Archive for ‘Food: cooking, baking, eating, restaurants.’

February 13, 2014

George & Joseph cheesemongers, Leeds.

It’s safe to say that avoiding supermarkets is a lot easier if you have brilliant local alternatives. Specialist shops might mean that you need to go from place to place rather than buying everything from under one roof, but the pleasure you can take from buying your food from someone who really knows their stuff turns food shopping from being a chore to a delight.

In North Leeds, one such shop is George & Joseph, a cheesemongers in Chapel Allerton. Tucked away down Regent Street in LS7, this little gem specialises in Yorkshire cheese and warm welcomes. I’ve been in a few times now, and always come away with gorgeous wax paper-wrapped cheese which we’ve thoroughly enjoyed. There’s something for all palates ranging from soft, mild goat cheese to strong blue cheeses as well as the crackers, chutneys and platters you need to serve your cheese on.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Fleming

Photo courtesy of Stephen Fleming

The first time we visited, Stephen the friendly owner of George & Joseph recommended the Old Winchester cheese which has become a firm favourite. It’s not a Yorkshire cheese—it’s from Lyburn cheese makers in the New Forest— but its firm, almost crunchy texture and strong nutty, Parmesan-esque flavour have got me firmly hooked. It’s genuinely my favourite cheese of all time. And that’s not a thing I say lightly.  Also, the cheese is made with a vegetarian rennet, which means its great for those looking for an Italian style hard cheese without the animal rennet that Parmesan always contains.

I’m thinking that a George & Joseph themed cheese tasting evening might be round the corner. Although don’t expect me to share the Old Winchester…

Do you have great local stores near you? Are there any other places in Leeds I should try too? Let me know!


Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

January 25, 2014

The Weekend Pages #2

Welcome to week two of The Weekend Pages, in which I share my online searches.

Recently, I’ve been gazing at perfect table settings and thinking about creating my own. Making time for friends is an important goal for me this year. I’d like to have small but regular gatherings of our closest family and friends in our home. So I need to think about how to make this happen. I’ve been using my renewed interest in Pinterest  to map out my plans for this year and beyond…

In January last year, we were busy making marmalade at home. This year, I’m planning to leave the marmalade making to other folk, but make some marmalade puddings! This Nigella recipe looks fabulous. Or perhaps, this one from The Three Chimneys. Failing that, there are lots of marmalade puddings here!

Regardless of anything else in our home,  one of the things you’ll always find is great coffee and we’re big fans of the AeroPress; here’s why…

The AeroPress, with Huw from Kinfolk ( on Vimeo.

Further afield, I’ve been thinking about travel, inspired by the beautiful maps at Herb Lester. I bought this Paris one, not because I have any particular plans for a solo trip to Paris, but just because maps are awesome and I love to dream of travel…

Herb Lester Paris map

Map: Herb Lester


Have you found anything great online this week?

November 4, 2013

Food, Glorious Food: BEDN #4

I’m starting to type this post with a stomach full of fluffy oven-baked potato, lashings of butter, a spot of parmesan and cracked black pepper, and a glass of red wine. Simple food, cooked with love, and completely perfect for Autumn.

We moved home on Friday, and I thought I’d share a couple of photos of our new kitchen. It’s not huge, but it is very sunny and, not shown in the photos, it has a table and chairs too, so we can sit and eat at the table together. Eating at the table as a family is such a huge memory of my own childhood and one that I hope to pass on to my own children. Its a time to catch up with each other, share stories, make time. And as such, it’s more important than what is on the plate in front of you.

Yellow kitchen aid mixer

Sunny little kitchen…

Having said that, what I eat is important to me, and has been at the forefront of my mind since our decision to quit using the supermarkets for a month (at the least – the way things are going it might be a permanent decision!)  We’ve set up a regular vegetable box delivery with Abel and Cole, which I really like because of the flexibility they allow with making changes to what we have delivered. As I have an allotment, very often the food I am getting in a veg box is the same as that I have grown, so to be able to say ‘no’ to various things when I’ve got a home grown glut is very helpful!


Freestanding kitchen unit. Spot the ‘moving-in’ Nutella glasses of prosecco!

