Cooks at Carlton Towers

CarltonTea‘Not a Cookery School’, Development Director Elaine Lemm, corrects me: ‘It’s a School of Food’ – the difference being that the courses at Carlton Towers offer far more than cookery lessons. The website explains: ‘Grow, cook, photograph or write about food. Come to bake, butcher, forage, preserve, get back to basics, hone your skills.’

Carlton Towers, if you don’t know it, is the ancestral pile of the Duke of Norfolk. It’s in Carlton, a village between Selby and Goole, and the Gothic palace and its turrets, gargoyles, battlements and clock tower, half English boarding school, half grand country house, is the place the Duke’s brother Lord Gerald Fitzalan Howard and his wife Emma, call home.

Inside it’s just as imposing with yards of ecclesiastical paneling and stained glass, gilded walls and chandeliers. The upstairs is largely given over to weddings, shooting parties and corporate events but you can stay in one of the 16 bedrooms, beautifully designed and furnished by Lady Gerald herself.

Twelve months or so ago Lord and Lady G decided to take downstairs in hand and turned the old kitchen, scullery, dairy and butler’s pantry into a cookery school, sorry School of Food, and they’ve done a cracking job.

Elaine Lemm, Development Director plans the courses, Richard Walton Allen, ex head chef at Harvey Nichols in Leeds, is course tutor. Together they have put together a series of one day courses: Fiona Sciolti is guest chocolate tutor, Josh Sutton the self-styled Guyrope Gourmet is offering campfire cooking, there’s upmarket barbecuing with Andy Annat and bacon and sausage making with David Lishman of Lishman’s of Ilkley.

My day at Cooks was an afternoon tea master class with Adam Smith, the head chef of the Burlington restaurant at Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey and before that at the Ritz in Piccadilly, where afternoon tea is an institution.

We baked scones, cakes and macaroons and took our breaks in the housekeeper’s sitting room – very English country house with sofas and side tables and a well stocked drinks cupboard. You could easily be tempted to kick off your shoes and settle in with coffee, cake and Mrs Beeton.

But manager Nicola Shann shoos us back to the kitchen and at the end of the day we get to scoff all we have cooked in the genteel surroundings of the ‘Duchesses dining room’, a formal dining room where once upon a time the young Lord Gerald remembers sitting down to tea with his grandparents, the Duke and Duchess.

This of course is the USP of Yorkshire’s newest cookery school. An upstairs/downstairs experience.  Compared to all the curlicues upstairs,  downstairs is boarding school spare. Wide doorways, stone flagged corridors, the cool dairy and the spacious kitchen where they have cleverly (and expensively) combined old and new. State of the art equipment sits alongside mighty cast iron ranges, old shelves house copper pans and antique jelly moulds. Teaching takes place around a huge central island complete with a ‘listed’ pillar through the centre.

Yorkshire has any number of cookery schools, Bettys, Malton, the York Cookery School, the Cooking School at Dean Clough, Swinton Park, Yorkshire Wolds and more. Cooks is a first-rate addition to that list and promises to offer something more. The current list of courses goes up to September so the ‘more than cookery lessons’ is still in development, but watch this space.  Until then, it’s a fine place to work and learn with exemplary objectives; after all, where else can you cook like the servants and dine like a duchess.

Cooks at Carlton Towers, Carlton, Yorkshire DN14 9LZ
T: 01405 861662 W:
Price: Full day tuition with lunch £170. Single or double room with breakfast £95/£125

Lemon Passionfruit Posset

Possets date back to at least the 17th century when they were spiced, milky drinks.  Nowadays the possets we know are a sweetened, set and flavoured cream, served as a dessert.

Lemon posset is one of the easiest and most delicious desserts ever.  It involves nothing more challenging than boiling up double cream and adding lemon juice which miraculously makes the whole thing set.  I first made it on a Betty’s cookery course, but this one by our mate Matthew Benson-Smith, director of the Cooking School at Dean Clough in Halifax (where Mandy and I judge the annual Yorkshire Pudding Challenge)  adds passionfruit puree for a new twist.

So when you are pushed for time and need a quick and easy pudding to impress, give this one a try.

635ml double cream
80ml passion fruit puree
100ml lemon juice
5g lemon zest
100g caster sugar.

Bring the double cream to the boil with the sugar and let it simmer for 4-5 minutes to reduce slightly, then remove from the heat

Stir in the lemon and passion fruit juices and keep stirring until it starts to thicken.

Pour the posset mixture into glasses. it should fil about five, three quarters full. Leave to set in the fridge for at least three hours or overnight.

Search for the best Yorkshire Pudding

Do you make a great Yorkshire pudding? Do you deserve to be the next Yorkshire Pudding champion?

