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Sunday, 19 August 2012

Faversham's Foodie Heaven

A family function in Kent and the need to source and prep ingredients for a major cooking episode (more of which in a later blog), left me with a dilemma – Where to find the ingredients I needed, at the quality and provenance that was required?

Fortunately for me on the way home, and a favourite destination for my Parents was Macknade, a farm shop just of the M2 in Faversham. Annoyingly the sign posting for the shop is a brown tourist sign to a “Craft Centre”. Sure there is one there but it is much smaller than the un-advertised Farm Shop, Fishmonger and Wine centre.

On arrival a large low red brick former farm building awaits. Step through the door and an Aladdin’s cave awaits.

Part Farm Shop, part high class deli, part food emporium Macnade is a foodie’s heaven.

There is a long history to the farm, the 1st Fredrick Neame (think Sheppard Neame Britain’s oldest Brewer and Faversham based) started to farm traditional Kentish crops, such as apples, pears and hops, in 1847. Macknade was a magnet to thousands of East Enders who came to Kent to pick Hops in season and had a good reputation as both producer and employer.

 In 1979 Renato Cuomo developed a market garden, to grow courgette flowers, mangetout and purple raspberries.

The Original Farm Shop was called Fir Tree Farm and was a simple tent in 20 hectares of Pick Your Own. As demand grew a large shed was built as a replacement and the range of goods expanded, Macknade think that many people had their first experience of Mangetout, Courgette Flowers and Yellow or Purple Raspberries there.

Today it has moved on further and offers brilliant local produce as well as top quality imported goods.

A range of fresh potted herbs greets you and inside a fresh bakery counter offers organic breads, sourdoughs, continental breads and pastries with a small oven constantly making fresh artisan breads – it could not be further removed from a Supermarket Bakery Section.

A table has special offers on it – today’s was a big box of local tomatoes for £4.50. It had to be snapped up and will provide sauces for pasta and Ratatouille as well as some sauce to be frozen and tomatoes to be frozen whole for a little summer sun in winter.

Good dairy included un-homogenised milk, fresh local creams and crème Fraiche, cheeses, yoghurts and butters. Hard to fault, then on to good local bacons, sausages and hams as well as a range of continental meats - though not as many as the main Delicatessen section.

Finally in the chillers Salad Leaves. I needed some good quality leaves to give a strong and slightly bitter counterpoint to a dish that I planned and with Frisee, Watercress, Land Cress and Lambs Lettuce I was not to be disappointed. All found their way into the trolley along with some rather fine looking Golden Enoki mushrooms, visions of omelettes with a butter-fried Enoki filling and garnish sprang instantly to mind.

Huge shelves of fruit and vegetables were tempting; much of it very local and with three types of Aubergine, several types of Courgette, huge Banana Shallots, Green White and Red Onions, trays of fresh beans and carrots, potatoes brassicas and salad vegetables menu planning was a cinch. Again I loaded up and moved on.

A good range of traditional flours would have kept any home or artisan baker happy whilst for the starter in baking good ready mixes were available. I settled on a large bag of Shipton Mill Organic Flour and, just to try it a Sourdough mix. I make Sourdough and do not begrudge the time taken in the least but culinary curiosity made me buy the mix – can it possibly match the real thing?

Asian and European flours formed the next section along with spices and spice blends, whilst Rices finished the little area. A bag of Paella Rice crept into the trolley, partly because a large Paella Pan at a bargain price was on display and promptly snaffled. (This may have relevance to another future blog post, but my lips are sealed – possibly contractually!).

A quick break for coffee, a Double Espresso for me and a pre-11am Cappuccino for the long suffering Mrs K, and we hit the final leg the Delicatessen. (I had already decided not to enter the enticing world of Wines, Beers and Soft Drinks and to ignore (nobly) the cakes, biscuits, chocolates and exotic fruits in brandy or other alcoholically infused syrups.

The large Meat counter had all the usual hams, though these were local, sausages and chorizos, salamis and kabana’s all of great quality For my Welsh readers I was pleased to see, and purchased Cardiff based Franco Gorno's Pastrami and Salt beef whilst two types of cooking chorizo – Smoked and Green- made up the final purchases from that counter.

The cheeses would not have disgraced a dedicated Cheesemonger and offered a range of British, Irish and continental types from Ireland’s great Coolea to Gorgonzola and its younger relative Dolce latté, hard and soft French and German Cheeses, Manchego from Spain and several maturities of Gouda. It was again great to see many Kentish and Sussex cheeses, from hard mature Cheddars to the UK version of Parmesan, soft Brie or Camembert styles, Blues of varying vintages and strengths and all available to taste.

To be honest I could have stayed all day but time and my budget were pressing and I headed off to the car pausing only for Mrs K to slip a few punnets of Raspberries and Strawberries into the trolley “Well you can’t come to Kent and not buy local fruit” she stated – luckily for my straightened circumstances she forgot that there was brilliant Organic Double Cream back in Dairy.

Car loaded we headed off but one thing is certain, As Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back”.
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