Current Issue #488

Minds of Chefs: Secret markets and Monte Carlos with Emma McCaskill

Minds of Chefs: Secret markets and Monte Carlos with Emma McCaskill

Way out north-west is an old-fashioned outdoor market that sell s everything from fruit and veg to fresh fish, bread and eggs. It ain’t cool. It’s not branded as a trendy farmers’ market; rather, it’s a simple produce market that has influenced one of our best chefs: Emma McCaskill.

The Torrens Island Market is, as the name suggests, located near Torrens Island out past Port Adelaide. It’s a bit of a hike from the city and further still from Port Adelaide, as you drive through the industrial wasteland towards the Torrens Island power station. But the drive is worth it, as more than 40 stalls – and boats selling fresh fish – are manned by stallholders shouting out specials while marketgoers check out the bounty of seasonal fruit and vegetables that line the stalls near the Port River.

McCaskill grew up in West Croydon and every Sunday her dad would take her to the Torrens Island Market early in the morning. Not much has changed in 20 years and this is part of the appeal.

“It’s really raw,” McCaskill laughs. “It’s pretty rough. I like that about it. It’s not totally gourmet but there’s some really nice stuff here.”

(photo: Josh Geelen)

And it’s extremely well priced. McCaskill found produce at the market cheaper than she gets from some of her suppliers on the day the Hot 100 Wines visited Torrens Island Market, which is open every Sunday from 6am to 1pm, with her.

“My grandparents are Anglo-Indian; I’ve always been surrounded by food,” McCaskill says.

“Going to these markets with my dad was always exciting. It was like an adventure, like going to the zoo. You’d look forward to it and we’d never plan what to buy; just purchased what looked good and cooked them at home. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by food, that’s where my passion sparked.

“In comparison to the Central Market, the produce is still good [at Torrens Island] but the atmosphere of being near the wharf with people shouting out sales, it’s the nostalgia of the place. It evokes a sense of memory of going there with Dad. I’m always excited
to go down there.”

(photo: Sia Duff)

Childhood memories influence the menu of her restaurant, The Pot by Emma McCaskill.

“My mum used to make Monte Carlo biscuits so I wanted to bring that memory to the menu [Monte Carlos are on the dessert menu alongside a combination of two Australian sweet classics for the Mint Slice Vienetta] and my grandma made parathas [a flatbread], we’d have them for breakfast with jam. I’ve put that on as the house bread.”

The Torrens Island Market is also a bit of a suburban secret

“A few chefs know it. I’ve spoken to people at work and some didn’t know about it. Most people from the west know of it but it’s still a bit of a secret.”

This article first appeared in Hot 100 Wines 2017/2018, now available on the street.

Header photo: Josh Geelen


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