Category Archives: Events

Brookes Supper Club at Gypsy Lane Campus

After my last supper club at Oxfork I had the bug to go to another, soon enough found another super club in Oxford at the Brookes Restaurant.

On arrival we were met by our hosts James and Sue. our coats were taken and we were offered a glass of wine, or fruit juice, a very good way of making us feel comfortable already.

The wine, fruit juice and coffee were kept on a table at the back of the restaurant along with an honesty list where guests could mark down what they had throughout the evening and pay at the end of night.

Once we were seated we waited a short while for the guest speaker to start. Homemade foccacia was served as a nibble, with oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping purposes.

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Our guest speaker was Ian Mitchell, who was talking to us about his experience as an Oxford tour guide, his new career after retirement. The customers at the Supper club had differernt levels of Oxford knowledge some of the diners shared myths, which Ian cleared up and others shared knowledge which Ian will no doubt be checking up on.

After Ian’s speech our main course was served. Risotto with chicken and seasonal vegetables for meat eaters and for the vegetarians we had the risotto topped with goats cheese, courgette, mushroom and aubergine along with seasonal vegetables. I have to say as the only veggie on the table it was served to me with no fuss, my table hadn’t realised that I’d had something different until I mentioned it. While I don’t hide my veggie-ness, I liked the way this service was done.

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Conversation increased, as the food was enjoyed and the wine was collected. Our dessert was Pear Frangipan and was served as a full tart to allow each table to self serve, making a ‘family friendly’ feel to the supper club.

The price for the night for two people was approx £25pp which included the supper club ticket at £18pp

The Oxford Brookes supper club happens on the 1st Thursday of every month. They have some bookings already for the 5th July but you should get moving before it’s too late. Augusts event will be a BBQ, a great way to spend an evening in the Oxfordshire summer, come rain or shine!

After attending two supper clubs I want to tell you three reasons why you should try a supper club in your area.

  • You’ll meet and talk with new people who live in or around your city
  • You’ll have a great meal which will most likely be well priced
  • You might try something you’ve never experienced before

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Riverford at Oxfork

 

Last month I wrote about the Oxford Bake Off and how I wanted to challenge myself more in the food world. While there were no bake offs for me this April I set myself up to go to a food event in Oxford at Oxfork. Oxfork had been on my list for a while, so an event evening seemed like a perfect reason!

 

Riverford supply ‘organic veg and lots more to your door, they began in Devon supplying to 30 friends and now supply 40,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from their regional farms. The event was a showcase of Riverford ‘Jake the Veg’, this sounded like a good night.

 

On arrival I was welcomed with a glass of Prosecco or Organic Apple juice, there was a variety of Riverford cheeses on the counter, which were available for nibbling for the whole evening. A very pleasing start to my night already, I do love cheese!

 

I was shown to a 6 seater table and waited for a few minutes to see who would be joining me at this Riverford event. It was long before I was joined by 5 other women, 3 work colleagues and 2 friends. Once introductions were made and a cheese runner was selected for the evening, we started to take a look at what was on our table. The Riverford brochure, our evenings menu and our crudities board.

 

The crudities were varied, there was the usual crisps, celery, carrots, peppers and then the spring onions. Spring onions weren’t really solid enough to work with the dip, which caused amusement around the table! The dip was delicious, it was a thick dip, definitely suited to chunky vegetables. The ingredients were nuts, garlic and possibly a hint of chilli. The kick that the dip gave was pleasing and moreish to all 6 members on my table.

 

When the crudities were finished and the board was taken away we were given our starter. This was a stunningly green starter: lentil and chard soup. The bowls were all varied, my bowl seemed huge in comparison to some, but it certainly gave a homely feel to our meal.

 

What is PSB? This was the question on my tables lips. One woman next to me knew the answer! I’ll tell you later. So you’ll have to keep reading if you don’t already know…
The main course: PSB, orange and cumin carrots and potato rosti. I think the carrots had been soaked in orange the flavour was strong and worked very well with the carrot and cumin combination. The reaction on the table over our plat of veg, was I thought very interesting. One comment was that some other guests had never been so full of vegetables, luckily for the two vegetarians, we had not had this problem before!

 

The dessert was Rhubarb cake with rhubarb compote and crème fraiche. This wasn’t the tables favourite dish, it would seem that rhubarb wasn’t that popular on our table. I thought it was at least something very different, I’ve never tried rhubarb in a cake and I would try it again, but perhaps with warm compote next time.

 

Our table choice of wine was red, there was some wines in the tables brochure, a bottle for £9.However our wine was not the same as advertised and came in at a higher price, clearly we hadn’t ordered from the brochure. This caused some surprise and annoyance on my table, but I don’t feel that there was a need to complain. I paid £25 a month ago for what I considered to be a great event, and I wasn’t disappointed. So that night the ‘expensive’ wine and a tip was all I was paying for, in my eyes £7 is a good night!

 

Throughout the night conversation flowed easily at our table. We talked about Oxford restaurants and bars; the favourites, the disasters and the one off times. Oxfork looks small from the outside but it is certainly bigger on the inside. The vibe is relaxed, it feels like your front room, if you had a really nice front room! Our table decision was that Oxfork was certainly unique, it has something that Oxford has needed for a while. I’m glad it’s so local to me!

 

Thank you to Oxfork for hosting a great night, I will keep an eye out for the next one and I have already raved about the event and your place to anyone that will listen. For more information on Riverford Organic here is the link:

http://www.riverford.co.uk/about_riverford/

What is PSB? Purple Sprouting Broccoli!

