Pink Lady Food Photography

From time to time our chum Joan Ransley contributes to Squidbeak with a delicious recipe accompanied by one of her fabulous photos; she’s largely self-taught so is obviously brimming over with natural talent. It’s not just us that thinks so; she’s won several awards for her food photography including 3rd prize in this years Pink Lady competition. I’ve never asked her how it had all come about – so I did! This is what she said.

‘As a food writer I often found myself short of photographs of food for the
features I was working on. Filing photographs with my recipes and food stories made my work more saleable. So I bought a DSLR camera, read the instruction book, went on photography course and within six months I was beginning to take really good photographs. In 2013 the Gallery on the Green in Settle (housed in an old red telephone box) asked me to mount an exhibition of Yorkshire food using the images I had taken for my recipe features published in the Yorkshire Post. It was a great success and helped me to believe in my work.

pizza van


The following year I sent my first entries into the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year never thinking for a moment I would make it to the finals. My image ‘Let’s Scarper’ showing a gaggle of geese running into the woods and was awarded a third place. In 2015 I made it to the finals again with ‘Bonfire apples’ which was awarded a 2nd place and this year ‘Late night Artisan Pizza van’ picked up a 3rd prize. Having success in the competition has been a great boost to my work’. We’re very proud of Joan and we love her work – take a look, you will too.

International Wine Challenge

Earlier this month the Yorkshire Post’s wine writer Christine Austin invited readers to compete for a place as her apprentice at the prestigious International Wine Challenge.  We were delighted when Squidbeak’s wine writer Helen Scott, won the place. Now read on…


Christine Austin and Helen Scott


OK, so I think I know a bit about wine. In the past, I’ve got to the final of a couple of wine tasting competitions.

I’m also a wine nerd, and read wine columns and websites, including Christine Austin’s weekly page in the Yorkshire Post. Every year Christine, who is a panel chair for the world’s biggest wine competition, the International Wine Challenge, offers the chance to become her apprentice for a day. Could I dare to put my skills to the test in front of the wine professionals?

Reader, I won, and with thumping heart joined Christine to taste – and judge – over 90 wines. No sipping, just smelling and spitting and applying a range of marks to each wine. You then reveal your marks to the panel chair, taking it in turns to go first. Thankfully, Christine is not Sir Alan, taking apart his apprentices. Her skills and knowledge are impressive, and she’s firm. If there’s any doubt about a wine going through to the next stage, it’s tasted again. My marks held up, and I don’t think I was wildly out on any wine, but boy, did it show me how much more there is to learn.

An afternoon alongside Oz Clarke, one of the competition’s co-chairs (senior judges), confirmed this. Tannin in the wrong part of the mouth – a clumsy wine. Bubbles (in a still wine) at the side of the glass shows there’s still some yeast activity, not always a good thing. And so on.

What did we taste? Champagne, made with pinot noir grapes (yes please) and my personal nemesis was probably a flight of South American reds from Brazil and Mexico. Via Ozzie chardonnays, riojas and lesser known Italian whites. But all blind. The wines we put through will all be tasted again in the second round.

The winners, announced next month, will be entitled to have that little medal sticker on the bottle which persuades us to buy them. A lot at stake. And for me, as I now want to see if I can join the judging panels in my own right next year. Just go to pass a few wine exams first.


Iberica comes to Leeds


As Squidbeak’s sometime associate who writes about wine, it’s sometimes tricky to recommend places with an exceptional wine list where you can go enjoy the vino without having a full meal.

Lucky then to be invited to the soft opening of Iberica in Leeds, the latest outpost of a group which has a small number of places in London, and one in Manchester.

Dedicatedly Spanish in food, wine and décor, you can have the full Monty, tapas or just a glass with some bespoke ham or cheese. The sherry list (yes, I’m a sherry aficionado) runs to 12 different choices and is far from your warm cream sherry at Christmas as it’s possible to get. Oak aged fino, nicely chilled with some green olives? Yes, please. Similarly, the list also features a range of Cava and cider from Asturias. And for the non-Spanish minded, a range of cocktails.

But it’s the wine list where the glories lie. Grouped according to wine style with good tasting notes, the range strides across Spain from £5 a glass to Pingus, from Ribeiro del Duero, at £166 a glass.

We asked for our bottle of red from Mencia (fruity and light) to be chilled, to go with the glorious tapas they were bringing out, and not an eyebrow was raised.

