Thursday, 26 February 2015

Recipe: Rhubarb Cobbler (GF & Vegan version possible)

Last weekend Des and I went to check out the Wakefield Rhubarb festival which celebrates the bittersweet harvest from the famous Rhubarb Triangle of Yorkshire.

The festival was a fruit of many different types of food and drink, all from a variety of local suppliers (Including Tarte & Berry, who will be featuring in an upcoming post of their own.) 

However the real star was the famous Forced Rhubarb, a partially local phenomenon, unique to Yorkshire

Forced Rhubarb is the result of a rather usual process; the plants begin by spending two years out in the fields without being harvested. Whilst in the fields, the plants store energy in their roots as carbohydrates. These roots are subjected to frost before being moved into sheds in November where they are kept in complete darkness. In the sheds the plants begin to grow in the warmth and the stored carbohydrate in the roots is transformed into glucose resulting in forced rhubarb's bittersweet flavour.

A longer post on the festival is in the works, however I thought I would quickly share with you the recipe I used to make the most of my rhubarb haul from the festival. It's ridiculously simple and only requires a few ingredients, most of which may well already be in your store cupboard.

This cobbler is much like a crumble, however is slightly healthier due to the omission of butter and other fats. To make it even more saintly, I recommend using agave nectar or raw honey, instead of brown sugar. 

The addition of the orange juice adds an extra dimension to the flavour, helping to compliment the sharp aspects of the rhubarb, whilst also adding natural sweetness.

I'd love to know if you have any rhubarb recipes of your own that you recommend!

 Please do leave a comment with any suggestions - I'm thinking that rhubarb scones may have to undergo a trial in my kitchen.


  • 400g forced rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 2cm chunks
  • The juice of one orange
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 200g Oats (GF oats if needed)
  • 130ml milk of your choice (you can use soy or almond for a fully vegan recipe)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C

2. Place the chopped rhubarb in the bottom of a large ovenproof dish, sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of the brown sugar and pour over the orange juice and then mix well. 

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the oats, milk and remaining two tbsp. of sugar until a thick batter is formed.

4. Dollop this batter liberally over your rhubarb mix, then place in the centre of the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

5. The Cobbler is best served with liberal amounts of custard or cream

For more food adventures, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A Guide to Ethical Living, Part 1: Your Food

It's a good sign that something is changing when sales of ethical products grew by more than 12% in 2012 alone. 

This movement towards sustainable and ethical consumption has been driven by millennials, as we are the generation that will have to deal with the consequences of over a century of conspicuous consumption and energy use.

I'm extremely passionate about promoting and championing an ethical way of living, so much so that it's become my job! As a director of Bright Ethics, I am fortunate enough to come into contact with a variety of people/organisations who share my values and work with experts in the field of ethics.

I really do believe that it is up to us, as individuals, to make informed and ethical decisions when it comes to what we buy.

I have put together this five part series to help highlight some of the decisions we can make when it comes to various areas of our life. I'm hoping to publish the series weekly and will cover the following topics

  • Household Goods
  • Transport, Fuel and Lighting
  • Personal items - Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fashion
  • Tourism

I really would like to make it clear that I am in no way trying to be prescriptive with these posts! I mean the series simply to be an informative guide to the decisions that are possible when considering an ethical lifestyle.

Some of the actions highlighted may not be suitable for you due to personal reasons and this is by no way something to be ashamed of. Acting ethically is a personal decision and you may not even agree with some of the points I raise - that is OK!

I would actually love to hear if you disagree with me or have any further recommendations - these issues should be debated as much as possible, as they affect us all.

Without further ado, I introduce you to part one in my Guide to Ethical Living - Your food

High Welfare Food 

  • The food you choose has a direct effect on how farm animals live, we have all seen and heard of the terrible conditions some animals face due to intensive farming practices. 

  • Compassion in World Farming also has some useful guides relating to specific foods/food groups

  • Human welfare is also an important consideration, forced and slave labour can be part of some food production.

    • Forced labour is any work or services which people are forced to do against their will under the threat of some form punishment.

