There is nothing like getting into the countryside on a bank holiday weekend. Now I’m not talking camping or working with farm animals, a girl’s got to have some comfort, but some of the more gentile pursuits. And in this case it was the romantic surrounds of Blenheim Palace with the added bonus of the Art, Design and a Taste of Summer festival taking place in the grounds.
The joys of one of these country fairs for the gourmand is discovering some of the best British produce and bringing them back to serve with a flourish at the next dinner party. And Oxfordshire didn’t disappoint.
Although there were many food companies at the fair there were a few that stood out.
Truckles Cheese Company
I was first attracted to Truckles stall by a very impressive looking Stilton and I wasn’t disappointed by the taste with the right balance of smooth crumbly texture and sharp slightly salty flavour. But the cheese that really impressed was their exceptional cheddar. Creamy with a rich pungent flavour, this mature cheddar melted in the mouth and is a far cry from supermarket cheddar so often served on toast. Impressive enough on its own it is also wonderful paired with Truckles Gold Winning Onion Marmalade.
Other exceptional products included the Shropshire blue, Wensleydale with Fig and Honey and a mellow goats cheese. Check out the country shows they have coming up or order online at their website www.trucklecheese.co.uk.
‘Food Archaeologist’ Alan Coxon has a fascination of historical food and a keen interest in bringing unusual and appetising historical fare to the modern table. His range of vinagerettes, chutney’s and pickles and made from top quality ingredients with unique and unusual flavours.
His award-winning Ale-Gar is an ale alternative to balsamic vinegar. Based on a 15th century mediaeval recipe the distinctive malt of the ale combines with the complex chocolate, cinnamon flavours to create a syrupy texture with the right balance of flavour. Perfect to drizzle of salads, baked salmon or indeed add to meat sauces for a more multifaceted flavour.
To order visit Alan’s website www.alancoxon.com.
Auberge du Chocolat
Auberge du Chocolat may be owned by Anne and Ian Scott but it is their 19-year-old son Jonathan that is the star behind the brand. Winning his first award at just 17, the Academy of Chocolate award for his Amedei truffle, Jonathan’s ardour has seen him experiment with flavours producing such combinations as strawberry and balsamic, wasabi and sesame, chilli and rosemary and thyme chocolates.
Jonathan has also come up with a dairy free range so those with an intolerance to dairy can still enjoy chocolate. Currently in five varieties; goats milk caramel, ginger, espresso, cosmopolitan (cranberry and vodka), and orange and Cointreau, the flavour’s are so rich due to the high quality of the chocolate and other ingredients that you don’t feel they are lacking anything.
Although this is a part-time passion for Jonathan (he is studying Geography at university) he has proved that in a very short time that he has excellent epicurean career if he decides to turn his back on academia.
To order one of their beautiful gift boxes, log on to www.aubergechocolat.co.uk.
The Gift of Oil
There are more and more excellent olive oils, imported straight from Italy or Greece, on the market these days. And as our palates become more refined and accustomed to tasting and appreciating the subtle differences available, so too can we use them to enhance our food and turn everyday cooking into something a little more special. Such are the oils sourced by Phil Bianchi of The Gift of Oil.
I was initially drawn to his truffle-flavoured oil, which was rich and flavoursome as well as being very reasonably priced at £12.95. As I experimented more with his flavours I was won over by the basil-infused and rosemary-infused varieties. But it was the Sicilian lemon that blew my taste buds with a zesty fruitiness that beautifully melded with the round fullness of the extra virgin olive oil – perfect for drizzling on fish or rocket salad.
The pomegranate and fig balsamic vinegar was another usual find that combined a sweetness that cut through the acidic vinegar giving a maturity of flavour that is sometimes lacking is lesser balsamics.
To order, visit their website at www.thegiftofoil.co.uk.