Kent Farmers' Markets: focus on pies

Benjamin Dent, chairman of the Kent Farmers' Market Association, on his favourite winter warmers

Kent Farmers’ Markets: focus on pies with Benjamin Dent of KFMA I’m a bit of a ‘pie man’ and I think if you ask most Englishmen they are too. The first pies were apparently called ‘coffyns’ (or coffins) where the savoury meat filling was surrounded by the tall, straight-sided pastry crusts with sealed-on floors and lids. 

But that’s where the sombre part of this month’s tale ends. With the winter nights and cold days, what could be more warming than tucking into a hearty, savoury pie, packed with fresh, local ingredients?

Pies are always popular at our Farmers’ Markets in Kent, with 16 stallholders specialising in pies and, between them, appearing at most of our 40-plus Farmers’ Markets.

Award-winning family business

Pictured: Aurea Sinden and Cherry Barkaway from A J Barkaway

One Kentish company who certain know their pies is A J Barkaway butchers near Faversham. With six generations working in the business since 1850, the Barkaways are past and current masters at making award-winning pies, including a coveted Gold Medal from the Guild of Q Butchers for its Pork Pie and Pork & Stilton Pie.

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Chris Barkaway, fifth generation, is the current managing director and runs the business, while his son Paul and wife Cherry go out on the road, enjoying the contact the farmers’ markets give them. “The farmers’ markets provide a great opportunity for us to chat to our customers.  Everyone is much more knowledgeable nowadays and really care where their food comes from. We can also give shoppers with allergies accurate and relevant advice on what each recipe contains.”

All the meat is farmed and slaughtered ethically and locally and all the pork used in the pies is reared free range. Chris even visits the farms and hand picks the best animals, to ensure only top quality and local ingredients end up in the Barkaway pies. Everything is baked fresh daily and so arrives at each farmers’ market no more than 24 hours out of the oven.

Chris also says his farmers’ market customers provide the inspiration for some of the new recipes. “We have 35 different recipes and I try to introduce a new one every year, with our customers making quite a few of the suggestions!”

Game pies and pork pies come in hot water pastry and include a delicious Duck & Orange and Pork & Stilton, whilst the ‘plate pies’ are made with shortcrust base and puff pastry top.  There is the wonderfully Kentish Hop-pickers Pie - a hearty beef, mushroom, onion, carrot and herb recipe with Shepherd Neame’s Bishop’s Finger Ale; but Chris’s all time favourite is the Beef & Horseradish.

With tough times predicted for 2011, Chris believes there isn’t a better, more economical way to feed two or three people for under �5. “Pie, mash and gravy is a great winter warmer and a very cost effective and tasty meal that is quick and convenient to put together, particularly when you buy a freshly made pie at the farmers’ market!”  

Going to the dogs

San Franciscan-born American Valerie Link came to pies through dogs. Originally an expert breeder who showed champion dogs while also working as a journalist, she took the plunge and and set up IZZY’s Deli, offering a wide range of deli items from cold meats and cheese, through to her won delicious home-cooked deli foods, pies, lasagne and soups.

Valerie began appearing at Farmers’ Markets across Kent and she was invited to do the catering for champion dog shows. Now IZZY’s Deli, which appeared last November on Market Kitchen, has an active outside catering wing, which she fits in between her five Farmers’ Markets each month in Kent.

With no tradition of meat pies in the USA, Valerie soon fell in love with the British pie-eating tradition. “I wasn’t used to eating meat pies until I came to the UK, but the combination of the meats with the lovely pastry along with a salad or side dish seemed like the perfect meal. Pies are simple, winter comfort food.  On a winter’s day there is nothing better!”

IZZY’s Deli meat pies include chicken and ham (a personal favourite), steak and onion, Mediterranean vegetarian pie and couscous pastie. Valerie only uses local vegetables and free range chicken in her recipes.

Where to find us?

You can find A J Barkaway at Meopham and Cliftonville Farmers’ Market and Lenham Country Market each month; while IZZY’s Deli appears at Capel-le-Ferne, Deal, Whitfield, Sandgate and St Margarets-at-Cliffe. For opening times and locations check the Kent Farmers’ Market website.

What’s in season?

Beetroot

Broccoli (purple sprouting)

Brussel sprouts

Carrots

Cauliflower

Chard

Chicory

Endive

Jerusalem artichokes

Kale

Leeks

Lettuce

Onions

Parsnips

Potatoes

Savoy cabbage

Shallots

Swede

Turnips

Winter and spring greens

To contact the Kent Farmers’ Market Association:

01892 870666

info@kfma.org.uk

NEXT MONTH: Cheese