Jill and Mandy will be reporting on the food when it’s fully open. But it matched the wine perfectly.

Iberica, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds, LS1 2BH

New to our Top Ten

Last year we nominated Paul Jackson’s Dexter beef tartare as our dish of the year. This week we went back just to make sure and can confirm it’s as good as ever, and just one of four superb dishes in their four course tasting menu which projects the Hare at Scawton straight into our Squidbeak Top Ten.


Beef Tartare at the Hare Inn at Scawton

Regular readers will know that our name Squidbeak came about through graffiti seen in a swanky restaurant describing a pretentious meal: ‘Squidbeak of a bum arse on a bed of bum gravy’. It sums up our aversion to overpriced, gussied-up food. So lengthy tasting menus, miniature portions and dots, dashes and smears on the plate are not our style. That doesn’t mean we don’t recognise creative cooking and clever flavour combinations as well as a dash of showmanship all of which Paul Jackson is bringing to the Hare.

It was a brave decision for a remote country pub to dump the a la carte for three, no-choice tasting menus (£30, £45 and £60, a full vegetarian and pescatarian menu and a great value £15 wine flight) but Liz and Paul Jackson have stuck to their vision and we think they’ve nailed it.


Top Chef Pops Up

Chris Hill, who runs Latitude, one of Yorkshire’s best independent wine merchants, knows more than a thing or two about matching food and wine.

To put it to the test, he persuaded chef Richard Walton Allen, ex Harvey Nick’s in Leeds, to return to the stoves. Chris challenged Richard to create a menu round six wine choices.


Latitude Tasting Room at Duke Studios

And so, the Latitude Tasting Room was born. It popped up for the first time at Duke Studios in Leeds showing wines from New Zealand, Spain, Italy and France – with Richard on top form running the gamut of lovely Yorkshire produce. No sipping and spitting here, just great food, interesting vino and a lot of fun

Swaledale blue cheese with beetroot, fennel and truffled honey was kissed by a complex Tuscan Vermentino from Antoni Camillo. Chorizo, razor clams, bitter leaves and blood orange more than stood up to a rich new wave Rioja from Beronia, showing spice and red fruit.

Pièce de résistance was seven hour cooked beef cheek and tail with shallots and parsnip puree, so soft and unctuous you could have eaten it with a spoon, matched with a Boutinot Côtes-du-Rhone Villages from the village of Cairanne, called Le Côte Sauvage. As Chris put it, some weird alchemy occurs when this wild wine is paired with slow cooked meat. Yep, we loved it.

The next Latitude Tasting Room will be at the Leeds Indie Food Festival in May. Can’t wait.

And the wines:

Latitude wines


Pern & Johns Link Up

Breaking news: Richard Johns (Falcon Inn, Withernwick) and Andrew Pern (chef/prop. of the Star Inn and Star Inn the City) are linking up for a new venture in York. We’ve long been fans of chef Richard and Lindsey Johns ever since their days at Artisan in Hessle.

Richard and Lindsey Johns

Richard and Lindsey Johns

They closed there in 2013 feeling they had taken the restaurant as far as they could as a two-person operation. After a break to recharge, they surprised us all by opening at the Falcon Inn in Withernwick, 15 miles from Beverley in the far reaches of east Yorkshire, so it was a surprise to hear from Richard that ‘due to circumstances we do not control there is no long term future here’.

The couple are relocating to York in mid May to ‘work on a new project with Andrew Pern’. The location of Andrew’s new venture is still under wraps until negotiations are complete but we will keep you posted.

While the Johns’ move is a loss for East Yorkshire it’s good news for York.  We wish them all the very best of luck.

The Black Swan at Lockwoods

Tommy_Banks LockwoodsAn invitation for dinner at Lockwoods of Ripon cooked by Tommy Banks from the Michelin starred Black Swan at Oldstead, was too good to miss.

It turns out that Tommy Banks and Matthew Lockwood are old mates. They cooked up the idea for this one-off  ‘pop-up’ dinner after a few years of  catering for the Black Swan’s staff Christmas party. ‘We put out a big rib of beef and a pile of chips and they’re happy’ says Matthew. ‘So Tommy owed you one’ I suggested.

I can only speculate there might have been a moment of regret on Tommy Banks’ part. More used to doing 30 covers a night in his own kitchen here he was carting over to Ripon ingredients, equipment, chefs, putting on six courses for 60 guests. But it ran like clockwork, the Lockwood team doing a grand job front of house: quietly efficient without over-fussing.