    • Forced labour is prevalent here in the UK and can be utilized in seasonal agricultural production, e.g. fruit

    • Unfortunately it's very hard to know where both forced and slave labour occurs - for example prawns sold in supermarkets were recently found to be the product of slave labour in Thailand.

    • One way to avoid the products of forced and slave labour is to buy direct from the producer and ask about labour conditions.

Cook from scratch 

  • Processed food often uses wasteful and unnecessary packaging which is quickly thrown away

  • It's also very easy to get started in your own kitchen! Jamie Oliver has a really useful website full of factsheets to inspire and inform.

  • There are health advantages too - You are in full control of sugar/salt amounts and can also eliminate any artificial additives. 

Don't waste the waste 

  • Leftovers can almost always be repurposed into delicious meals - Love Food Hate Waste has some great ideas/recipes.

  • Know the difference between "Use By" and "Best Before" dates

    • Use By - these are safety guidelines and should generally be adhered to. I sometimes personally choose to ignore them by a day or two, however this is due to my experience of working with a wide variety of foods. (Souce)

    • Best Before - these are concerned with quality, not safety. Within reason, if the date has passed, the food is usually safe to eat. (Source)

Live Locally

  • I'm a huge advocate for buying locally, as it means money is kept within communities and helps to support vital small businesses.

  • According to the Guardian - "When you shop at local butchers, bakers, farm shops and greengrocers, it is likely that a decent percentage of the produce has had a short field-to-fork journey. Along with supporting local farmers, it means the food is likely to contain more nutrients and have less packaging."

  • Most importantly for me, you are also much closer to the production source and therefore can ask questions about where the food has come from and how it was produced.


    • Reduce your food miles even further by growing your own, you will them know the fully story of what you eat, from veg patch to plate.

    • Size is not an issue - even if you only have a small garden or a few pots, it's surprising how much you can grow! Check out this BBC Guide

    Perhaps consider going meat free?

    • The number of people following a Vegan or Vegetarian lifestyle for ethical reasons is growing.
      • Greenhouse gases caused by meat production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise. (Source)

    • Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
      • The Vegan Society has some great resources and tips on how to transition to a vegan lifestyle.

    • Even just omitting meat one day a week makes a huge amount of difference, especially if we all start doing it! 
      • Meat Free Monday is a growing movement and the website has lots of recipes to help even the most committed of carnivores cut down.

    Fairtrade, RFA, Soil Association

    • I must admit, I was in two minds as to whether to include these, especially as more and more people are becoming critical of schemes such as Fairtrade. I personally think that it has had an extremely positive influence, however people need to be aware that it is not the only signifier of fairly traded goods.

      • Many companies are trying to implement their own fair trading standards in house, however consumers should be critical of the transparency and honesty of such unregulated practices.
        • This is a subject I could go into a lot more detail with, if there is demand I am happy to do so in another post!

    • Rain Forest Alliance (RFA) has both a focus on preserving biodiversity and encouraging sustainable farming.

    You can also consider ethical issues when it comes to your pet's food!

    • As this often contains meat, there are animal welfare issues to think of. 

    Some Other Resources

    This post was inspired by the work I do at my business, Bright Ethics.
    We want to help consumers make ethical purchasing decisions through promoting ethical businesses practices and helping organisations implement ethical standards.

    For more food adventures, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin

    Thursday, 19 February 2015


    What is it? 
    "A full-bodied multigrain bread kit - just add water!"

    We are currently in the middle of renovating our first home, which means Ikea has become a regular pit stop for all manner of useful and miscellaneous items (read: lots of scented candles.)

    This week we found ourselves back again to pick up various shelves/coffee tables/candles.... and as usual I could not resist a little peek at the food retail area.

    Whilst wandering through the mountain of scandi treats, something caught my eye, a bread mix packaged in an usual carton. Having just mastered the art of the breadmaker, I felt this was an opportunity to expand my sphere beyond a simple whole grain loaf.

    The bread mix is extremely simple and can actually be used without a bread maker, you simply add water to the carton, shake to mix, leave to prove, then bake in a bread tin.

    The only thing I changed for my breadmaker was the addition of a tbsp of oil, just to stop it sticking to the bread tin. 

