Belper Farmers’ Market and the most awesome Paleo hot chocolate recipe ever

OK, so I’m fairly ashamed to say that it only occurred to me last week to do a Google search for local farmers’ markets within 20 miles of where I live in Chesterfield. I don’t know why I hadn’t looked before. It’s possible that because Chesterfield is a market town with a huge market four days a week, I just figured anything else wouldn’t be as good.

But what you begin to realise fairly quickly if you frequent markets is that there is a big difference between food you buy at a run-of-the-mill market and the food you can buy at a farmers’ market. For one, the normal food market that’s on several times a week in Chesterfield is designed to replace the veg section in supermarkets, which means they’re sort of forced to supply as many different types of fruit and veg as people would want… whether they’re in season or not. At first it baffled me as to how they were selling strawberries in February… and then I realised they were being imported from Chile. Not ideal if you’re keeping an eye on your environmental footprint and would like to know your food hasn’t had to travel far. Also, they’re not organic. To me, local trumps organic. But what’s the point in neither? A verified farmers’ market has rules for its stall holders that guarantee you’re getting local produce.

So, the search for local farmers’ markets began. And I discovered we have the following regular farmers’ markets within a half hour drive from our house (I’ve only included markets on a weekend as we both work full time during the week):

1st Saturday of the month

Kimberley Farmers’ Market – Newdigate St, Kimberley, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire NG16
Wirksworth Farmers’ Market – Wirksworth Memorial Hall & Gardens DE4 4DS

1st Sunday of the month

Castleton Farmers’ Market – Castleton Village Hall, How Lane, Castleton, Hope Valley, Derbyshire S33 8WJ

2nd Saturday of the month

Belper Farmers’ Market – Market Pl, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1FZ

3rd Saturday of the month

Alfreton Farmers’ Market -Institute Lane/Severn Square, Alfreton, Derbyshire, DE55
Matlock Farmers’ Market – The Imperial Rooms, Imperial Road, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3NL

Last Saturday of the month

Bakewell Farmers’ Market – The Agricultural Business Centre, Agricultural Way, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1AH

This was not an easy list to compile. The websites for these markets either don’t exist or shouldn’t exist. Therefore, I can’t attest to the accuracy of these dates or locations, but I’ll be spending the next few weeks seeking them out and hopefully discovering some local culinary gems.

Today being the second Saturday of the month, we drove to Belper to check out their farmers’ market. I’ve never been to Belper before, so it was also a good excuse to explore a new village. It really is a very pretty town. Last year (2014), it won Best High Street in Britain and I can see why. Within minutes, we’d discovered several local  chocolatiers, an old fashioned sweet shop, a local deli called Fresh Basil (where we stocked up on various cheeses), and a real ale shop called Liquid Treasure – a tad expensive, but when you selling to a niche that would buy a mix of ale and sake, you can probably afford to price yourself at a premium.

We started at the market, which was small, but managed to provide most of the things on our weekly shopping list. We’re trying to limit ourselves to seasonal veg and were able to buy spring onions, cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli and lettuce. We bought apple cider vinegar from a chutney and pickle stall, bacon and ham from yet another stall, and quite unexpectedly found the wonderful home-grown mushrooms below. We also bought local free range eggs for much cheaper than we usually buy them at our local Sainsbury’s.

Home grown Derbyshire mushrooms

I’ve never even seen all these varieties in a supermarket before. Such beautiful colours! Planning on frying them up with grass-fed butter and wild garlic.

As well as the stalls we bought from, there were also stalls selling the following (some not quite primal friendly!): scotch eggs, honey, cakes, Bakewell tarts, artisan chocolates, and cheese. I’m probably forgetting some of the other delights, but you get the point. There was plenty to choose from. And one of the great things about farmers’ markets is the stallholders. Within five minutes of talking to the man behind the local honey stall (who was also selling a homemade joint pain tonic made from honey and apple cider vinegar), we learned that the Matlock farmers’ market takes place every weekend on both days, and there is another weekly farmers’ market in Wentworth, Sheffield. I have to check out this information, but I had a feeling once we went to one market, we’d organically learn when and where others were. The benefits of actually communicating with people, eh?

Seeking out and visiting these local farmers’ markets gives me an excuse to partake in another favourite weekend pastime – exploring small Derbyshire towns (and imagining myself living there!). So after we’d bought our supplies from the market, we had a walk into town. I did a ‘nearby’ Google search and discovered there was a little cafe a few minutes walk away called I should CocoaIt’s been a while since I had a decent cup of cocoa and this seemed like the perfect opportunity, so we headed in its general direction.

I loved it as soon as we walked in. Under the counter, there were tiny handmade artisan chocolates on display. It took a lot of willpower not to buy some straight away. We seated ourselves and waited for our waitress to come to us. The menu was a cornucopia of molten chocolatey goodness. Even boyfriend, who doesn’t drink hot drinks, was pretty happy to discover they served ice-cream coke floats. Pretty rare this side of the Atlantic.

I was about to make the decision to order a 70% chocolate cocoa with chilli, when I overheard the following conversation between another customer and the cocoa barista:

Customer: What’s that you’re making?

Barista: Oh, it’s a custom hot chocolate I made for myself

Customer: Oh? What’s it got in it?

Barista: 70% chocolate, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli oil.

SOLD to the woman in the green cardigan. I’ll have that, thank you very much. It wasn’t officially on the menu but he made it for me anyway. It was amazing and I’ve come up with a paleo-friendly version below so you can get a taste of this innovative cocoa blend for yourself. The moral of this story: if you haven’t mapped out your local farmers’ markets yet, do it! Even if you get incorrect information and you turn up to a town where the market doesn’t exist any more, it still gives you a chance to have a look around and spend some time discovering a new place for a couple of hours. And secondly, partake in the local customs. Even if they’re not strictly paleo 🙂


Belper Style Paleo Hot Chocolate
(Serves 2)

You can just about see Boyfriend's coke float in the background there. But let's face it... the cocoa is the main event...

You can just about see Boyfriend’s coke float in the background there. But let’s face it… the cocoa is the main event…

Ingredients

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1.5oz good quality dark chocolate (at least 70%)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 good grind black pepper

Method

  1. Heat coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling
  2. Add in chocolate, vanilla extract and rest of ingredients
  3. Turn down the heat, stir until chocolate is fully melted
  4. Serve and enjoy!
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