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3:58pm Thursday 5th December 2013
1:41pm Friday 29th November 2013
5:03pm Thursday 21st November 2013
3:12pm Friday 15th November 2013
4:00pm Thursday 7th November 2013
Although Christmas Day is still several weeks away, there are certain items that are best prepared or ordered in advance, such as the Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mincemeat and the festive bird. For those who would like to sample locally-reared turkey and goose, Peach Croft Farm, Radley, is staging its famous Tasting Day from 10am to 3pm this Saturday. This annual event provides us all with a chance to try some of the farm’s scrumptious award-winning Christmas produce, most particularly the free-range turkey and geese that are allowed to develop naturally on grassy paddocks and fields around the farm. By tasting both goose and turkey, visitors to the farm will get the chance to decide whether to go for the nostalgic touch and choose roast goose, as eulogised by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol or enjoy the glorious white flesh of a Bronze turkey.
11:10am Thursday 31st October 2013
I shall start, for a change, with a side dish — a significant change because I don’t think I have ever done this before. But the vegetable dishes and salads at The Trout at Tadpole Bridge are so much better than one customarily finds — Kenyan green beans and carrot batons, anyone? — that they deserve pride of place in this article.
4:34pm Sunday 27th October 2013
3:00pm Thursday 24th October 2013
The weather is getting colder, bitter winds rattle the windows and the nights are dark — yes Halloween is approaching. Throughout the world this festival, which is thought to date back to pagan times, is celebrated on October 31. It’s seen as the night on which ghosts, witches, goblins and fairies are particularly active due to the barriers between our world and the spirit world being at their weakest.
4:00pm Thursday 17th October 2013
It was award-winning organic farmer Helen Browning’s overwhelming desire to improve the welfare of livestock and maintain a landscape that supported and encouraged wildlife to flourish, that led her to farm organically.
4:00pm Thursday 10th October 2013
There was a happy buzz of activity in the playground as I entered the Wolvercote Primary school grounds last Sunday. This is quite usual on Sunday mornings when the Wolvercote and North Oxford Farmers’ Market is in full swing. With children’s faces adorned with face paint and glitter tattoos, and Henry Mcguinness, the Wolvercote busker, providing background music, the market was particularly jolly.
4:00pm Thursday 10th October 2013
James Martin is flat out. In fact he’s so busy I feel guilty even talking to him. But it’s his own fault for opening a new restaurant, filming a TV documentary, broadcasting Saturday Kitchen, publishing a new cookbook and tackling hospital food all at the same time. So what on earth possessed him? “I’ve got no idea,” he laughed. “Madness? If you still don’t know who he is, he’s the good-looking one from BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, the James Bond of the culinary world, whose love of food comes marginally ahead of his obsession with fast cars and planes. We’ve managed to grab a few minutes between shifts to discuss his upcoming visit to Oxford’s Waterstones to promote his new book Fast Cooking, so will he fly here? “Depends on the weather but I fly, whenever possible, otherwise it would be a long commute from Hampshire [where he lives] to Manchester [where his new restaurant is] and seeing Britain from the air is so memorable. “Cars and planes are my release from everything. I work 24/7 and have done for the last 12 years and need something to switch off,” he says. “So I go flying or sit in a car and just enjoy it. Everyone needs something.” You could be forgiven for thinking that James Martin is living rather a gilded life at the moment. In fact he probably was until he went severely off piste by taking on the mammoth task of trying to revise hospital food, the subject of an ongoing documentary, and a four-year project, which is slowly making progress. So why put himself through that when everything is cruising along so smoothly? “I ask myself that every day, because it’s such a headache and no one really gives a damn. There’s not an easyfix,” he shrugged. “Except that I still believe that patients should be given edible food and it shouldn’t be crap — you can produce healthy food on a budget, and we have made such a difference already. But the food is the easy bit.”