In addition to that, since moving here we’ve bought bread and delicious cakes from Crust & Crumb, a local cafe/delicatessen, and spied a great local fruit stall that we’ll be paying a return visit to. Hunting around our new local area of Chapel Allerton in search of non-supermarket food stockists is a great way to get acquainted with the area. It looks like we’ll be spoiled for places to go out for food too!  I’m feeling really lucky to live in a place with so much independent retail. Next on the list of places to buy food from in Leeds are Millie’s, a family run food store in central Leeds, the Leeds Bread Co-op and obviously the Leeds Market. I’m going to find out when all the farmers’ markets nearby take place too. There’s nothing quite as pleasing to eye or stomach as a wander round a good farmers’ market!

But, most of all, I’m looking forward to cooking for family and friends again, and inviting them to sit around the table with us, break bread, share stories and create new memories.

Blog Every Day in November badge

November 2, 2013

Something I made: BEDN #2

Today’s #BEDN prompt made me ponder a while. I could have written about new friends I’d made perhaps, or my two babies, but I thought I’d stick to a traditional ‘making’ post. Sadly, my craft skills are currently limited to making loo roll animals with my kids. We may well make loo roll Christmas decorations this year too! Why change a winning formula? I do like to try attempting new crafts though, and will give most things a try.

One thing I’m not too bad at is baking. And with our month without supermarkets, I’ve decided to try and make the things that I’d usually buy. Starting with biscuits. Quite often, I make shortbread biscuits for the kids and they always prove really popular. Given that they won’t be having supermarket-bought biscuits this month, I thought I’d start the month as I mean to go on and make some biscuits with them.

It has to be said that making biscuits for my kids is far easier than making biscuits with them! Armed with the basic shortbread recipe (outlined below) that I’ve known since my own childhood, we set about making donkey shaped biscuits to have as a treat with a glass of milk. When I’m making these biscuits alone, it’s really straightforward, but the kids got a bit carried away with the mixing and so the texture was rather interesting, as you can see from the photo! Sadly, the first tray, at the top of the oven, ended up rather too donkey- coloured. By which I mean blackened. Thankfully, I kept a better check on the second batch and they turned out an appropriately biscuit colour. And then, once the kids were distracted elsewhere, I made more shortbread squares, which had a more ‘shortbread’ texture having not been over-handled by over-enthusiastic helpers!

Donkey shaped biscuit

See? Weird texture. This is what comes of baking with my kids!

The month without supermarkets will be lots of fun if we replace shop-bought treats with home-made ones. It’s nice to know that these biscuits only contain butter, flour and sugar. No unsustainable palm oil. No other unpronounceable additives or preservatives. I will continue to experiment with other, more exciting baking, but as a standby, these are unbeatable.


6oz plain flour, 4oz unsalted butter (which needs to be at room temperature), 2oz caster sugar.

Cream together the sugar and butter and then add the flour slowly until it all comes together in a dough-like texture. It will be crumbly and a bit tricky to keep together, so roll it out (onto a surface lightly dusted with more caster sugar if it needs it to prevent sticking) and then cut into fingers, squares, donkey shapes or using any other fun cutter you can find. Bake at Gas mark 2, (150 C) for 25 – 30 minutes. Don’t leave them too long, like I did!

As an aside, I quite fancy creating a giant collection of interesting shaped biscuit cutters, so if you know where I can find some, do let me know!

October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…


Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

October 18, 2013

Apple Day and Countryside Live.

Apple Day is one of my favourite annual events, first launched by Common Ground back in 1990. Celebrating the rich variety of apples we have in this country, ‘local distinctiveness’, landscape, ecology and the importance of provenance and traceability in food, this is a day that I absolutely love. Apple Day itself is on 21st October, but you’re likely to find events over most of October up and down the country, including cookery demonstrations, apple identification for those of you with unknown varieties in your garden, games for children to have fun with, growing tips and orchard tours. Common Ground no longer manage an Apple Day calendar, because their original intent was always that it took on a life of its own and became part of the seasonal calendar as much as any Harvest Festival might; a naturally occuring part of every October.  I, for one, will always celebrate Apple Day in some way or another.