On Saturday 8th September, The Cooking School at Dean Clough Halifax is holding its annual Great Yorkshire Pudding Challenge and they want you to enter.

Mandy and I were judges last year (and again this year) and we can confirm it’s all great fun. Entrants arrived with their favourite recipe, secret ingredient, best pan and so on and there was a plenty of teasing and light hearted banter.

The Mayor of Halifax in his chains and his pinny kicked off proceedings and then got stuck in making his own Yorkshire pudding.

Surprisingly considering the common ingredients – flour, eggs, milk, salt – the puds all tasted quite different and if you want a judge’s tip, many of them were under-seasoned. Chris Blackburn’s from Copley Halifax was spot on and he was crowned 2011 amateur Yorkshire Pudding champion with Ben Cox from the Star at Sancton taking the prize for the professionals.

This year, the chefs are Ashley McCarthy (Ye Old Sun Inn, Colton); Darren Parkinson (Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax) and last year’s returning champion, Ben Cox (Star at Sancton). They are still on the lookout for a chef to represent South Yorkshire. If you are one, get in touch and if you are an enthusiastic amateur and  fancy having a go, sign up here

Pastry by Richard Bertinet

This month’s prize cookery book was Pastry
by Richard Bertinet, the anglophile Frenchman who trained as a baker in Brittany and set up Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath in 2005.

We picked the prize winners at our Squidbeak dinner held at Staithes Gallery in May. It is a beautiful book, almost too beautiful to take into the kitchen, but it’s such a good practical piece of work, I’d like to think the winners will soon have the pages butter splattered and floury, confirming it as a well loved cookery book.

Bertinet’s earlier books Dough and Crust are beautifully written and produced and Pastry follows the same pattern and is jammed full of really useful stuff.

Unlike many baking books which breeze through the pastry making techniques, Bertinet takes us carefully through each stage of sweet, salted,choux and puff pastry in the first 63 pages and 50 plus photographs.

His method too is unusual, beating cold butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper before flaking it into the flour, to stop it warming up in your hands. He sensibly advises making double quantity so that you have a batch to freeze and most reassuringly he promises to take the fear out of pastry. And who hasn’t felt the fear – the pastry that sticks to the worktop, the quiche that leaks?  Bertinet teaches you how to deal with all this and more and when you’ve mastered the basics there are the fabulous recipes like the chicken and tarragon tart, Cornish pasties and exquisite little Portugese custard tarts.

We’ll be testing the recipes in the coming weeks, so keep checking this blog.

Spring rolls, Halifax-style

To The Cooking School at Dean Clough for a night of Thai madness. Crispy duck and spring rolls anyone? I’ve never made either so it’s perhaps as well we’ve got the lovely Sam Boonton, 5 Star chef from Thai Style restaurant in Halifax coaxing us through the motions. I don’t know about you but I’ve always thought oriental cuisine a bit of a dark art. Sheer ignorance on my part. I love to eat it but have rarely had the nerve to put it together at home. Might be a different story after tonight.

It is, of course, more straightforward than I imagined and before long I’m stuffing rice noodles, shredded and lightly fried cabbage, carrot and mushrooms into pastry so thin it’s transparent  (but surprisingly strong) into perfect rolls. As resident tutor/chef Matthew Benson-Smith astutely observed, that sort of dexterity only comes with having rolled a few fags in a former life.

The rolls are quickly deep fried and before you know it ready to eat. Amazing! Crunchy, spicy, someone stop me before I wolf the lot.

That lovely dark stickiness that makes duck skin crack is just caramelized sugar, water and a pinch of five spice mix, slathered on, steamed for an hour then roast in a hot oven for 35 mins. After letting the cooked duck sit for five mins we shred the meat and tuck in. Simple and delicious.

There’s the usual disparate bunch of people partaking this evening, including Gavin Emmett, the renowned motorcycling correspondent (just back from a tour of Thailand and keen to keep his hand in), Keith Bridge moonlighting from his café, the Blue Cup in Castleford, the lovely Joy, a driving instructor from Upperthong and retired copper Robert from Holmfirth.

I’ve done a handful of courses now at Dean Clough and one of the best things about them is the folk. Always friendly, always funny, always different.

If you fancy honing your kitchen skills but can’t do the weekends, the ‘night school’ courses might be just the thing. The next one is ‘A taste of the Mediterranean’: three nights on consecutive weeks from 14 May. Check TCS website for details.








Red Hot Curry Courses

We make no apology for our connection with the Cooking School at Dean Clough, Halifax. They have always been great supporters of Squidbeak and we like the Focus on Food charitable ethos of providing food skills for young people. We also applaud their link up with Prashad the Gujurati restaurant in Bradford and a finalist in Channel 4s ‘Ramsay’s Best Restaurant’.

