9 Nov 2010

A rainy day visit to Craigie's Farm Shop

The cold and damp have crept in and are hugging the world around Edinburgh. With the rain lashing and the last of the leaves clinging precariously to their branches, I want to go somewhere I can feel warm and surrounded by a sense of bounty.

Because Craigie’s Farm is located between Edinburgh and South Queensferry, tucked away up a narrow road, I hadn’t expected it to be as busy as it is. But with the weather so dark and gloomy, it seems there are many others who felt the need to escape.

The first thing I notice are the wooden crates and wheel barrows that are piled high with root vegetables and apples. There are huge leeks and carrots, ropes of garlic and massive sacks of potatoes. It is like a shrine to the harvest.
Inside looks like a mini supermarket, complete with meat counter, cheese, eggs, preserves and bread. But here you can buy things like local rabbit, pheasant, homemade sausages, breaded veal schnitzel, and beef strips marinated in Mexican spices.

There is one section dedicated to Craigie’s own jam kitchen range. The shelves are loaded with selections of marmalades (thick cut, three fruits, grapefruit), vinegars (raspberry, blackberry, redcurrant), chutneys (Beetroot and Horseradish, green bean relish, plum chutney, green tomato and chilli), jellies (mint and apple, Scottish grape, Rowan berry) and of course - jams (blackcurrant, gooseberry & elderflower, rhubarb and ginger, and the shop’s most popular, raspberry).
Foodie Hint: Plan your arrival at Craigie’s for 11.45 am. Lunch will just be starting and if you are very lucky there will be steak pie on offer with roasted potatoes sprinkled with rosemary and seasonal veggies including the sweetest butternut squash, which will wash together with the steak pie gravy with such perfection that you will be able to do nothing else but smile vacantly at those around you.
There are no paintings on the walls of the Craigie’s Farm Café. Talking to Kirsteen, who owns Craigie’s with her husband John and their family, I learn that the lack of artwork is a purposeful omission in order to focus people’s attention out of the huge picture windows that look out over the farm and beyond to the Firth of Forth.

As you sit there with your lunch or your coffee, you cannot help but feel wrapped in the landscape.

If the weather was better I would delight in walking some of the nearby trails around the farm. Dog owners can even treat their beloved pet to a meal at the “canine café.”
Shops like Craigie’s are my favourite places to treat myself. You can feel the time and energy that has gone into all the products and the food that is served, and even into creating the atmosphere of continual attachment to the natural world. I would go there again (and again and again) just to eat lunch and take it all in.

I just had to take home a couple of items from the jam kitchen: a bottle of raspberry vinegar and a jar of raspberry jam. Sampled on some good sourdough bread, the jam is the finest raspberry jam I have ever eaten. Honestly, if I think about it too much I may swoon. I have yet to try the vinegar but I've opened the lid to have a sniff and it is heavenly.

Farm shops and local produce of all kinds are featured in the new edition of The Larder, which I shall be picking up this week. Do you have a favourite farm shop or farmers’ market in Scotland? What do you think are Scotland’s greatest strengths when it comes to food?

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