Hampshire Farmer’s Market – part two!

Multicoloured carrots

I love the farmers’ market. This is a photo of one of my favourite veggie stalls, Secretts. My favourite thing they sell is these purple, yellow and orange carrots, but they also do a really good pick and mix leaf salad as well. Purple carrots are cool, but to be honest, when you peel them, a lot of the purple skin comes off. It’s only purple on the surface! And, when you cook them, the purple gets a little muddy. Multicoloured carrots are pretty – but weirdly, carrots weren’t commonly orange until they were bred that way by the Dutch in the 17th century – orange for the House of Orange, you see. It’s probably cooler if you’re a 17th century Dutchman, I guess…

Red spring onion

Secretts also sell red spring onions, which are a favourite around here, and I also spotted some really pretty radishes. Multicoloured veggies are so beautiful and appetising when they’re raw – can you imagine using these beauties in a bento box, for example?

Secretts Easter Egg radishes

I wish I was the kind of person who could walk around a market and carefully pick one amazing piece of produce, then come home and lovingly create a gorgeous dish centring around it, so I can enjoy it at its absolute best and congratulate myself on being a fantastic person all round. Instead, I’m the kind of person who buys everything in sight and hordes vegetables in the fridge, and only uses them when they’re wilted and nearly ready to die a death in the bin.

Isle of Wight garlic

So, I promised to tell you all about Isle of Wight garlic. This is some phenomenal stuff, I tell you. It’s grown on The Garlic Farm, which also has its own online shop, bricks and mortar shop, cafe, and even its own festival. You can buy seed garlic from them, as well as regular garlic bulbs (actually, enormous monsters), elephant garlic (even bigger!), purple garlic, and my favourite, smoked garlic.

Oak smoked garlic

As well as all this, they also make a range of pickles, chutneys and relishes, which I highly recommend and have also won a few Gold Taste Awards in their time. My favourite is Vampire’s Revenge, a hot chilli and plum combo which is fantastic with cheese or ham. Sadly, I’m the only one around here who eats pickles and chutneys, so I can’t buy it often, but when I do, it’s heaven. Maybe come Christmas, eh?

Purple garlic

As you can see, the purple garlic is a true thing of beauty… Ah, mother nature. So stylish and good at matching colours, you are. Just like me, in fact! (Snark.)

Another one of my favourite sellers is The Tomato Stall

Tomato stand

One of their specialities is oak-roasted tomatoes, smokey, oily little nuggets of sun-ripened sweetness in a tub. These are also bloody fantastic with cheese, and have to be bought in strictly limited quantities to prevent me turning into a heifer and being dragged off to market myself. The Tomato Stall has a blog with a post all about how these beauties are made, and what to eat them with, so check it out if your taste buds fancy a good old teasing.

Cherry tomatoes

It’s physically impossible for me to look at tomatoes too long without wanting to eat them, so it’s not surprising I was a sucker for these golden cherries – must be tried? Then please, my good man, fill up this bag with them so I may feast!

Salt and tomatoes... heaven

That’s exactly what I did, and I took them home and ate them with my fancy fleur de sel de Guerande (best sea salt in the world, don’tcha know?). Tomatoes and sea salt are delicious. I don’t care about hypertension. (Might I also add, the old salt and tomatoes trick was taught to me by the same dear old nan who used to put sugar in my coca cola to ‘get rid of the bubbles’? We’re all about health around here.)

All that and I still haven’t covered all the neat stuff at the farmers’ market? Hmm…

Nikujaga bento

Nikujaga is Japanese comfort food – the sort of thing cooked by mothers for their children in winter. It’s not usually served in bentos, but you can always reheat it the next day for lunch – or eat it cold! It has a sweet, salty taste which is absolutely delicious.

Nikujaga bento

To make this bento, you need carrots, tomatoes, soy sauce eggs, edamame beans, a piece of rolled omelette, cooked Japanese rice, furikake and nikujaga, made with the recipe below. You also need an onigiri shaper, a vegetable cutter, two bento cups and a two-tier bento. About an hour before you make the bento, prepare the quail eggs by hard boiling, peeling and soaking them in some soy sauce.

Place a small amount of drained nikujaga in a bento dish on the bottom layer of your bento box, and fill the remaining space with an onigiri rolled in furikake. On the top layer, place your rolled omelette in a small bento cup, and place pieces of carrot along the side which have been cut into little shapes with your cutter. Then, alternate the soy sauce eggs with tomatoes, and fill the remaining space with boiled edamame beans, sprinkled with a little salt.

Recipe for nikujaga


  • 250g thinly sliced beef brisket, cut into small pieces
  • 700g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 small white onions, peeled and cut into small wedges
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 600ml dashi
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • Chives
  • Seven-spice


  • Heat the oil and cook the potatoes for two minutes. Add the meat and onions, stir well and cook for another two minutes.
  • Add the dashi, sugar, soy sauce, mirin and sake and simmer the mixture with a drop-lid on top until the potatoes are cooked though – this should take about 15 minutes.
  • For a bento, allow to cool before straining off most of the liquid and placing in your bento. Cooling the mixture in the liquid allows the flavours to deepen. When eating, you can have it cold or reheat it. Nikujaga is far from traditional bento food, but you just might find you like it cold the next day!


If you don’t have a drop lid, you can make one by using a lid which is slightly smaller than the inside of your saucepan. Or, use a piece of greaseproof paper with a small hole cut in the middle for a vent.

Fruit, rice and nikujaga bento

This recipe originally appeared in 501 Bento Box Lunches, published by Graffito Books.