Saturday, 14 July 2018

Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant, Deal

I recently spent a couple of days with the girls and my Mum at her caravan in Deal, on the Kent coast.

As this is a fairly new purchase for my Mum, we are still exploring the town and local restaurant scene, however one that keeps drawing us back is the Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant. My Mum has been to this one in Deal one three times now and Glen and I enjoyed a fantastic fish and chips in the Dover outpost of the small independent chain back in March with the girls – you can see below how appetising it looked, and after a day in the cold and wet Betteshanger Park followed by a beach stroll in Dymchurch it really hit the spot.

Fish & Chips at Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant, Dover

In June however, we enjoyed a meal at the Deal branch of Hythe Bay. We know they source their fish locally and it has always been good each time.

We visited early on a Friday evening, which as those with children will appreciate, is an easier time to eat and be served without too much fuss before the witching hour begins.

Mum and I shared a fritto misto di mare between us – basically a selection of fried seafood including whitebait, cockles, calamari and prawns in a deliciously light batter and served with a garlic aioli. One of our favourites and reminded us of our recent trip to Kefalonia where we had a similar dish often.

Whilst we enjoyed our starter, the girls meal arrived – cod goujons with chips and peas. One children’s meal is sufficient to share for children of their age (3.5 and 1) and they really enjoyed their meal too. A far cry from pub-grub fish fingers, these are delicious and fresh fish goujons, and I would have happily eat them myself.

Although we were in a seafood restaurant, Mum couldn’t resist one of the specials on the menu – calves liver and bacon, she’s a stickler for the old school classics and she enjoyed it immensely. It came with creamy mash and a red wine jus and she said if there were any complaints it would be that the liver was over-cooked a little to her taste, and there could have been more of the red wine jus, but she ate it happily.

Calves Liver & Bacon, Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant

I opted for half a lobster cooked with a garlic butter and served with chips and salad. The lobster meat was cooked perfectly; sweet and tender and complemented greatly by the garlic butter which acted as a great dip for the accompanying chips. A rather decadent meal for a modest price of around £15.

Lobster in Garlic Butter with Chips & Salad, Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant

The girls’ meal came with two scoops of ice cream, which the restaurant staff were more than accommodating enough to put into two bowls so we had two very happy little girls who enjoyed a great two course meal.

Ice Cream @ Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant, Deal

Bea enjoying her ice cream at Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant

Mum and I had a bottle of the Chillean Sauvignon Blanc, which was a lovely light and crisp wine with the meal and really complemented the lobster.  

The full meal was around £70 for the four of us with drinks and two courses a piece, which was well worth it.

I’m sure we’ll be getting to know the staff at The Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant in Deal more as the season wears on. It’s a great restaurant, with friendly and knowledgeable staff. The décor is very much seaside chic on the upscale side, but with comfortable and reasoning price points. A great location for family meals.

Hythe Bay Seafood Restaurant is situated on 41-45 Beach Street in Deal and is open 10am-9:30pm seven days a week.

Little Farthingloe Farm, Dover

During a week’s stay at my Mum’s caravan in Deal, Kent, back in March, the first Sunday fell on Mother’s Day and before heading out for a lovely dinner, we wanted to enjoy some of the local countryside first.

The day before we had headed to Betteshanger Park and carried out a nature trail, which had gone down brilliantly with Bridget (3.5years), Beatrice had only just learned to walk, so she had been a buggy participant.

Bridget wanted more of the same, so we looked up some local nature trails and found Little Farthingloe Farm on the Folkestone Road in Dover, just a fifteen minute drive from Deal, which we thought would hit the spot nicely.

Small, but perfectly formed would be an adequate description of Little Farthingloe, which boasted a ton of sheep, a donkey and a couple of pony’s, which kept Bridget and Beatrice entertained for quite some time. Bridget really enjoyed stroking the ponys, and they were quite tame, if a little unkempt.

Little Farthingloe Farm

There was also an adventure play area which was great for Bridget, but a little too old for Bea.

The ‘woodland trail’ is said to take 30 minutes in total, but it took us closer to an hour, what with stopping to look at various things along the way and the fact there was some quite thick mud due to the cold and wet weather in the days leading up to Mother’s Day. Luckily Bridget was sporting her wellies.

