Sally’s Pasta

It’s always worth a call into the Bear in Todmorden. I popped in this morning for some fabulous Pextenement cheese, which is made within sight of my ‘office’. (Cheesemaker Carl’s niece Hannah used to deliver on a Saturday morning but she morphed into a teenager and unaccountably found better things to do. Boys, drinking, that sort of thing.) Today in the Bear there was a young woman cooking something by the counter and it looked rather good. Turns out it’s ravioli made by Sally Wellock – yes, of the Wellock family, who have been supplying veg since 1961 to some of the most prestigious restaurants up and down the country,



She went to Italy with her dad, sourcing tomatoes, and stayed with a family who one night served up delicious ravioli, which Sally replicated back home in Nelson. It’s very good indeed; light, full off flavour, immensely satisfying. If you’re going to have what we call a slut’s dinner (ready made meal for one) forget Tesco, this is the one. Good to see the youngsters picking up the baton and running with it. There are three varieties on offer; spicy beetroot, pea & mint and wild mushroom, coming to deli near you soon. @sallysPasta

We Want Plates Too!

Recently Jill and I compiled a list of the things that annoy us most about eating out, The No Problem Problem. High on my list is food not served on plates, but slates. Leaving aside the aesthetics of it, the scrape of a fork on slate is akin to nails down a blackboard.

Deconstructed lemon m

On a slate: a deconstructed lemon meringue pie!

It’s clearly an issue that’s hit a nerve; Ross McGinnes from Hebden Bridge launched WeWantPlates which went viral, with the British broadsheets, Good Housekeeping and Huffington Post chipping in. Check it out; there are raspberries on rocks, sausages in pint pots and afternoon teas on step ladders.

One of the chief miscreants was our own Andrew Pern who, in an uncharacteristic failure of taste took to serving bread in a flat cap. Thankfully he’s seen the folly of his ways and it now comes on a log. I know. The image that will stay with me for rather too long though is that of chips arriving in a trainer (in New York). I ask you?

As Jeremy Hardy quipped: what’s added by serving food on a roof tile? About a tenner.


‘Canned’ Red Peppers

'Canned' red peppers


This is an incredibly useful recipe. It is simple to prepare and everyone loves it for lunch with some halloumi or feta cheese and fresh bread to mop up the juices. The prepared peppers have the silky smooth texture of bottled or canned peppers. They can also be served as part of a mezze with humous and labneh.

The recipe is adapted from a gorgeous cook book called Honey & Co by Itamar Srulovich and his wife Sarit Packer and if you get to eat in their cosy London restaurant they do jolly nice cakes too.





2 long peppers

3 sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano

2 cloves fresh garlic (do not use any that is sprouting)

sea salt

2 tbsp fruity olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar (I used sherry vinegar and it was perfect)


Char the peppers over a gas flame or under a grill until black all over.

Leave to cool and then peel the charred skin and remove the seeds.

Do not wash the peppers. You need to preserve the smoky flavour of the charred skin.

Cut the peppers into long strips and place in a bowl.

Peel and slice the garlic and muddle up with the pepper strips.

Add the olive oil, garlic and vinegar. Strip the leaves from thyme or oregano, chop up finely and scatter over the peppers.


Having a Bit of a Do?

It’s always hard to recommend an outside catering company, as you only ever come across them at a wedding  say or a funeral. But we’ve sampled the cooking of Helen Lewis and Sally Duncan – Lewis & Duncan Outside Caterers and trust us, they’re good.


One of Lewis & Duncan’s Asian inspired dishes

Their new website tells you that Sally worked in Hong Kong for years – so you can order Asian inspired dishes like  her rice vermicelli and cabbage salad with almond, coconut dressing and coriander, radish salsa – and Helen is a pastry chef  who will knock up a chocolate torte or a almond and quince tart at the drop of a hat. They do imaginative veggie and vegan dishes too.

