John Heighington – The Bell Inn, Ducklington

Chef John has seen many food trends come and go, but one thing that has remained consistent throughout is the popularity of pub classics. Since becoming head chef at The Bell Inn in 2014, John has introduced a traditional English menu using locally sourced ingredients to wow locals and lodgers alike. It features British staples such as Sunday carvery, fish and chips, homemade soups, desserts and their signature Bell gravy, which has proved so popular it is now available to take away. However, the pie nights on Tuesday’s are by far the star culinary attraction, with pre-booking advised to avoid disappointment.

Situated in the quaint Oxfordshire village of Ducklington, this 13th century pub consists of letting rooms and a cosy restaurant. In keeping with the thatched exterior, the restaurant features beautiful dark beams and a stunning fireplace which further adds to the homely ambience.

Steak & Ale Pie

Serves: 8 | preparation time: 15-20 minutes | cooking time: 2-3 hours


1 kg diced beef

1 large onion diced

1 celery stick diced

2 carrots diced

1 tbsp tomato puree

2 tsp cracked pepper

1 pint of bitter

320g shortcrust pastry mix


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and brown off the meat in a deep dish oven tray. Once browned, mix in the diced onion, celery and carrots.
  2. To create the stock, mix the pint of bitter (John recommends Morland Original Bitter) with the tomato puree and black pepper, then add one litre of water. Cover the browned meat and diced vegetables with the liquid and cover with foil. Bake at 180 degrees for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender.
  3. Roll out the pastry and place in a loose bottomed pie tin. Add the filling, keeping any leftover gravy to one side. Top with the rest of the pastry, lightly brush with butter and then bake at 210 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden.
  4. Remove from the oven and divide into eight portions. Serve with vegetables and your choice of potatoes, along with the leftover gravy.