Monthly Archives: August 2011

Oxford Foodies Festival

South Park Oxford, a large expanse of space, central to Oxford, lovely especially on a sunshine day! To mention everyone their would be a very very¬†long blog but I’ll highlight some of my favourites here:

First off we’d left out tickets at home ūüė¶ great start I know! However thanks to fabulous technology in this instance an Iphone¬†the email confirmation did suffice!

The first stop for us was the ORiGami tent, where they were selling Aspall, Becks, and some fizz, we stuck to the Aspall and Becks but they definitely had a good roof for any rain that was coming the festivals way. By the looks of it they cater for events weddings and parties. http://www.origamievents.co.uk/

Our first food stop was ‘Discover the Origin’ was there with some delicious Pamigiano-Reggiano¬†Cheese,¬†a leg of Parma Ham, to be cut to people’s¬†requirements. The¬†cheese,¬†18yrs, 22yrs¬†and 30 yrs in maturing stages, my favourite was 18yrs,¬†the flavour was of a good strength, but if you prefer¬†it more mild I’d skip to the aged parmesan, for more information. www.discovertheorigin.co.uk

I purchased a lovely chocolate book for my friend who loves Chocolate, the author also wrote in her email address so questions can be asked if anyone is stuck! Don’t get me wrong I love chocolate but I think¬†this will be much more appreciated by a real chocolate lover. The book, Auberge du Chocolat¬†is not out in stores yet, it will be in a couple of weeks though, if you do miss out on getting down to the festival.¬†I loved the chocolate shoes, you can buy them¬†online and they will last for a year, if you can make it last!! Everything at the stand was made last week, something¬†that might not happen with Thorntons chocolates. http://www.aubergechocolat.co.uk/

Buying a drink as soon as we got there was a great idea but it did make it tricky to juggle tasters and cups, so my advise would be hold off have a nose then a drink.

For those of you that like your unusual cheeses the Cheshire Cheese Company was a stand with a great marketing banner РCheese that makes you grin. The cheeses I tried were tasty, but some were very unusual! http://www.cheshirecheesecompany.co.uk/

Cotswold Gold Extra Virgin Cold Presses Rapeseed Oil: this is a bottle of¬† sexy looking and tasting¬†Rapeseed Oil. As I heard one woman put it: ‘it’s very yellow!’ It even tastes good for you. They were at the Foodies Festival last year but with only one simple delicious oil, this year they have returned with many varieties; Original, Chilli, Lemon, Garlic, Basil, Dill, Cumin,¬†Smoked and Rosemary. ¬†They can be found¬†in Wheatley Farm shop, I’ve not yet been but I will take a look out for it. http://www.cotswoldgold.co.uk/

The Cotswold Cider Company had some lovely ciders, and some great names to boot!
Look out for it growing in the next year. this year we purchased 1 large No Brainer and 2 small Side Burns
Location: On the other side of Faringdon, just on the Oxfordshire border.
People talk: I heard people¬†talking about it as they’d previously only seen it at their local cricket club in¬†Faringdon, they sounded pleased to have¬†found it again at an oxfordshire event.
The website is under construction however will be live in a few weeks write it down! and visit it in time for October!  http://cotswoldciderco.com/
Drinks:
Dry – No Brainer Cider – ‘authentic still hazy cider ‘rich fruity distinctive’
Med/Dry – Side burn – med sweet ‘real toffee apple infusion
Sweet and flavoured – Sweet Cheeks – ‘elderbery¬†and blackberry – lipsmacking’
Fizzy! Coleshill House Cider – An alternative to fizzy wine!

