Finally, it feels like winter. I can sit outside and have lunch, but what I’m most happy about is that the Farmers’ Market is back, bigger and better, on Friday and Saturday morning. I’ve been monitoring their Instagram feed to see when it reopens. Located in Business Bay, it was founded by the restaurant Baker and Spice in 2010.
So what’s so great about it, people ask me? Getting up early on the weekend isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but I can assure you it is well worth it. I’m always being quizzed by family and friends about living in the UAE, a reason why I make sure my Instagram doesn’t only reflect the shiny parts of my life. Yeah, we have beaches, malls and all-year-round sun but we also have jobs, and contrary to popular belief I don’t spend all my days at the beach or brunching.
In the past, I’ve posted pictures on Instagram of the market and people have messaged me asking if I’m at an ‘actual’ farmers’ market, to which I always reply yes, just like the one we used to frequent in London. I love the location of this market; in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa you couldn’t find more of a contrast.
The market has grown over the years. Before it was very much a pull-up, have a mooch around then head back to the car kind of scene. Now it’s a full event. I’ll drop friends a message and say what time I’ll be there and we’ll hang out, catch-up over a coffee or the absolute must-have, the fresh homemade lemonade. Kids can run free and enjoy face painting and other activities.
All the produce is grown across the region, not shipped in from miles away. I see the same regular vendors every year standing proudly behind their neatly presented stalls; they’re always happy to give their advice on how best to cook the produce. Something I always stock up on is the eggs, oh-so fresh and tasty, the yolks golden — soft-poached on some fresh bread also bought from the market, they are a real weekend treat.
Last season I tried turkey eggs for the first time, similar in taste to hen’s eggs but huge, a little tricky to crack as they are super-size. I always take along my bag-for-life and stock up for the week ahead. One of my favourite vegetables is spinach, and unlike the prepacked stuff in stores the organic version is packed with taste and free of pesticides. It is perfect for the recipe alongside, a great veggie dish that’s packed full of goodness and ready in minutes. The Market on the Terrace is definitely my favourite vegetable patch. If you are there today let’s catch up over a coffee?
Portobello mushrooms filled with spinach, topped with walnuts
Makes 4, prep time 10 minutes, cooking time 30-45 minutes
■ 4 portobello mushrooms
■ 2 tbsp of olive oil
■ 4 tbsp of water
■ 200g spinach
■ 100g cream cheese
■ Salt & pepper
■ 4 tbsp of grated Parmesan
■ 1 tsp of paprika
■ 8 walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and place cup side up in an oven proof dish. Drizzle with olive oil, add the water to the tray then put in the oven for 20 minutes.
Wash and trim the spinach, place in a bowl with a little water, cover and cook in the microwave for 4 minutes. Leave to drain, allow to cool then squeeze out the excess water. Finely chop the spinach, add to a mixing bowl with the cream cheese, season then mix.
Remove the mushrooms from the oven and drain off any excess water. Turn the mushrooms and leave to stand for five minutes so the liquid drains out. Next, turn the mushrooms over, fill each with spinach, top with half the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Return the tray to the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the oven, top with chopped walnuts and the remainder of the cheese, and serve.
— Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix.