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’s hardly a Yorkshire restaurant worth its name that is not serving Yorkshire forced rhubarb during the November to March season, here are a few who have long championed the stuff. The General Tarleton, The Star Inn at Harome, Swine That Dines, Meltons, Partisan.

Pancake Day!

This basic pancake mix is ideal for making pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. They can be made with either 100 per cent plain flour or a mixture of plain flour and buckwheat flour. The buckwheat gives the surface of the pancake a crisp texture which is lovely to eat. This recipe is ideal to use on Pancake Day.

Makes 6 large thin pancakes

Traditional pancakes to celebrate ‘Pancake Day’. Made with plain flour eggs and milk. Served with blood orange juice segments, yogurt, honey and sugar.

Ingredients:
110g plain flour (or 75g plain and 35g buckwheat flour)
Pinch of salt
1 egg
290ml milk
Mild flavoured oil for frying (e.g. sunflower)

To serve:
Freshly squeezed juice of a lemon or orange
Orange and /or lemon slices
Caster sugar

Method:
Place all the ingredients into the goblet of a blender, or food processor, and process until smooth. Leave the batter to settle for about 30 minutes. This allows the starch grains to swell.

Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat and wipe with a little oil. Pour 2–3 tablespoons of batter onto the hot frying pan and swirl the batter to form a circle. Cook for a couple of minutes until golden brown.  Flip the pancake over and cook the other side.

Cooks Tip:
Pancakes can be cooked in advance. Store a stack of pancakes interleaved with greaseproof paper in a freezer bag. Defrost and reheat before serving.

For more of Joan’s recipes and food writing and details of her photography workshops go to www.joanransley.co.uk

Guest Chefs at Star Inn the Harbour

Andrew Pern has announced a programme of guest chef nights at the Star Inn the Harbour, Whitby. The first one in February with James Mackenzie of the Pipe & Glass is already sold out, but you can still book for 15 March when Kenny Atkinson (Great British Menu winner) of Newcastle’s House of Tides will be laying on a Geordie inspire menu, four courses at £45 per person’

 

On 10 May Galton Blackiston who cooks at his Michelin starred Morston Hall in Norfolk, will be presenting a fish menu based on his new book ‘Hook, Line, Sinker’ recently shortlisted for the Gourmand World Cook Book Awards.

 

To book email or telephone 01947 821900 www.starinntheharbour.co.uk

 

High Farndale

There are not many farmers who can name every low flying aircraft going over their land, but Peter Mawson is not your usual farmer having exchanged a career as an air traffic controller in the RAF for an idyllic farm on the North York Moors

Farndale Farm is a hill farm at the end of a lane in High Farndale, the dale where the wild daffodils bloom in spring and where Peter rears his flock of rare breed Whitefaced Woodland sheep and British Saddleback pigs.

These hardy, native sheep are entirely grass fed – hay in winter and fresh grass in summer. The lambs are allowed to grow and mature slowly and are sold as hogget, which means lambs that are between 13 and 24 months old. These older lambs, Peter believes, give the meat a deeper, more mature flavour and we agree; we’ve tried it. High Farndale hogget is available between June and October as full, half or quarter animal, cut into joints ready for the freezer.

The Saddleback pigs are equally hardy and while there are shelters in their field, they live outdoors throughout the year and like the sheep, they are reared less intensively than commercially reared pork. Peter’s pigs are sold in 26kg or 13kg packs equivalent to a half or a quarter pig. He also produces wonderful dry cured bacon and gammon and pork rich sausages.

To buy meat from High Farndale you can visit the farm by appointment or buy online or visit one of the farmers’ markets in Helmsley, Ampleforth, Husthwaite and Kirbymoorside. Or to sample some of Peter’s fabulous bacon and sausage visit the lovely Graze on the Green at Rosedale Abbey. Other outlets can be found on their website.

www.highfarndale.co.uk

Betsy & Bo

It was an institution. The Gift Shop in Staithes stocked everything you ever needed: candles, string, sink plungers, hot water bottles, buckets, spades, firelighters, a single screw or 1000 piece jigsaw. If Terry didn’t have it he could get it for you by Friday.

Terry and Ann Lawson ran the Gift shop for 48 years. Electrician, lifeboat man, musician, poet, photographer, philosopher – Terry was a man of many parts. Sadly he died in 2013 after a long illness and Ann sold the business soon after. They are both much missed in the village.