For lunch the meat-eater had¬†his meaty burger, but this time it was not of the standard variety. We¬†headed to Tuckers, an Australian burger joint, (for want of a better word!). On offer were a variety of ‘non normal burgers, they smelt fantastic. However I’m sure I must look like a non burger type as I was not pressed into selecting one of their 5 fine flavours. The Burgers all had the calorie counts on the board, something I liked about their honesty and shows how meat¬†isn’t that bad for ya! ūüôā

Tuckers ‘Big 5’

1. Ostrich – from previous times apparently ‘not much fat and very tasty.’
2.Buffalo
3.Wildebeest
4.Springbok – the chosen one,’ tasty but the feeling was that the flavour wasn’t that distinctive’
5.Wild Boar

As a Veggie had a lovely platter, like a burritos but on flat bread, a mix of 3 or 5 toppings, £6-£7. You can find this next to the Posh Pork Pie stand.

We bought some venison sausages and some wild boar burgers for friends birthdays¬†and the freezer,¬†from Hubertus Game¬†the Burgers were cooking on their stands BBQ and I must say smelt like how a BBQ should smell like, if it’s going to be¬†full of burgers! www.HubertusGamePitlochry.com

We found plenty of lovely wines at but our favourite @foodiesfestival was OTUWHERO ESTATES. They had 4 Sauvignon Blancs, a preferred choice of ours.

We tried some samples of: Sauvee Sea, Two Rivers, O:TU, Black Cottage. We purchased 1 Sauvignon Blanc Sauvee Sea and 1 Sauvignon Blanc Black Cottage. After sitting in the sun and thoroughly enjoying the  buzz around the festival we had another glass. The staff were friendly, and knew a lot about their produce, I did enjoy seeing the trade between the wine guys and the cheese toastie ladies across the way. why not have a sandwich for a lovely glass of wine as payment!

Items that were spotted along the way were the very cute hedgehog breads, which could be seen at the homemade bread stall.

All in all we had a lovely day and will return again to the foodies festival. I hope it continues to grow and keep returning to Oxford!

Bang goes the Sausage

So it’s true, after 7 years, the time has finally come around that the Big Bang will be closing.¬†I was lucky enough to have an excuse to go last night.¬†(Not¬†that you need an excuse!) If you’ve not been already then I can’t belive it,¬†but if for some bonkers reason this is true, then you now¬†have until the 30th August 2011 to give it a go.¬†It’s on¬†Walton Street and currently looks like the Union Flag!

Last night it was heaving, like a great Friday night restaurant should be. Top floor, street level and the basement were full with hungry sausage fans. In the Basement, where we were located there was a great vibe. It was like a game of sardines, (one where you get a table and elbow room mind), other tables were encouraged to move up to make room to seat our table to sit down.

Another table had a birthday party and when they started to sing, Max Mason flew down the stairs to present the birthday girl with a free drink! His enthusiasm certainly makes you enjoy your evening even more.

Our service was speedy but our evening was relaxed, there was no rush to eat up and go, which pleased the birthday girl in our party. Our table selected their sausage combos. You can have what is suggested on the menu; which is 2 sausages, a particular mash and a well matched gravy. Alternatively you can mix it up and select exactly what you want, mixing your sausages, the variety of mash and your choice of gravy.

There were two¬†vegetarians in our group, myself and the birthday girl there are 4 choices for the vegetarians, which is pretty good, especially when you know that¬†they are all full of flavour and taste of the contents that you expect.¬†A few others opted for ‘the¬†‘big bang trio’ due to wanting to try as much as possible, and some of our group went for an option straight from the menu with no mix ups.

The plates arrived: sausages, Mash, Gravy, Cabbage and Peas. x 7.
I had chosen 1 walnut and Stilton sausage (warning contains nuts), 1 garlic and mushroom sausage, a mustard mash, and a Stilton gravy. The garlic and mushroom sausage had a good boost of garlic. My favourite one of the two that evening was the walnut and Stilton sausage, it had a great Stilton flavour, possibly helped by my Stilton gravy too,  the walnuts were most definitely inside, giving the sausage a good strong flavour.

I don’t think anyone is missing out here by picking the¬†vegetarian sausages, but¬†the meat sausages here are¬†great quality. (You don’t have to eat them to say that, you can see it for yourself!).