Matthew Benson-Smith & Kaushy Patel

They have now run seven Prashad courses at the Cooking School and all of them sell-outs.

The day-long courses have been hugely popular and now, to meet demand they are running additional courses on Sundays. Places are being snapped up quickly but there are still places  left for August and September.

Courses at the Cooking School are not just about curry, they range from children and teenage workshops to a Rosemary Shrager Masterclass by way of bread, pasta and fish courses at prices ranging from £45-£225. Most of them involve a full day of demonstration and hands-on cookery, lunch and your cooking to take home.

Royal Society of Chemistry Yorkshire Pudding

Matt Baker and Jonathan Edwards with the chemical formula for Yorkshire puddiing

When Mandy and chef Ben Cox were invited to judge a Yorkshire Pudding contest for BBC1’s  Countryfile,   Yorkshire cook Mary Rook and presenter Ellie Harrison were pitched against Matt Baker and Jonathan Edwards of the Royal Society of Chemistry who had worked out the chemical formula for the perfect Yorkshire pudding.

Jonathan’s rose dramatically and Mandy said it tasted  good too, but in the end the judges voted Mary Rook’s the winner, but it was a close call.

If you want the scientifically perfect Yorkshire pudding Jonathan has supplied this recipe.

This has been scaled up to nicely fit a 10″x 8″ tin.


100 g polysaccharide powder, kitchen grade (flour)

1 g sodium chloride, NaCl, table grade (salt)

2 medium eggs

Solution of 100 cm3 reduced-lipid bovine lactate (milk)

50 cm3 H2O (water)


Put flour in a bowl, make a well in the middle, add the egg, stir until the two are combined then start gradually adding the milk and water combining as you go.

Add the liquid until the batter is a smooth and thin consistency.

Stir in half teaspoon of salt and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Put beef dripping into Yorkshire pudding tins or into one large tin but don’t use too much fat.

Put into hot oven until the fat starts to smoke.

Give the batter a final stir and pour into the tin or tins.

Place in hot oven until well risen – should take 10 to 15 minutes.


Always serve as a separate course before the main meal and use the best gravy made from the juices of the roast joint. Yorkshire housewives served Yorkshire pudding before the meal so that they would eat less of the more expensive main course.
NB: When the batter is made it must not be placed in the fridge but be kept at room temperature.

Maturi & Sons

To Peter Maturi & Sons, Leeds’ premier cutlers and cookstore in Vicar Lane, for one of their occasional evening showcases.  I’ve used Maturi’s for years for pots and pans. It’s a Leeds institution going back to 1899 when the first Peter Maturi, one of 25 (!) children,  started up with a barrow and it grew into the superior shop it is today. Probably, Yorkshire’s finest.

Anyway I’d never been to one of these events before – you need to be on their mailing list, which I now am – and it made for a pleasant and instructive hour. There was Barbara Govan, Manager of The Cooking School at Dean Clough, Halifax  with her new programme of  courses which included the intriguing offer of ‘Two In A Bed with Christa Ackroyd’ for £75. Just to be clear, it was a talk-in for fledgling B & B owners of which La Ackroyd is one.

There was Chris Hill of Latitude, the indy wine merchant based in The Calls, who produced a selection of Riedel glasses to illustrate why you want to serve Sauvignon Blanc in smaller diameter glasses than Chardonnay. He had the happy knack of talking sense to both the experts and the amateurs in his audience. He was also one of the founders of the Arts Cafe in The Calls for which more respect.

Then there was Simon Chappelow from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food who’d popped up the road from his pitch in Kirkgate Market and nattered away as engagingly as Jamie himself while lashing up a delicious side plate of stir fry. A welcome antidote to the pile it high/sell it cheap ethic which permeates so many of the stalls of Leeds’ supposedly great market.

Softened up by Latitude’s wine tasting and a shot of their rum punch, and impressed by Jamie’s man with a pan, I parted with £39.99 for a Green Frying Pan which I’m hoping will be the best, most durable non-stick pan I’ve ever owned. So far, so very good. [Jill]

Next event: 10th November ‘The Art of the Canape’ a two hour masterclass with executive chef Matthew Benson-Smith from the Cooking School, Dean Clough. Tickets £10
84-86 Vicar Lane, Leeds LS1 7JH T: 0113 245 3887

The Great Yorkshire Pudding Challenge 2011

Contestants for the Great Yorkshire Pudding Challenge

The first pro-am Great Yorkshire Pudding Challenge took place at the Cooking School, Dean Clough, Halifax yesterday and Mandy and I were judges along with Elaine Lemm, author of The Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding.