We first came across them at Cabra Verde in Peter Lane in York, followed them to the Fulford Arms, and later a dinner to launch their outside catering company and we can confirm that they will never send out cold quiche and curling sandwiches. So when you are next having a bit of do, pick up the phone. Lewis & Duncan Catering 01904 653561/07506 


Roux Scholarship

Just to update you on the Roux Scholarship finals, (see below) which took place on Monday. Sadly Richard Pascoe didn’t win after all, that went to the delightfully named Ian Scaramuzza, head chef from Hibiscus. Congratulations to Ian who wins £6000 and would like to take his stage at the three star Benu in San Francisco. Commiserations to Richard.

Richard editedCongratulations to young chef Richard Pascoe from the Feversham Arms, Helmsley. He’s made it to the national finals of the Roux Scholarship, a prestigious competition for chefs under 30. For the winner it can be life changing as the prize is an all expenses paid, three month stage at any 3 star Michelin restaurant in the world. Chefs then invariably go on to positions in top restaurants.  One past winner is Adam Smith who chose Le Meurice in Paris, then got a job at the Ritz and is now head chefs at the Burlington restaurant  Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey. Good luck to Richard for the finals on 30 March.


Capital of Cake

Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Bake Off, Celebrity Bake Off – everyone’s at it,  baking cake, eating cake or watching other people making cake and now the North York Moors National Park are jumping on the cake stand. They claim there are so many regional cakes in the area that they are calling their patch – the moors and coast – the Capital of Cake.


Cakes made by Tricia Hutchinson of Real Staithes

I don’t know about the capital but Yorkshire does indeed have a long tradition of home baking. In the past it was the cheapest way to fill a hungry family, not with the lemon drizzle or the banoffee pies on the Capital of Cake list, but far plainer cakes: sad cake, fatty cake, suet cake, turf cake and nodden cake, all variations on flour, lard, water and maybe a few currants.


If you are looking for something a bit more indulgent then download the places where you can sample tea and cake from the Capital of Cake list


We can confirm delicious cakes from the link at the Ship Inn, Port Mulgrave; Tricia Hutchinson’s baking at Real Staithes, and the gorgeous find of the Middleton Post Office Tea Parlour, but there are dozens more we haven’t inspected or discovered. We’re on the case.


El Gato Negro Tapas Rises

We were sad to say goodbye to Simon Shaw; his Ripponden restaurant, El Gato
Negro had been thrilling us for a decade – it was hard to find more authentic
tapas anywhere in the country (and parts of Spain, as I found out on one
Mallorcan holiday. Long story.)

El_Gato_Negro_TapasGreat news though is that he’s finally found the
location for the new incarnation, soon to be reborn on King Street in
Manchester’s Spinningfields. I know it’s over there but but it’s got to be worth
running the gauntlet of the border guards for his terrific take on fabada,
croquetas and tortillas. Hasta luego!


Yorkshire Rhubarb

Yorkshire rhubarb

There’s nothing else like it in agriculture – the low wooden forcing sheds of Yorkshire’s rhubarb producers are quiet, warm and dark. As far as the eye can see, there are slender pink stalks topped with curly yellow leaves. Workers pick by candlelight – harsh light would cause the stalks to lose their colour. Caterpillars brought in on the roots are fooled into thinking it’s spring and hatch into butterflies to flutter around in the ethereal glow. Listen carefully and you can even hear the rhubarb growing. The tissue-like membrane that wraps around the leaves, a bit like a daffodil, pops when it unfurls.

These rhubarb sheds and the dozen or so farms that make up the rhubarb triangle between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield are all that remain of a once thriving industry that began around a hundred and fifty years ago when miners from the West Riding pit villages growing a few spuds in their allotment would also sport a few sticks of ‘tusky’ -  rhubarb grown under an old bucket to keep it pink and tender.

From these small beginnings developed Europe’s biggest forced rhubarb industry. The miners began by splitting a few roots, acquiring some land and building forcing sheds. Surprisingly, the unpromising setting of industrial West Yorkshire proved to be ideal rhubarb country. The night soil from thousands of privies and waste from local shoddy mills was used to fertilise the soil and provided just the right conditions the roots needed. In December they would be dug from the cold wet soil and transferred to the forcing sheds where devoid of food and light they would be watered and kept at  a constant 60°F by the coal that was available and cheap.