Happily Luke and Sophie bought the shop in 2016 creating a bespoke chocolate shop and general store. Nobody needs chocolate in the way they needed Terry’s light bulbs and 6” nails, but it’s very nice to have and good to see the shop retained as a business.

Luke has known Staithes for many years holidaying at the family house Cowbar View. Now they have moved to Whitby full time with their twin daughters Betsy and Bo after whom the shop is named.

It all looks very different from Terry’s days, the old wooden shelves have been retained, but now they are stocked with old fashioned sweets in glass jars and the counter displays beautifully packaged chocolate from the Mast Brothers, USA and Roccoco. They’ve started making their own handmade truffles too and plan chocolate workshops. Look out too for old favourites such as liquorice, lollies, Edinburgh rock, fudge and lucky bags.

Alongside the shop is the General Store. No it’s not all recherché ingredients – though they do have vacuum packed octopus – there are the basics of washing up liquid, logs, firelighters, rice, lentils, onions and pasta. Just the sort of stuff you need when arriving at your holiday cottage. There are treats too like extra virgin olive oil, soft Italian nougat, jams and clotted cream. You could put together an antipasti board with their Parma ham, chorizo, Italian cheeses, jars of roasted artichokes and aubergine. It’s licensed too with some rather good wines and Mason’s Yorkshire gin.

Betsy & Bo, High Street, Staithes. 01947 840059 www.facebook.com/betsyandbo/

Join The Wine Gang

 

Good news for wine drinkers, writes our wine writer Helen Scott, two upcoming events in Leeds tick the vino lovers’ boxes.

I’ve raved about the wine list at Ibérica in Leeds before. Jill has similarly praised Ibérica’s relaxed atmosphere and authentic tapas.

Now Spanish food and wine writer Maria José Sevilla and wine expert Anthony Rose have teamed up to present an evening at Ibérica on November 17 showcasing the best seasonal dishes and fine wines from small boutique wineries.

They’re offering the chance to win a pair of tickets, worth £110, by clicking on this link

www.ibericarestaurants.com/whats-on/win-2-tickets-iberica-leeds/

Friday 17th November at Ibérica, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds, LS1 2BH

 


 

 

The following day, Anthony, who writes for Decanter and sits as a wine judge, will also be dispensing wine wisdom at a mouthwatering wine festival along with his colleagues in The Wine Gang – Jane Parkinson from BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, House and Garden’s Joanna Simon and the Observer’s David Williams.

For those who think tastings are solemn sip and spit affairs, this is the antithesis of that, with hundreds of wines selected by a range of wine merchants from Harvey Nicks and the Wine Society to high street favourites like Waitrose and Majestic.

Guided wine walks from table to table, a prize draw, book giveaways and Burgundy masterclass are also on offer. Count me in!

Tickets £25 from www.thewinegang.com/events/winter-festival-leeds-2017

Saturday 18th November at Aspire, 2 Infirmary Street Leeds LS1 2JP. Noon – 6pm

 

… and the Michelin Star Goes To …

Monday saw the launch of the 2018 UK Michelin Guide – streamed live in front of an invited audience. After an interminable build up they finally announced the 16 new stars.

No new stars for Yorkshire, seems their inspectors never get beyond Leicester apart from a star for Moor Hall at Aughton near Ormskirk and Loch Bay on the Isle of Skye. Unusually Michelin announced a third star, (making a total of only five in the UK)  for The Araki, a London sushi restaurant with just nine covers that serves one set menu at £300 per person. Drinks extra!

Happily all the current Yorkshire star holders held on to their badges and remain in the club. Once again congratulations to Skosh and Joro for their Bib Gourmand – recognition by Michelin for a restaurant  (or chef) worth watching.

We wrote way back in 2012 why we believe Michelin to be an outdated and irrelevant award but we understand why it means so much to chefs.  For an interesting article in the London Eater on why Michelin’s matter click here.

 

Michelin Delivers

Congratulations to Skosh, York and Joro, Sheffield on their Michelin Bib Gourmand announced this morning. So glad we visited and reported some time ago, we’ll never get a table now. Congratulations too to our neighbours the Staith House, North Shields for their Bib Gourmand.