Tim Bilton

What a day. Professional chefs from four corners of the county were in the running: Tim Bilton of the Butcher’s Arms, Hepworth representing West Yorkshire; Stephanie Moon of Rudding Park, Harrogate for North Yorkshire and Ben Cox of the Star at Sancton for East Yorkshire. James Wallace from Sheffield’s Milestone had to pull out at the last minute – a crisis in the kitchen – so no South Yorkshire competitor. The starting bell was rung by guest of honour,  Deputy Mayor of Calderdale, Peter Wardhough, then gamely put on his pinny and pitched in

Stephanie Moon

As the mixing got underway, Stephanie Moon and Tim Bilton kept up the banter. Tim, ever the showman, shouted the odds for West Yorkshire while Steph told us of the time she offered to cook roast beef and Yorkshire pudding to an audience of Germans, ‘You mean Yorkshire pudding mit custard?’

The two of them have competed together on BBC2’s Great British Menu so they were coping with the pressure. Ben Cox was the dark horse. A man never known to leave his stove at the Star, he looked as if he was quietly worrying about lunchtime service rather than the state of his Yorkshire’s.

The amateurs were a good humoured bunch but they took their recipes very seriously and while the ingredients: flour milk, eggs and salt, hardly varied, there was much debate about fats, cooking temperatures and tins.

There were crusty old tins that looked as if they’d been in the family for generations, bun tins and  muffin tins, even an old ‘Fray Bentos’ pie tin.  Some measured their ingredients to the gram and others trusted to their eye and experience. Fats varied from lard to duck fat but everyone swore by a hot oven, though hot ranged from Ben Cox’s 200C to Stephen who whacked his up to 275C and almost set off the smoke alarms.

We judged all the puddings anonymously on appearance, taste and texture. Surprisingly despite everyone using the same ingredients, they all looked very different. Some were smooth and shiny while others were craggy and rustic. Texture ranged from soft and eggy to dry and crisp. Taste depended as much on the fat used as the amount of seasoning. Many of them woefully under salted

Winner of the amateur challenge: Christopher Blackburn

And the winner? The best Yorkshire pudding in the amateur class was made by Christopher Blackburn of Copley in Halifax whose secret was beef dripping, a hot oven and muffin tins which made a lovely rustic well risen pudding, crispy on top but with bags of taste and texture.

The winner in the professional class, whose puddings were cooked in duck fat, flavoured with a touch of sage and a drop of light vegetable stock and were by far and away the best I’ve ever eaten were made by Ben Cox of the Star at Sancton, a win then for East Yorkshire.

Prizes included kitchen equipment, afternoon tea at Rudding Park, dinner at the Butcher’s Arms and of course a copy of the Great Book of Yorkshire Pudding.

Me, I went home and made the best Yorkshire puddings I’ve ever made, to Ben Cox’s recipe. But they didn’t look a bit like his.

Remote Wine Tasting

How much of a wine’s character sticks in the memory – smells, tastes, colours, overall impression?

Well, this week I learned the hard way.

I was due to host an in-house introduction to wine tasting for staff at at The Cooking School at Dean Clough in Halifax. But a delayed flight back from Sicily (where I had been filming the harvest at Planeta, of which more later) and the parking angels helpfully losing my car, and then when they found it, discovering it had a flat battery, conspired against me getting there.

All The Cooking School staff plus the team from the Focus on Food Cooking Buses – 20 in all – were waiting expectantly.

What to do?  Barbara Govan, The Cooking School Business Manager offered to step in, but she didn’t have my tasting notes. We’d already agreed we would ask the staff to come up with three words to describe how the wines came across to them. So driving up the M11, I had to rack my brains and remember, without the benefit of seeing, sniffing and sipping, what my three words would be and relay these to Barbara by mobile phone.

Well, here’s what I came up with from memory on the drive back, albeit slightly more than three words.

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference South African Chenin Blanc: Tropical fruits, golden, slight hint of sweetness, dry finish.

Tesco Finest Soave (Italy): Fruity with bitter almond twist, elegant, pale.

Tesco Finest Argentinian Malbec: fruity with tastes of blackberry, slightly leathery, soft.

Tesco Finest Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Le Francese (Italy): Warm, spicy, hint of vanilla and cherry fruits.

Apparently I got the colour of the Soave wrong – this version is well made and was more golden than the Chenin Blanc when they were side by side. But otherwise the descriptions tallied, with one of the wine tasters actually volunteering leather for the Malbec, which proved the evening’s favourite wine.

Great audience apparently, so sorry I missed you!

So, winetasters, wine you enjoy is, above all, memorable!

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