Istanbul Eats

Istanbul EatsPickle juice anyone? Ugur, our guide on a foodie walk round Istanbul, swears by it.

The pink, salty, acid liquid, which has been used to make Turkey’s famous pickled fruit and vegetables is a favourite drink, and is credited with magical, medicinal properties. It proved to be the only nemesis in a day spent tasting everything from sherbets to sheep heart in Istanbul’s lesser known districts.

Istanbul Eats, a food website, is to Istanbul what Squidbeak is to Yorkshire. Set up by two enterprising friends it has its finger on the pulse of everything foodie, and the culinary walks are its latest offering.
We were warned to come hungry as the tour began with breakfast in Beşiktaş, sampling menemen, Turkish style scrambled eggs, and bal kaymak, clotted cream blanketed in honey.

The odyssey continued via an Ottoman era bakery for borek, and onto the ferry across the Bosphorus to the market at Üsküdar, where a more traditional food culture is preserved. We sampled honey from Eastern Turkey, olives which the Turkish only eat for breakfast (who knew?) sweets, cheese, summer halva made from walnuts not sesame, seasonal cherries and sour plums, and bought spices which cost a fraction of the same purchased from the Ottolenghi website.

In all the walk has around 13 stops, with gentle walking and enough time to enjoy the grazing without getting stuffed. Ugur was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and happy to go off piste to pursue particular tastes. He ended our day with a surprise picnic wine tasting on the banks of the Bosphorus, to show off wine made from indigenous grapes.
Highly recommended.

Scallops with lemon, mint & sea spaghetti

Scallops mint lemon sea spaghetti-5

Sea spaghetti has been described as mild crunchy and moreish. The young shoots are very good to eat and taste rather like salty asparagus. It’s one of the latest sea vegetables to appear on supermarket shelves and fishmonger’s counters. You see it coiled, rather beautifully, like long thin shoe laces waiting to be threaded. For those of you who live close to me in Ilkley I bought mine at Ramus Seafood Emporium.

Sea vegetables have become interesting to chefs recently appearing on menus at some of the best restaurants. Samuel and Samantha Clark of Moro, add seaweeds to salads and rice. “We try to be very seasonal, so it’s a great way, in these slightly barren months of winter, to add a little colour and texture,” says Samuel. They recommend crumbling dried, toasted sea spaghetti over paella, and is a fan of fresh or rehydrated sea lettuce in seafood salads: “It gives a lovely sort of iodine-y, sea taste which is really pretty unique.” (Quote from the Guardian)

This long, stringy sea vegetable is also known as thongweed or buttonweed and grows up to three meters. It forms dense mats near the shore. It is found around the British Isles but also the east Atlantic countries from Portugal to Norway.

Nutritionally it is interesting. A rich source of minerals including iodine, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium and phosphorous. It is of course high in sodium too – hence it’s salty taste. It also contains vitamin C, the B group vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids and phenolics which all have healthful bioactive roles in the body. So it is a nutrient rich food.

I have used the sea spaghetti with a lovely recipe adapted from Russel Norman’s book ‘Polpo’. If you can get really fresh scallops give it a go either with or without the sea spaghetti.

The combination of mint and lemon is lovely with scallops and very quick to make. If you are not on a beach holiday now it will certainly remind you of one.

Scallops with lemon, mint and sea spaghetti

Just a note – the sea spaghetti can be quite salty so no need to add salt to the scallops. It can be added later if anyone wants it.

Serves 4 for as a starter


  • 4 scallops, cleaned and free from grit and sand
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 25 g (a small handful) sea spaghetti, washed in plenty of cold water to remove some of the saltiness


Trickle the olive oil into a large frying pan and heat gently. Place the garlic in the oil and fry gently until it just begins to brown. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard.

Dribble half of the lemon juice in the pan and add the shreds of mint. Increase the heat under the pan and add the scallops. Cook for 4 – 5 minutes.

While the scallops are cooking, plunge the sea spaghetti in a small pan of boiling water for 2 minutes to heat through.

Place the scallops on a scallop shell if you have one (or a saucer would do), pour over some of the cooking juices and scatter over a few threads of sea spaghetti. Add more lemon juice and a grind of pepper to taste.