The trail begins by an absolutely mammoth open grassy hill, which was quite fun to climb actually, and once up the top you had spectacular views over the local countryside and the animals in the fields. 

Mothers Day hike at Little Farthingloe Farm, Kent

As we headed into the trail, there was a lot to see along the way. I had made some ‘nature trail checklists’ for Bridget and Bea, which had things such as mushrooms, spider’s webs, animal footprints, pine cones and so on, and we happily trudged along most of the trail stopping to tick off things from our list. 

There was also a bug hotel – which fascinated Bridget, even though its’ rooms were mostly vacant at that time of the year.

We found a few little dens along the way too. 

Little Farthingloe Farm Woodland Trail

Towards the end of the trail, it gets somewhat trickier to navigate. I’m sure if it hadn’t been wet underfoot and muddy, it wouldn’t have been much of an issue, but as Glen was carrying Bea, Bridget and I were buddied up. I do have a bit of a tendency to fall over anyway, regardless of mud, so it was almost inevitable it would happen at some point, and unfortunately it happened as we went downhill in amongst a load of mud, twigs, and trees. I took Bridget down too, till we were both flat on our bums in the mud. Absolutely hilarious – but Bridget was beside herself now, and petrified to come down most of the rest of the trail. It certainly made for a talking and laughing point for the rest of the day, and we were both smothered in mud.

There is a lovely little tea room at LittleFarthingloe Farm, which we didn’t get the chance to enjoy as I didn’t fancy covering their seats in mud, but I do chuckle thinking about the bundles of people who were enjoying a Mother’s Day slice of cake and cup of tea who probably heard Bridget’s screams from up the hill.

We had a lovely hour and a half at LittleFarthingloe Farm, there is no charge for entry and it’s a nice spot for family fun. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, just watch out when coming down the woodland trail!

Homemade Nature Trail

If you're keen to make your own family nature trail - all I did for mine, was find pictures of each of the following and pop onto a sheet of paper - you can do this any time of the year and add to it depending on where you're going and what you're likely to see.

  • Mushrooms growing
  • Two stones that look the same
  • Animal footprints
  • A feather
  • A pine cone
  • Birds
  • Squirrel
  • Berries growing wild
  • Spiders web
  • A brown leaf
  • A log on the ground
  • Butterfly
  • Ladybird
  • A pond or stream
  • A tree tunnel
  • A rabbit hole

The Old Bakehouse, Broadstairs

Back in March during the coldest spell on record, the girls and I spent a week at my Mum’s newly purchased caravan in Deal, on the Kent coast. We spent the two weekends with Glen, and my friend popped down for a few days but we had a few days on our own too.

I don’t drive, but I never let this hold us back in exploring and so one of the mid-week days, the girls and I (buggy and all) hopped on a Southeastern train from Walmer (the little hamlet of Deal where we were based) to Broadstairs.

I’d long wanted to visit this seaside resort, having heard great things, but I must admit in the cold and slightly drizzly weather it wasn’t quite what it might be at this time of the year, I don’t like to use the word bleak, but having walked around the entire town, on and off the beach, and the few open shops, it wasn’t as inviting as I’d expected. 

I will return over the summer as the sandy beach looked great and I'm sure we'll have a completely different kind of day in the sunshine.

Bridget enjoyed a few of the photographic opportunities – such as climbing in this boat, and posing by the sea, but there wasn’t tons here to do with children in the cold weather. They had a small amusement arcade which we popped into for half an hour. You'll see what the weather was like from these few pictures...

Bridget on the boat at Broadstairs
Trying to keep warm at Broadstairs
Bridget on the beach at Broadstairs

Searching for somewhere to eat, that would be accommodating with a 3 and a 1 year old with buggy in tow, we stumbled upon a few options – Bridget was quite taken with an ice cream parlour on the front, but freezing cold and slightly damp, I was looking for something a little warmer and whilst there were a few fish and chip shops, we’d already enjoyed some that week from Hythe Seafood Bar.

We had a peek in the Royal Albion Hotel, on the sea front, and whilst the children’s menu looked good, we walked in and aside from the fact there were about four wet dogs in there which immediately put me off, nobody approached us to offer a table in five minutes and I got fed up so we retreated back to the high street.