Max Mason’s The Big Bang, shows no sign of slowing down,¬†despite having less than 2 weeks to go¬†in the current venue¬†and currently nowhere else to go. The energy that Max has for this place will, I hope, get The Big Bang re opening in Oxford very¬†soon, his website ‘news page’¬†has talked about this: ‘There are currently no sites in this darned costly town where we can afford to move back in, so if anyone knows of anyone who has pots of money and would like to invest, please send them for a sausage in our final week.’
http://www.thebigbangrestaurants.co.uk/ee/index.php/news/news-item/going_out_with_a_bang_closing_after_7_years/

If¬†when¬†The Big Bang has gone¬†you fancy¬†doing a¬†DIY¬†sausage and mash feast of your own,¬†head down¬†to the Covered Market in Oxford. I would suggest¬†going to ‘David John Butchers’ they sell similar sausages that you find on the menu¬†at The Big Bang, both Meat and Vegetarian. It’s not a replacement idea, but¬†a useful to know¬†temporary filler, until the restaurant revives somewhere else in Oxford.

We finished our evening at Raouls¬†bar, a short crossing of the road was all that was needed. This bar is¬†a favourite of mine it’s always buzzing.¬†It sits on two levels the basement and the street view. It’s well-known¬†for its coctails¬†and has a menu/book of cocktails, which if it wasn’t for the desire of having a very tasty drink as soon as you get in there, it could¬†take¬†you a while to read. I¬†find the best tactic¬†with Raouls¬†is to ask the bar staff¬†if they¬†know your favourite tipple and see if they can recommend¬†an alternative slant, that they think you’d like.¬†You might surprise yourself.

That evening I had a Flower Power Sours;
3 Parts ABSOLUT MANDRIN
2 Parts Lemon Juice
1 Splash Elderflower Cordial
1 Part Mandarines Liqueur
1 Splash Sugar  Syrup
1 Peel Orange

Midweek meal out – RedLionOxford

After a good gym session at yet another Pilates class, I had arranged to meet my friend with my o/h in the centre of town to eat at
the ‚Äėnew‚Äô @RedLionOxford it had recently been recommend to me by some friends.
The large crescent building is situated in the heart of the theatre area of Oxford, there are many varieties of restaurants around this area, as it’s an
ideal spot to feed the ever rushing theatre and cinema goers.

On entering the Red Lion at first the layout is similar to what I remembered from the past; light and spacious with various levels
within. We sat down at our table, a rustic style design, light wood and the type you can see the nails in. The theme was comfortable, with decorations of peppers on shelves, pasta and various cooking oils on some tables, possibility they are for sale? I didn‚Äôt find out…

Looking around I also spotted some comfy looking sofa chairs in the bar area, which would be ideal if you just wanted to sit in for
some drinks and nibbles, there were also some ‚Äėfaux fur’ covered seats in one of the level up rooms, it looked very luxurious.

We all ordered our various wine choices and then took a good long look through the menu. There is a huge range of choice on this menu
from pizzas to steaks, prices from £8 Р£20. This menu could be seen by some people as too much choice, but with the benefit of a meal that can match your wallet and possibly your diet, I could see no problems!

The atmosphere was young and vibrant, it had a good midweek city feeling, which for a small city is sometimes not easy to find. When our
meal arrived the portions all looked good, not enormous but not minute either.
The head waiter came to our table shortly after the sides were delivered to say that, due to the wait we’d had on our meal we would be given our first drinks for free. While we were aware that they were busy with some large party tables, we hadn’t complained, due to plenty of conversation, but we had also been informed as to what was going on, I liked their style.

The food was delicious, three empty plates and three full stomachs make for a good recommendation. I’d definitely go back to have
the cod again, however I should really go back and try something different with a menu like that.

