- Macknade Fine Foods

Emma Wilcox

A passionate foodie, Emma has put her skill in the kitchen to good use and hosts regular supper clubs in the Macknade Cafe.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a passionate foodie, gardener and cook. I’ve been lucky enough to live all over the world and be exposed to a huge range of cuisines and cooking styles and have long harboured an ambition to make a living from food. I currently earn a living by working in the arts as an independent producer and project manager and set up my pop-up supper club as an outlet for my passion for great food. Starting the supper club is a first step on what I hope will lead to something more concrete in the future and you can read more about it on my website, here.

The supper club menus celebrate food and drink from Faversham and the surrounding area. I often describe myself as someone who is almost entirely motivated by food. Good food, food whose provenance I know and can celebrate, which has been prepared with care and is presented with passion and love. I am lucky to live somewhere with a huge array of places to shop, eat and drink; close to the sea and surrounded by productive fields and orchards and with Britain’s oldest brewery at its heart.

Over the past few years I’ve spent time getting to know the farmers, butchers, fishermen and bakers who sell high quality, carefully produced food in and around Faversham, often straight from the farm gate and then I’ve used their produce to create great tasting food.

What food do you especially like to eat/cook?

I wouldn’t say that I adhere to any strict cooking style or genre. I take what I need, be it techniques, flavours or presentation, from a wide range of cuisines. What matters to me is creating each dish to really celebrate and bring to the fore the quality of the ingredients.

By concentrating on local and seasonal as my starting point, it means that I can work with really fresh ingredients and by developing a relationship with the suppliers and producers I can make sure that I am happy with the provenance too.

The same eclectic approach goes for eating out. I don’t favour Italian over Indian, modern British over Japanese. The places I choose to eat out will be influenced by all sorts of things – mood and weather will always play a part and hearty roasts, braised meat and pies are certainly a feature in the winter months. But sometimes the fierce, clean hit of a south Asian dish full of chilli, lemongrass and coriander might be just what I need too.

How long have you been shopping with us?

I have been shopping in Macknade ever since I moved to Faversham just under 12 years ago. In fact Macknade was one of the real clinchers for us in choosing to move to Faversham. Having lived near one of the most fantastic street markets in east London with food and ingredients from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East it was important to me that I’d still be able to lay my hands on fresh herbs and spices as well as local produce. I have loved watching the shop develop and grow, constantly changing and adding more and more wonderful things.

What's your best memory of Macknade?

I have two strong memories of Macknade. One is of my son being transfixed by the orange juice machine when he was younger. I could stand him in front of it whilst I whizzed around really quickly grabbing what I needed. The other is of my first supper club in the café. The guests arriving after the shop had closed and coming through the partially lit shop, all tidy and empty and then emerging into the café to find the table all set out, candles lit and the glasses of fizz being poured. It was magical and really exciting for me to see an idea come to fruition.

How would you describe Macknade to someone who hasn't been before?

An amazing temple to food from near and far. A treasure trove of wonderful ingredients, lots of treats and naughty temptations but also somewhere you could quite easily do a ‘normal’ food shop of fruit and veg, pasta, meat and dairy – nipping next door for fish from Herman if you want it. Macknade is always changing and developing, it never stands still or rests on its well-deserved laurels. There’s always a new corner opening up to offer a different range. It comes into its own at Christmas with piles of treats and gifts and the queues are a testament to that.

What are your favourite things about Macknade?

Undoubtedly the staff who are super friendly, efficient and really knowledgeable about what they sell. The passion that they have for food and great service comes through in every interaction. After that it would be the sheer range and choice.

What from Macknade would you take to a desert island?

Probably one of those entire shelving units with all the different chocolates and a bottle of something by Nip from the Hip!

What three products from Macknade would you recommend to a friend?

I would say a massive bunch of fresh coriander, basil or curry leaves, a selection of Kentish cheese and some wonderful artisanal pasta.

Is there a recipe or food tip you can share with us?

We tend to have incredibly lazy Sundays and usually only end up having two meals. We get up late and have a big brunch – waffles or pancakes with loads of maple syrup, bacon, eggs, coffee and juice… the works. Because of that we don’t have lunch, although I might grab a piece of bread and some cheese if I’m hungry.

Around 3pm I will a do a whole shoulder of lamb, which is much cheaper than leg and happy to be cooked slowly, helping the fat to really melt into the meat. I poke slivers of garlic, sprigs of rosemary, slices of dried apricot or small pieces of salted anchovies into slits all over the meat before rubbing with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.

I then chop up carrots, celery and onions and place them in a large roasting tin with a bay leaf and a couple of glasses of water. Then all you need to do is place the lamb on top and cover with foil, cooking in a medium to low oven for at least three hours, if not four.

Whilst it cooks we often wander along the creek to the Anchor for a pint and then back home to a kitchen that smells amazing! For the last 20 minutes take the foil off and turn the heat up a little. Serve it with traditional roast spuds and fresh vegetables.

It works just as well in the summer and I mess about with the flavourings too. Sometimes I rub the lamb with Ras al Hanout, which is a lovely Moroccan spice mix, and serve it with flatbreads and minted yoghurt.

Which local producers/products would you recommend?

One of the best things about this area is the great produce, small farm shops and independent retailers. I often spend the whole of Saturday morning going round to see them all. The freshest fish from Bluey at Hollowshore Fisheries in Oare to salt-marsh lamb from Luddenham and meat from AJ Barkaways butchers – famous for their sausages and good too for some cheeky banter. I make a lot of my own bread, but if I don’t have time then Oscars on Preston Street is fantastic (but you have to get there early) as well as Wild Bread sold at Macknade and in the market.

A bit further afield is the fantastic Monkshill Farm, who sell wonderful lamb and pork, and close by is Mallards Farm, who grow a huge a variety in a traditional fashion. In the summer their range of plums is pretty hard to beat.

Which local restaurants/pubs would you recommend?

Close to Faversham I would say the Three Mariners is pretty hard to beat, with a really lovely menu, based on fresh and locally sourced seasonal ingredients. They serve fantastic value lunches, which suit muddy booted walkers, but it is also smart enough for special occasions too. It’s in a beautiful setting and if you’re feeling virtuous you can walk up an appetite along the creek towards Harty Ferry.

For a really special meal (not strictly Faversham, but close enough for me to walk to from Graveney) I would recommend the Sportsman – some of the most extraordinary cooking I have ever eaten.

What would you tell someone visiting us to do locally while they are in the area?

Walk. It’s that simple. From the centre of the town, past medieval buildings and through the working boatyard at Iron Wharf. Faversham has grown up around its wonderful tidal creek and you can be out in wild countryside in no time at all. If you’re lucky you’ll see seals and certainly herons, egrets and marsh harriers.

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