Having lived in a small village 10 miles south-west of Oxford, my food knowledge is heavily focused on the surrounding area. A weekly shop being more practical for us, sometimes we hit the supermarket, and other times we drive to one or more nearby local shops to stock up.
If you have a spare few hours, a car, and an inclination to support local businesses, I recommend the following.
Start Point: Steventon Village Green
Location: The Old Farmhouse Bakery, Steventon
Recommended products: Everything I’ve had has been amazing
A top tip is to go early. As soon after opening as you can. Especially on a Saturday.
If you follow this rule, you will be rewarded with any number of wonderful cakes and breads to choose from. There is little more heartbreaking than arriving a tad too late and seeing a be-crumbed empty plate with a name card showing how you just missed the last slice of raspberry almond tart. Sometimes there is this amazing lemon meringue slice, oh I know we’ve all had lemon slices but this one, just trust me, you want it. They have these twisted bread loaves of spinach and tomato that are moist and toast up wonderfully a few days on, and lardy cakes that remind me of being small, when lardy cakes were allowed instead of being seen as a heart-attack disguised as a fruit loaf.
It’s only laziness that saves me from being house-sized. If I lived in Steventon I would be cake-crammed before the clock struck 10. As it is, stirring from a warm bed for a 15 minute drive, after which I would probably then feel obliged to do more shopping elsewhere, is just enough of a pain to make it a rare treat, rather than a regular vice.
Location: Q Gardens Farm Shop, Milton Hill
Recommended: Summer fruits
Pick your own cherries. Yep, you heard me. If the season’s right you can pluck your own fruit from the tree and then devour it by the punnet. There’re even ladders which you can hump around and clamber up (at your own risk) so you can feel like you’re really going for it.
They also have a range of other fruit here, including plums and apples, all of which you can pick when the time is right. They make their own juice, and the farm shop has a good butchery and a small range of fancy foodstuff bits and bobs like chutneys, frozen pies and cider.
Location: Patisserie Pascal, Abingdon
Recommended: Chocolate eclairs, viennoiserie, quiches
When we’re obliged to go to Abingdon for a supermarket shop, we sometimes fortify ourselves with a little stop at this French-style patisserie.
My favourite is something with a name I can’t pronounce or even remember, a shiny apricot croissant with a touch of creme patisserie. The chocolate eclairs are also particularly delicious, filled with a chocolate creme patisserie rather than the British more mundane whipped cream. Brioches, quiches and fancy cakes jostle for attention, and their small selection of bread is well worth trying.
Location: Cumbers of Theale, Marcham
Recommended products: The meat 🙂
I feel I should confess I have only been to this tiny little farm shop twice. The meat is truly excellent, organic and free-range enough to make one feel that little bit less guilty. However it is all frozen. And I am useless at pre-planning. I really must go here more. I even have one of their lovely sturdy bags, currently being used to tote my library books around. They have interesting sausages, and uncommon cuts and types of meat such as mutton and “good” veal.
All I can say is, go. They are open most mornings and if I get my head in the game, maybe I’ll see you there!
Location: Millets Farm Centre, Frilford
Recommended products: Fruit and veg, apple juice, cheese and selected baked goods
By far the best thing about this expansive farm shop is the fruit and veg. Especially in the summer. They grow a lot of their own, and use local suppliers for a number of other items. Sure there are imported lines but their seasonal soft fruits and leafy veg are brilliant. They run a pick-your-own when the crops are there, and make their own juice. I always buy the Bramley, and get pretty sniffy whenever my boyfriend insists on choosing a different variety.
There is a well-stocked fish counter, a large meat counter, an excellent deli counter and a bakery where you can acquire a huge wodge of iced cake for a bargain price. Their general produce is a bit fancy with prices to match, but you can easily buy enough for a week as long as you don’t need toilet roll or toothpaste.
Location: Dews Meadow Farm, East Hanney
Recommended products: Ham, bacon, sausages and large joints
I am a slight porkaholic. Hmm. Perhaps I should say instead that I love eating pork-based foodstuffs. I appreciate that for some people, pork will never be on the menu, but for me it is one of the greatest meats there is. In case anyone is thinking of a dry uninspiring Sunday roast and wondering what I’m on about, let me list for you some of the treats to which I’m referring. Juicy sausages, spicy chorizo, crispy smoked bacon (done on the barbecue…AWESOME), pulled pork, succulent ham, slow-roast pork belly, rillettes, liver pate, pork pie, carnitas, ribs, crackling…oh, how I do love crackling.
The next village over from us is home to Dews Meadow Farm. They aren’t free range, which is a shame, but their pork is outdoor-bred and finished on straw.
Their products are available at some farmers markets in the area, but they also have a village outlet. The contrast between their pork and that from a supermarket is noticeable. Fat is the most visible difference. Supermarket joints often have barely any fat under the skin, but similar cuts from Dews have a thick layer leading to a succulent and delicious dinner. Their bacon doesn’t ooze mystery white substances, their ham is the best I have ever had. They also do a small selection of things like sausage rolls, pork pies and scotch eggs, and the shop sells a wide range of other meat too. Everyone who works there is friendly and helpful, and you can get all kinds of cuts you never see wrapped in plastic in the supermarket. I urge you to go, buy all the pork you can carry, then hurry home and make delicious things with it.
PS: Regarding their other meats, I’ve had success with pressure-cooking salt beef, experiments with beef short ribs (sawn especially for me), and some random lamb sausages that another customer had requested.
To complete the loop, return to Steventon.