Cycling for dinner – part one

Witney - Chipping Norton – Kingham – Burford – Carterton - Witney

The Cotswolds are full of local producers, so I decided to go on a bit of a cycling adventure to discover a few of these producers. Along the way I filled my rucksack with a range of ingredients to cook a five course evening meal for myself, Gem and two friends. Here’s how the journey went...

Witney to Chipping Norton (Ross and Ross foods) (14 miles)

The starting leg of my quest for dinner involved delving into some of the quietest country roads of the Cotswolds. From Witney I entered the Windrush Valley, cycling through Crawley and then onto Leafield. Between Leafield and Chadlington is one of my favourite roads in the area; with not many hedges on the road you get great panoramic views of Leafield and its church, followed by rolling fields. As I arrived in Chadlington I remembered I had ridden through it once before, that time I clocked ‘Cafe de la Poste’ but didn’t have the time to pop in.

The objective of this ride however, was completely different; it was a journey of discovery. The cafe has a local feel and sells a range of tasty pastries and cakes as well as various other grocery items, ranging from the lottery and papers through to a selection of good wines. It was still early so it seemed only right to devour a coffee and pain au raison before I started back off in the direction of Chipping Norton.

I must have only ridden 50 metres before I pulled over to have a look in ‘Chadlington Quality Foods’. I really liked the feel to this shop; it has a good range of products including a wide selection of fruit and veg and it was here I made my first cycling for dinner tour purchase with some dainty looking white currants for desserts. My attention moved to the array of international and British cheeses on offer. I tasted a couple of local cheeses including Barkham Blue which was a lovely and creamy blue cheese, but it was the Burford Crudge, a hard cheese with good flavour and a texture similar to Wensleydale that I chose. 

Chadlington Quality Foods is owned by the local community and well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

And back on track...

Back on the bike it was a quick three mile stint before I reached the market town of Chipping Norton and finding Ross and Ross Food. I was greeted by Ross Bearman, one of the two owners of this foodie enterprise. These guys are definitely passionate about the produce they use. All of the meats they use are free range and sourced locally; chickens for the chicken liver pate come from Redditch and the pork for the rillette comes from just down the road.

I first discovered Ross and Ross at the Witney Festival of Food and Drink back in May - a large part of their business is street food style outside catering. That day I had a slow cooked lamb shoulder with salsa verde. It was a welcome take on the meat in a bun concept and was so far removed from the sometimes mundane-ness of the typical hog roast you find at these events.

Anyway, back to the mission... the other side to their business is producing high quality terrines and pates and this was the reason for me visiting their kitchens. For the pork rillete, the guys confit down the belly of a cross Gloucester Old Spot and a Saddleback for about 4 hours. The pork rillette comes in a pack with a smoked apple chutney. They also sell a couple of other potted meat chutney combos, duck rillette with apricot chutney and chicken liver parfait with red onion chutney. The combo packs would be ideal for a locally sourced pressie for a loved one.

So with my taste buds watering and a chicken liver pate and pork rillette for my starter placed in my cool bag, I headed off on the next part of my ride.

Chipping Norton to Daylesford Organic Farm (6 miles)

It was a six mile ride heading out of ‘Chippy’ before turning off the main road and back onto country lanes in the direction of Cornwell and then Kingham. Daylesford Farm Shop and cafe is a welcoming place with a well polished professional feel.

The food is well displayed and of excellent quality; to note in particular some vibrant coloured heritage tomatoes and a good selection of seasonal berries at the entrance. Most of the produce I looked at was organic and many of the products were reared, grown or handmade onsite. The smorgasbord of goodies that took my fancy would not have fitted in my rucksack and the planned meal would have taken about a week to eat.

The ingredients I decided on for the evening’s meal were an organic chicken, some lovely sweet gooseberries and a loaf of multi-grain sourdough which I thought would go perfectly with the goodies from Ross and Ross.