    I'm a big fan of dense, textured loaves and this mix does not disappoint on those fronts - the resulting loaf is robust and filling.

    The only disappointment was that whilst the mix was in the proving stage, there was a wonderful malted aroma, however this did not translate into a rich flavour upon baking. If anything, the bread is slightly bland - possibly due to the fact that there is a short prove of only 40 minutes, which probably does not allow much time for flavour to develop.

    Priced at £2.25, this might not be a staple way of baking bread, with a high cost per loaf. However it does make an easy and convenient way of experiencing a scandi style sarnie.

    Have you tried any good Ikea food products at home? I'm especially interested to see if their frozen meatballs live up to expectations!

    Also some exciting news! Due to demand, I am now offering spaces for fellow bloggers to showcase themselves to my very lovely readers. Check out the options below or in my "Sponsor Info and Disclaimers" page. The paid spot is around £3.80 in sterling.


    Des makes a mean breakfast - He used the bread as a base for posh beans with chorizo, courgette and garlic fried eggs
    For more food adventures, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin

    Tuesday, 17 February 2015

    Review: Sous le Nez, Leeds*

    The Basement,
    Quebec House
    Quebec Street

    Whilst food remains a stalwart passion of mine, my relationship with fine dining is akin to my relationship with most luxury things - are you paying for more style or substance.

    So often it is disappointingly the former, especially when glitzy packaging or restaurant interiors divert attention away from substandard products and food.

    I have eaten some of the best meals of my life from street food vans, friends homes and even, dare I say it, as a result of my own cooking.

    There is something about going out though isn't there... sitting down, relaxing and taking time over tantalizing dishes whilst soaking in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. A good bottle of wine also is a welcome addition to this mix.

    This is the kind of experience I was expecting to have at Sous le Nez, a popular restaurant/wine bar located in  the centre of Leeds. Tucked away on Quebec street, the basement premises are a short way from the station and easily accessible.

    Upon entering, it was apparent that Sous le Nez is both a place for dining and drinking, with groups of well dressed businessmen adorning the bar, adding a gentle chatter. We were swiftly seated by polite and welcoming staff into a little corner table, which if anything suffered from being a little too out the way.

    From perusing the menu, it became even clearer that this is a restaurant heavily influenced by french cuisine which promised good food paired with good wine. On both counts, we were not to be disappointed!

    French Onion Soup
    Mackerel Pate, Beetroot Cured Salmon, Celeriac Salad

    I think we could not have visited somewhere serving French cuisine without having to try their version of French onion soup. The challenge of assessing this traditional dish fell to Des, who was not disappointed. The soup was rich and meaty, though possibly lacking a certain dimension of flavour in it's basenotes, but was well complemented by the Gruyère smothered crouton which adorned the bowl. 

    My starter was the real star of the meal, with the mackerel pate being a delight with a wonderful saltiness and yielding softness. The plating was also especially well executed, whilst remaining unfussy and the beetroot cured salmon an interesting twist.

    Seared Breast of Partridge with Curly Kale, Black Pudding, Thyme and Rosemary Jus
    Confit Duck Leg with Sweet Potato & Coriander Rosti, Chilli, Black Bean Sauce
    Served with seasonal vegetables and new potatoes

    This time Des definitely won out with his choice of seared partridge breast, the bird was tender and full of flavour, well complimented by the thyme and rosemary. The black pudding was apparently especially good (you will have to ask Des about this if you want any more detail, as he hoovered it up before I got a single look in!) 

    The seasonal vegetables were cooked by a sympathetic chef and to my joy, still retained a good amount of bite. My main was well executed, with an unusual combination of flavours and a lovely tenderness to the duck.

    Chocolate and Blackcurrant Trifle, Creme Chantilly & Ginger Biscuit
    Orange and Lemon Panna Cotta, Passion Fruit Sauce, Poached Rhubarb

    Dessert perhaps was the only sphere in which the meal fell down, in my opinion anyway. I chose the trifle due to my love for chocolate and berries, however these flavours did not seem to be forthcoming. Texturally and presentation wise everything was excellent, though I really did feel that the trifle was bland, despite the moreish ginger biscuit encrusted creme chantilly.

