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“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Friday, May 28, 2010

Good Eats

It was an unusual day today as I usually work on Fridays, yet today I had the day off as I had worked on Wednesday. Therefore Sis and I's usual Wednesday jaunt had to be put off till today, and we had planned on going up to Canterbury to go to The Goods Shed, an old railway building (duh!) that sits next door to Canterbury West Station in Station Rd., containing a farmers' market and restaurant which, according to its website, is "pure gastro-porn". It was recently featured on the Kent episode of The Hairy Bikers' Food Tour Of Britain also.

Alas, we were not able to go because it takes a while to get there and we would have not had very much time to enjoy it before having to come right back. So I looked at the website of The Kent Farmers' Market Association to see what local Farmers' Markets were open today, and it so happened that the market in the charming village of Horsmonden was up and running, on the village green.
Horsmonden is a lovely unspoilt little place and its big central village green is delightful, standing adjacent to The Highwayman pub on one side, and around the corner, The Gun & Spitroast (what a great name!) pub and the local village store. Only about a third of the green was taken up by stalls, but there had to have been at least twenty. Plant stalls, produce, fish, cheeses... there were plenty to choose from.

The first stall we stopped at was the Wrights' Original Ginger stall. These folks are based in Oxted, Surrey, and make A dark Ginger beverage... very unusual, lovely strong ginger flavour, and oddly refreshing. they alos make a lemonade-style drink, but what was more interesting to me was their Sticky Ginger Cake.

I love ginger cake and we always used to buy McVitie's Original Jamaica Ginger Cake when I was a kid. Now here I am back in the UK and recently tried a slice of said McVitie's product, and I noticed that (a) it wasn't as big as I remembered, and (b) it lacked any kind of ginger flavour, and (c) it was dry too. Not a good combo. So when I saw the Wrights' cake I was intrigued. Not only does their cake use their strong Ginger beverage, but stem ginger too. So I bought one. And am I glad I did. What a joyful mouthful of ginger deliciousness! I wholeheartedly recommend this cake!

Next stall was Birchden Asparagus, who sell... asparagus. Just asparagus. Several different types were available, so Sis and I bought a bunch to split.
I cooked it with tonight's meal, and it was lovely. You could tell it had just been picked this morning.

At the next stall, we purchased a loaf of bread with cheese baked on the top and a bottle of Beale's Apple Juice, which at £2 for a large bottle was a deal.

At this point we noticed we were getting a bit weighed down with all this gear, so we got a bag or two. There was a nearby stall serving refreshments. Some local young people were doing this to raise money for Epilepsy Action in honour of a friend who had recently died as a result of epilepsy. There was a wide and varied selection of teas, including Jacksons and Clipper, and a smorgasbord of homemade cakes and treats. We had a cup of tea apiece and I had a square (more like a big hunk, really) of Cherry-Almond Cake while Sis had a square of chocolate cake replete with chocolate icing. Both of these were frickin' delicious and the whole shamozzle only cost £2. What a deal!
I went and saw Johnnie at Milbank Olives and purchased some of his fantastic Johnnie's Mix, which came about as an accident when he was making a red pesto and some Rose Harissa accidentally got into it. Instead of tossing it, he tried it and liked it, and decided that perhaps other folks would like it too. Good thing he did - it's great.

I stopped by David Westphal's The Traditional Cheese Dairy to sample some cheese. I love these cheeses. He's usually at the Sissinghurst Farmer's Market which is held on the 2nd Monday of every month from noon to 3pm (except Jan and Feb), and that's right outside the restaurant where I work. We use his Sussex Scrumpy and Stonegate cheeses in our recipes, and delicious they are.

I was dead impressed by Home Gurr-own, despite the corny name. Nicci Gurr, the lady at the stall, who does all the cooking, had lots of lovely yummies on offer including several flavours of quiche (tuna nicoise was one that particularly intrigued me), pates and other goodies. I eventually purchased one of the two kinds of Scotch Eggs which were available, the vegan one with Carrot and Sesame, which was fantastic with a very nutty, almost Thai-inspired flavour. Next time I'll plump for the lamb one, just to see what that's like. Sis got a tub of potato salad which incorporated leek and bacon (ace!) and I bought a small tub of (get this) Venison, chcocolate and chilli pate! Oh my God, was it good! I spread that bad boy all over my slices of the crusty cheese bread and gobbled it down. Hot dang!

There was a lady there who I cannot seem to find on the list of stallholders who was selling Greek food such as Baklava and Spanakopita. We purchased a Spanakopita and another pastry treat filled with meat and veg for our lunchtime mini-feast.

After we stopped by VJ Game, Farmer Palmer and Far Acre Farm, we left with our haul and headed out to Biddenden Vineyards. I have lived in the UK for the first 25 years of my life, and of course since i got back here to the UK in January, and in all that time I had never visited this place which is only about 5 miles from where I grew up. Oh, I've had the Cider and juice and some of the wine before - just never been to the winery. Well, I put that right today. Inside the winery shop is a long counter where the very kind lady will gladly let you sample as much as you like... so after about the 4th sample I was getting a little toasted, I must say. But some excellent wines, nonetheless. I noticed they have several tours and walks and rambles happening on various Saturdays throughout the year - but since pretty much every Saturday between now and the end of October is going to be a workday for me, I'll probably miss out on them. Ah well. Maybe next year. Also in the shop were some lovely condiments and jams and such, postcards and recipe books, and a few local beers which caught my eye.I bought two... the first, from Dark Star Brewing , was a lovely brew called Espresso which in addition to being a dark roasted malt and barley brew also incorporates ground arabica coffee beans into its mix. When you pour this stuff out, its aroma is unmistakable and its rich dark deep brown, almost black colour is just gorgeous. It's a fairly mild brew, around the 4.2% alc./vol. mark, but it is delicious! And it's not just me who's a fan. Celebs get in on the act, too. Here's our old pal Ray Burns aka Captain Sensible enjoying a pint at the brewery itself.

The second one, I haven't tried yet, it's still in the fridge. I have high hopes for it though. I mean, what can you say about a beer (a Witbier, to be technical) called Naughty Nun?  Especially when its label art is by renowned erotic artist Lynn Paula Russell? The beer is by Fallen Angel Brewery, based in East Hoathly, Sussex, and they have a lot of oddly-named (and a bit naughty) beers, like Kama Sumatra, Fire in The Hole chilli beer (yes, that's right -  a beer made with chillies), and as if that wasn't hot enough, Black Death, a jet black oatmeal stout infused with - wait for it - the Naga chili, the hottest chili in the world! Holy cow.

We went into Silcocks Farm on the way home to have a poke around and ended up buying some Hannah's Dairy Ice Creams in little individual pots. Mine was a Mint Choc Chip which went down a treat and Sis had the Rhubarb & Custard!

Anyway - that's all for tonight, folks.

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