Monthly Archives: April 2013

Real Street Food at the South Bank

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How time flies. Its weeks since the kid and I were sampling the delights of the Real Street Food festival in London. I really really wanted to go especially as I get precious little opportunity for this kind of thing in Wales. It was only on a whim, at the last-minute, on Easter Monday that I managed to shoe horn a trip in to our busy schedule. I saw ‘our’ busy schedule but I actually mean my sons. Unluckily for me the market visit wasn’t  the main attraction of the day, nope it was the other excursion to see Potted Potter at The Garrick theatre that took precedence. The market trip became a whirlwind one; we only stopped at the stalls where there was food the kid wanted to taste and I ended up hurrying along in his uncompromising and short attention spanned wake.

Still, I enjoyed my brief trip but it did make me a little bit sad that on my return to Wales I would no longer have such luxuries as road side dosa’s to tempt me. We simply don’t have that kind of thing here and those that are lucky enough to set up in business are so widely dispersed that you often don’t know they are there. Sadly they are not to be found in the centre of town only in areas where they can side step council policy (i.e. whereaver kind and forward thinking people grant permission for street food vendors to park vans on their land).

This does boil down to local council policy and what appears to be a general reluctance to grant licenses to street traders, unless the stall is part of an organised ‘market’. Even where there is an organised market it isn’t filled with local street food traders, instead the council seems to ship in cheap and cheerful noodle stalls and churro stands with a uniform look and unappetising looking food. The French sausage stall at the last market was genuinely from France. I tried to hold a conversation with the owner, in very broken French and English; we didn’t get very far and I was left wondering where our own local traders were? Back in London we had a lovely time. Torn between a dosa from the Dosa Deli or something from The French Revolution creperie (the chestnut mushroom, spinach and garlic caught my eye) but I dithered too long; the kid moved fast. He started eyeing up these giant sausages, but finally opted for a cheese burger and fries from Bleecker St. Burger. When asked if he wanted it medium i.e. a bit pink, he frowned and said no I want it cooked properly. He devoured it along with the fries which were crisp and delicious.2007-06-10 23.55.40

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I eventually settled for a cevapcici from Balkan street food vendors Karantania simply because it was the closest stall to where the kid was sitting and he didn’t want me to disappear from his sight. It was a little big for me so I was unable to finish it all, but the meat had a great flavour.

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After all of this I longed for a Sipsmith gin and tonic from the Wondering wine company but instead settled for a spiced cider from to warm me up. Don’t be fooled by the sunshine, the weather was positively Baltic! Slowly we ambled off across the river towards the theatre, warmth and the kids highlight of the day.

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Since my return to Wales I have tried in vain to make contact with the local council. I phoned and was told to email. I emailed and have as yet received no response. I’d like to have a conversation about licenses and open a discussion about how we can get more local street food vendors in business, but at the moment this is looking unlikely. In the meantime I have also given assistance to another local entrepreneur with interesting ideas and information to enable him to put together a plan for his own street food business. I’ve yet to have a response from the council but….watch this space.

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Filed under British food, Eating out with kids, festival food, Food festival, local produce, street food

A spring wedding in pictures

After the atrocious weather that accompanied pretty much all the weddings I catered for last year, it was a very pleasant surprise to be graced with this kind of day. It really couldn’t have been better….how could you not want to get married here…or come to think of it work here? When the Welsh weather gets it right, it really gets it right!

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Although I can’t take credit for the stunning colour scheme, the cake or the most amazing macaroon display I have ever seen (and yes, they were just as delicious as they looked..I tried a raspberry and rose one and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven….as one guest said, “of course, when your French friend says she will make macaroons, you are going to say yes”!!)

It’s hard to believe it was only yesterday as I watch the rain pour down the windows, but obviously good luck was with the bride and groom and I wish Natalie and James well who are also about to move to Copenhagen on Wednesday…two huge events in one week!!

If you are a hardy chap that likes the great outdoors and a bit of camping (plus one truly amazing space for your event)  Llyn Gwynant is the place for you…I do a lot of wedding catering there during the summer months and it is a fab place to work (even when the weather isn’t so kind).

Oh yes and PS. can you guess I’ve got myself a new camera…these are my first attempts as I get to grips with it 🙂

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Filed under Llyn Gwynant, Wedding catering

Recipe: My version of Moro’s chocolate and apricot tart

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This recipe was inspired by my recent trip to Moro. No hold on a sec, that’s not entirely honest; inspired isn’t really the right word. Perhaps spurred on is more accurate, or maybe challenged…anyway, let me elaborate.

While I was in London I celebrated my birthday with dinner at said restaurant. As it was my birthday I was strictly banned from

a/ making notes

b/ taking pictures

My family hate me photographing their food or ‘working’ while socializing with them. The teen even exclaimed once that she wanted to ‘copyright’ her dinner so I didn’t photograph it. So this said I have no photographs of Moro, but I have a lot of good memories of the tastes, textures and combinations of flavours served to me on the night. The food was truly delicious and well worth the trip up to Exmouth market, but there was one thing that sadly failed to hit the spot; their chocolate and apricot tart.

Now I’ve read a few reviews and people have raved about it, but none of the four of us were convinced….in fact none of us even liked it! There was barely a hint of apricot and the chocolate was so dark and strong it was overpowering. It simply lacked any depth to the flavours.

I came home and thought about it a bit, strangely unsettled that something using chocolate didn’t work! So I decided to experiment a bit.

The Moro tart uses an apricot paste called amradeen, widely available in Lebanese shops, but not here in North Wales so I substituted it for organic dark apricots, doubling the measure for a stronger richer taste.

To the chocolate mixture I also added 2 tablespoons double cream, which I think lightened and balanced the flavours….More apologies for the shoddy pictures. I now have a new camera so I’m hoping my images will be a tad better from now on (hooray!!)

Sweet pastry:

140g plain flour
30g icing sugar
75g butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk

Apricot paste:

180g amradeen or 400g organic apricots

6 tablespoons of water

juice of one small lemon

Chocolate:

One bar of Divine or other good quality chocolate (about 100g, but no more than 150g) at least 70% cocoa

2 eggs yolks

100g unsalted butter

60g caster sugar

2 tablespoons double cream

Sift together the flour and icing sugar and rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and a drop of icy cold water and bring together until it forma a ball. Wrap in cling film and allow it to rest in the fridge for about half an hour. Roll out to fit an eight inch tart tin, prick the bottom lightly and line with baking paper. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees, gas mark….after 10 mins remove the baking paper and cook for another 5 minutes until the base is ‘set’…i.e. firm but not turning brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Chop the apricots roughly and put in a pan with the water and lemon juice. Simmer for about five minutes or so then turn off the heat and allow to plump up and soften. Tip the lot into a blender and puree until smooth.  Spread the paste on the cool tart shell and leave to set for 10 mins or so while you prepare the chocolate mixture.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and either melt in the bottom of the warm oven or if you want to do it the ‘conventional’ way make a bain marie by putting the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. While it’s melting, whisk the eggs and sugar together until light, and then fold into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture along with the double cream. Spoon over the apricot tart, and bake in the oven for 25 mins, at 180 degrees. Remove from the oven while it still has a slight wobble to it, it will finish setting as it stands and cools.

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Serve with whipped cream, or creme fraiche

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Filed under baking, chocolate, home cooking, in the press, London Restaurants, middle eastern food, Recipes

Recipe…i’ve finally cracked it! Perfect falafel

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I love Middle Eastern food and one of my most frequently made staple snacks (mostly because the kids love it to) is falafel.

Falafel originated in Egypt and is another one of those recipes that varies wildly, although like many does have some basic principles.

Many seem to use broad beans although I prefer to make them with just chick peas.  In Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s book Jerusalem (Ebury) they recommend using only one clove of garlic..while other recipes use up to six! During wild garlic season I use a handful of this instead, but otherwise I would use about 3-4. I like a good hit, but not so I OD on it.

Cumin is the standard spice in most recipes and I don’t differ in that respect. A good teaspoon or two is enough for me along with a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and a handful of coriander.

Some recipes use onion or spring onion but I like to use a small red onion…its sweeter and varies the flavour.

The mixture should be roughly blitzed in a food processor. A good sturdy model is essential. In the past my attempts to make perfect falafel with a small domestic food processor proved futile.  My all singing all dancing Magimix 5200XL is the best machine I have ever used for the job…no amount of chickpeas can daunt it!

Once ingredients have been blitzed I, like Ottolenghi and Tamimi, add a teaspoon baking powder and a spoon full of flour and leave it to rest in the fridge (I have to say I don’t always leave the mix for an hour though).I roll the balls in sesame seeds which give a nice finish and lovely crunchy texture when deep-fried.

