The Ultimate Christmas Cheeseboard

Squidbeak have long flown the flag for the wonderful Courtyard Dairy in Settle. Andy and Kathy Swinscoe opened their specialist cheese shop in 2012 and have since picked up every cheese award going: Best Cheese Retailer at the 2013 British Cheese Awards; Cheesemonger of the Year at the World Cheese Awards 2013 oh and more.

Now they are stocking up on their Christmas cheeses. Have a browse of their website where Andy explains how to put together a memorable Christmas cheeseboard.

StOswald lgeYou could take his suggestions for a British and Irish cheeseboard with Old Winchester: a Cheddar/Gouda cross made in the New Forest; Killeen, a goats’ milk cheese from Ireland and the soft, Brie-like St Oswald from the Cotswolds, For blue, Andy suggests Cote Hill  Blue from Lincolnshire and Anster from Anstruther in Fife, to go with the Christmas cake.

My choice would be a beautiful Vacherin Mont D’Or, the fabulous, runny cheese that comes in a spruce bark box and is only available in winter; Richard III Wensleydale  or a buttery Lancashire like Mrs Kirkham’s. For blue, I’ll be going for the nutty, unpasteurised Stichelton.

The Courtyard Dairy are offering 10% discount to all Squidbeak readers for orders placed before 8th December. And for anyone spending more than £25 they will include free chutney and crackers.

When ordering, write on the Special Instructions: SQUIDBEAK SUBSCRIBER.


Baked plums with elderberry honey and almond crackle

Another lovely but simple dish from our recipe writer Joan Ransley who made this after visiting and collecting plums at the Church Orchard, Addingham. You can read more about the orchard in Joan’s article in the Yorkshire Post.

If you can’t get hold of elderberries you can substitute blueberries.

Baked plums

Serves 6


6 large plums, cut in half stone removed

2 tbsp runny honey

Berries from 1-2 elderberry droops, washed

2-3 tbsp almond crackle*


Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 6. Place the plums cut side up on a baking tray or bun tin. Place the honey in a small bowl. Remove the elderberries from their stalks and place in a metal sieve or tea strainer. Crush the berries with a metal spoon and allow the juice to drip into the honey. Stir the honey and elderberry juice together well and dribble over the tray of cut plums. Place in the oven for 10 minutes and cook the plums until they are soft and their juice bubbles from the skins. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with crushed almond crackle* (see recipe below). Serve hot with vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt.

To make almond crackle….


80g almonds

150g caster sugar


Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 6. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and roast in a hot oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Remove and allow to cool.

Place 3 tablespoons of water and the caster sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and swirl together. It is important not to stir the sugar and water.

Gently heat the sugar and water until they reach a simmer – continue to swirl every now and then.

Simmer for about 10 minutes until the solution begins to change to a golden colour.

At this point pour over the tray of cooled almonds and allow the sugar solution to set a little before placing the tray of almonds in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden.

Remove almonds from the freezer when the sugar is solid and brittle.

Crush the almonds and hardened sugar into shards and use to scatter over puddings, in crumbles or just to nibble. A really useful addition to lots of sweet things.




Michelin out today

PernThe UK Michelin Guide is out today and the big news for Yorkshire is the Star at Harome winning back its star. We’ve always rated them and we’re glad to see them back in the Michelin club.  Congratulations to Andrew Pern and his team.

All the rest of the Michelin starred restaurants in Yorkshire have retained their gongs, that’s the Pipe and Glass, South Dalton, the Box Tree in Ilkley, the Black Swan at Oldstead, the Old Vicarage, Sheffield, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill.

As well as stars, Michelin also award Bib Gourmands for a decent meal under £30 and this year have given one to our long time favourite, Le Langhe in York.

If you want to study the full list go to Elizabeth Auerbach’s brilliant site for all things Michelin

Congratulations to all star holders and to all the other fabulous Yorkshire restaurants and chefs who didn’t get a star. To be honest, we don’t care, we know that all the places on Squidbeak are worth a detour.

The Good Food Guide in Yorkshire

GFG coverThe Good Food Guide’s out today, now under the auspices of Waitrose, so you should be able to pick up a copy in your local store.

Yorkshire restaurants as ever gets a good show with more than 65 entries and top marks going to the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill, the Box Tree at Ilkley and Van Zeller’s in Harrogate with an impressive 6/10. The Burlington at Devonshire Arms comes in a touch lower at 5/10 presumably because new chef Adam Smith is still finding his feet.

Other 5’s include the Fox and Hounds at Goldsborough, the Star Inn at Harome, Samuel’s at Swinton Park, Vennell’s in Masham, the Pipe & Glass at South Dalton, and Le Langhe and Melton’s both in York.

