Summer News

Cabra Verde

We were sorry to learn that Cabra Verde in York, the little tapas bar in Peter Lane had closed, but happy to hear they have amalgamated everything into their deli on Lendal. Now with more tables and evening opening you can enjoy a meat or cheese plate, good bread, wines, sherries and delicious cakes. Open Tue-Sat daytime and from 5pm til late.


Steam Trains and Fish & Chips

Quayside02The North York Moors Railway have teamed up with the Quayside chippie in Whitby – winners of the best UK fish and chip shop – to offer fish and chips every Friday on the last train home. Order online, then pick up your fish chips and mushy peas (£6.80) at Whitby station and enjoy them on the steam train to Pickering. Book here.




Filmore & Union

Filmore KioskWe can hardly keep up with the expansion of Filmore & Union, York, Harrogate, Wetherby, Leeds Moortown and Leeds Victoria Quarter, then there’s Platform 8 on York Station and Roko Gymn, now that’s an idea. The last gym I joined they were selling chocolate and fizzy drinks. Now the weather is picking up, F & U have launched picnic hampers in all their branches.  £12.95 per person for wraps, salads, sandwiches and cake.


York Food Festival

York_Food_Festival-snailThe summer festival starts 20 June with demos, markets and events running into the evening. Don’t dash home from work, make your way to Parliament Street for live music, hot food and drinks from the Champagne Warehouse, the Yorkshire Real Ale Bar, Orchards of Husthwaite Cider Bar, Cocktails from Sloe Motion. From 5pm until 9pm. For more information visit


Salvo’s Salumeria

There’s no stopping Gip and John Dammome who after umpteen years at Salvo’s still have the verve and energy to offer something new. Strano is their ‘occasional supperclub and speakeasy’. It’s moved around a bit since they started, but now they’ve settled on the private dining room above Salvo’s for a multi course surprise dinner 20 June, £37.50 To book: stranoleedsgreatesthits

Don’t forget their Sicilian themed dinners every Saturday from 21 June £33.50 and Weds to Friday Cenare Con Amici dinners – dinner with friends. £22.95


Star Inn @ Harome

Star InnA Spanish wine and food matching dinner is being held at the Star on 25 June £55 per head with four wines from producer Tomas Cusine.

2 July  is an opportunity to sample the Star’s new menu. Choose from five starters, mains and puddings and get a 10% discount for being a guinea pig (dress rehearsal they prefer to call it).



Chef02We’ve been told about a new film you might like. It’s called Chef starring Jon Favreau, Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr. We haven’t seen it either, but it has a starry cast and is about a chef who quits his job at a prominent L.A. restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity. In Miami he teams up with his ex-wife and his son to launch a food truck. Taking to the road, Carl goes back to his roots to ‘reignite his passion for the kitchen — and zest for life and love’. Sounds like a film for all you chefs! Here’s a clip. On general release from 25 June



Staithes GalleryEvery few months chef Lisa Chapman puts on seasonal dinners in a lovely room above the Staithes Gallery. It’s always a jolly, communal, convivial evening that starts with a glass of fizz and a browse around the gallery and then a move upstairs for a beautiful seasonal dinner that this month features among other choices,  Staithes caught lobster salad, Sandsend wild sea trout, guinea fowl, gooseberry and elderflower fool. It’s terrific value at £35 a head, with wine on sale at the gallery. Runs for two nights  4/5 July To book ring Al on: 01947 841840 or 07972 012464.


Rosemary Shrager Cooks

ShragerThe ebullient Rosemary Shrager ran the cookery school at Swinton Park for ten years before moving on to TV and some time in the jungle. If you were wondering where she’s gone then listen to this: She’s cooking at Chateau Lou Casteou on the Cote D’Azur, the  glamorous chateau used as the ‘judges house’ on X Factor a couple of years ago. You can enjoy a bit of the glamour and  join Rosemary for 6 nights in luxury accommodation, daily cookery classes, butchery and barbecue masterclasses, dinner every evening, market and olive oil visits, lunch at a Michelin starred restaurants and after all that eating, fitness sessions and a heated infinity pool. You knew this would not be cheap didn’t you? £5,650 per couple or £3,250 for singles. If you’ve got lucky on the scratch cards it runs from 11-17 October www.loucasteou. Have a look!