I quite often go to RHS Harlow Carr on Apple Day. They don’t seem to have an Apple Day event this year, but they’re doing  a week of ‘Sensational Autumn’ activities for half term which look great fun. Other Apple Day events across the country include those run at several National Trust properties, such as apple pressing and other activities at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire.

This weekend is also Countryside Live, at the Harrogate Show Ground on Sunday. As well as  a display of apples and apple variety identification, there will be lots of other seasonal goodness, show-jumping and other equine classes for me to reminisce over, a myriad of other activities from sheepdog trials to chainsaw carving and the addition of tractors and animals will ensure that my kids have a great day out, so we’re going to spend Sunday there. Do come and say hello if you’re visiting too!

Many apple varieties remain unfamiliar to most of us because we’re presented with a pitiful selection in the supermarkets. Apple Day is a chance for us to redress that balance, find a bit about our local area, and the amazing heritage of fruit growing that we have. Do have a look to see if there’s an event near you!

Apple Varieties

September 9, 2013

Leeds International Beer Festival

On Thursday, I went to the second Leeds International Beer Festival.

Now, I know nothing about beer. Other than knowing what tastes I prefer (light, hoppy, perhaps some raspberry) and what I really don’t like (heavy, ‘chewy’ and too much grapefruit) I’m a complete novice. If you want to know more about beer from people who know what they’re talking about then I recommend you visit Leigh Linley at The Good Stuff or Nick at The Beer Prole (especially as there’s a photo of me looking remarkably sober on his Beer Festival post!) I like light (or what Leigh called ‘introductory’) beer and I’m happy with that. Actually, my favourite beer of all time is ‘Matilda’ made by Goose Island, if you’re ever buying…

Despite my utter lack of knowledge about beer, this isn’t the first beer festival I’ve been to. I’ve attended, and enjoyed, many a traditional CAMRA festival, despite being female and beardless, which seemed to put me distinctly in the minority. Leeds International Beer Festival is a different thing altogether though, and because of those differences, it’s the best one I’ve ever been to.

Firstly, the location is a stunning one. Leeds Town Hall is an incredible building and a wonderful choice. Having it here makes the statement that it’s being taken very seriously as an addition to the calendar of events in Leeds and that can only be a good thing. Combining beer with some excellent street food and coffee from local companies was a brilliant idea, giving us a break from drinking to line our stomachs with tasty treats!

Leeds International Beer Festival

Lovely beer and equally lovely ceiling!

We had battered-three-ways fish and chips from Fish&, chickpea stew from Lafsaneh’s Kitchen and some freebies at the very end of the night from Bundobust who are soon to open in central Leeds. I’m really excited to see where and when this opens because it was gorgeous and I’ve yet to visit the renowned Prashad restaurant, who are collaborators in this venture. Everything we ate was really excellent quality and freshly made and I honestly could have tried something from every stall! Definitely an addition that should be made to all beer festivals in future. As well as food, there was also live music all night, which helped to create the vibrant and upbeat atmosphere.

The collection of beers was an interesting one, with many contemporary-looking craft breweries and companies from the US and Europe as well as local names. My favourite drink from the evening was ‘Wu Gang Chops the Tree‘ from a small brewery called Pressure Drop. Described by them as a foraged herb hefeweisse, to me it had a light gingery and clove aftertaste which was incredibly palatable. And who doesn’t want to try a beer with that name? I also really enjoyed Lux Borealis from Hardknott brewery and some favourites from more local Yorkshire breweries, such as Ilkey Brewery’s Mary Jane and Kirkstall Brewery’s Framboise.

Such a great event, and one I hope will return next year. If it does, I’ll be back and I recommend you visit too…

August 14, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Five

Hello and welcome to week five of Three Good Things!

One: My tomatoes.

My first good thing this week is the first home-grown cherry tomato of the year. Earlier this year, I sowed a whole packet of seeds that promised to be a new variety of tomato that was small enough to sit on a windowsill. The grand plan was for me to grow them all and then share with the folk who come to the Sage and Thrift cookbook swap.

