To York Theatre Royal for the launch of their bistro following its £6 million refurbishment. The theatre re-opened in April with a new stage and seating, better access and a new open-plan foyer and glassed in colonnade.
Enhanced lighting for Patrick Gwynne’s magnificent Theatre Royal restaurant
The dining area is little changed. Patrick Gwynne’s listed 1967 ‘mushrooms’ are a rare, early example of poured concrete and remain untouched, but new chairs and tables (with laser etched theatrical quotes) made by resident Snowhome of York designer John Green, give it a fresh look.
The new foyer area though is totally different: bright and modern and a cool place for morning coffee and cake and, if the new manager Matt Beevers has his way, for lunch and dinner too.
Matt comes from York’s Restaurant 19 and before that from the Victoria at Robin Hood’s Bay. He has been charged with improving and expanding the food offer and invited us to consider visiting the theatre bistro not just at performance times but throughout the day and evening .
I can’t yet vouch for the meals proper – they served us some rather nice canapés and drinks – but credit for their commitment to local suppliers: Bluebird Bakery bread, brownies from Blond and Brown, Sykes House Farm butchers, Cross of York for fish, York Coffee Emporium and York Brewery.
After reports of disastrous service soon after the April re-opening we look forward to Act Two at the new improved York Theatre Royal.
It’s the awards time of year, so here’s a quick round up:
The 2017 Waitrose Good Food Guide came out in September with new entries for Ox Club and Tharavadu in Leeds, White Rabbit in Todmorden and the Crathorne Arms south of Middlesbrough. One of our favourites, the Swine that Dines is credited in a list of ‘Best New Openings’ with our congratulations to Ian Myers who is named as ‘a chef to watch’.
Jill and I are often asked what our guilty secrets are, food-wise. Mine’s crisps – I can do a family bag in one sitting. Jill’s is peanut butter. I didn’t think I was partial until these bad boys appeared on the shelf of my new favourite bread shop in Hebden Bridge, Blue Sky Baker.
Stuart & Kathryn Franklin lived in New Zealand for a while and developed a taste for the very different artisan peanut butter they discovered there which wasn’t over processed or too sweet. When they moved back to Yorkshire they realised it was impossible to source anything remotely similar, so started to make their own. It wasn’t long before friends and family were clamoring for it, and it became obvious that they had to up the ante. From the kitchen table they moved to a small factory in Dewsbury, installed a roaster and grinder; they roast their peanuts slowly roasted in small batches, then they’re ground – and nothing artificial is added. ‘Nowt but Nuts’ is 100% peanuts, and ‘Slightly Salted’ has a smidgen of sea salt. And that’s it. I’m a complete convert. NOTHING beats a slather of it on buttery toast with my morning espresso. NOTHING. Jam? Pah. Check out their website for stockists and recipes – today I will mostly be making chocolate and peanut butter brownies.
What do you do after a long day on the building site? Put in a shift in the kitchen at Salvos, of course. At least that’s what Paul Heyhoe did. Just for the love of it he worked for nothing – or at any rate, his supper. Reckons he learned more from John and Gip Dammone about how to put ingredients together to make a great plate of food than he ever could have at school. In his spare time (ha!) he made bread at home and sold it in the Salumeria. Now he’s baking full time in the Beehive Bakery by the canal in Hebden Bridge, and a month or so ago opened his shop on Cheetham Street. It’s a lovely space, light and white and nothing like the bookies it was before. Right now Paul makes and sells bread and a few cakes, in a couple of weeks there’ll be sandwiches on the menu too. His light, crispy pane carasau the size of a tennis racket is the best alternative to crispbread this side of Sardinia. He makes fougasse and foccacia as well as an impressive range of loaves; olive, rye, wholemeal, granary and porter. Cakes include the likes of stout, flapjack, lemon tart and at 3 in the afternoon the brownie has SOLD OUT. No matter. People are already travelling some distance for his doughnuts, which are divine (oo-er matron). It’s just great to see a smart new business opening up in a town that on Boxing Day was 6 feet under water. That’s Blue Sky Thinking, Blue Sky Baker.
Joan, our resident cook (and award winning photographer) has given us this Christmassy recipe for spiced biscuits to hang on the tree. If you like Joan’s photographs as much as her food, then take a look at her website for more recipes and more of her beautiful photographs You might even consider signing up for one of her photography workshops. We’ve done one and can wholeheartedly recommend.
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. mixed spice
50g soft light brown sugar
100g unsalted butter, cold
50g black treacle
25g pine nuts
Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices into the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar and give these ingredients a quick blitz. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
Turn the flour, sugar and spice mixture into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Warm a metal spoon and add the treacle (the treacle falls more easily from a warm metal spoon) and bring the mixture together with your hands until all the streaks of treacle have disappeared. Shape the dough into a ball and divide into two. Cover and chill the dough until ready to use but don’t let the dough get too cold or it will be difficult to roll out.
To roll out
Shape one of the pieces of dough into a flat disc and place on a piece of parchment paper. Cover the dough with a second piece of parchment paper (Clingfilm works well too) and roll the dough until it is 5mm thick . It should be nice and even.