BritanniaLast year I had fun on P & O’s cruise ship Azura where Indian chef Atul Kochhar was running cookery classes and guided food visits ashore. They are going much further with their new ship Britannia  – Britain’s biggest cruise ship which launches in March 2015. They’ve signed up a heap of celebs: James Martin, Eric Lanlard, Marco Pierre White, Olly Smith and Atul Kochhar to run their Cookery Club.  The first gourmet food cruise with patissier Eric Lanlard runs from 23 May 2015 from Southampton to Guernsey, Spain and France, from £729 per person for a 7 night cruise.





Yorkshire Crab & Lobster

The fishing boat, All My Sons in Staithes harbour

The rocky shoreline form Staithes to Spurn Point provides some of the best Yorkshire lobster and brown crab in the world.

In 2007 the lobster fishery along this length of coast, failed a sustainability assessment  by the Marine Stewardship Council because stocks were not strong enough to sustain. However new information has led to a re-assessment and the MSC though we still haven’t heard the results of that new survey. If it is judged sustainable the crab and lobsters caught here will be given an eco label certifying they are from a sustainable fishery.

This will be good news for the fleet of self-employed fishermen who are out every day throughout the spring and summer in small boats checking their pots identified by coloured flags bobbing in the water that reach down to depths of up to 190 feet.

It’s hard graft winching them all up – some fishermen own hundreds – checking them for size and throwing back any that are too small. They put elastic bands round the vicious claws, re-bait the pots and drop them back again for another day.

Fisherman Sean Baxter checking his pots from the shore

For the fishermen, crab and lobster are a valuable crop though they get nothing like the amount charged by restaurants in Europe where Yorkshire shellfish often ends up.

Yorkshire east coast crab, lobster and langoustines are still so highly regarded that Spanish vivier trucks transport them live across the continent as prizes for the markets and restaurants of Madrid.

Given that the Yorkshire coast is so rich in seafood, fresh local lobster is surprisingly tricky to find on a menu. ‘Too expensive’ say the chefs, who can’t risk being left with any uneaten lobsters if there are no takers.

Whitby’s famous Magpie Cafe

You can find lobster thermidor at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby. Woodlands at Sandsend sometimes serve it as part of a posh fish stew.  But is there anything sweeter than the prime brown crab or North Sea lobster that you’ve cooked yourself? You can buy both, cooked or live from Whitby Seafish in Staithes. Best between April and December

Twelve minutes in a pan of sea water or well-salted tap water and served with mayonnaise, home made if possible, but Hellmanns will do, and some crusty bread – heaven at a fraction of the restaurant price.

Cooks at Carlton Towers

CarltonTea‘Not a Cookery School’, Development Director Elaine Lemm, corrects me: ‘It’s a School of Food’ – the difference being that the courses at Carlton Towers offer far more than cookery lessons. The website explains: ‘Grow, cook, photograph or write about food. Come to bake, butcher, forage, preserve, get back to basics, hone your skills.’

Carlton Towers, if you don’t know it, is the ancestral pile of the Duke of Norfolk. It’s in Carlton, a village between Selby and Goole, and the Gothic palace and its turrets, gargoyles, battlements and clock tower, half English boarding school, half grand country house, is the place the Duke’s brother Lord Gerald Fitzalan Howard and his wife Emma, call home.

Inside it’s just as imposing with yards of ecclesiastical paneling and stained glass, gilded walls and chandeliers. The upstairs is largely given over to weddings, shooting parties and corporate events but you can stay in one of the 16 bedrooms, beautifully designed and furnished by Lady Gerald herself.

Twelve months or so ago Lord and Lady G decided to take downstairs in hand and turned the old kitchen, scullery, dairy and butler’s pantry into a cookery school, sorry School of Food, and they’ve done a cracking job.

Elaine Lemm, Development Director plans the courses, Richard Walton Allen, ex head chef at Harvey Nichols in Leeds, is course director. Together they have put together a series of one day courses: Fiona Sciolti is guest chocolate tutor, Josh Sutton the self-styled Guyrope Gourmet is offering campfire cooking, there’s upmarket barbecuing with Andy Annat and bacon and sausage making with David Lishman of Lishman’s of Ilkley.

