A Mediterranean stall on Todmorden market might sound like an oxymoron but seeing is believing. It’s a riot of colour: you know all that fab packaging that you drift past in the food halls at Harvey Nix and Selfridges and costs silly money – well it’s all here, affordable and what’s more Alex knows the provenance of every single item on his groaning shelves. He’s a walking compendium of first pressed olive oils from Umbria (‘this one’s got a right bite to it’) dipping balsamics (the best one’s Ponti Glassa Gastronomica in an unglamorous plastic bottle, but he’s right, as ever: it’s sweet and peppery at the same time and thick as treacle) and Santa Domingo Pimenton de la Vera smoked hot paprika. Each week he’s got a new consignment of goodies (you’re offered a taste before you buy, always): on Saturday, some divine, tiny arbequina olives from Catalonia and a string of punchy Iberian chorizo. Time after time I just stand and gape, wanting to try everything. French duck rillette in kilner jars, crazy shaped Italian pasta, capers, dolmades, halva, smoked garlic and Arborio rice in sacks. I could go on. Better still, make the journey yourself. Alex and his wife are charming, non-pushy and incredibly knowledgeable.
Find the stall in the covered market in Todmorden on Saturday and Sunday or buy online at www.comparethespices.com
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