By the 1920s there were over 200 rhubarb growers in the ‘pink patch’, an eight-mile stretch between Leeds and Wakefield. A farm might grow up to 90 tons a year and a rhubarb train ran regularly from Leeds to Kings Cross. But devastated by cheap imports from Holland and usurped by fashionable fruits from across the world, the rhubarb trade declined after the war. The number of growers dwindled and the last rhubarb train left Leeds in 1966.

But some growers, like Janet Oldroyd at Hopefield Farm and David Westwood at Thorpe Farm near Wakefield kept the faith and despite the decline in demand and rising fuel prices, they battled on. Then a few years ago chefs began to rediscover the unloved stalk, Delia cooked with it and we all started buying, cooking and loving rhubarb again.

There are still only a dozen Yorkshire growers today, but sales have recovered and the Oldroyds say they can sell all they produce which has climbed from 300 tons a decade ago to 1000 tons of indoor and outdoor rhubarb today.

Rhubarb and pannacotta at the Bruce Arms

Janet Oldroyd has done much to champion rhubarb. She is a leading light in the annual Yorkshire Rhubarb Festival and runs tours of the forcing sheds and in 2010 was instrumental in gaining Protected Designation of Origin  (PDO) for Yorkshire rhubarb which means that only rhubarb grown in the rhubarb triangle can be called Yorkshire rhubarb.

There are lots of  Yorkshire restaurants serving Yorkshire forced rhubarb during the November to March season, but these restaurants have long championed the stuff. The General Tarleton, The Star Inn at Harome, Melton’s, The Fox & Hounds, The Bruce Arms.

Lord Stones Country Park

The Lord Stones, three standing stones on a Bronze Age mound high up on the moors between Chop Gate and Carlton in Cleveland has long been a favourite area for bikers, walkers, cyclists, horse riders, even hang gliders.

Chop GateNot only are there a network of footpaths and bridleways that cross the Cleveland Way, the Coast to Coast and the Lyke Wake Walk, but the views are breathtaking. On a clear day you can see to Roseberry Topping and the skyscape of Middlesbrough.

Until recently the Lord Stones café was owned and run by the colourful John Simpson who doled out sausage and beans to appreciative travellers, but the rigors of this remote spot and a falling out with some of the bikers led him to sell up to his neighbour John Reeve, owner of the adjoining Urra Estate where he operates a pheasant and partridge shoot and rears belted Galloway cattle.

Lord Stones ExtReeves has developed the site into what is now the Lord Stones Country Park. They’ve spent a shed-load, practically rebuilding the whole shebang and it’s looking pretty spruce with a shop, an all-day café and a restaurant and it’s now a cracking place to stay.

They’ve got a regular camp-site but the appeal for non-campers like me are the five cosy wooden camping pods each with its own loo, sink and wood burning stove. OK so you have to cross the yard for the  ‘his’ and ‘hers’ shower block (you didn’t think there were ensuite showers did you? Come on you have at least to pretend this is camping) with bags of hot water heated from the bio-mass boiler. Then you can sit on your own verandah with a picnic or an aperitif of beer and crisps from the shop that also stocks bread, cheese, chocolate, lots of Yorkshire produce and the farm’s fresh belted Galloway beef to take home.

Lord Stones podFor meals it’s a mere stroll to the café/restaurant where they serve all day (and evening) – soup, sandwiches, snacks, cakes and a lovely beef and ale pie, but their big thing is steak from those rare breed cattle cooked on a state of the art charcoal grill. After that it’s just a short stagger back to your tent or your pod.  Me? Forget a night under the stars I’ll be tucked up warm and dry in my hand-built, insulated pod. Now that’s what I call camping.

Open every day 9am-9pm Bookings 01642 778482

Lordstones Country Park

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