) and they merit their own blog post, so you'll hear more about them soon.
Bobby's Bangers sausages. You know all about these fine purveyors of pork products by now - their sausages are quite simply the best around. I was pretty restrained today, limiting myself to some pork and haggis and some of the award-winning Bombay Banger. Oh, and a black pudding.
Fatjax Chutneys. Paul is another delightful person who I've got to know through admiring his pickles at various food events over the years; I've just done a count and between the pantry and the fridge I currently have nine different varieties on the go. They're all addictive but the fruity ones are particularly irresistible, as are the chilli ones. Oh, and the spice mix sachets are really good too. The next house I buy will definitely need a bigger pantry.
Nom Nom Bread. This man knows how to make seriously good bread, in lots of interesting flavours. Today I bought a honey and sunflower seed loaf, and have already eaten half of it, smeared thickly with pâté. This may, arguably, offset the low fat, low calorie nature of the pâté to some extent.
Hemingways Pesto. I hadn't come across these people before; they make homemade sauces, pesto, gnocchi and pasta and appear to be very good at it judging by the lovely fresh pesto I sampled today. It's surprisingly rare to find a pesto that tastes properly of fresh basil and parmesan but this one has both in spades; when the nice man told me it would keep in the fridge for a month I'm afraid I found it hard not to laugh openly whilst prising the lid off it there and then.
I would have liked to have stayed longer, but it was really very cold and my purchases were getting on the heavy side - next time I go, I'll be the one with the extra-large tartan shopping trolley. Didsbury is the last Sunday of every month and Knutsford the first - full details are here on the website.