before fresh ingredients and a “back to basics” approach to cooking became
trendy in the UK, the fertile Cotswolds – a picturesque stretch of hilly land
that is split between Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire in England’s west, crisscrossed
with winding country lanes and dotted with thatch-roofed, picture-perfect
villages -- was already renowned for its diverse produce and the use of
locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.
the Cotswolds are eagerly embracing this current food revolution -- championed
by British chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein -- and its many celebrated
dining establishments are pushing Modern British cuisine
to new levels of creativity. The Cotswolds’ draw for foodies also includes a
great variety of local cheeses, meats, fruit, vegetables, honey, fish, ales,
beer and more, found either at their respective sources or at the many farmers’
markets and food festivals held in the region throughout the year.
what should you be on the lookout for? The Cotswolds are responsible for more
than a hundred different varieties of cheese,
including the fantastic goats’ cheeses from the Windrush Valley dairy; creamy organic
Cotswold Brie made by Simon Weaver of
Lower Slaughter; mild and crumbly Single Gloucester made of Gloucestershire
cattle milk from Godsells Cheese;
and St Eadburgha – reminiscent of Camembert – from Gorsehill Abbey. The production of
Double Gloucester, a stronger-tasting, more savoury, less crumbly version of
Single Gloucester, is not restricted to the Cotswolds, unlike that of Single
Gloucester , but it is the only cheese in England to participate in the highly dangerous
sport of cheese-rolling, held at Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth in the
keep an eye out for the organic burgers – winners of the Food Product of the
Year at the Cotswold Life Food and Drink Awards in 2011 – and meatballs,
courtesy of LoveMyCow from Tagmoor Farm
near Bourton-on-the-Water in the central Cotswolds, as well as ethically-farmed
boar products from the Real Boar
Company and a locally-reared breed of pig – Gloucestershire’s Old Spot – on
menus throughout the region. More exotic
fare, such as smoked venison, trout and salmon, can be found at Upton Smokery near Burford in the east
of the region.
sweet tooth can be sated with ice cream courtesy of Winstones and the Cotswolds Ice Cream Company, as well
as the locally-made classic
British sticky toffee pudding or Banbury cakes – currant-filled pastries, baked
in their namesake village in the northeast Cotswolds for a good 500 years.
brews abound. Ones to sample include the seasonal, quintessentially British The
Dog’s Bollocks, a fruity pale golden ale, and Bah Humbug, a spiced dark golden
ale by Wychwood. Also not to miss are ales
–ranging from golden bitter Hooky and fruity Old Hooky to the dark, malty Double
Stout -- by Hook Norton,
Bulldog golden ale and Nelson, a classic bitter, by The Patriot Brewery, and Codger,
a dry, crisp beer with a hoppy finish, Stunner, a malty, fruity pale ale, and
Rascal, a fruity, citrusy wheat beer, by the Cotswold Spring Brewing Co.
Non-alcoholic tipples that you will find in village shops throughout the region
include fruit cordials by Five Valleys and Benson’s apple juice.
it is a real joy to drive or ramble around the Cotswolds to find these delectable
morsels and tipples at their source, if time is at a premium you can kill a
plethora of birds with one stone by timing your visit to coincide with a major
farmers’ market or one of the many local food festivals.
to its former importance as the centre of the cloth industry, the Cotswolds
have a market tradition that goes back several hundred years, though for some
villages, the switch to produce has been a fairly recent one. Case in point is
Stroud -- not the most picturesque of the west Cotswolds villages, yet its
award-winning weekly Saturday market,
launched in 1999, is the largest in the United Kingdom and attracts nationwide
attention beyond its 60 or so stallholders -- it was featured in the television
programmes The Hairy Bikers’ Food
Tour of Britain and Rick Stein’s Food Heroes, and was also the
recipient of Best Food
Market accolade at the BBC Food and Farming Awards in 2010. In the northern
Cotswolds, Chipping Norton – a market town since the 12th Century – holds
its farmers’ market on the third Saturday
of every month and features produce as diverse as Fosse Way honey, organic cheese,
ales and even local wine, while the intimate market in Stow-on-the-Wold, held on the second
Thursday of the month, is the place for baked goods and locally-caught trout.
it comes to food fiestas, the Cotswold calendar is not complete without a visit
to the Stroud Food Festival, part
of a two-week food extravaganza in the first half of September – which celebrates
the best of local produce without resorting to importing gimmicky celebrity
chefs for the event. More niche is the British Asparagus Festival,
attracting asparagus-lovers to the Vale of Eversham
in the northwest Cotswolds between April and June each year with every
imaginable asparagus recipe, auctions of the best “gras” (as it is locally
known) and other festivities. A new, small-scale festival that shows great
promise is the North Cotswolds
Food and Farming Festival, which combines fresh produce with teaching
attendees about rare livestock breeds and
farming. It took place for the first time at Cotswold Farm Park near Stow-on-the-Wold
in October 2011 and is now planned to become an annual event.
but not least are the area’s many dining establishments, lauded for carrying on
the tradition of Modern British cuisine – a backlash against the austerity of
the World War II years, consisting of reinventing classic
British dishes with Mediterranean touches – using the best of local seasonal
produce and plenty of imagination and flair.
the region’s northeast, Wild
Thyme in Chipping Norton uses such seasonal ingredients to great effect,
creating the likes of braised pork belly with Cotswold crayfish and pairing
English cherries with a peach and pistachio salad. In the southwest, the
succinct menu at Nailsworth’s Wild
Garlic is a happy melange of international influences and has a changing
monthly menu, dictated by market availability; the results – roasted bone
marrow salad with capers, salt cod and shellfish Catalan stew – speak for
French-influenced Old Butchers, in
the highly-visited central Cotswold village of Stow-on-the-Wold, is not afraid
to use offal, such as calves’ brains, alongside more traditional fare that
includes slow-cooked mutton with pearl barley.
In tiny Bourton-on-the-Hill, also in the central Cotswolds, the menu at
the award-winning Horse and Groom
is unashamedly British and deceptively simple; the quality of its beer-battered
hake, slow-roasted pork belly and apple and rhubarb crumble, together with its
home brew – Goff’s Jouster -- sets it apart from its peers. The contribution of
another miniature village – Upper Slaughter -- to the rich culinary world of
the Cotswolds has not gone unnoticed either; its ambitious pairings of Cornish
crab with mango and veal sweetbreads with cep cannelloni, as well as more
traditional poached chicken and braised beef, have earned the Lords of the Manor its Michelin star.
The article 'Eat your way around the Cotswolds' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.