My day at Cooks was an afternoon tea master class with Adam Smith, the head chef of the Burlington restaurant at Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey and before that at the Ritz in Piccadilly, where afternoon tea is an institution.

We baked scones, cakes and macaroons and took our breaks in the housekeeper’s sitting room – very English country house with sofas and side tables and a well stocked drinks cupboard. You could easily be tempted to kick off your shoes and settle in with coffee, cake and Mrs Beeton.

But manager Nicola Shann shoos us back to the kitchen and at the end of the day we get to scoff all we have cooked in the genteel surroundings of the ‘Duchesses dining room’, a formal dining room where once upon a time the young Lord Gerald remembers sitting down to tea with his grandparents, the Duke and Duchess.

This of course is the USP of Yorkshire’s newest cookery school. An upstairs/downstairs experience.  Compared to all the curlicues upstairs,  downstairs is boarding school spare. Wide doorways, stone flagged corridors, the cool dairy and the spacious kitchen where they have cleverly (and expensively) combined old and new. State of the art equipment sits alongside mighty cast iron ranges, old shelves house copper pans and antique jelly moulds. Teaching takes place around a huge central island complete with a ‘listed’ pillar through the centre.

Yorkshire has any number of cookery schools, Bettys, Malton, the York Cookery School, the Cooking School at Dean Clough, Swinton Park, Yorkshire Wolds and more. Cooks is a first-rate addition to that list and promises to offer something more. The current list of courses goes up to September so the ‘more than cookery lessons’ is still in development, but watch this space.  Until then, it’s a fine place to work and learn with exemplary objectives; after all, where else can you cook like the servants and dine like a duchess.

Cooks at Carlton Towers, Carlton, Yorkshire DN14 9LZ
T: 01405 861662 W:
Price: Full day tuition with lunch £170. Single or double room with breakfast £95/£125

Aubergine, quinoa, feta and fresh herbs

Aubergine, quinoa, feta and fresh herbs-1-2Serves 4

2 aubergines
cooking salt
olive oil
200g quinoa
2 tbsp pine nuts
100g cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped parsley
150g feta cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to garnish


Preheat oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.

Cut the aubergines lengthways into 1.5cm thick strips and lay on a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 15 minutes. This softens the flesh of the aubergine.

Rinse the aubergine slices well under cold water and pat dry.

Lightly oil a couple of large baking trays and lay the aubergine slices in rows. Dribble with a little olive oil and place in the oven to cook until tender for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile place the quinoa in a pan with twice the volume of water and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer the quinoa until just tender. This usually
takes between 8 and 10 minutes.

Drain the quinoa and place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients.

Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning. If you like, add a few more herbs and feta cheese.

When the aubergine slices are tender and beginning to turn golden brown remove from the oven and spread a tablespoon of quinoa mixture on the top of each aubergine slice.

Return the aubergine slices to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes.


The Little Book of Pies

If you’ve read any of our restaurant reviews or our blog, you’ll know how much we love a good pie. Who doesn’t? So we were delighted to receive a copy of The Little Book of Pies by Marika Gauci (Pub: Square Peg £10).

Marika is an Anglo-Greek, former singer songwriter who chucked in the music industry to train as a cook and worked for a time at the Real Greek in Hoxton. Now she runs a cookery school from her home in Green Lanes, N15 called Marika’s Kitchen, which is big on pie-making classes.

If you are reading this outside London, Yorkshire for instance, we reckon only a pie geek would travel 200 miles for a 4-hour pie class, so this is why you need the Little Book of Pies. It won’t give you the benefit of first hand instruction, but it’s pretty good on technique and unusual fillings.

Marika’s Greek background is apparent in the recipes: lamb, lemon and oregano; Greek fried pies; Mediterranean tartlets and Greek baklava but there are as many British pies too: little porky pies, cheese and onion pasties and steak and Guinness pie.

