Top Christmas Cheeses

Courtyard DairyWe raved about Andy and Kathy Swinscoe’s fabulous shop, the Courtyard Dairy in Settle last Christmas and make no apology for doing so again this year. It’s where we buy our Christmas cheeses and you should too.

Take a look at his awards: Cheesemonger of the Year, (World Cheese Awards 2013); Top 20 Cheese Shops in the World (Daily Telegraph 2015); Runner Up – Best Independent Retailer (Observer Food Monthly 2015).

Andy’s a lovely chap, too. Last year Squidbeak spent an entertaining evening with him at Outside the Box in Ilkley where we ran a Christmas Quiz and Andy gave a cheese tasting. He’s a great speaker and a cheese expert like no other. As an affineur he knows how to look after his cheeses, bring them on and sell them in perfect condition.

If you can’t get to Settle, you can still buy your cheese online and if you order before 30 November and mention Squidbeak, you will receive a special £5 voucher to spend in the new year.

So with this in mind, we asked Andy to put together three Christmas cheeseboards. This is what he came up with.


The Courtyard 014Christmas with a Twist:

A mix of farm-made and award winning cheeses.  A buttery tangy 12-month Cheddar; a creamy rich Lancashire; a powerful British Camembert and a fresh light-goats milk.  All topped off with Stichelton – a rich toasty unpasteurised blue that gives the best Stilton’s a run for their money.


New Cheeses on the Block: 

Britain’s artisan cheese scene is blooming. Champion the best of British cheeses by serving four of the newest creations: a fresh, creamy goats’ milk; a nutty, butterscotch-hard, Alpine-style; the running and ripe Rollright and a brilliant smooth blue with an amazing depth of flavour.


World Cheese Award Winners: 

Every year the World Cheese Awards gingerly gives out ‘Super Golds’ to the best 50 cheeses in the world.  This box includes four of these amazing and sought-after ‘Super Golds’: the fruity aromatic Capra Nouveau; a fresh, lactic Caerphilly; tangy and powerful vintage Old Winchester and the smooth and creamy Cote Hill Blue.


Order before 30th November and get a £5 voucher for 2016

(* £5 voucher redeemable in Jan – March 2016; please mention on the checkout that you heard about the Courtyard Dairy through Squidbeak to get your voucher)


Good news for Fox & Hound

Fox_and_HoundsGreat news for those of us who are fans of the Fox & Hounds at Goldsborough –  they are staying put after all.


In case you missed our blog in the summer the story goes that the F & H had a rent review from their landlords, the Mulgrave Estate, that apparently left them with no alternative but to move elsewhere.


Or so we thought. Sue and Jason looked hard at possible alternatives and nothing quite matched their cosy bolthole on the clifftop north west of Whitby.


(And to the clever sod who wrote in to tell me that I should have said west not north of Whitby since north would land me in the sea, I say that if you headed out west of Whitby you’d miss Goldsborough, too. Have a look at a map of England and I think you’ll know which side of Whitby is understood to be north. Short of compass bearings, can we settle on north west?).


Anyway,  the idea of uprooting hearth, home and children at school was too much in the end, so they decided to bite the Mulgrave bullet and stay put. Not that you’d know it since they’ve taken their website down.


So, you’ll just have to find them via Squidbeak. It’s well worth it. It’s always been fabulous. And most of you will find it without driving into the North Sea.



The Great Northern Christmas

Booths Christmas Book 2015Squidbeak were invited to Booth’s in Ilkley last week for the launch of their Christmas catalogue. Catalogue is a bit of an understatement as it is in fact a beautifully bound hardback, full of lovely things you can buy for Christmas. And if, like Mandy and I, you don’t have a Booth’s nearby you can order online in the run-up to Christmas.


I have a soft spot for Booths. My mum and dad lived in Clitheroe and we shopped at Booth’s long before it became the supermarket of choice across Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. It was good then and it’s even better today.


The book itself has a shelf life beyond Christmas with recipes, interviews and profiles of some of their producers: David Hartley of Wensleydale Creamery recalls the tortuous history of  Wensleydale cheese. Among Yorkshire producers featured on the shelves, Mitch and Jack Mitchell of Truefoods make proper stocks, soups, gravy, terrines and pastries from their base at Melmerby.


There’s also an interview with the head brewer of Hawkshead Brewery, Matt Clarke and here I declare an interest. The creator of Hawkshead is an old friend Alex Brodie, who for many years was a foreign correspondent with the BBC.  Some 20 years ago, when he was weary of war zones, he began  looking for a career change and set up a micro-brewery in his home village of Hawkshead in the Lakes. It was a prescient move. Today there are countless micro-breweries but Alex was in at the beginning of the craft-ale revolution and is still producing a range of great ales. If you are near Kendal/Windermere take a detour to the Hawkshead Beer Hall, at Staveley, a bar that is a showcase for their beers and with good food to match.


