I am trying to make it to most of the markets in Berlin. So I can (one day soon) write up the definitive guide and put it out there into w.w.w land so when a future me-like person, looking for a list of markets, moves to Berlin it’s out there. My friend Misterrios pointed out that such a list already exists, here but like most lists about things to eat in Berlin, it doesn’t tell you which ones are winners, which ones are losers and there are no pictures.I remember when I first moved here, trotting up to the concierge at the Adlon Kempinski (thinking he of all people must know) and asking where the best farmers markets are
“There are no farmers markets here.” he replied.
“How can there be no markets?” I asked, “Every city has markets.”
“Ok, yes, there are markets but they sell the same stuff as the supermarkets but for a lot more money.” He answered.
Markets in Berlin are made up primarily of wholesalers selling similar if not the same stuff you will find in Rewe, Kaisers, Lidl and so on, often more expensive because the big supermarkets have higher spending power and can push down the prices on the suppliers. In between those wholesalers, there are a few stands that sell food they have grown. Unfortunately, they tend to grow the same varieties that you find in the supermarket, so they do a bog standard broccoli, no purple sprouting broccoli or broccoli rabe.
You don’t go to a market here to get something similar to the Mexican sour gherkins you read about in Bon Appetit, or some picked crab. You go with more sensible expectations, like buying some garlic that has not been grown with China (what is up with that by the way?) or some sweet onions or just some locally grown things that still have dirt on and maybe a few dead gnats bearing testament that it grew in the ground and not in some futuristic polytunnel in a galaxy far far away.
I visited Karl August Platz market on a Saturday but it was difficult to navigate the pram in the narrow and crowded space. I returned again on a wednesday and although about 1/3 of the stands were missing, it made for more enjoyable market shopping. As predicted, there was nothing that made my heart flutter but the romantic in me (yes it exists) still prefers shopping outdoors and then spending an hour with my toes in the sand of the playground next to the church, eating my falafel sandwich, reading my magazine.
I got my falafel from the orange painted stand, no idea what it’s called? Falafel? Anyway. The guy (I would hazard a guess he is Egyptian) was such a sweetie I wanted to hug him. I had padded over barefoot holding Layla, also barefoot, to buy a falafel, leaving our bags and pram in the playground. He saw my predicament and offered to bring the falafel over to me when it was ready and then he offered me a mint tea on the house (he does this for everyone). My eyes widened at the unexpected kind gesture and I thanked him profusely. In return, he put his hand over his heart and gave us a little bow. Can’t tell you objectively what the falafel tasted because his generous manner made it taste like the best falafel ever.
Among the locally grown goodies was a head of cauliflower, florets huddled together tightly. Luckily for me and my relationship to cauliflower, my mother did not make me eat boiled, limp cauliflower. No, the only way I ever ate cauliflower as a child was the pickled variety the Romanians favour with their cured meat or roast chicken and garlic sauce. And that’s a goooood way to eat it, let me tell you. Other than that, we never ate it. Vegetables in general didn’t feature much in my childhood which is probably why I like them so much now as an adult and thankfully have no veggie traumas that make me one of those awkward adults that freak out when presented with one.Cauliflower has such a noxious powers that it makes some people I know regress back to when they had to sit at a table until they had finished their foul-smelling, old underwear coloured plate of soft cauliflower.
But there is no reason to fear it. All you need to do to keep cauliflower from assaulting you with its less than desirable sulphuric qualities is keep it away from moisture and pair it with some gutsy, bold ingredients that jerk it roughly by the collar from “euuuuuuu” into “What, that’s it? There’s no more?” Garlic and onions. And just when you think it’s getting too naughty, you throw in some nice in the form of mint and currants. Before your eyes, cauliflower is transformed, much like Olivia Newton John’s character is in Grease which makes John Travolta’s charachter go wild and croon “I got chills, they’re multiplying and I’m looooosing control…” and gyrate his pert little bottom excitedly. (Do you remember it? It’s good. Click the you tube link I’ve provided, it’s worth it). Karl August Platz Market
Wednesdays 8am-1pm & Saturdays 8am-2pm
Warm Cauliflower Salad
1 head cauliflower, separated into bite sized florets, washed and dried thoroughly
1 head fennel, halved and thinly sliced, retaining the core to keep it together, fronds retained for adding later
2 salad onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced lengthways
2 tablespoons currants
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon of sliced kalamata olives (if you don’t have these don’t worry, the dish doesn’t rely on them)
20 mint leaves, thinly sliced
1/2 a teaspoon of piment d’espelette or paprika
salt and pepper
1. Toss the cauliflower, fennel, onion and garlic with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. I lick a finger to check it’s seasoned enough. It’s not the same if you salt after the vegetables are cooked so get it right.
2. Pre-heat oven to 200ºC and roast the vegetables on a large tray with plenty of space between them for about 15-20 minutes. Towards the end, check often. Don’t worry if they catch a bit, it gives flavour.
3. Cut the mint into thin slivers, tear up the fennel fronds.
4. Toss the roasted vegetables with the rest of the ingredients, add a squeeze of lemon or lime. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with olive oil.