2:55pm Wednesday 2nd October 2013
Those who attended the Thame Food Festival last year don’t need reminding it was a remarkable event which attracted hundreds of foodies, not just from Oxfordshire, but the country. Next week (October 7-13) has been designated National Curry Week, to heighten our awareness of this popular Indian cuisine and create a platform on which to raise funds for charities, concentrating on those who are malnourished and poverty-stricken. Award-winning food writer and actress Madhur Jaffrey opens her latest book Curry Nation (Ebury Press, £20) by stating that “if Britain once colonised India, India has now returned the favour by watching spellbound as its food completely colonised Britain”. Madhur Jaffrey has probably increased our appreciation of curry more than any other celebrity, which is why she has been dubbed Queen of Curry. Her publications include the acclaimed The Curry Bible, which brings together all her years of experience as a cook and which, as the title suggests, contains virtually everything we need to know to produce wholesome, tasty Indian food. Now she brings us a book that highlight 100 of our favourite curries inspired by of cooking of the Punjab, Kerala, Goa and Bengal and a host of other states that conjure up India’s rich diversity of flavour. While the dishes she features are traditional classics she has given many of them a modern twist.
5:37pm Thursday 19th September 2013
Those who attended the Thame Food Festival last year don’t need reminding that it was a remarkable event which attracted hundreds of foodies, not just from Oxfordshire, but the country. This year’s festival, which takes place on Saturday, September 28 in the centre of this historic little market town, promises even more, including demonstrations by an exceptional line-up of chefs led by Raymond Blanc, the festival ambassador. Adam Simmonds, from Danesfield House, Marlow, who represented the South East on BBC1’s Great British Menu this year will be demonstrating, as will Shaun Dickens of The Boathouse in Henley-on-Thames, Chris Godfrey, head chef of Michelin-starred pub The Sir Charles Napier in Chinnor and Mike North of The Nut Tree Inn at Murcott, all cooking inspiring dishes from their menus. Festival patron Lotte Duncan has been involved with the festival since it began in 2008 as just a few food stalls and a cookery demonstration in the town hall. She is amazed at how quickly it has developed into a popular fixture that now compares favourably with major festivals throughout the country. Indeed she was thrilled when it won the Cultural Events and Tourism Award at this year’s Oxfordshire Business Awards in recognition of the festival’s success in attracting visitors to the area and promoting Oxfordshire as both a tourist destination and focus for the cultural events. “One of the special things about the Thame Food Festival is that you’ll see the big-name chefs everyone is talking about side by side with local growers and smallholders. The great thing is that every one of the chefs are taking part because they genuinely want to promote local produce. The Thame Food Festival provides them with the perfect platform,” she says. Lotte goes on to stress just how excited she is about this year’s festival. “We promised it would be bigger and better this year, and with 150 stalls, two demonstration theatres, a pop-up pub, children’s workshops, music, book signings and street food, that’s exactly what we are delivering. It is going to be the biggest festival yet,” she enthuses. “It began as an event for the community and that is still the ethos at the core of everything we plan. It now brings people from far and wide to the town and the surrounding villages together for a celebration of what is grown, produced and cooked in our area.” Real ale fan Jim Crew from Shabbington, near Thame, has made his contribution to the festival by winning a competition organised by the Vale Brewery Company. He came up with the winning name for the festival beer: Thame’In of the Brew. Jim’s idea for the name came from the fact that the beer needed a link to Thame, have a traditional feel to it and yet be nice and simple. Thame’In of the Brew is a 4.1 per cent mid-strength seasonal bitter that’s burnished gold, made with English hops and English malted barley, giving it a truly traditional harvest feel. It will be on tap at the licensed outlets during the festival and remain on sale at watering holes throughout the county for the rest of the month. Street food will be available in plenty too, including an authentic new range of Moroccan sauces and pastes from Belazu who will be serving delicious vegetable terrines and chicken flatbreads from their Mediterranean canteen at the festival. Rumsey’s, the makers of exquisite hand-made chocolates, who run coffee shops in both Thame and Wendover will also be selling their produce. Creative ways to ensure that good food doesn’t go to waste will be demonstrated by the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership who will be teaming up with the Pudding Pie Cookery School to show visitors how to save money and eat well. Those making a pledge to reduce their food waste by signing up to do things like plan their weekly shops, eat leftovers for lunch or make the most of their freezer, will get a free recipe book full of helpful ideas. For full festival details go to www.thamefoodfestival.co.uk
12:00am Thursday 12th September 2013
Have you ever wondered why we eat chillies? I ask because they are not only capable of setting our mouths on fire as they activate the pain receptors in our tongues, but they have no real flavour. Chillies provide a heat sensation painful enough to cause our eyes to water. A glass of water does nothing to dilute the heat. Only a milky drink will help when we chew on a fiery little fruit lurking in a sauce, curry or pickle and even that doesn’t diminish all the pain.