By sheer chance we stumbled upon The OldBakehouse – I saw the bakery first and thought worst case, I can grab us some sausage rolls, but then spotted the little tea room which is an annex of the bakery, I enquired if there was room for the buggy and couldn’t have been more welcomed.

Quaint and comfortably furnished, with meme signs (my Mum is obsessed with these so we felt right at home) and little nods to Kent, The Old Bakehouse was also a warm and welcome retreat from the cold. 

The staff were super friendly with the children too, which is always the most reassuring, especially if you’re eating out alone with them and they were in possession of a high chair too.

We quickly ordered some Welsh rarebit (cheese on toast) and juice for the girls and a cheese ploughman’s for me with a latte.

Hearty, comforting fare indeed and served with a smile, I really couldn’t fault it at all. 

My cheese ploughman’s came with a generous wedge of Cheddar and Brie, salad, coleslaw, pickle, chutney and a basket full of bread which the girls helped me with. For the £4.95 it was reasonably priced for great food – not fancy or refined, but exactly what you’d want in a tea room and I really enjoyed it.

Plougman's at The Old Bakehouse, Broadstairs

As a treat and to allay Bridget’s requests for ice cream in the aftermath of the ‘beast from the East’, I ordered us some homemade scones with clotted cream and jam as a dessert. They were exquisite. 

Scones at The Old Bakehouse, Broadstairs

Bridget loves a scone anyway from a few afternoon teas she’s been to with me, but this was Beatrice’s first ever cream tea, and she 100% approved, you can see the jam all over her in these pics.

Bridget's cream tea, The Old Bakehouse, Broadstairs

Jam face Beatrice, The Old Bakehouse, Broadstairs

I had change from £20 from our little jaunt here and warm, fuzzy memories of an hour spent happily in the warm during our cold little holiday.

The Old Bakehouse is an absolute gem of a find and I’m sure I’ll return with my Mum when we visit over the summer months. I’d thoroughly recommend.

Smoky Chorizo Beans on Toast

Weekend breakfasts are often heavy on bacon and sausages around here, and as we are embarking on the pre-holiday trim of our bodies, I thought I’d concoct my alternative beans on toast for this morning.

Beans on toast is always a winner in this house anyway – and these ones pack a punch and have some extra hidden veggies meaning you’re nearing that five-a-day goal before 10am. Win, win.

I use a little chorizo in these, as they add an extra smokiness and a little meat kick for Glen, who feels he is hard done by if he misses out on a bacon or sausage sandwich at the weekend, but you could equally use a little pancetta or smoked bacon or if you’re looking for a vegetarian or vegan option, you can omit altogether.

Making your own beans is a sure-fire to avoid any nasty additives, I don’t bother with salt here, as tinned kidney beans etc. tend to have salt, but I do add a smidge of honey, as we know that the big brands rely on a big hit of sugar in their products – you can adjust accordingly depending on your preference. The chipotle adds a beautiful smoky barbecue flavour – but again you can experiment with your own flavourings.

I top with a little grated parmesan for me and a couple of poached eggs for Glen – one slice of toast generously topped is a really filling and delicious breakfast. These beans work really well as a jacket potato filling or a side to any American barbecue dish.

The below ‘tops’ 5 slices of toast comfortably – feeding the four of us.

Smoky Chorizo Beans on Toast

Here’s how:
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 75g diced chorizo
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • Jar of passata
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste (I use Discovery)
  • Black pepper

Firstly dice the chorizo, slice the spring onion and garlic and add to a dry pan on a medium heat – the chorizo will exude a little oil – enough to cook everything in.

Now slice the green chill and chop the red pepper into small cubes and add to the pan, allow to cook for five minutes or so.

In the meantime, peel and grate the carrot and open and drain the cans of beans.
Now add the cannellini and kidney beans to the pan, and give a good mix in the chorizo mixture.

Now add the passata, Worcestershire sauce, honey, chipotle paste and carrot and season generously with black pepper and give a thorough stir.

Cook for twenty-thirty minutes or until the sauce is bubbling away nicely.

Serve on top of buttered toast with the optional addition of a poached egg or a little grated cheese. Enjoy!