Things didn’t quite go according to plan when most of the seeds turned out to be some mysterious brassica (they all look the same at seedling stage!) and only three tomato plants. So I didn’t have enough to give any away. However, the two plants I still have left are doing really well. They’re petite, study and have a healthy crop of fruit that has just started to ripen. I ate the first tomato very ceremoniously yesterday and it was lovely. So, I’ll have a go at growing these again next year and hope that I get the tomatoes I’m promised! The mystery brassicas, by the way, have been planted on the allotment and are romping away. They may well be brussels sprouts…

Spot the first ripening tomato!

Spot the first ripening tomato!

Two: Scones in the Lake District.

I had a camping microadventure last week, and I’m going to blog about it separately, but there are a few things that really stood out for me. And one of them was this moment. At the risk of sounding like an Enid Blyton character, food always tastes especially nice when eaten outdoors. And when I feel as though I’ve really earned a treat by doing some exercise, it’s absolute heaven. So these freshly-made and still warm scones, eaten after climbing Castle Crag in The Lake District, were truly a high point of this week!

Giant cream tea...

Giant cream tea…

Three: Borrowing a tent.

The last thing that has made my week is a tent. Or, rather more specifically, the loan of a tent. Without which I couldn’t have had the microadventure that has given me lots of happy memories, made a huge improvement to the way I am feeling and set in motion a plan for the rest of the year. As I said above, I’ll tell you more about the trip later this week, but for now, huge thanks go to my marvellous, tent-lending friend Lyndon, without whom I wouldn’t have woken up  here…

Beats waking up at home...

Beats waking up at home…

Now, do go and see what Three Good Things  A Hell of a Woman, Mummy Plum, Asbestosbitch and Nyssapod have chosen this week and let me know what yours are!

Three Good Things is taking a break here next week, as I’ll be spending the week in a Mongolian Yurt at Bivouac. Hopefully, I’ll have lots of adventures to share with you on my return though…

July 24, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Two

The first week of Three Good Things was so well received and I have been completely delighted by how many people got involved. It seems that I’m not the only person who wants to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude for the small things in life.

We may not live perfect lives – I know I definitely don’t –  but there are a lot of things to be grateful for. Things that bring a bit of joy to the everyday, a spot of sunshine and a smile. I want to document them and be reminded that, although my life is not perfect, it is my life. And I’m incredibly lucky to be living it.

So, here we go…

One: My sweetpeas


The first thing on my list this week are my sweet peas. More than any other flower I know, sweet peas demand to be picked. The more flowers you pick, the more flowers the plant produces, in the desire to ensure its own survival. Added to that, if you choose one of the older varieties or perhaps Matucana (the original sweet pea) you are rewarded with an incredible fragrance from so few flowers. And, if that’s not all, they’re incredibly easy to save seed from. Just allow the pods to dry well, and pop out the large, dark seeds. Keep them somewhere cool and dry and they’ll be fine for sowing next year. Just remember that if you choose an F1 hybrid variety, the saved seed will revert back to the parent, and so you might well end up with a colour you weren’t expecting. But, hey, that’s part of the fun of gardening…

Two: Bun making with my daughter.


I’m not the kind of parent who does lots of craft activities with my kids. Something I’m going to attempt to change this summer. But I do cook with them. This week, we made buns. Not cupcakes or fairy cakes. Buns. That’s what my mum calls them, and so that’s what I call them. Anyway, these ones, with too much icing and a mountain of mini marshmallows on each one, were lovely.

Three: New perfume!


This week I was reminded that delated gratification can lead to far greater rewards. For about a year now, I’ve longed for a new perfume. One specific perfume, to be precise. 34 Boulevard St Germain, by Diptyque. I don’t know about you, but every time I see something that I’d really like, I say to myself ‘on payday, I’ll buy that’.  Of course, each payday comes and goes and I don’t buy lovely things. I pay bills.

