“ON market days the squares are piled high with garlic and onions and every sort of vegetable and fruit. The people shout, throw things, scuffle, laugh and sing all day long.” — literary genius J.W. Goethe, Italian Journey (1786-88).
Had he the opportunity to visit the QVM, Goethe would most certainly breathe an atmosphere and vitality similar to that which he experienced in Verona, Italy all those years ago. Call me quirky, but arriving at QVM (and other similarly great markets) gives me the same kind of heady buzz that happens when an RAAF Hornet roars by overhead. It's kind of wild and exciting, in a foodie way — brought on by the combination of noise, colour, atmosphere and smells all teasing the senses at once.
There's a real sense of adventure to market shopping, filling a basket or trolley with fresh produce and ingredients for the coming week. As interstate visitors and market aficionados, Peter and I can easily spend hours wandering around the QVM simply grazing, but we also enjoy the various tours that are on offer. There's the self-guided Heritage Trail, Foodies Dream Tour, Heritage and Cultural Tour, and Shop and Cook (where participants are "whisked" back to the cooking school).
On our last visit to QVM we came away with a divine selection of macarons (including Peter's favourite salted caramel, yum), almond croissants, brioche, fresh butter, marinated octopus, prosciutto, cheeses, cherries and plump, sweet apricots — none of which lasted far beyond our few days away. We almost had to shop for new jeans, but can hardly wait to return to Melbourne and indulge in another weekend of market shopping.
Writing about market shopping reminded me of this recipe which was shared with me by Michael Gill, a Hungarian friend, food lover, market shopper and radio colleague from long ago. Michael told me it was "handed down from someone’s grandmother through Budapest bus conductors to his wife, Chris, via his mum"!
MICHAEL GILL’S LAYERED POTATO BAKE
4 large potatoes
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
1 csabai or chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 or 2 baby eggplant, sliced
1 cup sour cream
6 button mushrooms, sliced
80g tasty cheese, grated
a pinch of sweet Hungarian paprika
Slice the potatoes and steam until almost cooked. Or, boil in their jackets until just tender and then cool slightly before slicing. Set aside. Hard boil the eggs. Plunge into cold water immediately — this will result in a clean-looking yolk (in other words, no grey rings). Peel and slice the eggs. Set aside. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil, grill until just tender. Set aside. Brush an ovenproof dish with a little butter or oil, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Layer the potatoes, onions, eggs, csabai, eggplant, mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes and sour cream. Sprinkle generously with the cheese and finish with a light dusting of paprika. Bake in a preheated oven at 180-190 degrees C until top is nicely browned (about 30 minutes). Serve with a green salad. Serves 4-6. Note: Any leftovers can be covered and refrigerated immediately. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven the next day.
QVM are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6am to 2pm; Fridays from 6am to 5pm; Saturdays 6am to 3pm; and Sundays 9am to 4pm. Tell me about your favourite stalls and produce at the QVM. I'd love to hear your experiences.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.