For me, though, it’s less the filling than the pastry that is my nemesis and her instructions for shortcrust included some good tips: ‘If you need a little more moisture, dip your fingertips in cold water and tap them on to the pastry; this should be enough to bring the dough together.’ And her golden rule about the filling: ‘Cool your pie filling right down.’ Hot filling, she says, makes for soggy pastry.

Porky Pies c Sarah Cuttle

Porky Pies © Sarah Cuttle

And there you have it, the secret to successful pie making, all here for a tenner.
I have a couple of small quibbles. I would have liked a chart telling me how much pastry is needed for different tin sizes and the Chicken Bacon and Leek pie included 40g of Parmesan cheese in the pastry recipe but the method told me to make the shortcrust as per page 17-19, where I couldn’t find any mention of Parmesan, which meant I forgot to add it but, hey, I made a successful chicken pie with a crisp bottom and that’s a first.

If you want to be inspired here’s a clip of Marika making a delicious looking cherry pie:


Food Foraging Day

LobsterWe’ve told you about Sean and Tricia Baxter’s Real Staithes, the walk across the foreshore to learn about the wildlife and industrial heritage. Now we can tell you about a new Food Foraging Day.

Spend the morning with fisherman Sean foraging on the shore collecting samples of edible seaweeds, haul in lobster pots then continue along to the bay of Port Mulgrave where lunch will be served, outside if the weather’s good at their delightfully ramshackled fisherman’s hut. There will be  soup on the campfire followed by a seafood lunch – lobster, crab or other fish with salads, cake and coffee. Veggies are catered for, just let them know.

After lunch it’s time to  learn about your seashore finds. Tricia will identify the seaweeds and explain how to use them and how best to incorporate them into sweet and savoury dishes. She’ll show you how to catch and cook, crab and lobster how to pot mackerel and prepare crab mousse. We promise you, it will be a great day out,

Tuesday 12 August, meet at 10am on Staithes seafront. Price: £50 per head

For more information Real Staithes and to book contact: T: 01947 840278

Lunch in the Pink Shed

To Trinity Leeds and an invitation to lunch at the Pink Shed to launch the Leeds Loves Food & Drink Festival that runs 23rd May-9th June.

What’s the Pink Shed I hear you ask? Nothing more than a shocking pink shipping container that becomes a tiny pop up restaurant with lunch or dinner prepared by a mystery chef for the two weeks of the festival.


Pink shed

Bastilla and salad in the Pink Shed © Steph Hargreaves

It seats just eight and is sited in Trinity Kitchen, the ‘street food’ court at the top of Trinity. If you haven’t been to Trinity Kitchen yet, take a look. Richard Johnson the street food guru put it together with permanent food counters supplemented by a changing roll call of real street food caravans such as Fish & or Manjit’s Kitchen,  that are winched into Trinity every month. It makes it more authentic than most food courts and gives the small food producers a bigger audience, but I’m not entirely convinced that I really want to eat my lunch out of a cardboard box inside a shopping mall, but full tables at lunchtime tell me I’m wrong.

Back at the Pink Shed, our mystery chef turned out to be the charming Kada Bendaha who cooks Middle Eastern and north African food at Café Moor in Leeds’ Kirkgate Market.

We began with khobz, a crispy Lebanese bread, smeared with harissa and topped with  hummus and a good fresh tabouleh. Our main was bastilla, the famous Moroccan pie, traditionally filled with pigeon but here deliciously filled with chicken, saffron, cinnamon and raisins. A salad of beetroot, cucumber, tomato and blackberries added freshness. To finish, what else but sweetly delicious pistachio filled baklava.

It was a delightful feast, cleverly prepared within the constraints of a shipping container which has served it’s purpose of persuading me to go down to Kirkgate Market and sample Café Moor and more of Kada’s middle eastern food.