12:00am Thursday 5th September 2013
AT THIS time of the year, when autumn is fast approaching, I find myself travelling the Oxfordshire countryside with Barnaby, my Border collie, in search of dog-friendly pubs that we can enjoy before the cold weather sets in.
12:00am Thursday 29th August 2013
THERE were pies in the early days but although pastry can be traced right back to early Arab cookery, the true art of pastry making, with all its complexities, did not finally emerge until the 17th century.
12:00am Thursday 22nd August 2013
One of the wonderful things about raspberries is the fact that you can go on harvesting some varieties right through to October and those late raspberries are just as sweet as any picked during the height of the summer. The other thing that makes them a special fruit is their ability to hold their shape when frozen and retain that “just picked” look when you thaw them out.
12:00am Thursday 8th August 2013
11:30am Thursday 1st August 2013
Sam Clark is a hero of mine, not least because she cooks like a goddess but mainly because she’s made it in a man’s world without taking them on at their own game. Sam has relied instead on her innate skill and food knowledge to get to the top despite being self-taught, and, in my opinion, transforming the way we eat and cook without any fanfare at all.
11:20am Thursday 1st August 2013
British cherry producers predict that this year’s crop will break all records. It’s estimated that more than 3.500 tonnes of cherries will be picked this year, perhaps more. Whilst the main cherry growing areas are found in Kent, Sussex and Herefordshire, Oxfordshire boasts a fine PYO cherry orchard too at Q Gardens, near Harwell. It’s one of the very few orchards in the country where the general public are allowed to pick their own, which I can assure you is the most satisfying of occupations. Each sun-ripened cherry you pick is a gem, something to be celebrated and not just because the cherry season is but a short six weeks. Bite into a freshly picked cherry and you are biting into one of the most sublime of fruits — sheer heaven.
10:56am Thursday 25th July 2013
10:41am Thursday 25th July 2013
Most gardeners are familiar with that moment when courgettes don’t just flourish, but begin taking over the entire vegetable patch. If ignored, even for a couple of days at the height of summer, these prolific little vegetables develop overnight into giant, fibrous marrows. Harvest them on a daily basis, however, picking them when they are but a few inches long, and you can use them to rustle up all manner of delicious dishes, including courgette bread and desserts. Australians and Americans will know them as zucchinis, a name taken from the Italian zucca, which is a form of pumpkin, while we have taken their name straight from the French courge, which is a type of marrow.
1:21pm Thursday 18th July 2013
11:46am Thursday 18th July 2013
At last summer has arrived. It’s time to eat al fresco — but remember as the temperatures rise, so do the cases of food poisoning. The risk of salmonella in chicken may be greatly reduced now, but campylobacter, which is one of the main causes of diarrhoea in adults, is becoming extremely common because this warm weather provides the perfect environment for the bacteria to flourish.
3:50pm Thursday 11th July 2013
Over the years I have attended loads of tastings, many of which have been conducted by celebrity chefs, but I have never been invited to take part in a dog-biscuit tasting before. What fun life can be at times.