    Des again made an astute choice to go with the panna cotta, a dish which usually does not appeal to me. However the combination of rhubarb and passion fruit proved to have real legs, especially when combined with the slight zing of the panna cotta. The dish was also invitingly put together, with bursts of colour all round.

    We dined off the Menu Du Soir, which comes in at a very reasonable £26.95 per person, including a half bottle of rather decent wine. 

    Would I go back again? - I do think so, especially as the venue had character along with the food and wine being excellent for the price point. I don't think I will be ordering a trifle anywhere though in the near future....

    *Des and I were invited to try the Menu Du Soir on a complementary basis. As always our opinions upon review remain honest and our own

    For more food adventures, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin

    Friday, 6 February 2015

    Living Locally: Holgate Windmill

    There has been a big crusade against bread in recent years, with many eschewing their daily loaf due to allergies, health concerns or low carbohydrate diets. 

    However on the flip side of this, there also has been a resurgence of bakers looking to go back to simpler production methods, better ingredients and the use of less chemicals (for more on this, check out my interview with Steve from Farnley Bakehouse.)

    I remain firmly on the pro-bread side of things, I tried going for a week without it once, it wasn't the worst week of my life, but boy did it come close. We eat a lot of bread in the AoF household, especially as we recently were given a second hand breadmaker, meaning we can bake what and when we like.

    Though I have been living in York since 2010, we have just recently moved to a new part of the city. This has provided the much needed impetus to explore new areas and uncover different pubs, restaurants and parts of the city. One big discovery has been that we live just over a mile from a working windmill! As a lover of local food and all things historical, I had to go and check it out!

    Holgate windmill sits perched atop one of the few prominent hills in York. Now surrounded by houses, when built in 1770 this area would have been recognisably rural, with the city of York and it's imposing Minster visible over a mile away.

    Mills were a vital part of a pre-industrialised society, as usually the local populace would bring their grain to the mill in order to obtain flour for bread, a staple part of the peasant diet. This also meant that a miller was in a considerable position of power, as he could charge what he wished for a very essential service. Millers were consequently often suspected of fudging the weights and measurements - giving back less than they received.

    The rise in discontent against the millers was particularly high during the late medieval period (this is the bit where I geek out, I specialised in medieval history after all!) Attempts were made by medieval authorities to tackle the use of false weights and measures to supply reduced quantities of goods such as flour. This was especially acute during the great agrarian crisis of 1314-22, where around 10% of the population starved to death due to multiple years of crop failure. 

    Working windmills such as this are rare nowadays, with many being left derelict, torn town or even turned into homes. However this unique York feature was luckily saved from such a fate by the Holgate Windmill Preservation Society and after over a decade of renovation, is now firmly in working order, producing traditionally stone ground flour from Yorkshire wheat.

    The society often takes part in open days, including the York Resident's Festival, meaning that the general public can come and gain an insight into how this once integral part of the local economy functioned. The mill is very obviously wind powered, with a rare five double shuttered sail configurement. Visitors are able to climb up some rather steep steps in order to view the three production floors and fair wind permitting, watch the massive brake wheel turning and in turn the mill stones grinding.

    The resulting flour can actually be found on sale downstairs in the visitor welcome area, along with lots of postcards/cards featuring various contemporary and traditional images of the mill. 

    We decided to pick up a bag to try at home, because who can resist the idea of baking bread made flour ground just over a mile away from home. We were forewarned to expect quite a heavy, dense loaf and I did find that I needed to add more water than usual. 

    The resulting bread was however quite wonderful, the texture was robust, yet also soft and yielding. The flour also has a depth and slight nuttyness to it's flavour, making it perfect for savoury baking. Having tried a few loaves now, I have also found that has a far better rise than the bread I make with supermarket bought flour.

    Holgate Mill is currently staffed by volunteers and open on Saturdays for flour sales, from 10am-12pm. Also if you pop over on a Friday morning, there is apparently the chance that you might get to see the mill in action, safety permitting.

    For more information and opening times, check out the website here

    My first test was some very successful lunch rolls.

