Yorke Arms

A frisson of fear ran through the hearts of the Yorke Arms faithful when Frances Atkins put it on the market in November last year after a 21 year tenure and 15 years of Michelin stardom. The Yorke in anyone else’s hands seemed like the end of an era. She was flirting with the idea of a new venture, before Leeds-based ‘serial entrepreneur’ Jonathan Turner parted with the thick end of £1.5m, and a deal was struck; as a result, he’s taken over the day to day running of the place, and Atkins has remained at the pass with her loyal crew. A ‘major refurbishment’ followed, and the Yorke re-opened at the end of May. But what if it’s had a shocking makeover? We loved it the way it was – all flagged floors, roaring fires, burnished oak antique sideboards and the inimitable, easy charm of the general manager John Tullet, as much a part of the place as the oil paintings on the walls. It was with a keen sense of anticipation that we keeled up on a perfect early summer’s evening to chart the changes and check out the new menu. Has it been Farrow & Balled? Has Turner been to the Country Inn Interior Warehouse and bought mock-leather chairs and yards of mock hops? Review to follow. (Clue; relax.)

Turning the Tables on the Food Critics

Leeds Indie Food Festival began yesterday and runs until 28th May. There are still tickets for a host of events. Take a look: www.leedsindiefood.co.uk. Having just enjoyed a fabulous five course lunch at Home presented by a very professional team you might want to book for Turning Tables, where the tables are turned on people like us, ie food critics. Felicity Spector from the Telegraph, Rhik Samadder – he does the gadget reviews in the Guardian and Mark Samson from Food and Travel Magazine, will cook for guests in aid of the charity Action on Hunger.

Leeds Indie Food 2018

If you’re a Masterchef fan you will have relished the young Teesside lad putting a Middlesbrough Parmo in front of the gobsmacked judges – you know a Parmo right? The fried, breaded chicken breast, topped with béchamel sauce and melted orange cheese. But who knew that Australia also has the very similar Parma? Parmo versus Parma go head to head at Leeds Indie Food Festival (10-28 May) though sadly this event is already sold out. Never mind, there are lots of other great sounding events celebrating the independent bars and restaurants across the city.


The Reliance will be ‘Cooking the Books’, creating a specials board from three classic cookery books. Latitude wines will be collaborating with Laynes Espresso in a food and wine matching event. There’s a secret Persian supper club, a five course supper from the Junk Food Project, new wave charcuterie, a vegan Mexican feast and loads more. Sign up now for the LIF passport for discounts and priority booking.





The Amazing No Knead Bread Story

I’ve been on something of a bread-baking mission recently. I reckon I’m a reasonable bread-maker. I’ve got a shelf full of baking books and I’ve been on one or two courses but never managed to master sourdough.

Then a few weeks ago I decided it was time to crack it. I thought producing the starter would be the difficult bit, far from it. While I managed to create a very decent starter, I couldn’t bake a decent loaf that I could be proud of. Most of them tasted pretty good but they were either misshapen, too wet, too dry, over-proved, under-proved.

The high hydration loaf I was aiming for, with plenty of holes and a good crust, was impossibly sticky and I never managed to knead it to the smooth cushion I’d seen on the You Tube videos.

Enlightenment came with a  dough that required no-kneading at all. None. The recipe was created some ten years ago by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. (Yes, I know our ancestors have been making bread like this for ever) and it was a revelation.

The story goes that Lahey rang Mark Bittman, a columnist on the New York Times, just around the corner and invited him to come over. He had a new  bread making method that gave professional results without any kneading at all. Bittman made a video of the process and the story went viral. It has remained one of the most popular recipes in the paper ever since.

The secret ingredient that makes this bread so wonderful,  is time. Mix together flour, salt, yeast or sourdough starter and water into a ‘shaggy dough’ then leave it for 12 or up to 18 hours. Turn it out, fold it and let it prove for a further two hours then pour the wet dough into in a cast iron pot with a lid. I use a Le Creuset casserole (called a Dutch oven in the US) and bake for 30 mins in a hot oven. Take off the lid and let it crisp and brown for 15-30 mins and you will have the most amazing loaf.

Do have a go and let us know how you get on. The full recipe is here.


Rafi’s Curry Demonstrations

If you haven’t discovered Rafi’s Spicebox, let me introduce you. Rafi’s put together packs of spices to which you add your own main ingredient – say vegetables, chicken, lamb etc. to make an authentic curry.

The family business was started by Rafi Fernandez in 1989 and is today carried on by her sons Kevin and Lee with shops in York, Leeds, Newcastle and Sudbury in Suffolk.

I’ve known the York shop for years but last week was reminded just how good it is at one of their cookery demonstrations that are being rolled out across the branches.

Lee Fernandez and Marketing Manager Ian Lea reminded us that an Indian meal is made up of three or four dishes of different tastes and textures usually including a crunchy fresh salad and a pickle.

The demonstration showed us how to put together a complete meal with a main dish of Goan green chicken and rice, a side dishes of south Indian sambhar – lentils, toasted coconut, curry leaves and mustard seeds brightened with a dash of tamarind and a salad of cucumber and moong dahl with a spring onion and mint chutney.

There was plenty to taste and we all went home with the curry packs, which I suppose was the point, but what really impressed was not just how to make a curry, but what a decent, happy and ethical company they are. They have begun to offer their spice mixes in bring-your-own-jar, are working to eliminate plastic bags and involve the staff by sitting down and eating together every week.

For information on upcoming demos click here.