Congratulations to all the new entries: The Buck Inn at Maunby, the Broadfield Ale House in Sheffield, the Grapes at Slingsby, the Park at Sutton on Forest where Adam Jackson popped up after serving time at the Black Swan at Oldstead and York’s big new opening, the Star Inn the City. Special congratulations to the Spiced Pear at Holmfirth where Tim Bilton and his team also picked up the Readers’ Restaurant of the Year award for the north east.

If you think these scores sound on the low side, think again. Only three restaurants in this year’s guide scored a perfect 10/10 L’Enclume, The Fat Duck and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Four restaurants score 9/10  and a handful 8/10 and 7/10.

A score of 6/10 according to the Guide means: ‘exemplary cooking skills, innovative ideas, impeccable ingredients and an element of excitement’.

While 5/10 means: ‘exact cooking techniques and a degree of ambition; showing balance and depth of flavour in dishes’.

So if you agree or disagree with these entries and their scores, have found somewhere good or better, let them know. The GFG hold great store by readers’ responses. To do so, log on to, and tell them what you think. But make sure you tell us first.

Good Food Guide’s Top Pubs

Pipe and GlassOnly one Yorkshire restaurant has made into the ‘Top 50′, in the new 2015 Waitrose Good Food Guide out on Monday and that’s the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill. Our congratulations to Frances Atkins.

Today, the guide listed for the first time their ‘Top 50′ pubs. Number one is not in Yorkshire, but the Freemason’s Arms is not far away,  just over the border in Wiswell, Lancashire. Second is the Hand and Flowers in Bucks and third is the Red Lion at East Chisenbury, Wiltshire. Yorkshire did OK though with five pubs on the list. Yorkshire and nearby counties are rated as follows:

6          The Pipe and Glass at South Dalton [picture]

14       The Star Inn at Harome

20       The Broad Chare, Newcastle

31       The White Hart, Lydgate, Oldham

32       The General Tarleton, Knaresborough

36       The Bay Horse, Hurworth on Tees

41       The Star at Sancton

42      The Black Swan at Oldstead


Edible Couture

TWe thought you’d like to see this amazing edible sculpture made especially for this year’s Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor race meeting in York.

Ebor Meeting vege lady and jockey for Jennifer Middleton. pic aug 20 2014Royal Opera House set designer Caitlin Jones, fashion graduate Charlotte Miles, milliner Hannah Wyatt and Jennifer Middleton from LemonZest PR have created the figures made entirely out of fruit, veg, with herbs and flowers supplied by Alison Dodds from the wonderful Herbs Unlimited near Thirsk.


We love the savoy and red cabbage skirt, the radish necklace and  Yorkshire pudding hat and handbag, which were baked by the team at York Racecourse Hospitality to showcase Yorkshire produce. Clever lot.


York Food Festival



Ticket’s are now on sale for Yorkshire’s biggest food festival.

The York Food Festival runs from 19 September for ten days. This year’s theme is ‘good food in diverse locations’, these include dinner in the Treasurers House, a St Emillion lunch in the Mansion House, a wine tasting with the Three Wine Men – Olly Smith, Oz Clarke, and Tim Atkins -  in the grounds of York Minster.  Sister Agatha and Sister Ann will cook at the Bar Convent and you can learn about harvesting and preserving on a tour of Middlethorpe Hall’s garden.

There’s loads of stuff to see and do and eat. If you haven’t explored York’s glorious historic pubs, then you need to join the Festival ale trail. The Taste Trail is a way of sampling the food of local suppliers.  Dine at my Table takes you into the homes of talented cooks like Becky Spink former head chef at Ottolenghi or Les Bons Vivants the French inspired supper club.

There are cookery sessions, at the York Cooking Rooms, the Mansion House, the Castle Museum and the Guildhall, or you can sit back and let the chefs do the work at demos. throughout the Festival. Our plan is to pick out the best street food at the enormous Festival market in Parliament Street, hunt down the Champagne tent and settle in for an indulgent lunch. Study the website and book your tickets now.



Blackcurrant, Pistachio and Verbena Tartlets

We are at the end of the blackcurrant season but if you can lay your hands on some (you could use frozen), you might try combining them with the fragrant, citrus flavour of lemon verbena. If blackcurrants are finished, you could use blackberries or blueberries.

Lemon verbena is a beautiful herb which grows well in the UK. It thrives so long as it is protected it from any hard winter frosts. I use the small, vivid green sword shaped leaves for three things: I grind them with granulated sugar to make a bright green sherbet which I sprinkle on summer fruit; I douse it in boiling water to make a refreshing tisane and, like my friends in Australia I dry the leaves and place in a bowl to keep the air in the house smelling clean and fresh. If you can’t get hold of lemon verbena, you could use mint.

