Out for a Meal With Baby @ The Lime Kiln

The Lime Kiln only opened in March of this year, making it one of the newest eateries in the area. Located just outside Drogheda, to the South, the Lime Kiln sits on the main street in Julianstown just as you go up (or down) the hill. While the Lime Kiln presents itself as a Gastropub rather than a restaurant, a booking is essential and you will be unlikely to walk in and grab a table. This is something we found out the hard way when we first tried to sample the North East's newest eatery and were turned away. Thankfully we learned, and yesterday (Sunday) we had the pleasure of exploring a new food option in the area.

On entering the Lime Kiln I was pleasantly surprised not to feel like I was in a pub. The decor is a mish mash of different furniture and fittings to give the impression that a troupe of hipsters raided all the local salvage and antique stores and brought every hipster decorating idea they had together, in what is a surprisingly coherent and delightful manner. The chairs aren't all uniform and the central light fixtures hanging below the large skylight are reclaimed mason jars. The overall effect is a room that begs visual exploration. Basically be careful not to spend you meal simply staring around the room looking to discover yet another gem of detail to the whole setting.

I'm glad to say that The Lime Kiln passed its first test with flying colours when we requested a high chair. To both our surprise and approval, The Lime Kiln uses IKEA's Antilop Highchair, just like we do at home. A solid and sturdy piece of kit that you feel safe sitting your baby into. Thankfully the chair was also very clean. Unfortunately something that you do not find in most restaurants.

The second test went as good if not better for the Lime Kiln. When Jules asked about getting Beckett a Baby Bowl or something similar, the waitress told us that would be no problem and that it was complimentary. The option was Mashed Potato and Gravy or Mashed Potato and Soup. We went for the gravy. And although it was a little salty and quite rich, when toned down with the potato it was delicious and Beckett loved it.

Jules had the Burger, with Cheese, and I had the Pulled Pork Sandwich (actually it's kind of a burger too as it is served on a Brioche Bun). We shared the Flat Bread with Spicy Lamb to start. The starter was unfortunately a little bland for both Jules and I. We were expecting a little more from the 'Spicy' Lamb. The flatbread itself was, however, delicious and when we mentioned the spice issue to staff, they immediately offered to compensate us. Jules felt that the burger was missing some relish or sauce but was otherwise delicious. The Pulled Pork was thoroughly excellent and I would highly recommend it.

All in all, The Lime Kiln was a lovely visit and definitely a place we will go back to very soon. From a baby point of view it was also a lovely spot to visit. We were there at 1pm on a Sunday and while the place wasn't immediately busy, all tables were booked / reserved and the place filled up while we ate. So, kids or no kids, well worth a table when you have the chance to pop out for an evening.

The Most Delicious Apple EVER

It's not like Beckett hasn't had an apple before. In fact, he's probably had apples more than any other fruit. Well, at least the same amount as Raspberries, Pears and Clementines. There was something different about this apple though.

I have literally never seen anyone enjoy an apple so much before. Beckett discovered the 'Nectar of the Gods' and it was all his!

Hopefully everyone gets at least one of these in their life.

Baby Led Weaning - Watermelon

I've mentioned before that we're completely pro Baby Led Weaning and will give Beckett every opportunity to feed himself - it just makes sense to us. So this morning for breakfast I was pretty excited to be giving Beckett watermelon. He's had it before but his motor skills have developed significantly since the last time had some and I knew he'd now be a lot more capable of handly the exceedingly juicy and slippery fruit.

As you'll see from the video he has no problem picking up the pieces of fruit and feeding himself. I thoroughly believe that all children should be given the opportunity to feed themselves - it's such a great way to help them further develop their motor skills and to empower them to control the pace and rate at which they eat.

Obviously we can't let Beckett feed himself everything we eat - if it can't be picked up then he's still helped out with a spoon but even then, if it's a meal with chunks of veg or meat, we'll put pieces down in front of him for him to feed himself. I can't wait until tomorrow when I'll be giving him large slices of watermelon that he can pick up and munch on!

10 Months Old; Where Does The Time Go?

Today, Beckett is 10 months old. 10 months! I have no idea where the last 10 months went. I mean, don't get me wrong, they've been 10 of the most amazing months of my life, but I cannot believe how quickly they've passed.

And all that said, I can't wait for the next 10. And the 10 after that, and all the months beyond that. This is the greatest adventure ever :)

SMA Baby Club. Not For Dads.

I've been getting the SMA Baby Club emails since before Beckett was born. They're somewhat beneficial with the occasional bit of baby info that I wasn't aware of. In general, however, to be perfectly honest, I just delete them without so much as clicking a link.

For no other reason than the subject line about Father's Day, I opened the most recent email.