So try and score yourself one of these lovely books to get you into the Christmas spirit and, remember, you can actually order from it too.


Blackberry and apple muffins

Blackberry+and+apple+muffins-6This is such a colourful, romantic and interesting time of year if you like to be outside enjoying the last few rays of late summer sun. Blackberries, elderberries and windfall apples are everywhere. When I go running in the mornings I try to remember to take a plastic bag with me to gather any edible fruit or nuts I see.

Today I made something with them – just simple muffins spiked with chopped apple, blackberries and some lemon rind.

I made a dozen bite sized muffins and drizzled them with honey as they came out of the oven. You could add a pinch of cinnamon to the mix or even vanilla essence would be nice.


150g self raising flour

half tsp baking powder

25g cold unsalted butter cubed

75g of blackberries and apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm cubes

1 eggs, lightly beaten

110 ml milk

Finely grated zest from half a lemon

Honey for drizzling


Preheat to overn to 200c/400f/gas mark 6.

Line a tin with 12 mini muffin cases.

Mix the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture is like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, lemon rind and the apple and blackberries.

In a separate bowl mix the eggs and milk then pour the mixture all at once into the dry ingredients and mix quickly.

Drop the batter into the muffin cases and bake for 10-15 minutes or until risen and golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for ten minutes.

After ten minutes transfer to a cool rack and drizzle with a little warmed honey.



Lisa’s Dinner

We’ve been very circumspect about pop-up dinners after a couple of poor experiences where the organisers were more excited by the venue than the food.

We think the Lisa@the Gallery dinners at the Staithes Gallery get the balance about right, first because the old fishing village of Staithes is a fabulous location. The Staithes Gallery where they are held is delightful and the meals are prepared by proper chef, Lisa Chapman, not just someone having a go.

Lisa Chapman

Lisa Chapman preparing lobster

Lisa ran the Endeavour fish restaurant for many years before selling up and concentrating on catering for events, holiday cottages and pop ups like this one.

We are biased of course because in the early days, Squidbeak helped get the dinners off the ground. Now they run quarterly and the menu for autumn is smack full of seasonal produce:


A taster of curried parsnip and apple soup with parsnip crisp

* * *

Chicken liver and wild mushroom tartlet

Fig, pear & local goats’ cheese salad with walnut dressing

Fillet of sole with white wine and grape sauce

* * *

 Local cod steaks with a mussel & leek stew

Venison steaks with red wine and elderberry sauce, celeriac mash and roasted autumn squash

Pumpkin and marrow bake with a carrot and sweet potato rosti  and beetroot tarte tatin

* * *

Apple charlotte with English apple brandy sauce

Sloe gin & blackberry jelly with homemade quince ice cream

Yorkshire cheese with fresh fig and autumn chutney



Next dinner: 23rd & 24th October 19, 2015

Time: 7.30pm

Price: £39. 50 inc. pre dinner drinks

Drink: Wines to purchase on the night

Booking: T: 01947 841840 E:

Real Staithes Walk and Picnic

Sean & dog Tiff photo Andy Bulmer

We’ve long championed Staithes, one of our favourite places along the coast and now we want to tell you about a terrific day out.

Real Staithes is a two hour low tide walk along the Staithes foreshore led by a local fisherman and ending in a lobster picnic at his wonderfully ramshackled hut at Port Mulgrave.

Sean and Tricia Baxter have lived in Staithes most of their lives. Tricia was born in the village, Sean has lived there since a child. These days he runs fishing trips, beach casting  days and night fishing courses but what we like best, are his discovery walks and picnics along the foreshore.

Fisherman’s Hut, Port Mulgrave

The walk starts in the morning – timing depends on the tides – and Sean leads the way along the rocky foreshore recounting the areas industrial history – alum, ironstone and jet and its natural history – birds, fossils, seashore finds and shellfish. Visitors help to haul in lobster pots, bait longlines, forage for winkles and edible seaweeds.

Patricia & Sean

After a couple of hours or so dawdling along the shoreline, followed by a bit of a scramble, the bay of Port Mulgrave comes into view.  Once a harbour for the ironstone ships that worked this coast, it is now no more than a collection of fishing cobles landing crab and lobster and a community of fisherman’s huts, built ad-lib with bits of old timber, discarded corrugated iron, driftwood, the odd B & Q door.

It’s not beautiful but it has an anarchic, tumble-down charm with fishermen’s huts that pay no heed to building and planning regs., the theory being that if you can get the materials down the precipitous cliff, then good luck to you.