Other restaurants guesting at the Pink Shed include Friends of Ham, Sunshine Bakery and others. To book a table call 0113 322 6377

Café Moor, Unit B 1904, Kirkgate Market, 34 George Street Leeds





Rhubarb, buttermilk and sweet cicely puddings

Sweet cicely can be found in the herb garden or in hedgerows all over Yorkshire in May and June. Do make sure you identify it correctly. It has been confused with hemlock and cow parsley. The leaves of sweet cicely are bright green and taste sweet which means you can reduce the amount of sugar in cooking.

buttermilk pudding-1 (1)
Makes 4 individual puddings


250ml double cream

250ml buttermilk

30g caster sugar

1 strip of lemon zest

4 gelatine leaves

½ tsp vanilla essence

400g rhubarb

2 tbsp sweet cicely chopped

100g caster sugar


Place cream, buttermilk 30g caster sugar and lemon zest in a pan and warm gently until sugar has dissolved – do not allow the cream to boil. Remove from the heat.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water. After five minutes, squeeze out water and stir into the warm cream mixture.

Stir in the vanilla essence.

Remove the lemon zest from the cream. Pour the flavoured buttermilk and cream into wine glasses or moulds and place in the fridge until set – about 2 hours.

Cut the rhubarb in 1cm pieces, place in a saucepan with the remaining caster sugar and sweet cicely.

Cover and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.

Serve puddings with the rhubarb and scatter with sprigs of sweet cicely on the top.



Chef of Chefs Competition

Adam Smith, the newish and youngish head chef at the Burlington restaurant at the Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, has won first place in the Bocuse d’Or competition, which means he now goes forward to the world championships in 2015.


Adam Smith (3rd from left) receiving his Bocuse D’Or award

This chef of chefs competition was created by the Paul Bocuse,  the famous, three Michelin star French chef, master of classic French cuisine, member of the Legion d’Honneur, etc. etc. and the hautest of them all. He created the competition in 1987 and it is a competition like no other.

Known as the chefs’ Olympics, chefs from all over the world perform in front of a braying audience of 3,000 friends and relatives dressed in national costume – no, really. We’re talking painted flags on faces, giant foam fingers, balloons and Union Jacks – all shouting, banging and screaming while the chefs are required to adhere to an arcane set of rules that involve mega tons of ingredients cooked over a five hour shift to produce ornate dishes and elaborate garnishes presented to the judges on mirrored platters.

We congratulate Smith in getting this far in a competition and
presume he knows what he’s letting himself in for.  His winning dish was ‘a garnish of black leg chicken with Alsace bacon and foie gras, truffled egg, cabbage puree and new season pea mousse, langoustine and celeriac, a leek and cauliflower stack, golden beetroot with wild garlic’  and while it exhausts me just reading it I can see it’s the sort of thing that wins a competition.

My problem is that while we are told that Bocuse d’Or, ‘paves the way for a new culture of gastronomy’,  I have to disagree. IMHO it encourages Adam Smith and far less accomplished chefs in every village gastropub and city restaurant to present us with ever more complicated, over-wrought, fussed-about dishes of costly ingredients in the name of ‘fine dining’. If you watched the recent Restaurant Wars on BBC2, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

All this kind of stuff  is why ‘Squidbeak’ was named, a subversive lift from the graffiti found in the toilet of a fancy restaurant in which a plate of food was derided as ‘squidbeak of a bum’s arse on a bed of bum gravy.’ I once had the expensive misfortune of eating at Copenhagen’s Michelin-starred Geranium, a past winner of the Bocuse d’Or, and it still defines for me the fatuous extreme of food delivered by pipette, with microdots artfully arranged around an outsize plate. Squidbeakissimus.

If you need to learn more about the Bocuse d’Or, google Rachel Cooke’s entertaining evocation of it in Observer Food Monthly in which she calls it as ‘the bastard child of Eurovision and Masterchef with some of the bafflement of It’s a Knockout thrown in’.

Asparagus Patch Soup

asparagus soup-1-2Serves 6  


2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 large onion, chopped

250g floury potato, peeled and cubed

350g asparagus, rinsed

l500ml vegetable stock

1 lemon, juice only

sea salt and black pepper

1 rasher of bacon (optional)



In a large saucepan, sweat the onion in the oil for 10 minutes on a medium heat.

Add the potatoes and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to the boil.

Remove the woody ends from the asparagus.

Roughly chop the asparagus and add to the saucepan.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer the soup for 15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked.

Allow the soup to cool slightly and liquidise. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and add lemon juice to taste.

Grill bacon and chop finely as a garnish for the soup.



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