Makes 10 tartlets

Balckcurrant & lemon verbena tarts-1-7

For the sweet pastry:


165g plain flour

50g icing sugar

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

pinch of salt

90g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 small egg yolk

1 – 3 tbsp cold water

Mascarpone cream


100g mascarpone cheese

100g crème fraîche

½ tsp vanilla essence

zest from half a lemon

10 – 20g icing sugar



100g blackcurrants – fresh or frozen

50g raspberries

3 tbsp apricot jam

small bunch of lemon verbena leaves (or mint)

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp toasted pistachio nuts, chopped finely

a few elderfowers to decorate but lavender would be lovely too


Place the flour, icing sugar, lemon zest, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the ingredients until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and process until the mixture starts to come together (about 20 seconds).  Empty the contents of the food processor bowl onto a cold surface and bring the pastry together with your hands, kneading it gently to form a ball. Cover in Clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for half an hour.

To make the tartlet cases

Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas mark 2.

Tartlet-casesRoll the pastry as thin as you dare – 3 or 4mm is perfect. Cut circles of pastry with a pastry cutter. Place each circle of pastry in a buttered tartlet tins approximately 6 cm in diameter and 3 – 4 cm deep and line with a circle of silicone paper (muffin cases work well here) and fill with baking beans. Allow the tarts to rest in the fridge for a further ten minutes, if you have time. Remove from the fridge and bake the tarts for about 25 minutes or until they begin to brown slightly. Remove from the oven and cool.

For the mascarpone cream

Place the mascarpone cheese, crème fraîche, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl and loosen with a whisk and then beat, as you would double cream, until it thickens.

For the blackcurrant filling

pastry-cutterPlace the blackcurrants and raspberries in a small saucepan with a couple of teaspoons of water and a tiny sprinkle of sugar. Heat the blackcurrants and raspberries  gently until they just begin to soften.

Place the apricot jam and two teaspoons of water in a small bowl and heat in a microwave for 10 seconds to liquefy. Grind the lemon verbena leaves with the granulated sugar and allow to dry for a few minutes in the warm air of the kitchen.

 To assemble the tarts

Three quarter fill each cooked and cooled tartlet with mascarpone cream. Top with the cooked blackcurrants and raspberries and brush with a little apricot jam glaze. Sprinkle with a little lemon verbena sugar. I tried to create a halo around the edge of the tartlet but I was not quite skilled enough to pull that off. Scatter with a few toasted pistachio nuts and some edible flowers, such as violas, marigold (petals) or nasturtiums.


If you have any tartlets left over you can freeze to use later. They will last for a couple of months in the freezer or a week in an air tight container.




Fruit Syrups

I have just been out running and noticed all the elderberries are now ripe and the apples are beginning to fall to the ground so here are recipes for two lovely seasonal syrups and ideas on how you might use them.

Elderberry syrup

Elderberry syrup

This syrup is the colour of deep red venous blood. A dribble of this viscous syrup looks regal and elevates a plain meringue or cake based pudding into an eye catching creations. It is cooks best friend in the dark winter months when raspberries and strawberries are too expensive and out of season to use to make coulis or sauces.

Makes about 750ml (3 small bottles)


1 plastic carrier bag of elderberries

550g granulated sugar


Rinse elderberries in cold water and remove from their stalks. Place the elderberries in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Simmer for 10 minutes and mash with a flat headed potato masher. Strain the cooked elderberries through muslin or straining bag and make sure to extract every last drop of juice. Add 500g of granulated sugar to each 500ml of juice and bring to the boil and then lower the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Allow the elderberry liquor to cool, and bottle in sterilised glass bottles.

Apple syrup

This recipe is a brilliant use of windfalls that might otherwise be discarded. The syrup can be used in apple sauces to team up with pork, diluted with carbonated mineral water and made into a spritzer or added to puddings and winter fruit salads. This is a lovely semi sweet syrup with bags of flavour. You will need a juicer or and apple press to extract the juice form the apples.

Makes about 250ml (1 small bottle)


1kg eating apples


Juice the apples. Place the juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer the juice for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and removing any scum that forms. Reduce the liquid to about a third of its original volume. Leave to cool slightly before storing in a bottle or airtight container in the fridge.



Art Gallery Dining

The scaffolding and shrouds covering York Art Gallery are hiding an £8 million redevelopment which will see a new improved gallery opening in 2015. In the meantime they are calling for tenders for the Gallery Café that looks out onto Exhibition Square and for a new café/restaurant in Museum Gardens which currently has 1.7m visitors a year.

Yorks museum

Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens, York

It sounds to us like a great opportunity for Yorkshire restaurateurs to get in there and bring something new and innovative to museum/gallery dining along  the lines of the National Portrait Gallery restaurant, Sotheby’s Cafe and the Ashmolean Dining Room in Oxford.


They are seeking tenders too for the Castle Museum Café and the Hospitium, a beautiful half timbered building in Museum Gardens used for weddings and corporate event. So if you or anyone you know might be interested, they should submit their expression of interest by 8th August. or contact

Squidbeak Blog

© Copyright SquidBeak 2012 Contact usDisclaimerPrivacy PolicyMaraid Design