Last weekend’s (unexpectedly extended) stay in England included a trip to the best farm shop I’ve ever visited, the HFG Farm Shop at Beeston, Norfolk. We were in Norwich visiting the Engineering Couple and my kinswoman, their beloved Irish terrier, Bridie, who, knowing my love of food, brought us there after a morning spent tramping and on the river in their Canadian canoe. Outside the shop were long stems of brussels sprouts and sparkly Christmas wreaths but the real treasure was inside. Tables were piled with home baking – hungry from our morning’s activities, Paradise Slices, Flapjacks, Shortbread and Date Slices immediately caught our eye – while groaning shelves of jams, jellies, oils, vinegars and chocolate lined the walls. A freezer was stocked with a multi-coloured selection of loose frozen fruits and baskets of locally grown vegetables were stacked high at the end of the room. The food available was more than tempting and, although I did resist, I still managed to walk out of the shop heavily laden with the aforementioned baking, brown paper bags of spelt and wholewheat flour from Letheringsett Watermill, a warty celeriac, a selection of nobbly Jerusalem artichokes and, because I never can resist something gingery, a bottle of Great Uncle Cornelius’ Finest Spiced Ginger Non-Alcoholic Apertif.
Add to this a selection of cookbooks purchased over the weekend – on a very brief trip into Books for Cooks I picked up Paula Wolfert‘s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, a very welcome copy of volume 7 of their own Books for Cooks cookbooks plus a bottle of owner Eric’s own very decent biodynamic wine for our hosts – a pot of vanilla bean paste and bottle of pricy (but very necessary!) natural almond extract from Lakeland Limited and the Boyfriend’s long-hunted for and LARGE rabbit trap and it’s no wonder that we ended up having to check in a bag or, rather, the rabbit trap box, on the way back, something which caused great amusement at the luggage carousel in Dublin Airport. At least we managed to eat some of the weekend’s purchases in situ, especially those from Sunday’s farmers’ market at the Forum – a rich chocolate pudding from the Old Fashioned Pudding Company (good with ice cream, albeit missing useful microwave instructions), juicy onion bhajis and other well spiced Indian snacks, tastings of moist Caribbean fruitcake, fudge, sausages and cheeses…it’s surprising that we didn’t roll off the airplane ourselves!