    A rare picture of the mill in the early 20th Century
    I just love the texture of this millstone standing outside the building
    The mill now forms the centrepiece of a roundabout on the residential street
    All of the internal machinery is exposed 
    Prehistoric milling stones were much simpler!
    A grinding stone encased in wood to collect the flour
    Apparently this imposing beam is thought to have been once part of a ship's mast!
    For more food adventures, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin

    Sunday, 1 February 2015

    Recipe: Italian Inspired Orange Cake (GF, Lactose Free)

    This recipe originally started out as an experiment in making a Lemon Polenta Cake à la Nigella. However like many of my culinary escapades, it quickly morphed into something different due to the surplus/availability of items in my store cupboard!

    I'm always of the opinion that it's much better to adapt things and use up what you have, rather than go out and buy exotic ingredients which are used once, then relegated to some dingy kitchen back cupboard.

    So after a quick stock check yesterday, I discovered I had a few things that could do with being used pronto - mainly a whole load of very ripe oranges! After some more rifling around in the cupboard, I came up with ground peanut flour and ground rice. The case for baking a cake was growing (though I hardly need to actually make a case for cake in this house.)

    I decided that it might be worth trying to substitute polenta for the ground rice, as both are essentially ground starches. I was very happy with the result, which is very similar to an italian polenta cake - dense, moist and devilishly sweet.

    This is the cake for you if:

    • You want something squidgy and moist
    • You are looking for a GF treat
    • You have a lactose intolerance
    • You want to eliminate processed sugar (the icing sugar stage can be forgone.)

    I hope you enjoy! 

    I really love seeing what you guys make with my recipes, it makes my day when I get a picture or two in my inbox! You can find more of my recipe pictures on my Instagram.


    • 80ml Rapeseed Oil 
    • 80g Honey
    • 2 tbsp Agave Nectar 
    • 2 Large Free Range Eggs, beaten
    • 50g Ground Almonds
    • 100g Ground Rice
    • 1 tsp Baking Powder 
    • Zest of 2 Large Oranges
    • Juice of 1 Large Orange
    For the Orange Drizzle 
    • 2 tbsp Honey
    • Juice of 1 Large Orange
    • Icing Sugar to Dust


    1. Grease and line an 8" loose bottomed cake tin and preheat the oven to 180C

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, honey and agave nectar

    3. Add to this the ground almonds, ground rice, orange zest and baking powder - beat with a wooden spoon until a thick paste forms.

    4. Add the orange juice to this paste and slowly beat with the spoon until it becomes loosened

    5. Slowly begin to add the beaten eggs, just a little at a time, you can use a whisk or spoon to work everything together until smooth.

    6. Pour this mixture into the cake tin, it will be quite runny! Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and springy, cool on a wire rack.

    7. Once the cake has cooled, slowly heat the honey in a small saucepan until very liquid, add to this the orange juice, mix well and take off the heat. 

    8. With a toothpick, make lots of tiny pricks, 2cm deep, in the surface of the cooled cake. Pour over the orange drizzle and let it seep into the cake.

    9. Finally dust with icing sugar and serve!

    Recipe Hacks
    • Instead of the honey and agave, you can substitute them for 100g caster sugar
    • Feel free to use lemon instead of orange, though you will need the zest of 3 lemons!
    • I actually used peanut flour instead of ground almonds and it worked a treat

    For more food adventures, find AoF on Twitter and follow on Bloglovin

    Thursday, 29 January 2015

    Goldsborough Hall: The Launch of a Dining Room*

    The Dining Room at Goldsborough Hall
    Photos: Des, Ben Thorpe
    Words: Bethan

    Goldsborough Hall,
    Church Street,
    North Yorkshire,
    HG5 8NR

    It's easy to get trapped inside your own little bubble, especially in a city like York, where most of your life can occur in a 2 mile radius. This is obviously excellent for the cyclist in me, however not so fulfilling when it comes to the adventurer.

    Opportunities to travel beyond our cozy enclave are always welcomed by Des and I, especially when accompanied by the lure of beautiful surroundings and fine food. An invitation to attend the launch of Goldsborough Hall's Dining room certainly provided ample enough reason to break out and make our escape into the wider Yorkshire region.