The Perfect Falafel Recipe

Ingredients
500g chickpeas, soaked overnight with half a teaspoon bicarb of soda

3-4  garlic cloves, crushed or a handful of wild garlic leaves

a small red onion, chopped finely

a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped finely

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

a sprinkle of paprika

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tbsp plain flour

sesame seeds for rolling the balls in

vegetable oil for deep-frying

Combine the drained chickpeas with the garlic, onion, parsley and coriander leaves. Blitz in a food processor until roughly chopped.The mixture should not be a puree, but should retain texture.  Add your spices, baking powder, flour, salt and about four tablespoons of water. Leave to rest in the fridge for up to an hour.

Either heat up a deep fat fryer (which is safest) or half fill a large heavy-based saucepan with vegetable or sunflower oil.

Form the falafel mixture into small golf ball sized portions and roll in sesame seeds. When the oil is hot drop in falafel carefully.

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Don’t overload the pan/fryer…cook about 5 or 6 at a time then when golden remove and drain on paper towels.

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Filed under home cooking, middle eastern food, Recipes, seasonal food, vegan cookery, vegetarian dishes

My favourite smoked mackerel pate recipe

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Smoked mackerel pate must be at the top of my list of favourite things to spread on toast. Just imagine with me if you will, ….warm chunky toast, thickly spread with creamy, smokey pate, pure comfort. But don’t get me wrong,  it’s so good for you as well; packed with Omega-3 oils (great for brain function and health) and the antioxidant selenium..which is said to help prevent heart disease.

It’s a shame to see that it has now turned up on the ever-growing list of overfished species, but as long as you buy from as sustainable a source as possible (fish caught locally using traditional methods, including handlines, ringnets and drift nets) there is less threat. According to Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation UK stock is still well above ‘precautionary’ levels. It seems much of the problem revolves around Icelandic fisherman and those around the Faroes, who are catching over their quotas as Mackerel stock moves further North. An argument over fishing rights rages and until settled overfishing in Icelandic waters continues to impact on Mackerel reserves.

…and now I’ve put you all off buying mackerel I’m going to share my favourite recipe. There is as much debate about what makes the perfect mackerel pate and what you should add to it as there is what to do about controlling fishing!…. Should you add cream? What kind of cheese is best? Is butter a yes or no? What herbs work best? And then once you’ve chosen your ingredients there is the question of quantities.

I’ve made mackerel pate for years, tinkering on and off with a classic recipe made by my mum. I’ve tried adding different ingredients, varying quantities but I still come back to this one…I’ve made it for dinners, parties and weddings and it’s almost universally loved by all. My rules are….

*Don’t be stingy with the fish. Use plenty.

*DO NOT blitz it all to a pulp in the blender…hand flaking the fish is best, removing small bones by hand. If you must give it a quick pulse in the blender do it before you add the other ingredients and only pulse a couple of times, you want to keep a good texture…its not a dip.

*I use single cream as its slightly lighter.

*I also use sieved cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. Its less creamy and has a grainier texture which I like.

*Unlike many recipes I use butter. Unconventional maybe, but I like the rich artery clogging effect. It may seem perverse after I have used a lighter single cream and cottage cheese, but I love the decadence. For those wanting a lighter pate you could just leave it out.

*Like to add a teaspoon of fresh horseradish for a fiery hit as it marries well with the creamy smokiness, a good squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess and finally topped with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a pinch of fresh dill.

Smoked mackerel pate:

150ml single cream

400g smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed and hand flaked

125g plain cottage cheese

100g melted butter

juice of a small lemon (3 good tablespoons full)

1 teaspoon fresh grated horseradish

black pepper

Sprinkle with a little smoked paprika, a lemon wedge and a sprinkle of fresh dill.

Put the flaked mackerel in a large bowl and pick over it to remove any bones. Sieve the cottage cheese into the bowl then add the lemon juice, horseradish, cream and melted butter. Mix well checking the seasoning as you do. It may not need more salt but a good sprinkle of black pepper is essential.

Spoon the pate into individual dishes….or just serve a dollop with some salad. I do think it goes best with a wholemeal or spelt toast but its up to you, either way it is a such a simple recipe you have to give it a go!