2:10pm Thursday 11th July 2013
12:00am Thursday 4th July 2013
Have you noticed the glorious creamy-white flowers, some almost as big as saucers, that are dominating our hedgerows at the moment? The appearance of these aromatic floral tributes to the beginning of summer coincides with the arrival of gooseberries, or should do. Most years’ gooseberries and elderflowers arrive together, this year things have been rather topsy-turvy. Yes, gooseberries have made an appearance, but slightly later than normal. They are far smaller than usual and certainly not as sweet. Most years the elderflowers appear at the end of May and continue blooming until the beginning of June, this year they were late too.
11:37am Wednesday 19th June 2013
Recipes devised by our finest chefs are renowned for their complexities and the many different processes involved in putting them together. The recipes featured in Relish Cotswolds & Oxfordshire (Relish Publications £20), pictured, devised by the top chefs in our region are certainly complex. Few home cooks would be confident to follow them. But that doesn’t matter, the joy of this superb book is that the food photographs by Mark Green are simply stunning. Indeed, they are inspirational, but how many of us have the skill to recreate them as a master-chef would? Actually, this doesn’t really matter. Instead of cooking these dishes ourselves we can book a table at any one of the fine venues featured in the book and order the dish that set the gastric juices flowing when we were reading the book.
12:07pm Wednesday 12th June 2013
T he texts were coming in thick and fast following our night of rampant pasta making: “Morning, I’ve found a pasta machine on the web for £32, which comes with a ravioli attachment and a dryer stand. Let me know if Boswells can beat that!” one candidate informed me. “I am looking to buy one too. Can’t wait to make more pasta,” came the second response.
12:03pm Wednesday 12th June 2013
The books began arriving at my cottage at the beginning of the year. The first batch was so enormous I could only just see the postman’s head poking over the top when they were delivered. The rest dribbled in during the following days, one by one and two by two. They were entries for the Guild of Food Writers’ Awards 2013. They kept me busy for some considerable time.
3:24pm Wednesday 5th June 2013
12:00pm Friday 31st May 2013
Agave is the new miracle food. The nectar is a natural way to sweeten anything from cakes to tea. Health food stores sell it. Trendy juice bars add it to their smoothies. You can hardly read a recipe without Agave being the “unique” ingredient.
10:01pm Thursday 30th May 2013
The year 1855 is a date recognised to any oenophile as the year Bordeaux was classified. This was not the vineyards' own doing for self-promotion or plan to get higher prices from the patrons who enjoy the wine.
3:53pm Wednesday 29th May 2013
Ask John Rustage from Fulbrook and David Brokwell from Filkins (the Hogfathers) for the secret of their success and they will tell you it’s the delicious aroma of roasting pork that draws people to their carving gazebo. “People passing find it irresistible,” said John as he began carving the pig that emerged triumphant on its spit from the custom-made oven at the back of the gazebo. Steaming juices dripping over the golden brown crackling added to the moment.
2:00pm Wednesday 22nd May 2013
2:12pm Tuesday 21st May 2013
4:32pm Wednesday 15th May 2013
Have you ever been sitting at dinner, craving a juicy steak, when your partner orders the fish of the day? What wine do you get then? Do you order wine by the glass accepting the limited choice? Or do you get a bottle knowing that it won’t quite match one of the meals?
4:42pm Thursday 9th May 2013
10:04am Tuesday 7th May 2013
9:32am Tuesday 30th April 2013
Last weekend gave us a hint of summer. Temperatures barely touched 20 degrees and Oxonians responded by leaving their houses and movie theatres to join the al fresco crowds outside. Girls in shorts rode up the High Street on their bicycles. Young mothers in skirts pushed prams down George Street. Men munching magnums wandered along the Cowley Road.
12:00am Thursday 25th April 2013
Saint Mary’s, the beautiful and very ancient church that stands on Witney’s church green near the town centre, is also a home for local community groups and is now being used regularly to stage concerts, festivals and other events.