Smoky Chorizo Beans on Toast

Here are some alternative family breakfast recipe ideas:
Creamy Chocolate and Nut Porridge
Mushrooms on Toast
Berry Yoghurt Pancakes
Banana and Oat Breakfast Muffins
Banana and Berry Muffins
Eggy Bread
Yoghurt & Fruit

Friday, 13 July 2018

Pesto Topped Haddock with Herby Couscous

This is another quick-fix that I can barely count as a recipe, and is more of an assembly of great things but it works wonders in the summer months for a fast-dinner that can be on the table in less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

I use my Walnut and Basil Pesto of which I can almost always be sure to have some in stock in the fridge or freezer over the summer, but you could equally use any jarred pesto or your own variety and I’ve used haddock here, but you could use any white fish and in fact in works well with salmon fillets too.

For the couscous, again another summer staple in this household due to how quick it can be turned around – play around with the herbs you like, I just particularly love the freshness of mint and parsley here.

The below serves my family of four.

Here’s how:
The fish:
  • X4 haddock fillets
  • 2 tbsp Walnut and Basil Pesto
  • Handful breadcrumbs or panko
  • 20g or so grated parmesan or other hard, strong cheese
  • Salt and black pepper

The couscous:
  • 150g couscous
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 225ml boiling water
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • Handful mint leaves
  • Handful parsley leaves

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and fill and boil the kettle.

Once the kettle boiled pop the couscous into a heat-proof bowl and top with the 225ml boiled water. Place a plate or a lid over the bowl and set aside for ten minutes.

Now organise the haddock fillets onto a baking tray, flesh side up and season well. Spread over a generous heap of the pesto onto each fillet. Then scatter over breadcrumbs over each one and finally, grate over a little parmesan onto each – which will act as a great additional seasoning.

Place the topped haddock into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the fish. The fish should flake with ease when cooked through and be a pure white colour inside – not opaque.

Now prepare the bits and pieces that will make for a delicious couscous. Firstly finely slice the spring onion, and chop the yellow pepper into small pieces. Roughly chop the mint and parsley and halve the lemon.

Before the fish comes out the couscous will have absorbed the water and will need fluffing up and having some flavour popped into it. Use a fork to fluff the grains up and give a good mix then pour in a good drizzle of olive oil and squeeze over half the lemon and mix again. Now add all of the other things – the spring onions, pepper and herbs and mix well. Give a final seasoning of salt and black pepper and this is ready to dish up.

Serve with a side salad or some seasonal vegetables – I’ve used asparagus here. Enjoy!

Here are some other lovely fish recipes:

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Prawn Summer Rolls

These Vietnamese summer rolls make a great lunch or dinner on a hot summer’s day and the use of the fresh herbs and chopped chilli make it super tasty and fragrant.

I’ve used prawns in these ones, but you can switch things up and make vegetarian ones too.

They are a little fiddly to roll up once you’ve popped the ingredients in but they are totally worth any mess you get into. Also the rice paper is tricky to master, and it’s normal to mess up the first one, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

The below makes four – enough for two people for lunch.

Prawn Summer Rolls

Here’s how:
  • 12-14 king prawns
  • 60g vermicelli rice noodles (I use Mama)
  • 1 carrot
  • Handful radishes
  • 2 spring onions
  • ½ green pepper
  • 1 red chilli
  • Handful beansprouts
  • 2 iceberg lettuce leaves
  • Handful coriander leaves
  • Few chive leaves
  • Handful mint leaves
  • Vietnamese rice paper rounds
Dipping sauce:
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 2cm piece fresh ginger

Firstly soak the rice noodles in a bowl of hot water for ten minutes.

While they are soaking make the dipping sauce by combining the soy, sugar, sesame oil and fish sauce with the juice of half a lime in a small bowl. Mince the garlic, slice the red chilli (keep the seeds in) and peel and slice the ginger and add to the bowl and give a gentle stir. Set aside.

Now peel and finely slice the carrot into thin batons, then cut the radish into similar thin slices and set aside onto a plate.

Roughly chop the lettuce and add to the plate.

Finely slice the green pepper and the spring onion and pop onto the plate.

Roughly chop the herbs and place on the plate with the beansprouts.

Now remove the noodles, which will now be soft and pliable, and squeeze them a little to release any moisture and put them onto the plate with the vegetables, ready to assemble.