Picnic at Port Mulgrave

Meanwhile  Tricia has a campfire is going with a pot of soup in a big black pot simmering over it.  She serves it up in enamel mugs with hunks of bread while a table is set up outdoors for lunch. Bread, two or three salads, crab claws, winkles, seaweed crisps and lobster – one each – freshly boiled to be dipped in mayo. eaten with fingers and sucked clean.  Then its cake – fruit or lemon drizzle, mugs of coffee and chocolate.

After that there’s nothing left to do but make the stiff climb to the cliff top for the stunning  three mile clifftop walk back to Staithes. Days out don’t get better than that.

Real Staithes Walks of Discovery are priced £75 per person for a full days walk including lunch. Read more about Real Staithes here.


Good Food Guide

9780953798339There’s been a lot of excitement about the Man Behind the Curtain getting a Michelin star and deservedly so. We’ve championed Michael O’Hare since his early days in York. Now everyone wants to go and you won’t get a table on Saturday night until 2016! You can see why it’s so important to chefs.


The Good Food Guide doesn’t attract half so much attention, but for good places to eat, it’s streets ahead. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a Michelin Guide which is made up of signs and symbols, but my collection of the GFG goes back to the 1980s and it’s always a good read: honest, independent, sparky, opinionated.


Last year, Waitrose bought the  GFG from the Consumer Association. but the guide looks much the same and thankfully continues to take no advertising nor paid-for entries.


It’s wide ranging covering local gems like Zucco in Meanwood and top restaurants such as Man Behind the Curtain. We like it too because as well as professional inspectors, it holds a great deal of store by readers’ comments, so if you eat somewhere that deserves comment or criticism it’s important to let them know. They will act upon it.


Yorkshire is well represented with 67 entries. New this year:


Harrogate: Norse, La Feria, and Stuzzi

Helmsley: The Vine House Café

Hull: 1884 Dock Street

Leeds: The Man Behind the Curtain, Zucco,

Lower Dunsforth: The Dunsforth

Middleton Tyas: The Coach House

Sheffield: Lokanta

Todmorden: Blackbird

Wetherby: Mango

Withernwick: the Falcon

York: Cochon Aveugle

You can buy the Guide from bookshops and from Waitrose. But of course you can check ‘em out on Squidbeak, we’ve got most of these covered (and more).


York Food Festival



York Food Festival finishes on Sunday. There’s still time to see some good  cookery dems, check out the market stalls, the street food, music, talks and workshops. If you’ve never been go now, it’s been on for ten  days and it’s the biggest and arguably the best of our regional food festivals. Our pick of the festival:



Friday 25th

Drop in to any of the free demos that run all day every hour from 12 noon. Highlights are Masterchef finalist Sara Danesin Medio and Raffi’s Spicebox


Italian Wine Tasting Evening 7pm Guildhall

Karen Hardwick is  a delightful, informed and unpretentious wine expert. Her evening of Italian wines and shared platters of Italian meats and cheeses be well worth the ticket price. £30


Saturday 26th

Wild Food Foraging Walk 10.30am Under Skeldergate Bridge

Wild Harvest are conducting a walk around York to discover all the edible plants growing in the heart of the city. £9.50


Cocoa House


Chocolate Fair. All Day. Guildhall

The Guildhall is taken over for the whole weekend in a celebration of chocolate led by York Cocoa House. There will be a chocolate café, workshops and at 2pm a ‘banquet of cake’ by the Clandestine Cake Club. Free entry.



Sunday 27th

Cochon Aveugle 1pm Demo Area

Cochon Aveugle in one of York’s best restaurants so this demonstration should be well worth going along to. Fee Entry


Finally I want to catch the Food in Art exhibition outside York Art Gallery that runs all week and sample the new Café No 8 outlet there too.


Michelin Star Struck

Man-Behind-the-CurtainThe Michelin Guide UK 2016 is out, (leaked early I gather,  by an unnamed book shop) and we are delighted to learn that Michael O’Hare of Man Behind the Curtain has won a star after just one year in his idiosyncratic Leeds restaurant.


We like to think we spotted him early when he was putting carrots in plant pots, setting fire to alcohol trails on the pass and serving cocktails with every course at Blind Swine in York. It was new, crazy and bloody amazing. Boar Lane is more sophisticated, grown up and even more amazing.


The champagne must be flowing on Boar Lane. O’Hare has had a stellar week having won the north east strand of Great British Menu and now this. So congratulations to the raven haired chef of the silver boots and silver pinny, we’re thrilled for him and his team.