11:14am Wednesday 17th April 2013
There’s always something quite exhilarating about that warm conversational buzz that hits you the moment you enter a Peach pub. It signifies life, enjoyment and a sense of welcome that some pubs fail to offer.
3:54pm Wednesday 10th April 2013
Those who knew and remember the late Mollie Harris of The Archers fame, who lived in Eynsham, will no doubt recall her excitement as the middle of April approached. This was the time she began in earnest gathering ingredients for her home-made wines from the countryside.
3:50pm Wednesday 3rd April 2013
If this cold snap continues, and April proves to be the cruellest month, then mention of salad vegetables, even hot fiery ones such as radishes, will prove out of order. So as I write, I have my fingers crossed that the weather will turn and a salad article becomes appropriate by the time this is published. However, If these icy winds continue to blow, may I suggest that you fold this page up and read it in a month’s time when the weather is kinder and you are preparing for those al fresco meals in the garden.
12:00am Thursday 28th March 2013
Events that encourage an entire community to get involved and produce are such positive things to attend. As Kennington Fairtrade patron I was lucky enough to be invited to judge a cake-baking competition at the village hall during Fairtrade Fortnight. It proved such a happy and worthwhile event. Most of the 30 cakes entered were cooked by St Swithun’s Primary pupils and all of them were made of Fair- trade products. The event attracted not just parents, but neighbours, friends and Fairtrade enthusiasts and was devised and organised by Asma Maskell, a member of the Kennington 4 Fairtrade steering group. Kennington obtained Fairtrade status in 2011 in recognition of the community’s active support. Not only are Fairtrade products sold in the local shops, but are used to provide refreshments at village meetings and at the school which aims to achieve Fairtrade status too. Helen Atkinson, the new head, who also attended the event said she’s seeking to nudge the school’s Ofsted report from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’.
12:10pm Thursday 21st March 2013
‘This is the second-best day of my life’, little James said, as we kneaded our focaccia dough. “What was the first,” I asked? “Seeing Mo Farrah winning gold at the Olympics.” Yeah I can see that,” I said, almost lost for words. “I think it’s great too,” my teenage son butted in, “because we don’t need to do the washing up.”
12:04pm Thursday 21st March 2013
Food is featuring large in this year’s Oxford Literary Festival which continues at Christ Church until Sunday. Lovers of fine food are really well catered for this year, as are those who love curry and spicy dishes. One of the highlights of the festival took place last night when Atul Klochhar prepared dinner at Gee’s Restaurant where the winner of the new £7,500 Jeremy Mogford Food and Drink Literary prize was presented with her prize.
1:27pm Wednesday 13th March 2013
Regardless of whether you are making a sweet or a savoury pie, there’s a secret to the art of pastry making which many cooks acquire instinctively, while others struggle and never quite get it right. Give a dozen cooks exactly the same amount of ingredients to make pastry and the end results will differ greatly. The art of pastry making is a very personal thing. I find it fascinating that some cooks never weigh their ingredients, they just a grab a handful of this and a handful of that yet their apple pies always seem to taste the same, due no doubt to a magic ingredient that never appears in a recipe book but is deeply ingrained within the cook’s skills. I am writing about pies in order to address a reader’s question which links with the piece I wrote on cottage pie last week. I was asked if any dish that had a topping could be called pie, regardless of what the topping was, or whether a pie could only be a pie if it was covered with pastry. She pointed out that both cottage pie and shepherd’s pie boasted a mashed potato topping rather than pastry.
10:12am Thursday 7th March 2013
1:12pm Wednesday 6th March 2013
Yes, Sandy Hellig, proprietor of Cornucopia Cooks, Eynsham, has certainly got something to smile about. While catering outlets and food stores all over the country are removing goods seen to contain horsemeat from their shelves, she is working even harder to keep up with extra orders for her home made ready-meals that she cooks each week.