Calling Cooking Couples

cookbooks02Release Your Inner Chef!  True North Productions in Leeds are looking for couples who can cook to take part in a TV series, working title Too Many Cooks. You might be catering an intimate dinner party or a birthday gathering in someone’s house – or maybe a small wedding! Oh, and there’s a cash prize, so grab your pinny. If you’re the one planning a party and looking for a caterer, they want to talk to you as well. If you fancy your chances either way, contact Hayley Raper at or 0113 3945489  The filming will take place in Leeds.

Is it Goodbye to Our Favourite Restaurant?

Fox_and_HoundsEvery time I eat at the Fox & Hounds at Goldsborough, I re-remember just how good it is and want to let you know. If you haven’t been, go now before it’s too late, because they are moving. They can’t afford the new rental deal imposed by their landlords the Mulgrave Estate and so they are reluctantly packing up and looking for new premises. You’d think the fabulously wealthy Mulgrave Estate – they own great tracts of this bit of Yorkshire – would bend over backwards to keep such a highly regarded restaurant on their patch but apparently not.

For Mandy and I, this is a bit of a tragedy. The Fox and Hounds is the top rated restaurant along this coast. Mandy first told the nation about it in The Guardian. It has scored in all the national guides and more importantly has been Squidbeak’s number one restaurant ever since we started in 2011 and we’ve never had a duff meal there … ever.

The choice is limited. Just three starters, three mains and three puddings, but that’s not a problem when everything is spot on. Brilliantly so. Last night the broad bean bruschetta doused in garlic and olive oil was utterly wonderful but was trumped by a plate of Scottish, creel-caught langoustines, split and given a dose of oregano, chilli and lemon then lightly grilled. They were just the best, juicy, fat langoustines I’ve ever eaten. At mains there was pollock, fillet steak and sea trout caught just along the coast at Sandsend and to finish: strawberry sorbet, chocolate torte or grilled peaches, with vanilla, amaretto and mascarpone cream. It all looks so simple. And it is beautifully pared back,  blissfully free from drips, drizzles and foams, from slates and boards and baskets. Jason Davies cooks carefully, accurately with the best of ingredients, adds some magic of his own, and that’s it.

Nor is it just about the food. Goldsborough is an idyllic hamlet north of Whitby, south of Runswick Bay. There’s nothing there except fields, farmyards and country lanes bursting with grasses, wild geraniums, honeysuckle and away towards Whitby, a sparkling sea. The sandstone pub itself has just two rooms – about 25 covers – but Sue and Jason have created a cheery, welcoming restaurant from what was a spit and sawdust pub when they arrived 11 years ago. Now, with their two young children they are having to pack up and go not just the restaurant, but their home (they live in a tiny space above the shop).

The Fox & Hounds is a very special place as Squidbeak and anyone who has ever eaten there will know. If and when they open elsewhere we will let you know asap.  In the meantime, go now while you still can.

Friends in Ilkley


Lucky old Ilkley, they’re getting the second branch of Friends of Ham, the charcuterie, cheese and craft beer bar that opened in Leeds’ New Station Street a couple of years ago to great acclaim. They plan to be up and running in early August, setting up in the old Ilkley Gazette offices on Wells Road. If you haven’t yet discovered them, they are Anthony (Kitch) and Claire Kitching and they serve top quality, carefully sourced Iberico hams, Italian salamis, cheese both classic and innovative, good wines, sherries and craft beers. No fuss, no bother, not even any cooking – just prime ingredients. Keep up with Friends of Ham Ilkley at:

Twitter @fohilkley

Recipe in a Box

There are some perks to this job as you might imagine, eating for a living. One of them was the big box of organic ingredients – everything you need to make three meals for two people – that arrived on the doorstep from Riverford Organic Farms. And while it was lovely to be in receipt of such a massive box of stuff, I do admit to be slightly sceptical of recipe kits. I cook a lot, so my fridge and store cupboard always has garlic, soy sauce, paprika etc. and here I was with little plastic sachets of oregano, caraway seeds, tomato puree, even a few teaspoons of brown sugar – a lot of packaging – but I was willing to give it a go.

Riverford_chicken_sorrelFirst up was baked chicken leg with smashed new potato and sorrel sauce. A nicely designed recipe card, with simple, clear instructions and a good photograph. The recipe involved roasting the chicken legs, boiling then roasting the potatoes with rosemary and adding a white wine, cream and sorrel at the end. Sorrel is so hard to get hold of unless you grow it yourself, so it was welcome in the sauce and in all, an excellent dinner.