Using the baking parchment to lift – transfer the dough onto a baking tray and place in the fridge to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into shapes. Cut out the biscuit shapes using cutters or create your own templates using thick card. Remove any excess dough from the parchment paper and re-roll the dough before cutting more shapes. Pierce a hole through the biscuit if you want to hang from the tree.
Preheat the oven to 170C/350F/Gas mark 4 Cook the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with the parchment paper for about 15 minutes or until they are just beginning to brown. Remove the baking tray from the oven and lift the parchment paper onto a cooling tray.
Cool the biscuits thoroughly before storing otherwise they may loose their crunch. They will keep for a week.
If you haven’t yet come across A Pair of Dirty Pigs, then you should take a look at their Instagram site where you will find their independent and well informed reviews of restaurants in Yorkshire and London.
Dirty Pigs, Warren Lumsden & Tom McKenzie
The Dirty Pigs themselves are two young guys from York: Tom McKenzie and Warren Lumsden and last Saturday they hosted their first event: ‘A Taste of France’ a selection of small plates matched with carefully chosen wines and beers at Stanley and Ramona’s, the tiny coffee shop on Bishopthorpe Road in York.
It was all a bit of a crush, especially as Bishopthorpe Road was hit not only by heavy showers but also by a number of inebriated race goers, carrying their heels along Bishy Road, but for those of us who squeezed inside, it was a good natured, convivial event.
Fourme d’Ambert with lavender honey and pine nuts
From a list of nine plates we particularly liked the wild boar paté and Haxby sourdough paired with Christophe Muret Syrah; slices of venison with blackcurrant sage matched with a Potel Aviron Gamay and my favourite a creamy blue cheese – Fourme d’Ambert lavished with lavender honey and pine nuts served with an Edouard Leiber Pinot Gris. We were impressed too, that after their visit to the open day at Herbs Unlimited they made the journey back to Thirsk to source blackcurrant sage, bronze fennel and lemon verbena for their dishes.
Congratulations, Dirty Pigs and watch this space for more of their events, and if we can persuade them to join us, some of their reviews on Squidbeak.
To Herbs Unlimited at Sandhutton this week for their open day at the 90 acre herb farm created and run by the lovely Alison Dodds. After touring ‘the hill’ where the outdoor perennial herbs are grown: chives, sage, mint and the like, we visited the polytunnels where more tender plants are cultivated including Alison’s ‘speciality herbs’: lemon verbena, bronze fennel, orange thyme, sweet cicely, garlic chives, blackcurrent sage, hyssop, oxalis leaf, the list goes on.
We nibbled on some amazing leaves and flowers before sampling them in a succession of canapés created by chef Stephanie Moon: broad been and summer savory hummus; mackerel with dittander cream and borage flowers; tomato terrine with lovage pesto; nasturtium sea trout cakes, strawberry, cinnamon basil jelly with cornflowers and lots more finishing with a lovely lemon verbena tisane. A real treat. Thanks Steph, Alison and their teams
Herbs Unlimited mostly supply wholesalers and restaurants, but you can sometimes find Yorkshire grown herbs and salad leaves in speciality shops around the county.
I had some mixed grains left over (barley, black rice and red quinoa) and so I put them together into a salad with baby courgettes from the garden, tomatoes, peppers, mange tout… everything seasonal The fresh pesto really makes it. M & S sell a fresh pesto which is quite nice but not as good as freshly made. I hope you like it…
Take a handful of pearl barley rinsed in cold water and pop it in a pot and cover it with water. Place a lid on the pot to shorten the cooking time. Lower the heat to a simmer and wait for 20 minutes until the beads of barley are soft but not chewy to bite.
Take a handful of black rice and do as above. Black rice should be cooked in a separate pan as it colours the water and everything it comes in contact with. Finally, place four tablespoons of quinoa in a pan of water, as above, but limit the cooking time to 12 minutes once the water has come to the boil. Little white tails emerge from the seed coat as quinoa seeds cook and indicated when it’s ready to eat. It should be a little bit crunchy!
To complete your salad, mix together a selection of roast vegetables – slow roast tomatoes work really well; put a chopped yellow courgette in the oven too. Then flame roast peppers and steam some purple mange tout if you can get hold of them – luckily I’ve got some in the garden at the moment! Finally assemble the whole lot – mix the grains together with a tiny drizzle of oil,lemon juice and salt. Add the cooled roast veg and dot the whole lot with pesto – make yourself, or cheat and buy some from M&S!
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
Here is another short film produced for the North York Moors National Park showing some of the beautiful hills and dales that make up the National Park. It’s stunning walking country with a network of footpaths and ancient trods that take walkers through the charmingly named Great Fryup Dale, Rosedale and Farndale. In spring, Farndale bursts into bloom with a display of wild daffodils and then there is the wonderful North York Moors steam railway that runs through the heart of it all. If this doesn’t persuade you to visit Yorkshire, nothing will.
Our name Squidbeak is inspired by graffiti seen in a swanky Yorkshire 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. That doesn't mean we don't love new, creative cooking. Just that Squidbeak means no bull. Squid,’ says a biology professor at the University of California are ‘whimsical and always hungry’. That's us.