It was six courses with wines to match showing Tommy Banks at the height of his talent. Clever snacks, a dish of delicate cod and mussels and my best dish: lamb or rather hogget served with hispi cabbage, fermented turnip, Jerusalem artichoke and cauliflower puree – you had to be there.


Rhubarb Schnapps

There followed their signature three lollipops: meadowsweet, curry leaf and hazelnut and then an elegant dessert of rhubarb and cream infused with rosemary and honey.  The wine flight gave us a sparkling Cremant du Jura, an unusual wild ferment Assyrtiko Gaia from Santorini, a Mount Jefferson Pinot Noir from Oregon and finally a Barbie pink rhubarb and rosemary schnapps.

Thank you for a terrific evening and congratulations to all.




Keelham Farm Shop

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get to the Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton. I pass it often enough. Maybe I needed a reason. The other day I had one – my neighbour Mel, just back from Iceland, was raving about Skyr yogurt. My interest was piqued, and it turns out that a rather fetching farmer, Sam Moorhouse makes it at Hesper Farm, just down the road, and he sells it at Keelham. So I called in with a shopping list which featured mostly Blueberry Skyr. ebay pubs 007

On a grim, drizzly February Friday the (huge) car park was full. Inside was rammed too, including the restaurant and the cafe on the mezzanine level. They’re obviously doing something right. It’s an aircraft hangar of a space and chock-a-block with almost exclusively Yorkshire made/caught/grown products – name it and it’s on a shelf/under a chiller. There’s a butcher, baker and yep, you’re ahead of me. Great goods, nicely laid out – everything you need and a lot of stuff you don’t, but find hard to resist. I scored my Skyr (it’s divine btw) a couple of chunks of brownie, some chia seeds and a bag of porridge oats and somehow didn’t get much change from 20 quid – but a restorative lunch at the White Lion at Cray re-balanced me nicely.

Keelham Farm Shop, 21 Gargrave Road, Skipton BD23 1UD Open 7 days a week 8 til 8 (Sunday 10 – 4)



On The Grid

Perky Peacock 01Our friends at Maraid, (the people who designed our website) introduced us to On The Grid,  a great website for travellers.  It was created by a New York design company for their own neighbourhood and then  opened it up to designers all over the world to share  ‘exceptional places’ in their city. By exceptional they mean cool shops, good restaurants, coffee stops, museums, the sort of places you look for when visiting a new city. Jane and Richard at Maraid have created the site for York. Stunningly photographed and with great places to go, (including one of our favourite places, the Perky Peacock above) we love it.  Take a look, then explore all the other cities around the world.







Courtyard Dairy

At the weekend, seven of us, friends and neighbours, travelled up Ribblesdale for a cheese tasting expedition to Andy Swinscoe’s superb cheese shop at the Courtyard Dairy on the A65 just south of Settle.

Mandy reported on the opening in 2013 and since then Andy and Kathy have gone from strength to strength, picking up a swathe of awards along the way. Simply, it is one of the best cheese counters in Britain.


Andy Swinscoe of the Courtyard Dairy, Settle


This is no surprise when you see the wonderful cave, carved out of a farm and barn conversion; a cool and tiny, windowless shop, packed with 30 farmhouse cheeses, many of them unpasteurised, hand picked, nurtured and matured by Andy. Yes, 30 not 130. Quality before quantity. You need an almighty turnover to keep 130 cheeses in peak condition.

A self-confessed cheese nerd, Andy took us through a tasting of a dozen or so cheeses, with the stories behind them. We sampled two of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashires made only a day apart but with subtle differences in flavour; Michael Thomson’s Young Buck, a gentle blue cheese from Northern Ireland; the buttery Hafod Welsh cheddar; and Dale End and Moorland Tomme made at Botton Village on the North York Moors.



You can order online but better still take a trip to Settle. Elsewhere in the Courtyard is a little brasserie, biodynamic wine, a gallery, furniture and Abraham Moon’s Yorkshire tweed.  Or with a selection of lovely artisan cheeses in your basket, do as we did and explore the winding back roads through limestone country, dropping into Wharfedale for lunch on rabbit pie at the Craven Arms in Appletreewick. Sorted.


The Courtyard Dairy, The Courtyard, Cleatop, A65, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 9JY
Telephone: 01729 892 902 Email: Website:


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