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Smoked mackerel pate with a seasonal salad of grated kohlrabi, cut-and-come-again leaves from Moelyci, cucumber and oak smoked tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, Tomato Stall and home made spelt toast

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Filed under British food, home cooking, local produce, Recipes, Seafood recipes, sustainable fish

Wing Asylum…pop-up cafe

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Home Made hot crossed buns and brownies Photo courtesy of Kate W photography

This was the second excursion for Nina Farrell and Asa Medhurst’s Wing Assignment...this time in a very different venue to the Red Bull Studio’s where the exhibition was first shown and now with a new name.

Asylum chapel in Peckham this time played host to Wing Asylum, where work from the first exhibition hung alongside new pieces and installations. Children’s art workshops took place on Good Friday run by artists and directors of Asylum,  Dido Hallett and Jo Dennis of CBBC ‘Deadly Art’ fame.

After helping at the first exhibition Nina approached me with a proposition. Would I run a pop-up cafe for attendees at the workshops? Of course I agreed. Art is almost as big a passion as food and writing and being part of this growing exhibition is very exciting. Had I known just how cold it would be I might have reconsidered, but probably not. On Thursday night (the private view) temperatures plummeted and we almost developed hyperthermia. Only the numbing effect of Courvoiser punch (and an emergency bag of hot chips) kept us warm. For the workshops I stocked up on hot drinks (lots of tea, Providero artisan coffee and Anglesey apple juice…sadly the microwave gave up the ghost so hot chocolate was off the menu), donned the fur coat and thermals and stuck on my gloves to combat the chill of what had turned out as the coldest Easter on record.  Kids queued for fairy cakes while coffee  heated the adults inside and out (and combated the hangovers of those who were there the previous evening).

Instead of going on endlessly about the exhibition and cafe, here are a few pictures…more a of a postcard from Peckham if you like!

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Baba Yaga Hut Maria Strutz

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The food table

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Wing Fairy Cakes Photo courtesy of Kate W photography

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Photo courtesy of Kate W photography

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Bird installation

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Atomique Florence Garrabe

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Wings Christopher Baxter

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Fledgling Shaun McGrath

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Detail of slate wings

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Jo Dennis

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The Rapture Elodie Lefebvre

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Jo Dennis

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On a Cloudy Day Tisna Westerhof (the teens favourite)

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Lift Off 2 Soforbis

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Here, but I cannot stay for long Gillian Swan

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Armour Fiona Michie

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The Wing Assignment will soon be having its last outing entitled FINAL FLIGHT – SELECTED DRAWINGS, PRINTS, PHOTOGRAPHY AND SCULPTURE at the William Road Gallery, 7-9 William Road, London NW1 3ER. from 8-26 April 2013 / 9-6pm Monday – Friday

As this closes work will begin on the new project The Scent Assignment. Having got myself a sneak preview of the scent itself, I eagerly wait to see what will transpire. Sorry, not allowed to give anything away…you either have to take part or wait for the exhibition.

If you wish to hire Moel Faban Suppers to run a pop-up cafe or vintage tea stall at your event just drop me an email

moelfabansuppers@gmail.com or give me a call on 07775828769.

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Filed under cakes & Baking, home cooking, in the press, Pop-up cafe

March mayhem (with added snow, birds and landscapes, but not much food)

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Snow in the village

Well, doesn’t time fly? Its been over two weeks since my last post and such a lot has happened. Every day I intend to write and then something else comes along to stop me.

I’m not sure where to begin with all the things that fill my days; whether it’s behind the scenes stuff like planning for all the dinners coming up in April (four in one week!!) or responding to requests for quotes, putting together invoices, menu selection and ordering. Theres not much glamour there but its all an essential part of my job.

Of course I prefer the interesting meetings where we discuss new ideas or presenting at mentoring sessions. I get out for lunch, meet people away from the four walls of my house and either put together plans or get to talk about me! (That sounds sooo narcissistic, but how many of us don’t relish the opportunity show pride in our achievements and tell others about what we’ve done). Last week I was out talking to the catering students at Llandrillo College in my role as a Dynamo role model, flying the flag for Big Ideas Wales and inspiring others to do follow their dreams….  And when I’m not fitting all of that in I’m juggling the demands of two kids (one a teenager with ADHD and my partner. After all of that there are times when I have little energy left for writing.