This month, however, I did buy it. After a year of wishing that I could have this perfume in my life, I finally do. If you see me around, expect me to smell of it! It’s a complicated and quite unique fragrance, inspired by the flagship Diptyque store in Paris. As the store sells a myriad of perfumes, candles and home scents, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be a tangled mess of a smell. Not so. It starts off with green top notes, then the mid notes are floral and then dries down to  the lingering woody, earthy, rich and perfect base notes. I love it. Adore it. And it feels more special to me because I had to wait for it. I doubt I’d be treating it with the same reverence if I was just able to buy it on first encounter without having to really think about it.

So, that’s my three good things for this week. I’d love you to share your Three Good Things, either in the comments or in a blog post. Here’s a little round up of all the fabulous people who wrote a post last week – do go and read them!

Hello Kirsty  – In which we learn the Spanish for ‘we are turtles’ and see a glimpse of the best birthday party dress ever. Brilliant.

Espresso Coco –  More language fun in this post. And some of my favourite things from one of my favourite people and collaborator on a brand new blog! It’s about TEA. You’ll love it.

Leeds & Me  – Isobel has greener fingers than she thought! And because of this post, I’ve a new book on my reading list.

A Hell of A Woman – This blogger is one of my online best buddies and in this post she shares news of a great new project.

Lady Lugosi – This post made me laugh out loud and again, there’s a brilliant project included.

Spider’s Filthy Assistant – I love this post. It’s sexy, optimistic and has made me want to pay a return visit to Edinburgh this year.

Nyssapod – A post from one of my  favourite online friends. I’m coveting the phone case in this post! And I’m going to listen to the money-saving Audioboo.

Looking at this list of posts has made me smile the biggest grin. I probably shouldn’t have it as one of my Three Good Things for next week, but it’s tempting…

April 10, 2013

Sage and Thrift Cookbook Swap.

On Sunday 21st April, Sage and Thrift  (a project that I dreamed up with my lovely friend Jo) will be holding its first Cookbook Swap!

Sharing is at the heart of all our plans for Sage and Thrift. We want to build a community of like-minded people to come together to share – whether that is food, skills, resources or time. Food is central to that thought, purely because nothing brings people together like filling our stomachs.

The idea for the Cookbook Swap stemmed from my enormous and ever-growing collection of cookbooks. Regular readers of this blog will know that I cannot resist them. The sheer beauty of them together with the promise of perfection lying within each one draws me in like no other kind of book. Even though I know that I don’t have the room for them, it’s only a matter of days since I bought my last one – Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option, which is excellent – and I cannot be the only person with this kind of habit, yet without either the money to fund nor the space to house such a collection.

I’ve done Cookbook Challenges, and culled a few from my collection to the local charity shop, but most of them I can’t bear to part with forever. Having said that, I am always happy to lend them out, and know that I would love to try new books for a while in return. Hopefully, other folk will feel the same way.

Too many cookbooks ...

Too many cookbooks …

So, here it is the premise:

Come along to the Cookbook Swap – bring a book with you! One that you either love but have tired of, or one that you’ve never got on with. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a cookbook!

We’ll have a spreadsheet set up on the day, so we can take your details and the details of the book you’re leaving to swap. You need to be happy to lend the book out and know that it might come back a bit more spattered with cooking oil than it went out. If it’s too precious to you, leave it at home.

Then have a browse of the books available. Once you hopefully find one you like the look of, bring it back to us with our fancy spreadsheet and we’ll log that you’ve borrowed it. Take it home, cook up a storm, and bring it back to the next one. If you want to bring us some fabulous food you’ve cooked, so much the better …

One of the things we’re going to do is give out a little ‘passport’ with each cookbook. We’re hoping that people will write a little bit in them, just to say what they cooked and how things went. This will help us to build a record of how each book has been used and a bit of history of the swap.  Plus, we’re getting a stamp made with our logo on, so it’s rather a good excuse for us to get stamping crazy. The passport will stay with each book for as long as that book is part of the Cookbook Swap and then go home with the original owner as a memento of the project.

So, if you’re in Leeds on Sunday 21st April, between 2-3pm-ish and you’re interested, do come along. We’re very fortunate that the lovely folk at Brewbar Espresso (located just underneath Leeds Art Gallery) are letting us host the event there, so bring some pennies to buy yourself a cup of their fabulous coffee, and we hope to see you on the day!