- Posted by North Oxfordshire
- On July 3, 2017
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There is something about North Oxfordshire that makes it a well-known paradise for foodies in the UK and beyond. Is it the country pubs and greasy fish n chips in charming villages? Is it the rolling hills and market towns that offer fresh produce from local farms? Is it the history of hungry scholars and scribes who spread the word about traditional offerings like the Oxford Bishop? Is it the high standards of food safety?
All of these combined with a love of good food and innovation may be the answer. Some of the best restaurants shortlisted for the Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards come from the northern part of the county.
What should a foodie eat in and around the major towns and villages of Banbury, Chipping Norton, Bicester and Oxford City, and the countryside in the north? Of course, the best place to start exploring local foods is at the farmers’ markets where the taste of the countryside lingers.
North Oxfordshire’s Traditional Offerings
One of the must-have traditional foods in the region are Banbury cakes, which have been enjoyed with afternoon tea since at least the seventeenth century.
“It has a little shelf, my dear,
As dark as dark can be,
And there’s a dish of Banbury Cakes
For me, me, me.”
(Source: Walter de la Mare’s The Cupboard)
You may find this iconic cake elsewhere in the UK these days, but Banbury is where it was originally made and sold. In its modern version, this hand-made oval-shaped flat cake has a flaky pastry spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, is stuffed with sweet mincemeat and is best enjoyed with a cup of Earl Grey tea. When in Banbury, get some at the Banbury Museum Visitor Center and several other locations.
Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade
Another classic food associated with Oxford is Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade, which was so popular it was even taken to an Antarctic expedition. Although today, this popular food can be found beyond Oxfordshire.
But you must travel to the county to try the classic 18 th century Oxford sausage for breakfast. Buy some at Oxford’s historic Covered Market. Originally, the skinless sausage contained suet and sage. The modern version contains the traditional pork and veal or lamb, lemon ring, and herbs like marjoram and sage. Enjoy it with some fine award-winning Oxford mustard from a one-man farm in the Cotswold’s to the west. You won’t find this mustard anywhere else.
And if you can get your hands on some of the local puddings: New College Pudding, OxfordPudding, Hollygog pudding, Spiced Oxford Cake and other classic puddings you’ve probably read about: don’t pass them over. Find a way into the Pudding Club in the Cotswold’s for insider news, views and tastings of this fast-disappearing tradition.
Wolvercote Farmer’s Market
There are several local cheeses that also deserve a tasting with local real ales. Jonathan Swift wrote praises of old Oxfordshire cheeses, which are now largely lost. But there are modern cheeses like the semi-hard creamy, almond-flavored Aveton, which has won awards. You can buy it from the farmers’ markets at Woodstock & Chipping Norton, the farmers’ market at Deddington near Banbury, and the Wolvercote Farmer’s Market closer to Oxford.
The same cheesemakers also produce a variety of cheeses like the Kingham Gold, the Kingham Green Cheese, the Moreton d’Or, Revolution, Sarsden and the Titcomb. These cheeses carry the taste of Costwolds. So do musician Alex James’ artisan cheeses.
“Of course down south, Oxford has its Oxford Blue, a creamy and sharp, clean-flavored blue cheese that continues the tradition of fine Oxford cheeses.”