Flemington Market tips for a numero uno rocket salad

On a sparkling spring Saturday, few things are more uplifting than a morning jaunt through the Flemington Market, surrounded by gleaming produce in all colours of the rainbow. 

Inhale deeply.  At this time of the year, the scent of mango is just starting to fill the air.

Here’s some inside information: early birds get the parking spot.  Arrive on Saturday just after 6am. 

That’s the magic hour when sheltered street-level bays opposite the Shed D produce market cease to be forklift territory.  Those bays become prime, free parking spots. 

Be warned: arrive at 7am and you’ll join the cars loitering and waiting for a vacancy.

So, you’re feeling all virtuous from your early start and from being around all that fresh goodness.  How about prolonging that sense of well-being throughout the weekend, with a peppy, citrusy salad punctuated with nuggets of crunch and sweetness?

Introducing my rocket salad, an Italian classic with an added citrus twist from fragrant lemon rind. 

Every ingredient in this salad is available from the treasure trove that is Flemington Market.  Here are 3 tips on making the most of the hero ingredients.

 

  1. Rocket

You’ll find this at the usual lettuce and salad leaf stalls.  But also look out for them at Asian vegetable stalls; these often sell bunches of well-priced Western herbs next to Chinese greens. 

Big isn’t always better.  Go for smaller rocket leaves as the large ones can be bitter.

It’s best to consume rocket on the day you buy it.  If you can’t, and the leaves wilt in the fridge overnight, freshen them up by soaking in a basin of iced water for 20 minutes before use.

  1. Nuts

There are at least 3 nut stalls at the Saturday Flemington Markets.  All stock walnuts, which is the standard nut used in rocket salads.  Try using pecans as an alternative; they may be dearer, but they add a creamy sweetness that is hard to beat.

  1. Cheese

You’ll find a cheese providore near the entrance to the seafood stalls on Saturdays at Flemington Market.  It stocks a range of local and imported cheese.  If you ask nicely, the friendly lady will give you a taste to help you decide on your purchase. 

For this recipe, I splashed out on the King of Cheeses, a proper parmigiano reggiano from Italy, aged for 30 months.  It is firm, nutty, grainy, salty and arrestingly flavoursome – a perfect counterpart to the pungent rocket and sweet pear in the salad. 

A more understated alternative is the grana padano, also from Italy, aged for 20 months.  Still firm and nutty, its flavour is subtler, and it is less salty and slightly creamier than the parmigiano reggiano. Grana padano is also cheaper, mainly because of its larger areas of production in Italy.

Recipe for numero uno rocket salad (serves 4 as a starter)

Rocket leaves - 4 loosely packed cups
Packham or Josephine pear, thinly sliced, tossed in a little lemon juice – 1 cup
Spanish onion, very thinly sliced – cup
Walnut or pecan pieces, toasted - 1 cup
Parmigiano reggiano, shaved – 1 loosely packed cup
Pepper and salt to taste

Dressing:
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, the grassiest you can get your hands on
½ tsp sea salt
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tbsp lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine all dressing ingredients.  Stir well, then swirl the dressing to coat the sides of the bowl.

2.  Into the bowl add rocket, pear and onion.  Toss vigorously to coat with dressing and evenly distribute the onion.

3.  Add nuts and cheese.  Toss gently so as not to pulverise the cheese shards.

4.  Taste a mouthful.  Add more lemon juice, salt and pepper if required.
 


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