I think it’s great to have somewhere in town that I know will be relaxing yet also worth making an effort for. If you’ve not tried it already maybe think about going in this weekend or next week to break up the working week.

What we ate:
Maple Spit Gammon, Chargrilled Peach, Mustard Mash + Honey & Maple Jus
Blackened Cod Fillet, Egg Noodles, Pak Choi + Mango & Chilli Salsa
8oz Sirloin Steak
Peppercorn sauce
2x Rosemary Frites, + Mayonnaise
Green beans with chilli sauce

Bicester Avenue Home and Garden Centre and Broccoli Soup

The thing about Oxfordshire is that there are so many great food/farm shops, only a short drive from the main city centre. The purpose of my trip out today was for some essential kitchen items, that have over time; worn out, chipped cracked etc. Bicester Avenue Home and Garden Centre has a Lakeland which in my eyes has everything you would think of and need in a home kitchen. The range in products was impressive too; including Le Creuset, Raymond Blanc pots, Tupperware in all sorts of shapes and not to mention square cake tins Рcontroversial!

The Wyevale¬†shop was huge,¬†I’m fairly sure there was at least 2 restaurants inside. I must say¬†I was impressed with the¬†chilli plant which for ¬£7.99 had oodles of chillies on it before you had to do any work!¬†The farm shop was the main appeal for me,¬†the food¬†supplies ranged from¬†Pieminster¬†(also found in the covered market in town) local sausages, a variety of chutneys and¬†oils, (some of which was available for tasting) and a huge range of ciders and ales, which were not¬†available for tasting on site,¬†so a few have been purchased for home enjoyment.

This farm shop is¬†the type of shop that invites you to purchase something, the moment you walk into it. Even if you hadn’t intended on doing any more food shopping for the week. I was also intrigued by the frozen ‘Patchwork Cheese Pate’ something I’ve never seen before, but it looked like there was a great range of flavours ‘Stilton and Guinness’ was the one I noticed first,¬†maybe I’ll try one¬†next time!

My purchases:
Broccoli (for soup making for this week).
Teapigs tea: lemongrass and peppermint.
A variety of Sheppys cider and Oxfordshire Ales.

My Soup РBroccoli, lemon and chilli soup.

1 Large Broccoli – purchased today as mentioned
A handful of green beans before they go past their best
1 home-grown and dried chilli
2 slices of lemon
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 Onion and 1 garlic clove
Vegetable stock cube with a large amount of water – cover your broccoli!

I’ve made this¬†purely for my working week of lunches:
Chop the broccoli up and throw into a saucepan, along with the green beans topped and tailed.
Boil the kettle and fill up your measuring jug, just add one vegetable stock cube, add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and stir it around until the cube has dissolved. Once this happens add this too your pan of broccoli, top up with boiled water if needed, and start to bring the broccoli and beans to the boil.
Meanwhile chop the onion and garlic and fry in a pan, not too much oil though!
Then add this too your broccoli pan, (I find this way you don’t end up with too much oil in your soup.)
Reduce your soup to a simmer and remove the lid to add the chilli and lemon, put the lid on the soup and continue to simmer until the broccoli is nice and soft.
Now simply whizz it up and leave to cool before putting into a container to take to work.
Just remember to lift the container in the morning!

Welcome and the hot Tuna nicoise salad

So I went live earlier this week but today is my first post, I’m still working my way around but I want to get this started, the cracks will iron out later.

I’ll start with last weekends Hot Tuna Nicoise (courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow).

Shops: I bought my Tuna (The non meat eaters steak!) from Haymans Fisheries in Oxford’s Covered Market, lovely thick steaks with a vivid red colour, the type you wouldn’t see if the fish wasn’t fresh.

Pros: This was an easy Saturday night dish and enjoyable to make, it smelt and tasted of the Med. A one pot dish, fantastic if your housemates are using all the others!

