I often say that the UK really loves me. This time around it is related to the weather, which has been great for the past 10 days, and also to the Food & Drink Festival going on here in Canterbury during my first weekend here. I got very excited about the festival and was not disappointed. I expected a few stalls and a stage with some mediocre band on it, but it was nothing like that. A great setup, lots of stalls, some nice music and a great family-day-out feel to the whole thing. I am a bit intrigued by the small town life, I have to say.
The festival was spatially separated into two areas: Kent produced food and drink, and then from other regions. The latter hosted, among others, about 10 stalls from the famous KERB street food market in London’s King’s Cross that I went to just last week. You could try some fish curry from the Seychelles or have yourself a massive falafel wrap. Also, they had a kind of Chinese omelet wrap called Jian Bing that I had never seen before. It instantly made it on my list of things to veganise!
The “Produced in Kent” section blew my mind. There were about 40 stalls selling their produce. Quite a few were selling meat and cheeses, I had a look and quickly walked past. I was more interested in the local veg farms and also bakeries, although there unfortunately wasn’t a single vegan option for the cakes & sweets. But, fortunately, a lot of the stalls also would let you try their things, and you know I can’t say no to that. I tasted my way through a wide array of chutney and jams, oils and a few small shots of fruit infused gin and vodka. The chutneys were of amazing quality. There were several farms selling theirs, so I could try quite a few. The flavour differences were astonishing. Even though 4 stalls would sell onion chutney/jam, they all tasted completely different, some with more acidy, other fruitier, another chunkier. At the end I decided for two, a spicy mango & lime chutney for myself and an onion jam for a good friend of mine who’s birthday is today 🙂
Apart from the fruit and veg and the chutneys and jam I also discovered a few things that were new to me. First of all, I didn’t know that you can grow and make wine in England! Although I have lived here before, this was something utterly new to me. They grow primarily German grapes such as Müller-Thurgau and Riesling, among others. I got myself a bottle of local white wine vinegar to see if it’s any worth. And yes, the bottle was sold as vinegar, not as wine that tastes like vinegar as you might expect in this latitude.
Secondly, I got to know Kentish cobnuts, which are a type of cultivated hazelnut grown in the area. A huge amount of them gets harvested green, later into October they turn brown as we know the traditional hazelnut. After cracking the shell the nut can be enjoyed straight away, being quite juicy, softer and having a bit less of a nutty taste. I have looked up a few recipes using cobnut, ranging from cakes (just as hazelnuts) over salads (with apple and avocado) to stuffings for couchette. I might give one of them a shot if I haven’t gobbled the nuts up already.
And, thirdly, I had to try the local ale. Being German, I had an obligation, although I am not a huge fan of beer (except for Bavarian wheat beer mixed with lemonade in the summer, but that is a different story). Traditionally the beer I know has lots of bubbles and a nice crown. Ale on the other hand seems like a flat beer to Germans, hardly having bubbles and no crown. But since it was Green Hops Festival the other week here, where they celebrated the harvest of the local hops and the first ales brewed with green hop, I also wanted to try this local speciality. At the
beer ale tent about a dozen local breweries were offering their liquid pleasures to the crowd. Not having any idea which ale to go for I opted for a green hop ale that quite a few people had ordered in front of me. After taking a few sips I did not regret having only gone for a 1/2 pint… Not for me, sorry. Not only the lack of bubbles, but also the strong bitter taste of the hop did not convince me for a refill.
So I will stick to the fantastic fruit and veg produced in the area and maybe try some wine in the future, but ale is off the list. I also will give the local ciders a go and keep you updated about my opinions on them. Until then, I will nibble on the cobnuts and enjoy my sandwiches with the mango and lime chutney. And figure out if I want to roast, bake, cook,… the two squashes I got.