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Boozy pies, homemade haggis and the finest cheese for Christmas at Norfolk farm shop

PUBLISHED: 13:28 06 December 2017

The team at Walsingham Farm Shop, l to r, Scott Cawston, Vince Nally, Chris Woodgate, Ali Kendle and Sam Bagge. Picture: Contributed

The team at Walsingham Farm Shop, l to r, Scott Cawston, Vince Nally, Chris Woodgate, Ali Kendle and Sam Bagge. Picture: Contributed

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Feast on Christmas at Walsingham Farm Shop.

Seasonal vegetables at Walsingham Farm Shop.Seasonal vegetables at Walsingham Farm Shop.

Farm shops have come a long way. When I was a kid these kinds of places might have sold milk at the farm gate, or perhaps bags of bruised apples and pears.

Fast forward to 2017 and farm shops have become a whole other genre of shopping experience for the gourmand. And nowhere so aptly demonstrates this leap than Walsingham Farm Shop in Norfolk, which has snowballed in the last 11 years from a small time operation selling hyper-local meat, to be one of the most positively delicious places to find yourself in the east.

Manager Sam Bagge is rightly proud of the farm shop’s enviable reputation as one of the ultimate spots to do your Christmas foodie shopping.

“We stock as many local suppliers as possible,” he said. “The idea originally was to sell products from farmers on the land. We take James Woodhouse’s beef from around the corner. Our pork’s from Tim Allen at Creake, Nick’s lamb is from about five miles away. All our meat’s from the really local area. We’ve grown over time, adding the second shop at Norfolk Lavender, and in the last two years we’ve be quite active attending events and local food fairs.”

Homemade pies and pasties at Walsingham Farm Shop.Homemade pies and pasties at Walsingham Farm Shop.

That’s because, as well as selling local meats and a massive range of East Anglian-made produce, the farm shop has become a mecca for pies. If you’re after a cracking centrepiece for Boxing Day, look no further than the production kitchen’s pastry masterpieces, which are sold by local pubs, and will soon go out into other retail outlets as the shop grows its brand.

“All meat in the pies comes from local suppliers,” added Sam, “so we have a point of difference. We like to think they taste really good. We typically have a range of seasonal ones, from game and sloe gin to venison, and we’re working on a recipe we’ve developed with Woodforde’s for next year. We’ve got their Norfolk Nog in our venison pie and we make steak and ale with their Wherry, and a chicken and Reedlighter pie. We also do a vegan pie. I believe it’s the only vegan pie in Norfolk at the moment. The idea started with superfoods. Lentils, lots of veg including cauliflower and a spice mix. The pastry is a hot water pastry but instead of lard or butter we use Norfolk rapeseed oil.

“We get a lot of customers coming in for that because it’s quite rare, it’s local and it’s made on site.”

For the festivities the team are busy filling turkey and cranberry pies (with a touch of their own bacon jam). And there’ll be cold set pork pies, including one that (this is going to make you salivate) is surrounded by a Woodforde’s beer jelly.

That’s not to mention the sausage rolls, which fly out the door, in flavours such as honey and mustard, turkey and cranberry, and Charlie Hodson’s Nelson sausage roll, filled with Fruit Pig black pudding.

Or the Scotch eggs, glazed hams and rollcall of cakes, tarts, Christmas puddings and mince pies – from traditional to a marzipan mince pie and a rather more unusual orange and spiced cream cheese variety.

They even make their own haggis to see in the New Year!

Sam’s also proud the farm shop’s the only accredited Neal’s Yard Dairy supplier in Norfolk. All staff have been trained in cheese and there are around 25 varieties to choose from – be that an oozing Vacherin for dipping crusty bread, Hafod, Hawes Wensleydale or Colston Bassett Stilton. Of course, Norfolk cheeses get a look in too, with the team especially loving anything from Bircham Windmill.

Bespoke and ready-made hampers are available (including meat hampers) with Sam saying you really shouldn’t miss out award-winning Norfolk wine from Winbirri, a jar of Candi’s Chutney, and beers from Woodforde’s and Norfolk Brewhouse.

“For us the shop experience is about our staff and what the customer can get out of a visit with us. We do regular tastings in store and have a tasting trolley so we can cook things up in the shop ready to try.

You can meet the team at the King’s Lynn Christmas market on December 7, or Holkham’s Christmas food and drink even on December 17 and 18 where they’ll have a hot pie stand.

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