The car park in which Levenshulme Market is cloistered is surrounded by wildflowers. The grassy incline up to the railway bridge is covered in long green tufts of unweeded foliage and amidst the chaos are flowers in red, white, purple, yellow, all singing the song of summer. All I wanted to do was clamber over the picnic tables full of people with their trays of street food and frolic amongst the flowers.
Levenshulme Market is compact with only a few stalls but the atmosphere is cheerful and the queues for hot lunches are at least ten people deep. There are stalls for haberdashery, handmade cards, tea, cheese, bread, brownies, and a wide range of street food choices, including Savage Cabbage who make tacos, who should have a queue just for their name alone and the aggressive looking cabbage perched by the sandwich board. I quickly complete my first circuit around the stalls then head to the ones which peaked my interest; first thing’s first – cake. The small table is laden in slabs of tarts and eclairs, but I notice a plate partially concealed holding a number of perfect golden and shiny canelés. They are minuscule and can easily be eaten in one indulgent bite. I admire anyone who makes these little bites of heaven as they are tricky and require bucket loads of patience. I buy one and treat myself to my first taste of a canelé – the crisp bite of the caramelised casing and the custardy softness in the centre.
As I continue roaming the market my eyes wander and so does my money. I become distracted by the brownie stall and buy Calum an enormous chunk of triple chocolate brownie; I spot three enormous pork pies topped with caramelised apples, stuffing, and damsons; and I hover over some tiny wooden brooches in the shape of rabbits, fighting with myself that yes they are completely necessary to my wardrobe. I watch a queue for Greek street food grow and as the lady serves plates of tabbouleh, glossy olives, and slivers of cheese and spinach filo pie I itch to join the queue for a second lunch. Before I leave though I manage to buy a slab of olive and slow roasted tomato focaccia, and a small wheel of creamy goats cheese, which, I reason, is a good substitute. And on a day like today when rain pounds the windows and the car wind-screen wipers fly splashing water, I use the goat’s cheese in a salad which is reminiscent of summer and wildflowers.
Goat’s Cheese, Walnut and Grape Salad
My favourite salads include various treats amidst the leaves. More treats than leaves, I say! In the style of Nigel Slater, this recipe does not require weights and measures – just throw in the amount you think is right.
Small handful of walnut halves
Chunk of crusty bread – preferably a few days old
Couple of sprigs of rosemary
1 fennel bulb
Small handful of grapes
1 clove garlic
Large handful of rocket and watercress
Chunk of goat’s cheese
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Toss the walnuts in a squeeze of honey and a few shakes of cinnamon until they are all coated and fragrant.
- Chop the bread into pieces to make large croutons. Chuck them in a bowl with some oil and salt. Pull away some of the rosemary leaves and mix with the other ingredients in the bowl. Taste and add more salt and rosemary if necessary. Line the croutons and the walnuts on a baking tray and bake for five or so minutes, checking regularly.
- Cut away the long fronds from the fennel, and, using a peeler, shave thin slithers of the bulb. Use approximately half.
- Chop the grapes in half.
- Mix the dressing: finely chop or crush the garlic clove and add to a jug. Add the juice and zest of half a lemon, salt, and three tablespoons of oil. Whisk with a fork and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Toss the fennel and grapes, and a few rosemary leaves, in some of the dressing and add the watercress and rocket. Once the walnuts are caramelised but not burned, and the croutons are crisp and smell lusciously of rosemary add to the rest of the salad and gently mix before plating.
- Tip everything onto a plate. Crumble the goat’s cheese and sprinkle the small chunks over the salad then pour over the dressing. Eat with gusto.