A TASTE OF OXFORD:
Sausages, Sauce and Hollygog Pudding
by Dawn Copeman
We all have an idea of what to expect from Oxford in terms of architecture: dreaming spires, beautiful colleges, magnificent quads and, of course, Inspector Morse. But what about the food?
One of the main foods associated with Oxford is marmalade. Frank Cooper's Oxford Marmalade, which is darker than most marmalade, has a reputation for being one of the best around.
Actually it wasn't Frank Cooper who created this recipe, but his wife Sarah-Jane -- or perhaps, Sarah-Jane's mother, who is credited with inventing the Coopers' "secret recipe." One day in 1874, Mrs Cooper made 76 pounds of marmalade, which, not surprisingly, proved too much for the family's own consumption, so Frank sold the excess in his grocery shop at 83 the High, Oxford. The marmalade was an instant success and in 1900, to cope with demand, Frank Cooper opened his first marmalade factory.
Soon Cooper's was being exported to British embassies all around the world. Captain Scott even took some to the Antarctic with him -- we know because a tin was discovered in perfect condition with the remains of the Scott party in 1980. This tin is now at Frank Cooper's factory, but not in Oxford as the factory moved out of Oxford in 1967.
You can, however, still visit the place where it all began, as number 83 is now The Grand Cafe. If you want to eat Oxford marmalade at home, there's an easy-to-use recipe at http://www.greatbritishkitchen.co.uk/recipes_result.asp?name=oxfordmarmalade
Alternatively, you can buy a 16-oz jar of Frank Cooper's "peel free" Oxford marmalade online for $6.97from The English Tea Store at http://www.englishteastore.com/frcoma.html.
In addition to some Oxford marmalade on your toast, you might want to try some Oxford sausages for your breakfast. Oxford sausages, also known as Oxford Skate, are skinless sausages made from a mix of pork and veal (or nowadays lamb), which are shaped into a C before frying.
You can buy excellent, traditionally made Oxford Sausages at the Covered Market. This primarily meat market was built in 1772 to house the butcher's stalls that had previously stood on Butcher's Row, now Queen Street. A friend who studied at Oxford tells me that at Christmas you can see all sorts of meats hanging from these stalls, including venison, hare and ostrich. While you're there you may well see some Oxford John for sale. Oxford John is a lamb steak cut from the leg, a cut that is apparently very popular in the colleges. If you can't get to the Covered Market, I've included a recipe for Oxford Sausages below.
To go with your sausages, why not try some Oxford Sauce? This first made an appearance around 1700 and is a traditional accompaniment to meat. Unlike many other regional sauces such as Worcestershire or Yorkshire Relish, one cannot buy Oxford Sauce in a supermarket; it is a sauce that still has to be made at home, and there's a recipe below. There is one small supplier of pre-made Oxford Sauce, however, and that is The Oxford Fine Food Company at 40- 42 Stanley Road, Oxford.
And if you are in Oxford you really ought to try some Oxford Blue Cheese. This cheese, unlike other regional cheeses is very, very new. It was first created in 1995 but has already won many awards.
Another relative newcomer to the Oxford food scene is G & D's ice-cream parlour. Located on Little Clarendon Street and open daily from 8am to midnight, this place is very popular with students. This is possibly because of its free coffee refills before 10am, which is unusual in Britain, or perhaps because of the free ice-cream one can get by bringing in a cow artefact on Wednesday evenings -- yes, Oxford can be strange at times!
G & D's has an impressive selection of ice cream flavours and also allows its customers to create their own ice cream concoctions -- simply collect 25 signatures on a recipe petition and that flavour will appear on the menu. My friend's favourite was Pimms and strawberry sorbet. However, if you don't fancy ice cream, they also serve savoury snacks.
If you prefer something more traditional for dessert, then you should try a Banbury Cake. These cakes are similar to Eccles Cakes in that they are made from puff pastry and currants, but Banbury Cakes also contain rosewater. The first recipe for Banbury cakes appeared in The English Hus-Wife in 1615, and Brown's of Banbury have made Banbury Cakes to this original recipe since 1868. You can purchase a dozen Brown's Banbury cakes for £10.80 plus postage and packing from http://www.banburycakes.co.uk/Order.htm, or if you want to make your own visit http://www.britainexpress.com/articles/Food/banbury-cakes.htm.