The big one, the Michelin stars, are announced on Monday, 2nd October, live streamed at 11.30am. It’s my guess that York’s Cochon Aveugle will be crossing their fingers. It’s too soon for Horto, though the inspectors appear very keen on the small plates Scandi vibe.

There will be a lot of breath-holding among the current Yorkshire star holders hoping to hold on to their stars, the Star Inn, the Yorke Arms, the Black Swan, the Pipe and Glass, the Man Behind the Curtain and the Box Tree. No pressure guys.

 

Orange and Tahini Semifreddo with Crushed Pistachios

This is a forgiving recipe that requires very little skill. Don’t worry about whether the eggs whites or cream/yogurt mix are whipped up enough – if they are white and fluffy they will do. If all the ingredients are mixed together and given enough time to freeze the recipe will taste delicious regardless of what order you put the ingredients together.

The combination of sweet, tangy orange juice, nutty flavoured of tahini and crunchy pistachios are set against the creaminess of enriched Greek yogurt is a winner. Beautiful served with stewed damsons, plums or sliced figs.

Joan Ransley: Photographer & Food Writer

Serves 10 – 12

Ingredients:
4 large eggs
200g caster sugar
zest and juice from one large orange
150ml double cream
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
100g light tahini
2 tbsp shelled salted pistachios, roughly chopped

To serve:
1 tbsp shelled salted pistachios, roughly chopped
Grated orange zest

Method:
Line a large loaf tin (approx.25cm x 13cm x 9cm) with a double layer of clingfilm. This will make turning out the frozen semifreddo easier.

1.     Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Place all the egg yolks in a bowl with the caster sugar and beat with an electric mixer for about three minutes until they are light and fluffy. (The egg whites can be frozen, or stored in the fridge to use later e.g. to make meringues or amaretti biscuits.)

2.     Add the orange zest, half the orange juice and tahini to the egg yolks and sugar. Mix thoroughly.

3.     Beat the double cream until stiff, fold in the Greek yogurt and then stir both into the egg, sugar and tahini mixture. Mix in the remaining orange juice. The mixture will be quite runny.

4.     Finally fold the crushed pistachio nuts into the mixture and pour it into the loaf tin lined with Clingfilm. Give the loaf tin a little bang on a solid work surface and place the semifreddo in the freezer for at least four hours.

To serve:

5.     Remove the semifreddo from the freezer half an hour before you want to serve it. Place it in the fridge to defrost slightly.

6.     Turn the frozen semifreddo upside-down onto a serving plate and remove the Clingfilm.

7.     Sprinkle with the remaining crushed pistachios and serve fresh fruit or fruit compote..

You can find this and more of Joan’s recipes on her website: www.joanransley.co.uk/

 

Steenberg Spices

I’ve been cooking from Meera Sodha’s fantastic book Fresh India recently, which calls for all sorts of Indian spices, not always easy to find  in York (try Rafi’s Spice Box in York, Harrogate and Leeds and Makkah International – formerley Feshways – on Hull Road), so I was pleased to be able to root around in the storerooms of Steenberg Spices, a specialist spice importer run by a lovely couple, Axel and Sophie Steenberg based at a business park in Melmerby.

 

You might have seen Steenberg’s little blue topped jars in Booth’s or in delis here and there, but if you don’t know of them then read on, because Steenberg’s are a fabulous source of ingredients, not just spices.

All their spices are organic, ethically sourced and many are Fairtrade. My visit included not only a tour of the factory but a Pepper Workshop organised by the Guild of Food Writer’s in which Axel took us through their list of 33 different peppers from the gentle Selim pepper from Ghana that strangely had a tang of furniture polish to the spicy Sansho Pepper from Japan with a menthol scent and a weird numbing sensation to the mouth much like Sechuan pepper.

But have a browse through Steenberg’s website for much more. This is the place to buy your harissa, sumac, chermoula, ras al hanout. They also stock hard to find baking ingredients such as buckwheat flour and chestnut flour, organic orange flower water, almond and vanilla extracts, edible rose petals, the list goes on. All available online from:

Steenberg Spices 6 Hallikeld Close, Barker Business Park, Melmerby, Ripon HG4 5GZ

Squidbeak Blog

© Copyright SquidBeak 2012 Contact usDisclaimerPrivacy PolicyMaraid Design