Guinea Pigs at Home

Home, the Leeds fine dining restaurant run by Mark Owens (ex Box Tree) and Liz Cottam (Masterchef finalist) have announced their new March menu. Onions they say feature prominently with a posh leek tart then pork belly, pigeon, Coronation chicken and orange parfait. Sounds good to me though be warned, it’s a pricey £70 for 10 courses.

Worth knowing about are their guinea pig nights when for £35 you can sample four experimental courses which are bound to be worth trying. Tables sell out quickly so get on their mailing list for early notice.

Home, 16/17 Kirkgate, Leeds

Sourdough Surgery

If you thought producing a sourdough starter was the secret of a sourdough loaf, let me tell you, that’s just the start of it. As a reasonable bread-maker the conventional way, I have been struggling, for the past few weeks, to produce a half decent sourdough loaf. So I was intrigued to hear about the Sourdough Surgery being run by the School of Artisan Food on 1st March 6.30-8.30pm and for just £10. It’s part of Real Bread Week (24 Feb-4 March) and is being run by David Carter, who worked for 30 years as a solicitor before giving it all up to become a baker and now works as a tutor at the school of Artisan Food.


Why I’m struggling to make my own when York where I live has the superb Haxby and Bluebird Bakeries along with others around the county. You can find out all about real bread and find a baker near you by searching the Real Bread Campaign

Courtyard Dairy

If you haven’t made the trip the Courtyard Dairy in Settle, then you should. 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

In 2017 the Dairy moved a few miles up the road (the former falconary sanctuary) with an expanded shop, a small museum charting the development of farmhouse cheese, a production room where courses are held and upstairs a cheese centred café.

The shop is the hub, 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 and Andy nurtures and matures them himself.  The cheeses are all from a diminishing band of  independent cheesemakers in the UK and Europe, some of them quite tiny, like Mario Olianas’s Yorkshire Percorino made in Adel, Leeds.

A self-confessed cheese nerd, Andy or his well-informed staff will lead you through the cheeses, with the stories behind them. Among my favourites are Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, 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.

If you can’t get to the shop, then order by post or join the monthly Cheese Club. Cheese nerds like Andy can attend one of his one day cheese-making courses. Raclette, fondue, cheeseboards and toasted sandwiches are on the menu in the cafe.

Open: Mon-Sat 9.30-5.30pm/Sun 10.30-4.30pm


Courtyard_cheeseThe Courtyard Dairy
Crows Nest Barn,
(Former Falconry Centre),
Austwick, Nr. Settle, LA2 8AS

Telephone: 01729 823291 Email: andy.s@thecourtyarddairy.co.uk Website: www.thecourtyarddairy.co.uk


The No-Knead Bread Recipe

I’ve been making bread for years, but I’d been struggling to make a well-crusted sourdough loaf when I came upon this revolutionary bread recipe.

I don’t know why I’d never heard about it before, it was written ten years ago by Mark Bittman and published in the New York Times and went viral.

The recipe was created by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City and what makes it so brilliant is that it requires NO KNEADING whatsoever.

You don’t need a sourdough starter either, it can be made with easy blend yeast as well. The secret ingredient is time. It takes 12-18 hours but in that time you don’t have to do a thing. Here’s the recipe, slightly adapted from cups to grams for British readers.


430 grams flour
1 g dried yeast (quarter tsp) or 60g sourdough starter
8 grams salt
345 grams water


In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water, and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let it rest for at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature.

The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with the bowl you mixed it in and let it rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a piece of greaseproof paper with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 220 degrees. Put a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron Le Creuset type, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven.

Using the greaseproof paper as a sling, drop the dough (complete with paper) into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Slash it. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.




Prune and Pink Peppercorn Rye Loaf

This recipe is for the serious bakers among Squidbeak readers. It is based on a rye sourdough recipe by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, the author of the award winning How to Make Bread, published in 2011 by Ryland Peters and Small. Emmanuel gives simple instructions on how to make a rye sour dough which takes 5 days. There after you have some forever if you look after it like a pet.

This loaf is an example of exquisitely flavoured rye sour dough. I was delighted with the result which was a softer, lighter loaf than I had been expecting. The dough requires very little kneading but it does need a long period of fermentation. This bread making project needs to be started a couple of days before the loaf is required and uses a rye sourdough starter.

Makes one small loaf



150g dark rye flour

100g rye sourdough starter

200g water

200g dark rye flour

1tsp salt

150g hot water

200g pitted prunes, chopped

1 tbsp pink pepper corns


Grease a loaf tin measuring 21cm x 12cm loaf tin.

In one bowl mix the 150g dark rye flour with the rye sourdough starter and 200g water. Cover the bowl with either another inverted bowl or use a clear plastic shower cap and leave to ferment overnight.

The following day mix 200g of dark rye flour with the salt and tip over the fermented rye sourdough mixture prepared the day before. Pour the hot water over the dry mixture and mix well.

Add the prunes and pink pepper corns and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin. Wet a plastic scraper or pallet knife and smooth the surface of the loaf. Dredge the surface of the loaf with rye flour, cover and allow the loaf to rise for two hours.

Keep an eye on the dough to ensure it does not rise over the tin. If it does just wipe any extra dough away from the loaf tin.

Preheat the oven to 220°/425°F/ gas mark 7.

The dough should rise about 2cm during proving after which it should be placed in the oven for about 30 minutes. Check whether the loaf is cooked by turning it out of the tin and knocking the base. If it sounds hollow the loaf is cooked and should be placed on a wire cooling rack to cool.

See more of Joan’s recipes and photographs on www.joanransley.co.uk

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