Oxford also has many traditional puddings: Oxford Pudding, New College Pudding, Spiced Oxford Cake, and the fabulous-sounding Hollygog pudding, the recipe for which is below. Remember, Oxford's colleges still serve meals to their dons and students and these meals tend to be quite substantial. Students pay their battels (food bills) every term and naturally prefer cheap but filling meals. What could be more filling on a cold winter's day than a hot, stodgy pudding? And all these puddings are stodgy, calorie-rich, delicious fare. Do try one if you get the chance.
To accompany your food, a few years ago I would have suggested a traditional Oxford beer brewed by Morrells brewery, which began brewing in Oxford in 1782. Unfortunately Morrells closed in 1998. For a taste of Oxford beer today you need to try beers such as Ivanhoe and Bad Elf, which are brewed by Ridgeways. These beers are available in the US through Shelton Brothers at http://www.sheltonbrothers.com/home.htm.
However, even though the brewery has gone, you really ought to make the effort to visit some local Oxford pubs. Personally I would recommend: The Eagle and Child at 49 St Giles, locally known as the Bird and Baby, is where C S Lewis, J R R Tolkein and C Williams used to meet; The White Horse, Broad Street which was a favourite of Inspector Morse (in the books and on the TV) and finally The Turf Inn, 4 Bath Place, off Holywell Street, which dates from the 13th century. It serves decent food and is very popular with students, who go there at 6am for breakfast after they've jumped in the river on May Day (I told you Oxford university life is strange); unusually for Oxford it also has a large beer garden.
Regarding restaurants, I really ought to mention Raymond Blanc's le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. This is a hotel plus restaurant plus cookery school located just outside Oxford. The restaurant, which has 2 Michelin stars, offers a three-course menu du jour lunch from £45 per person, or a seven-course Menu Gourmand from £95 per person. Visit them online at http://www.manoir.com/web/olem/olem_a2a_home.jsp.
Alternatively there is the more moderately priced Le Petit Blanc at 71-72 Walton Street. This offers a two-course lunch for £12 with the third course costing £2.50. Make reservations at http://www.lepetitblanc.co.uk/oxford/.
But my brainy friend Alice Barnett's personal recommendation is the Carfax Fish and Chip Shop, at 135 High Street, where you can enjoy a traditional fish and chips lunch followed by a deep-fried Cadbury's chocolate creme egg! Now I wonder what Morse would make of that?
1 lb ground/minced pork
1 lb ground/minced veal or lamb
12 oz shredded suet
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
Zest of 1 or 2 lemons
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped, mixed herbs or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp fresh chopped sage
salt and black pepper
a little flour for coating
a little lard, goose fat, butter or oil for frying
- Mix the meats, suet, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, nutmeg and herbs in a large bowl.
- Add the egg to the mix and mix thoroughly.
- Flour your hands and form the mix into sausage shapes
- Coat each sausage with flour and shape into a C
- Fry or grill for about 8 minutes or until thoroughly cooked through.
1/2 pint Port
4 tbsp redcurrant jelly
half a lemon
1 tsp Oxford Marmalade
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp grated orange rind
1 tsp cooked shallots
1 tsp mustard
cayenne pepper (to taste)
ground ginger (to taste)
Squeeze the juice from the lemon and the orange then mix all the ingredients in a jug or blender.
Hollygog Pudding (serves 4-6)
2 cups flour
1 stick butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup
a little water
half a pint of milk
a pinch of salt
a little extra butter
- Pre-heat oven to 400°F, 200°C or Gas Mark 6
- Sift flour and salt into a large bowl and rub in the butter.
- Add water to form a dough and then roll out into a rectangle approximately one quarter of an inch thick.
- Spread the syrup over the pastry, and then roll into a roll.
- Place into a greased ovenproof dish and pour in the milk.
- Dot the top of the pudding with a little extra butter and then bake for 30-40 minutes.
- Pubs in Oxford
- Visit Oxford
- Oxford Tourism
- For more great recipes, see the rest of Dawn Copeman's Taste of Britain series.
- Oxford: Magic, Myth and Martyrs, by Sue Kendrick
- Oxford Timeline, by Darcy Lewis
- The Ashmolean Museum: Oxford's Window on the Ancient World, by Sean McLachlan
- Oxford's Museum of the History of Science, by Sean McLachlan
- The Hidden Churches of Oxfordshire, by Louise Simmons
Dawn Copeman is a freelance writer and commercial writer who has had more than 100 articles published on travel, history, cookery, health and writing. She currently lives in Lincolnshire, where she is
working on her first fiction book. She started her career as a freelance
writer in 2004 and has been a contributing editor for several publications, including TimeTravel-Britain.com and Writing-World.com .
Article © 2006 Dawn Copeman