Friday, 15 December 2017

Our food producers rival the world's best

Our food producers rival the world's best

THE world is a small place these days, writes Paul Clerehugh.

Many of us travel in search of the best food and cooking the world can offer, from California to Singapore, New York to Dubai.

And rightly, we are often blown away by new, modern cooking and fabulous wines.

But I say, stop and look at what we have here in Oxfordshire. In food terms, why not try settling in and keeping your slippers on because I honestly believe that we can rival the very best the world has to offer.

Indeed, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is just as refined as The French Laundry in California, Orwells in Binfield Heath can hold its own against anything in Spain’s San Sebastian region, and Barbara Laithwaite with her English sparkling wines can cock a snook at many of the French champagne houses!

Walk into the Henley Farmers’ Market — held from 8am to 1.30pm on the second Saturday, fourth Thursday and fifth Sunday of every month — and you could be perusing the gastronomic delights of Perigueux in the Dordogne Valley.

Stroll the covered market in Oxford city centre, taste, sniff and pick up pies, meat, fish and tangy Oxfordshire cheese like Oxford Blue or Oxford Isis (and why should they change its name?).

Why, even Charles and Camilla popped by in the summer for a taster of local cheeses and looked like they thoroughly enjoyed them too.

The acres of splendid agricultural land in Oxfordshire yield tons of top quality produce.

One such example is Blue Tin, based in Ipsden near Stoke Row, where they rear glorious free-range rare breed pork, beef, lamb and mutton and are probably the best example of farm gate produce in Britain.

If the produce in this area wasn’t top notch I would not use it in my restaurants — the Crooked Billet in Stoke Row and Reading’s London Street Brasserie — but as you’ll see, my menus are literally bursting with it!

Like the Billet, the all new Bottle & Glass Inn at Binfield Health is free from frippery and fuss. I like their treacle-cured salmon with cucumber, horseradish ad cockles. Or try their Oxfordshire Black pork belly, with Bath chap. Scrumptious.

Meanwhile, the Spice Merchant in Henley transports me to the Indian subcontinent with bursts of tangy pickles, fiery jalfrezi, charred tandoori and an unctuous butter chicken. The Three Horseshoes on Reading Road is a community pub if there ever was one and Nigel who runs it keeps revellers more than satisfied with his legendary Sunday lunch.

Sausages for supper is a British institution and, ah, the sausages in Henley! I was awarded a trophy from the Master Guild of Butchers after Kate Winslet’s bangers and mash wedding at The Crooked Billet — British sausage sales soared as a result.

My girls love Henley favourite Gabriel Machin’s handmade pork sausages and also Carl Woods of Sonning Common’s award-winning bangers.

As the nights draw closer, an idyllic evening by a roaring fire can be whiled away at the 16th century Five Horseshoes in Maidensgrove.

The location may be a something of a fascinating time warp, but I’m more interested in the stunning pub grub and a tall glass of something cold and frothy.

The Cherry Tree Inn, Stoke Row, is another gem hidden in the glorious Chiltern Hills where the abundance of superb fresh, local produce is celebrated on the menu.

If the October chills have you seeking a wintry warmer, head no further than the Three Tuns on Falaise Square and indulge in the ultimate comfort that is their new pie menu.

And finally, for the most delicious steak, you’ll catch me at The Greyhound in Peppard. For this is where the legendary Antony Worrall Thompson has sourced the absolute best well-bred, well-fed, well-hung Scottish beef.

You’ll often find me there with a gorgeous glass of Malbec, soaking up the atmosphere of one of Britain’s best.

So instead of searching Expedia for a treat, why not enjoy what Henley and our beautiful surrounding villages have to offer? For there really is no place like home.

Catch Paul Clerehugh every week on Food on Friday (BBC Radio Berkshire, 2pm) for food chat, recipes and a kitchen helpline.

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