Other news from Michelin: The Old Vicarage in Sheffield loses its star, Mandy went last year and found a time warp restaurant and some very good food food

The remaining five all, retain their stars, so a lot of relieved sighs at The Box Tree, Ilkley; The Star at Harome;  The Yorke Arms at Ramsgill; The Pipe and Glass, South Dalton; The Black Swan at Oldstead.


Bib Gourmands (Michelin speak for a good quality restaurant at a modest price) are retained by Prashad at Drighlington; Le Langhe, York, Vennell’s at Masham and a new addition: The Dunsforth at Lower Dunsforth.


We’re a bit sceptical about the Guide here at Squid, but we won’t bang on. It means a lot to the chef, brings in new punters and serves as a shorthand for a quality restaurant, so Congratulations all.




Wensleydale Cheese

‘We stand in reverence and awe as we gaze at the ruins of Fountains or Jervaulx, but the true and lasting memorial is not in the stately ruins but in the miles and miles of limestone walls and that peacetime delicacy, a ripe blue-veined Wensleydale cheese’.

Kit Calvert, ‘Wensleydale Cheese’ 1946.

Wensleydale cheese is one of our great ‘territorials’ one of a group of British cheeses like Lancashire, Cheshire, Cheddar, named after the region in which it is made. Its history, though, is as turbulent as modern day banking – a story of boom, near bust and back again.

The first clue that cheese was being made in the Dales comes from a Roman curd strainer dug up at Bainbridge in Upper Wensleydale, but it was the Cistercian monks who brought over the technique for the blue ewe’s milk cheese they were making in Roquefort and Burgundy. By 1150 they were making cheese at Fors Abbey near Bainbridge before moving on to gentler Jervaulx.

It must have been a lovely cheese. The limestone pastures of the monastic granges would have delivered superb milk. The dank cellars and storage vaults coupled with the natural moulds that flourished in the stone would have created the blue veins and by all accounts it had a rich, spreadable consistency.

Down the centuries Wensleydale cheese evolved from a blue to a white cheese and cow’s milk gradually replaced ewe’s milk. By the 19th century farmhouse cheese-making had spread across Coverdale, Swaledale and Cotherstone. At Yarm Fair 1,000 cheeses were reportedly for sale.

Local businessman Kit Calvert became a Yorkshire hero when he formed the Wensleydale Cheesemakers Association in an effort to save traditional Wensleydale cheese-making. But by the 1960s the restrictions imposed by the Milk Marketing Board meant it all but died out in the Dales. Before the Second World War there were 433 farmhouse cheese-makers in the Dales twenty years later there was none.

Factory cheese-making survived only in Hawes, at the Wensleydale Creamery but it was a bland, white, boring cheese hardly worth saving. In 1992 when Dairy Crest announced their intention to relocate Wensleydale production to Lancashire, there was uproar but a management buy-out saved the day.

Today Wensleydale cheese is successfully produced at the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes. It is the largest cheese maker in the Dales, and it’s quite a set up with cheese tours, a tea room and a shop all promoting their flagship brand ‘Real Yorkshire Wensleydale’.

But they are not the only cheese-makers in the region. A handful of small producers are making some lovely and distinctive Wensleydale-style and regional cheeses.

In Teesdale Joan Cross has been making the mild creamy Cotherstone for years. Available from the Yorkshire Dales Cheese Company and Cotherstone Post Office. Iain Hill  began making cheese in 1978 from a dilapidated farm at Horton in Ribblesdale. Today his niece Iona carries on the tradition of the Ribblesdale Cheese Company at their base in Hawes and while they predominantly produce goat’s milk cheese, they do make a little Wensleydale.

They’re not Wensleydales, but some of the best regional cheeses comes from the dairy at the Camphill Village community at Botton village on the North York Moors. Look out for Yorkshire Tomme, Dale End Cheddar and Gouda.

It’s heresy to say so but one of the loveliest Dales cheeses, though it began life in Bedale, is now made in Lancashire but if you come across Suzanne Stirk’s King Richard III Wensleydale, snap it up. She was at the forefront of the cheese revival, and it’s a lovely cheese.

You won’t find Richard III in any supermarket, but Booths do source some excellent cheeses. But in our view, the very best cheesemonger in the region is the Courtyard Dairy at Settle run by Andy and Kathy Swinscoe who source the best British and continental cheeses, can tell you their provenance and keep them and sell them in perfect condition. Buy from the shop or online.

The last word though goes to Judy Bell who began making Shepherds Purse cheeses at the family farm near Thirsk in the 1980s. Today her cheeses are distributed nationwide. The range of soft, blue-veined ewe’s milk cheeses have  origins that are echoed in those early French cheeses made by the Cistercian monks way up at Jervaulx, happily bringing the story full circle.


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