Now for the tricky part – the rice paper. Firstly get two plates ready, or a chopping board and a plate to put the assembled summer roll. Now use a bowl of warm water (the one that had the noodles in would be fine), use your hands to quickly plunge one rice paper round into the water fully for 5-10 seconds, then remove and it should be soft and ready to pack, just place onto a couple of sheets of kitchen paper or a clean tea towel then place onto the plate or chopping board.

Prawn Summer Rolls assembly

Place 3 prawns in a line down the centre of the round leaving a small gap at one end, then add some lettuce, carrot, radish, pepper, spring onion and beansprouts, then add the herbs and finally a handful of noodles. Be careful not to over-load, as it will make the rolling process difficult.

When you’re ready, take the gap end and fold over the prawn and vegetable mixture, then carefully roll up as tightly as you can, and set aside – the wetness of the roll means it acts like a bit of an adhesive and should hold together whilst you prepare the other summer rolls.

Enjoy with the dipping sauce.

El Guaca, Clacton-on-Sea

We recently visited Clacton-on-Sea, Essex for a weekend full of dance competitions with Bridget’s dance school, and on the Saturday afternoon we found ourselves with a few hours to kill and so headed to the seafront, a place I spent lots of time at during my own childhood. Following a couple of hours spent on the pier and the fun fair, we looked for something to eat.

We stumbled upon El Guaca and were enticed by the sound of the Mexican menu and then even more so once we saw that the children would eat a free 3-course menu with each full meal purchased by an adult – definitely the decider.

Accustomed to some great standard Mexican restaurants in London, I admit we wondered if this would meet those exacting standards, but was actually pleasantly surprised in that El Guaca actually surpassed some places that we frequent regularly.

We ordered some tortilla chips with guacamole to start over some Coronas, and these were a great start – freshly made guacamole really offset with a squeeze of lime.

El Guaca Tortilla Chips, Guacamole, Kiddie Nachos

The girls had some nachos which were simply baked with a little grated cheese – perhaps a bit bland but perfect for young taste buds and they devoured the lot.

The mains were an actual triumph all round though.

For the kids, we played it safe and opted for the chicken strips which came with chips and salad – the chicken was actually not the usual breaded situation, but instead deliciously marinated and tender slices of cooked chicken – much better than we anticipated.

Children's Chicken Strips, El Guaca

Also the kids menu is great – they had a good range of main courses from the likes of quesadilla, fajitas, burritos and paella; which I think is great – stepping outside of the ‘norm’ for children’s menus and much less patronising. It’s reasonably priced at £6.95 got three courses and includes juice in that price which is great compared to a lot of chain restaurants where the add ons for a juice mean you’re looking at £10-12 for a 3 year old’s meal.

I had the pork pibil enchilada and it was fantastic. The pork was juicy, tender and had a fiery chipotle heat running through it, it really packed a punch. The creamy, cheesy topping on top of the rolled and pork-filled tortilla was generous and helped make this a real comfort dish and despite it being a generous portion it was served on a bed of Mexican rice too and had a little heap of guacamole there too. I didn’t manage the rice, but the enchilada was just great. I’d return for that in a heartbeat.

Enchillada, El Guaca

Glen chose the beef Chimichanga; basically for the un-initiated, this is a burrito filled with all of the delicious things you would expect in a burrito – cheese, peppers, refried beans, rice and salsa and then deep fried and topped with more salsa, sour cream and guacamole. In a word – epic.Served with Mexican rice and demolished.

Chimichanga, El Guaca

The girls had an ice cream included with their meal or they could have had churros with chocolate sauce, a brownie or buenelos. It was a hot day though so the ice cream went down a treat.

El Guaca was such a great find in Clacton, if we return next year for the competitions, I’m sure we’d head back. The staff were super friendly, especially with the children, the location is great – right on the seafront, overlooking the comings and goings and there’s seating both inside and out. The place is bright and airy and has some of the kitsch Mexican items you’d expect, from sombreros for picture opportunities to the décor with skulls etc. Apparently there are several El Guaca restaurants dotted around Essex and one in Wiltshire and one is Suffolk, if they’re anything like the Clacton outpost I’d give it a try.

The offer we enjoyed – the kids eat free - is apparently available every Saturday and Sunday and I would highly recommend it. It's a great family restaurant with something for everyone.

We paid around £45 plus tip for our meal and that was with a couple of rounds of Corona. They also have a ton of cocktails on the menu that looked very appetising – maybe next time we’ll go without the kids.