The Oxford Bake Off

Writing this blog is all very well but I need to challenge myself more in the food world, no I’m not suggesting I enter masterchef, that’s extreme but I wanted and still want to do the odd cooking event every now and again.

I had seen the posters and tweets but a bake off with a cupcake poster? I didn’t scream very me and certainly didn’t tick my culinary boxes. 

Category 3. The Perfect Pie.
On further investigation I found that there was in fact a pie category, savoury or sweet, your choice! Brilliant! However my investigation happened last weekend, so I had given myself under 1 week to pull this off, I emailed my forms over on the Tuesday (final entry day!)

Tuesday night – What type of pie should I make?
after having a chinese over the weekend and discussing this idea with my OH I thought I’d try a chinese pie and an Indian pie. Basic idea I know! So I ran to the shops after work and picked up my ingredients for both pies.
Chinese pie – I was thinking spring rolls – Butter, Carrot, Onion, Chilli, Ginger, Leek, Garlic, Soy Sauce.
Indian Pie – I was thinking samosa – Garam masala, Onion, Ghee, Garlic, Chilli, Chickpeas.
The Pastry – Ready to roll shortcrust pastry.

The verdict.
The Chinese pie was deemed good, but it was though that much more development was needed to get it right, be that ingredients, spices and slicing. so I will hopefully try this again when I’m not prepping for a competition. The Indian pie was the chosen one, I knew what I had to do to improve this, Garam Masala was just not going to cut it. As I have made plenty of curries in the past I didn’t feel that this would be such a daunting task to improve.

Wednesday night.
After a drive to work in the car with my fellow car lifties I was told by them, that I couldn’t enter a pie competition with pre-bought pastry! I was dismayed, I agreed but I only had 3 days to go and I wasn’t sure how my pastry would work out (and be fixed!) in time for Saturday. So that night I used ‘The Great British Book of Baking’ and make a shortcrust pastry, I wanted to jazz my pastry up so I rolled it in dried mustard powder before putting the ball into the fridge. I amended my mixture to discard the garam masala and include cardamom seeds, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and  garlic. It has to be said the result was much more appealing, and my pastry worked!

Friday night – last minute change!
I read on Friday at lunch that puff pastry lids were best for mini pies, and I wasn’t that happy with my shortcrust pastry lids. So some bought puff pastry was used in this process! (Shocking I know!)
After Thursday night off, the pressure was back on, but this time for real. I knew what my pie mix had to consist of  but I now had to think of quantity and improving my last effort. I was making mini pies, I had previously made 2 or 3 this time I wanted to make 6 – 8 mini pies.
This evening I had time on my side. I made my pie mix and pastry, and waited for the pie mix to cool, if it goes in hot, you will end up with soggy pastry.
At 8pm the first batch of 4 went in for 35mins at 180C. I removed them from the oven allowed them to cool for a further 20mins, remove the ramekins and left the pies on a cooling rack, I was happy with the result. But there was no time for dancing, the next batch had to go in. (I had only purchased 4 mini pie ramekins).

By 10pm I was ready to sit down with a glass of wine, just before bed for an early Saturday start!  

Saturday D-Day

   
So this was it, I had to take my pies into the unknown world that was The Oxford Bake Off! – Scary stuff!
On arrival there was a large amount of tables filled with amazing looking cakes! The first thing to notice about the room, was the amount of colour and vibrance that filled the room. There were huge cakes, bright cakes, little cakes and bread. I put my pies onto the table ready to be judged against others, later that morning. Unfortunately the competition in my round was lacking, no I’m not being rude, but it was just me in the Pie round, so I won the round. I’d like to hope that the flavour and taste of the pies were to the judges satisfaction anyway, and hopefully the pies that were left made a contribution in the charity sale!

I enjoyed the build up and the event despite the Pie turn out, (I do like a bit of competition!) I would recommend to anyone out there that enjoys cooking and or baking that you should give something like this a try, so long as your free on the day of the event, you don’t mind a bit of competition, oh and you can brave being judged by people (who aren’t your friends and family) then there is no excuse! You never know the competition might not turn up! You’ve got to be in it to win it!

So on that note I’ll let you know that there will be an Oxfordshire Bake-off in 2013. More information about how you can be part of it is coming soon. http://oxfordbakeoff.wordpress.com/ 

To try my pies for yourself follow my recipe:

Pastry:
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
150g Unsalted butter
6tbsp cold water
How too:
Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse
Dice in the butter and blitz in the food processor
While the processor is running pour in the cold water, the mixture will quickly take shape in a solid round ball. At this stage take it out of the processor, cling film the ball and sit in the fridge for 25min.

Filling:
2 Onions- chopped
1 tin of chickpeas
5 fresh tomatoes – chopped
2 garlic cloves – crushed
Small portion of peas – approx 100g
1/2 tsp sugar
Spices:
2tsp mustard seeds
2tsp Cumin Seeds
6 Cardamom Pods – seeds only
1tsp ground coriander
1 fresh chilli (home grown if poss) finely chopped, add seeds if you want the heat.

Add some Ghee to a large pan, add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook slowly and stir every now and again until the onions are soft and clear.
Now take a dry pan add the spices until the mustard seeds start to jump. Now turn the heat off and pour the spices into a pestle and mortar and crush.
Mix the spices in with the onion and garlic pan, now add in the chopped chilli and season.
Add in the tomatoes, sugar and peas keep on a low heat for about 10mins
Now leave the filling to cool before adding to your pie pastry
   

Take your pastry out and roll. Now cut out your pastry and make sure this fits into your chose pie dish. Add your filling and top the pie off with puff pastry.
Add the pie to the oven. Mini pies took 25mins at 200C 

   

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 😦 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 – Cheese 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! 🙂

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!