Cons: (I say cons only for the fact that I might recommend/suggest changing things) – this is my interpretation, after following the recipe.
* I would pan fry the Tuna, as you’ll have more control of how well it’s cooked.
* If you like them runny, I’d put the eggs in about 5 mins before the end.

Hot Tuna Nicoise:

SERVES 4

* 225g green beans, ends trimmed
* 225g cherry tomatoes, halved
* 75g niçoise olives(preferably pitted)
* 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1 large handful fresh basil leaves
* 1 yellow roasted bell pepper (see page 69), roughly torn into strips
* 1 red roasted bell pepper (see page 69), roughly torn into strips
* 12 olive-oil-packed Spanish anchovies
* 4 x 175g tuna steaks about 2cm thick
* coarse salt
* freshly ground black pepper
* 4 organic large eggs
* 1 lemon, halved, for squeezing

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

2. Steam the green beans for 4 minutes. Immediately toss them in a large roasting tin (about 30cm x 34cm)
together with the tomatoes, olives and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil,
crushing the tomatoes slightly with your
hands. Tear in the basil and push the mixture
around the perimeter of the tin. Nestle the peppers and anchovies in and around the vegetables. Lay the tuna
steaks in the middle of the tin and coat each with ¬Ĺ tablespoon of olive oil and rub with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

3. Crack each egg into a small ramekin and tuck the ramekins
into the corners of the tin. Drizzle each egg evenly with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stick the whole thing in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set and the tuna is cooked through but still moist. Pull the tin out, squeeze lemon over everything and serve. (If you like your eggs runny I would do the eggs bit in the last 5 mins!)

Welcome and the hot Tuna nicoise salad

So I went live earlier this week but today is my first post,¬†I’m still working my way around but I want to get this started, the cracks will iron out later.

I’ll start with last weekends Hot Tuna Nicoise¬†(courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow).

Shops: I bought my Tuna (The non meat eaters steak!) from Haymans¬†Fisheries in Oxford’s Covered Market, lovely thick steaks with a vivid red colour, the type you wouldn’t see if the fish wasn’t fresh.

Pros: This was an easy Saturday night dish and enjoyable to make, it smelt and tasted of the Med. A one pot dish, fantastic if your housemates are using all the others!

Cons: (I say cons only for the fact that I might recommend/suggest changing things) – this is my interpretation, after following the recipe.
* I would¬†pan fry the Tuna,¬†as you’ll have more control of how well it’s cooked.
* If you like them runny,¬†I’d put the eggs in about 5 mins before¬†the end.

Hot Tuna Nicoise:

SERVES 4

* 225g green beans, ends trimmed
* 225g cherry tomatoes, halved
* 75g  niçoise olives(preferably pitted)
* 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1 large handful fresh basil leaves
* 1 yellow roasted bell pepper (see page  69), roughly torn into strips
* 1 red roasted bell pepper (see page 69),  roughly torn into strips
* 12 olive-oil-packed Spanish anchovies
* 4 x  175g tuna steaks about 2cm thick
* coarse salt
* freshly ground black pepper
* 4 organic large eggs
* 1 lemon, halved, for squeezing

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

2. Steam the green beans for 4  minutes. Immediately toss them in a large roasting tin (about 30cm x 34cm)
together with the tomatoes, olives and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil,
crushing  the tomatoes slightly with your
hands. Tear in the basil and push the mixture
around the perimeter of the tin. Nestle the peppers and anchovies in and around  the vegetables. Lay the tuna
steaks in the middle of the tin and coat each with¬† ¬Ĺ tablespoon of olive oil and rub with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

3. Crack each egg into a small ramekin and tuck the ramekins
into the corners of  the tin. Drizzle each egg evenly with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and  sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stick the whole thing in the oven for 10-12  minutes, or until the eggs are just set and the tuna is cooked through  but still  moist. Pull the tin out, squeeze lemon over everything and serve. (If you like your eggs runny I would do the eggs bit in the last 5 mins!)