    We were actually forming part of a small York contingent in line to attend the event, as we were joined by good friend Ben from York on a Fork and his partner Tamsin. Due to my horrendous time keeping skills (I was once famously 15 minutes late to my final exam at Uni.....) we were unfortunately slightly late setting off on the 25/30 minute journey which took us to Goldsborough, just off the A59 near Knaresborough.

    I must admit that I left York feeling pretty stressed out after yet another episode of "Bethan forgets that time is a linear, nonstationary thing" but once we pulled up outside the imposing Jacobean facade, all this started to fade and became replaced by the sense that I was entering into another realm.

    The building of Goldsborough Hall originally dates from c.1620 and later became the residence of H.R.H. Princess Mary in the 1920s. However the current owners, Mark and Clare Oglesby, fell in love in 2005 with a building that had been reduced to almost ruin and was in danger of being snapped up by property developers looking to divide the residence into flats.

    After a light champagne reception, I did a bit of snooping to see exactly what Clare and Mark had done with what must have been a diamond very much in the rough. From walking around the sumptuous ground floor, it's clear to see that their renovation has both been sympathetic to the history of the building and modernising. Since 2006, they have been hosting weddings and functions as well as creating very luxurious accommodation in 5* suites on the second floor of the hall.

    "So why promote a Dining Room?" you may ask at the point. I certainly must admit that I had the question running through my mind. I managed to catch Clare, who was very busy making us all feel welcome, (I must say everyone involved in the evening certainly succeeded in this) in order to find out more.

    She explained that whilst the venue is obviously well suited to weddings and short breaks, they wanted to develop it into a destination which can provide an experience for everyone, whether they come for afternoon tea, fine dining or indeed an entire weekend away. I do agree that even a few short hours spent here would provide a luxurious escape from the daily grind, or indeed my small York bubble.

    The quality of food in any establishment is obviously a large part of this plan, so in order to make sure their offering reflected the prestige of the building, Clare and Mark have employed renowned head chef Paul Richardson-Mackie to develop a menu based on fresh, locally sourced and seasonal produce.

    We were lucky enough to sample some of his creations and I can happily to report that they lived up to the expectations that I developed from seeing the building. The flavours were cogent and well thought out, (the Seafood Bisque was practically addictive) the visual appeal and plating was also impressive.

    Now I guess the big question is, would I make the effort to come here, especially when York does have plenty fine dining on offer inside my little self imposed enclave.

    You know what, I'm going to surprise myself and say yes. Whilst it wouldn't be somewhere I would visit on a weekly basis, there is definitely enough here to warrant visiting for a special occasion. The staff were welcoming, the food we sampled was excellent and think it's quite obvious from the photos below that this is indeed a stunning destination with character.

    I actually do think that Goldsborough could make a name for itself as an Afternoon Tea destination, especially when you could enjoy your luxury experience in the building then move on to an afternoon stroll in the Hall's 12 acre grounds.

    I was happy to get my favourite dress from L.K. Bennett out for evening
    As you can see, there was quite a buzz! (Top points for spotting Ben in the throng.)
    The Seventeenth Century fireplace provides a beautiful focal point in the Dining Room
    Some of the delicious treats on offer
    Photo by Ben Thorpe
    Photo by Ben Thorpe
    During the evening I managed to get upstairs and have a quick peek at the accommodation on offer. We were shown round by the extremely friendly housekeeper and it was apparent that she took great pride in maintaining the rooms to an extremely high standard.

    There are currently 6 rooms on offer, all of which have different characters, as you would expect in such a building. They certainly do live up the expectations I would have of a 5* venue, with lovely touches such as fresh fruit, fine linen and Molton Brown toiletries.

    There are lots of lovely period features, such as these slightly off centre Jacobean windows.
    This room is often used as the Bridal Suite (I can see why...!)
    It's very hard not to include yourself when taking a photo of such a large mirror....
    Apparently the view out the window during the day from the sunken bath is incredible
    I would like to thank Clare, Mark and the team for a fantastic evening and for inviting us to see what is on offer at Goldsborough Hall.

    *I was asked to attend the launch evening at Goldsborough Hall, however I was not asked to write this review. As always, all views and opinions are honest and my own (sometimes with some input from Des!)
    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...