The second recipe was sausage and macaroni bake. Good quality pork sausages were skinned and cooked with onions, spinach and double cream then added to cooked macaroni and topped with cheese to be finished in the oven. The third dish was a vegetable mix, spiced with caraway and paprika and served with pappardelle topped with sour cream.

Riverford_sausage_macAll the recipes were easy to follow and good to eat, though top heavy on the cream. Portions were generous and at a pinch, could have served four. Though I was initially doubtful I realized when I described them to my student daughter, who leapt at the idea of having a Riverford recipe box delivered to her flat, (from her mum and dad of course) that there was a place for these good quality recipe boxes. Certainly tastier and more nutritious than a takeaway.   I can also see them being a boon on holiday. Have a box delivered to your self-catering holiday home and you are set up for the first few days at least.

There are three types of boxes: original, vegetarian and quick, priced around £40, which works out at about £6.50 per meal, per person.
T: 01803 762059

Helmsley Walled Garden & Vinehouse Cafe

If you’ve never been to Helmsley Walled Garden and even if you have, June is the time to see at its extravagant best.

Helmsley_Walled_GardenThe garden is run as a charity created by a local woman, Alison Ticehurst, who in 1994 spotted the overgrown wilderness and endeavoured to make it into a garden of healing and therapy. With a team of helpers she succeeded in taming  it and making into a garden for teaching horticultural skills. Alison died in 1999 but her legacy lives on. Today, two horticultural therapists support people to improve their mental and physical health through gardening. They support people feeling depressed, vulnerable and socially isolated. They help people suffering from the early stages of dementia, stroke and loss of sight, young people with special needs and those with mental disabilities. The entrance fee of £6 and the proceeds of the shop all go to support and fund the charity.

The Vinehouse Café is independent (no entrance fee required) but complements it, using a lot of the produce from the kitchen garden. For a number of years it was run as a vegetarian café by Monica Gripaios and, when she retired in 2014, William Mowbray, a trained chef (ex Moro) and by coincidence, Monica’s son, took it over. And we love it. Read about it here in our review section.

Helmsley Walled Garden is open everyday  1st April to 31st October 10am-5pm (last entry 4.30pm). Admission: £6.


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.

It’s fished by a small 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 or at Greens, bothin Whitby, 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 the Magpie’s wet fish shop the Whitby Catch or 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 on a plate and at a fraction of the restaurant price.

Lemon and Elderflower Polenta Cake

When the hedgerows are full of elderflowers it is just the time to make an elderflower and lemon syrup to pour over the cake. This gluten free polenta cake takes 10 minutes to weigh out and mix and just 40 minutes to cook

Serves 12

Elderflower & lemon polenta cake-3 Ingredients:

45 g polenta

200 g caster sugar

100 g ground almonds

zest of 2 lemons

1½ tsp baking powder

200 ml light vegetable oil, such as sunflower or rapeseed

4 eggs, lightly beaten



For the syrup:

55 g/ 2 oz granulated sugar

juice of 1 lemon

3 dry elderflower heads, checked over for insects and thick stalks removed

50ml water

To decorate:

3 slices of thinly cut lemon

dry elderflowers, checked over for insects and thick stalks removed




Line a 1lb loaf tin (measuring 16 cm by 11 cm by 7 cm) with a non stick cake liner.


Combine the polenta, caster sugar, ground almonds and lemon zest and baking powder in a large bowl.


Whisk the eggs and oil together and gradually beat these into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon to form a thick batter.


Position the loaf tin on a baking tray and fill it with the cake batter. Place the baking tray, and cake, in a cold oven and set it at 190°C/ 375°F/ gas 5.


Bake the cake for 40 minutes or until it is golden brown and a skewer can be inserted and removed clean from the centre of the cake.


Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack.


For the syrup: bring the sugar, lemon juice, water and elderflowers up to the boil and reduce the heat slightly. Simmer the syrup for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.


Allow some of the water to evaporate so that a syrup becomes a little bit sticky. Strain the syrup and reserve to finish the cake.


Place the cake on a plate or cake stand and with a skewer stab the cake all over to create drainage holes for the syrup. Pour the syrup over the cake while it is cooling.


Decorate the cake with thinly cut lemon slices and elderflowers.



Blackcurrant, Pistachio and Verbena Tartlets

We will soon be into the blackcurrant season so 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 you can’t get hold of blackcurrants, 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.




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