The team at the much-loved Haslingfield shop tell us about their business and share some favourite recipes
Country Kitchen represents everything that’s great about local, independent shopping. Nestled in the chocolate-box village of Haslingfield, the shop is instantly inviting with its bright, cerulean blue paintwork, while inside is floor-to-ceiling packed with top quality food, drink, gifts and bits for the home. From artisan gin to eco soap, speciality vegan products and weighty loaves of Fitzbillies’ finest, you could easily lose an hour in here browsing, while the smells of freshly-baked sausage rolls or steaming soups from the back counter are guaranteed to ensure you don’t leave empty-handed or hungry.
At the helm of this thriving business, which started life in 2013, are Heather, Jill, Alex, Claire, Kate and Liz, a group of women that share a passion for fantastic Cambridgeshire produce. All five live locally and are dedicated to serving their community – something which took on even greater importance during lockdown.“We stayed open throughout and started offering free delivery – we still are for people in the village who are self-isolating”, says Alex. “It was quite a stressful experience”, adds Jill. “There was the whole pasta-gate thing, and every night through lockdown we were trying to get stock from our suppliers. We were quite lucky in that they’d usually set some aside X amount of pasta or flour for us because we have a good working relationship. Overall, we were busier and moving more stock, but we had fewer staff on, which added to the stress…”
You could easily lose an hour in here browsing, while the smells of freshly-baked sausage rolls or steaming soups from the back counter are guaranteed to ensure you don’t leave empty-handed or hungry
A trend that was widely reported during lockdown was the switch consumers made from big supermarkets to supporting smaller, independent businesses – something which the Country Kitchen team saw first-hand. Whether this represents a permanent shift in shopping habits remains to be seen, however, as Alex explains. “Some people are still trying to shop local, definitely, but we did notice that quite a few people have gone back to the supermarkets, which is disappointing,” she comments. “But we’ve got a niche, and people that like to support us will continue to come.”
Looking to the future, and as well as eventually being able to offer online ordering, the team have one simple goal in mind: to encourage more people to shop local. “We want to show people that although we’re a bit niche, we’re competitively priced and we’ve got a huge range – we’ve got environmentally friendly products, gluten-free and dairy-free products, lots of vegan products. If people give us notice, we can get whatever veg or meat they want in – we can order fish in from Marrfish in Bishop’s Stortford which is really fresh, and we’re constantly honing our range to get it the best we can and we’re always looking for great local producers that we can bring to the shop.”
Claire’s Bread Pudding
A homely English pud that’s perfect Sunday night comfort food
1 ½ large loaves of bread
500g mixed dried fruit
250g pack salted butter
140g soft brown sugar
2tbsp mixed spice
3 or 4 tsbp demerara sugar as required
1 bottle cider or beer (250ml approx.) optional
- If using alcohol soak the fruit in a bowl overnight.
- Break up the bread and add the other dry ingredients. Mix well.
- Melt the butter and add it to the milk and then add in the beaten eggs. Pour the liquids onto the dry ingredients and stir in well. It should be quite mushy.
- Line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper and fill with the mixture. Push down with the back of a tablespoon and then sprinkle with the demerara sugar.
- Bake at 180 degrees for a good 50 mins or until the centre has set.
- Wait to cool before cutting into pieces.
Pea & Mint Soup
A creamy, classic soup best served with crusty bread dripping in butter
1-1/2 large brown onions, finely chopped
500g frozen peas
2 courgettes, chopped into small pieces
2 tbs olive oil
1 veg stock cable dissolved in 1litre boiling water
Bunch of min, chopped
- Heat oil and then sweat onions gently in the oil without browning until softened
- Add courgette and peas and sweat gently for a further 5 minutes
- Add vegetable stock to generously cover
- Simmer until everything is soft
- Stir in chopped mint
- Liquidise or use a hand blender until smooth
- Add salt and pepper to taste