Daylesford Organic Farm – Shipton-under-Wychwood (FWP Matthews) (6 miles)

From Daylesford Farm it was onto Shipton-under-Wychwood to pay local flour millers, FWP Matthews a visit. Dating back to the 1860s FWP Matthews has a vast experience and knowledge for producing flour. Today the mill runs 24/seven to keep up with demand – a sure sign that they are continuing to produce a top quality product.

I originally chanced across FWP Matthews at the Kingham Plough food market and after chatting to the sellers who advised a new shop opening was imminent, I knew I had to include this local producer on my cycle for dinner tour to collect some flour to make my dessert’s fruit tarts.

Unfortunately, the shop isn’t fully open yet but I was lucky enough to have been given a sneak preview of what lies ahead, it’s definitely going to be worth a visit in the weeks to come. But for now, I had my flour and it was onto my next local producer...

Shipton-under-Wychwood – Upton Smokery (7 miles)

Next on the cycling for dinner tour agenda was Upton Smokery, situated just outside the picturesque Cotswold town of Burford. Coming through Burford it seemed only right to pay Mrs Bumbles deli a visit; a) I hadn’t eaten since my Cafe de la Poste stop, b) Mrs Bumbles has to be one of the most delectable delicastens in the area and c) by now I’d cycled over 35 miles. So after my pit-stop to grab a Smokey Joe scotch egg it was up the hill and onto Upton Smokery.

Upton Smokery doesn’t look much from the outside and to be honest, you could miss it as you drive past, but if you are fortunate to catch-it in time do go inside for a browse. A welcoming smell of smoked gems greet you as soon as you enter the building and the vast array of smoked meats is simply too tempting. Plus, they also sell a good range of other produce including some of their own homegrown fruit and vegetables.

My purchase from this local producer was some smoked trout for my starter, local organic brie and some blueberries to go with the gooseberries for the fruit tarts.

My collection of produce was starting to come together as a five-course meal.

Upton Smokery – Burford (Burford Garden Centre) (2 miles)

A quick ride, thanks to the wind pushing me along, got me to Burford Garden Centre in super quick time. Burford Garden Centre is a lot more than your typical garden centre. Along with the typical plants and gardening paraphanalia, the food and drink selection is wide and pretty comprehensive where they champion a number of local produce including rape seed oil, meats and dairy products. However, the aim of this visit was to fill up my Nell’s Dairy bottle from the milk vending machine with some of their deliciously creamy white cow juice. And it just so happened that some Kelmscott Park streaky bacon to wrap around the chicken legs landed in my basket – what can you do!

Burford – Carterton (Compass Brewery) (4 miles)

The road from Burford to Carterton is a good one with rolling undulations the whole way. As I arrive at Compass Brewery, I’m greeted by Mathias, the man behind their selection of beers. Compass Brewery produce a selection of really interesting, future thinking beers. ‘Pilot 29’ uses a smoked malt and is one of my favourites; I really hope that one day they take it from the cask and bottle it. ‘West’ is their other cask only beer - if you spot it at a beer festival you should definitely check it out.

Bottled beers to note are ‘Kings Shipment’, ‘Baltic’ and the beer I’m really into at the moment, ‘Symposium’. It’s a kind of wheat beer that is an ideal drinker on a hot summer’s day whilst sat around the BBQ. After a chat about their various beers I explain the menu to Mathias who kindly matches the beers to each course. So the beers for the dinner party are ‘Baltic’, ‘Symposium’, ‘Kings Shipment’, ‘Berry’ and ‘Torp’.

My bag was now full to the brim of food and absolutely no room for the beer. Now if there were a few people on the ride there would be ample cart horses to carry the bounty. However, as I’m on my own and on having just arrived at a brewery, I decided I needed reinforcements. Without wishing to sound like I’m on a game show ‘I phoned a friend’ to help carry some of the loot back to Witney.

With a little help from the lovely Tamsyn, who met me at Compass Brewery to pick up some of the heavier bits of produce, I was able to set off home on the last 6 mile stretch a lot lighter and salivating at the thought of dinner...

Keep posted for part two of the cycling for dinner tour, the end result, in the next couple of days.