This particular two weeks has proved extra challenging. I’ve braved snow (yep, we snowed in again, for the second time this year. In January its expected but March!! Now that’s a bit crazy), a chaotic visit to my parents, a dislocated shoulder (my partner) plus a rather nasty and aggressive 24 hour virus that took out everyone in the house one by one. Most of our holiday plans were shelved.

One of the reasons I was in London was to hold a pop-up teashop for those attending the Easter art workshops at Wing Asylum.  I had to bring a full catering kit with me, tins, plates, ingredients, all of which were to be packed into my van. Not an easy task when it’s parked at the bottom of the village separated from my house by a steep, ice packed impassable hill. This called for improvisation. We had to tie each crate, suitcase and bag to a wooden toboggan and gingerly guide it through snow and over treacherous patches of ice. Ice grip shoes were necessary. It took four trips before we finally got on our way.

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The icy approach to my house

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The kids bike….left out in the garden

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strapping everything to a toboggan

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roses…well they’re under there somewhere

Next I had to cook and prepare cakes and tarts in a small, unfamiliar kitchen, with family members wandering in and out at will and with little space to stack boxes, crates or anything really.My mothers house is not designed to accommodate eight people so chaos reigned supreme. For a whole week.

My birthday came and went (I barely noticed it, but promised myself extended celebrations once the job had finished) and then the Wing Asylum opening night was upon us. A late night drunken affair in the toe and finger numbingly cold Asylum Chapel in Peckham. Courvoissier cocktails served to render some incapable and memories of the night are a little hazy.

We all surfaced the following morning felling like we’d been punched in the head but after caffeine, paracetamol and a BLT were fit enough to pack up our kit and drive into an uncharacteristically quiet London.

Even here things were not simple. The urn fused the electrics. The microwave in the van stopped working (so no hot chocolate…disaster!!) and we froze yet again….The stall was a success despite it all, but the organisers were left claiming NEVER to run kids workshops again after one piece sustained damage, and that night my son too went down with the dreaded lurgy.

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Asylum….and my cake stall

On Saturday I finally got to celebrate my birthday. Even our late dinner at Moro (a hugely popular North African/Lebanese/Spanish influenced restaurant run by highly regarded chefs, husband and wife team Sam and Sam Clark) turned into a drama…the closest tube station was, as it turned out,  closed. We hadn’t realised and ended up walking from Barbican arriving hot, flustered, starving and 20 minutes late. The food was worth the drama, but this being my birthday dinner I wasn’t allowed to ‘work’….i.e. no photo’s, no reviewing. It is a place I would definitely like to revisit though and we all agreed the food was superb.

We intended to go for drinks after dinner but discovered we only had half an hour to get back to London Bridge for the last train home. We panicked as we discovered a second tube station closed so in desperation hailed a cab

Can you get us to London Bridge in 15 minutes? We begged.

She promised to do her best and after 11 minutes of hair-raising driving, back ache inducing races across speed bumps…and minus my cervix which I left back at a crossing on route, we arrived with 10 minutes to spare. I’m sure this did nothing for our digestion but we got home and that’s the main thing.

Easter Sunday was somewhat underwhelming. The teen had gone off to a ‘illegal rave’ in London and had yet to return….the kid was still recovering from the virus and late in the morning my sister emerged with her boyfriend late announcing that they too had been hit by ‘the bug’ . We held a very late and slightly half-hearted Easter egg hunt and even today the eggs are still pretty much intact.

With my 8 hour shoulder of lamb cooking in the oven we were all a bit dejected. My sister claimed that this must be the worst day ever to come down with a stomach bug and we all struggled to motivate ourselves. With a little sun returning and a suggestion that spring might yet arrive we blew the cobwebs away with a walk around the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes in Essex admiring award-winning Visitors Centre and Bird Hide (designed by my sisters firm Van Heyningen and Haward)

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RSPB Reserve, Rainham

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The Purfleet Hide

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Cold but beautiful….you’d never know how close to the M25 you are

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The bird hide

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Despite it all we managed to fit in a fair bit….and most had recovered enough to enjoy an Easter Sunday dinner and glass of wine (albeit a small one for some).

The RSPB Visitor Centre, car park and reserve trails are open 9.30 am to 4.30 pm from 1 November-31 March and 9.30 am to 5 pm from 1 April-31 October. There are tons of things for kids to do aside from bird spotting plus a great walk around the perimeter of the lakes.  My ten-year old had a great afternoon. For more info check here

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Filed under photography, travel, Travelling with kids