I'm not trying to make any big issue out of this, but I was immediately put back by the email copy. Instead of what could easily have been a piece of text written to be read by either a man or woman, a father or mother, the email left like there was a huge presumption that everyone reading it was a mum.

I was a little pissed to be perfectly honest.

It wouldn't have been difficult to write copy that delivered the exact same message but without the presumption.

Songs in the Key of 6am

All in all, Beckett is a great sleeper. In bed by 7.00pm/7.30pm every night and not awake until 7.00am/7.30am the next morning. And he's been that way from 10 weeks. In fact, he's a fantastic sleeper really and it would seem petty to complain about an odd early start. But it's not early starts that I find tough.

After his bottle, which we usually have upstairs in bed, we go downstairs for his breakfast (usually porridge and fruit). Most mornings he'll gobble down his breakfast without fuss or incident. Then there are an occasional few mornings where a distraction is needed to get those last 5 or 6 mouthfuls in. Lately, the only thing that will do it is the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Hot Dog Song. Enough said.

Saturday Morning Welsh Cakes

Weekends were made for baking and there's nothing nicer than something freshly made first thing in the morning. We're big fans of pancakes and crepes in our house. Both savory and sweet. Scones and muffins too, are regular productions. But when it comes to something light and delicious that will also last beyond breakfast, Welsh Cakes are perfect.

Lighter and spicier than scones, Welsh Cakes are, unsurprisingly, a traditional Welsh fare. They have been around since at least the late 19th Century. They're a fairly simple cake and, like scones, allow for a lot of customisation and addition of flavour and ingredient.

Also, they smell incredible when you're cooking them!

Christian's Welsh Cakes & Jam Splits

500g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
75g caster sugar
2tsp mixed spice
250g unsalted butter
pinch of sea salt
150g raisins and sultanas
1 large egg
50ml milk

Sieve the flour, sugar and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt. Using your hands, rub all the ingredients together into a fine breadcrumb consistency. Now add the dried fruit.

Make a well in the centre of your mixture and crack in the large egg and add the milk. Then, using a fork, beat everything together. Once combined, the dough will be quite short, so don't work it too much.

Heat a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. IF possible use a thick-bottomed pan. Dust a clean surface and roll out the dough to a 1cm thickness. Then using a 5cm pastry cutter (or any similarly sized cylindrical kitchen object), cut out as many rounds as you can. Rework and re-roll the dough as needed to ensure as many rounds as possible.

Test the temperature of the pan by cooking one Welsh cake for a few minutes. You should aim for a heat that creates a golden light brown colour at about 4min on each side. Don't crowd your pan but do cook as many as it will comfortably allow at the same time.

Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack and dust them with a small sprinkling of caster sugar. They can be served as is or cut them in half and dollop in some cream and jam (or fresh fruit if you have it - Strawberries / Raspberries / Blueberries etc.).

When you split them like that and add jam or fruit they are called Jam Splits. If you feel even more adventurous you can make Apple Dragons by adding grated apple to the mix. I like to add a little more cinnamon when doing this as the apple just deserves it.

Finally, if you don't have Mixed Spice, just sub in equal amounts of Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Allspice.

What To Do On a Summer's Day

As any Irish person will tell you, if the sun is out and there's few or no clouds in the sky, it's a Summer's Day. A very light shower might be tolerated but really it's all about the sunshine. In fact, the time of the year isn't even that important so long as the sun is out. So, given the nice weather we've been having this week I thought I'd share some of the awesome places we like to go on a Summer's Day.

While we're a big fan of activities like Dublin Zoo, Viking Splash Tours, Imaginosity and Tayto Park, I'll concentrate on local Louth destinations simply because I think there are probably enough posts and comments out there on activities like them.

While Louth may be the smallest county in the country, there are no shortage of great places to go with the family. Not all of these are outside activities but as this is all about Summer and what to do with a nice Summer's Day, I'll be ignoring the in-doors stuff. So no mention of Funtasia or the cinema etc., instead I'd like to give you a snapshot view into four excellent houses, gardens and nature locations that the Wee County has to offer.

Clogherhead Beach & Harbour

So where to start? That one's easy. The best place to start, in my opinion, is right here on our doorstep. Just outside Drogheda is the little fishing village of Clogherhead. Clogherhead is basically a single street village with housing development at each end. Aside from the three pubs, the butchers, the convenience shop, the post office and the few eateries, Clogherhead boasts a magnificent Blue Flag beach. Nothing says Summer's Day like a trip to the beach and Clogherhead offers one of the nicest beaches in Ireland. Just across the headland is Port Oriel, Clogherhead's harbour. Another lovely spot to visit to see the fishing boats coming and going, to sample the local chowder and to watch the dozen or so seals who frequent the harbour looking for generous fishermen to share their catches. If you're in Drogheda and want to get some great sea air, take in spectacular views of the North East Coast and shop for some fresh off the boat seafood, Clogherhead is the only place to go!

Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth

Newgrange is a prehistoric monument located about 1km north of the River Boyne. Newgrange consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway and interior chambers. The mound has a retaining wall at the front and is ringed by 97 large engraved kerbstones. Newgrange was built by a farming community that prospered on the rich lands of the Boyne Valley during the Neolithic period approx. 3200 BC. That makes Newgrange older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Knowth and Dowth are similar, smaller mounds that are located close by also in the Boyne Valley area. All three sites have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Newgrange is an absolutely must-visit for everyone who has an interest in history and Antiquity but it's also a fantastic day trip for outdoor fans of all ages. The views of the Boyne Valley are outstanding but the simple magnitude of Newgrange's construction and size will wow everyone, guaranteed.

St Peter's Roman Catholic Church

Although this one is an inside one, I think it's a cannot miss. St Peter's is located on West Street in Drogheda. It was designed by J. O'Neill and W.H. Byrne and was built in a French Gothic style with local limestone ashlar. The church is 131 years old (constructed in 1884) and most famous for it tall west gable, rose window and for containing the national shire St. Oliver Plunkett. What's that you ask? In a glittering brass-and-glass case in the north transept, the shrivelled head of St Oliver Plunkett (1629–81) is permanently on display. If you have a kid, especially a boy, who is that little bit older (say 6-12), they will be absolutely fascinated by this. An actual real human head.

Oldbridge House & Gardens

Oldbridge House was built in the 1740’s by either John Coddington or his nephew Dixie Coddington - the specifics are lost. It is believed to have been designed by George Darley, a local mason architect who also designed the renovated Dunboyne Castle, Dowth House and The Tholsel in Drogheda, Co. Louth. To the left of the house there is a cobble stone stable yard with fine cut stable block. This originally contained coach houses, stables, tack and feed rooms. To the right of the house is a small enclosed courtyard which contains the former butler’s house which is not open to the public. For me, the main attraction of Oldbridge is the grounds. To the front of the house sits a phenomenal open expanse that's perfect for running your socks off, kicking around a football or flying a kite. To the left of the house is the coffee shop and gardens. Including the secret Octagonal Garden, these gardens are a beautiful place to walk in the summer and offer numerous spots to sit in relative privacy and watch the natural world drift by.

Another important part of Oldbridge is the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre. This is located in the restored 18th century house. For those not familiar with the local hostory... The Battle of the Boyne between King William III and his father-in-law, King James II, was fought on 1 July 1690 (11 July according to our modern calendar). Both kings commanded their armies in person, 36,000 on the Williamite side and 25,000 on the Jacobite side - the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. At stake were the British throne, French dominance in Europe and Religious power in Ireland. And a story sure to engage and captivate all children.

So there you have them - four brilliant places to visit with the kids. Don't worry tough, Drogheda has a ton of other attractions and places of interest. You'll just need to do some exploring and find them for yourself :)

Cornbread For Your Baby

I got an itch to do some baking and knowing that there was a bag of Coarse Maize Meal I decided to try my hand at Cornbread. IT's super easy to make and bakes in no time at all. Plus, given that it can easily be adapted to be either savory or sweet, it's really versatile.

Since his arrival we've also discovered that we have a third fan of Thai cuisine in the house. Beckett especially loves Thai Green Curry. So how could I not share with you Saba's own Thai Green Curry recipe.

What particularly makes Thai cuisine suitable for a baby is the different ingredients that are key to good Thai food. Perhaps unsurprisingly at the core of this is fresh vegetables and the best cuts of meat. When it comes to Thai food you only use the freshest vegetables and ingredients. This was something that Tao stressed was beyond important - use nothing but freshly prepared ingredients at all times.

Christian's Raspberry Cornbread

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 to 3 tbsp sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil or melted butter
1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 205°C. In a medium bowl stir together 1 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup cornmeal, 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Set the bowl aside. While the quantities are very low, if you are restricting your baby's salt and sugar completely, these can be left out without affecting the bread's consistency.

Use an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. Instead of greasing the pan, add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and place it in the preheated oven for about 3 minutes or until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the oven, and swirl the melted butter to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Starting with a hot buttered pan helps to develop crisp edges on the corn bread. The butter also adds flavor.

In a small bowl beat 2 large eggs with a fork just until combined. Stir in 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup cooking oil or melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture all at once. With a wooden spoon, stir just until combined. The batter will be lumpy. Overcome the urge to mix until smooth. Overmixing can cause the corn bread to peak and have tunnels, which can result in a tough texture.

Fold in your raspberries, avoiding crushing them too much - you want to leave as many intact and whole as possible.

Place the pan back in the oven to rewarm it briefly if it has cooled down. Carefully pour the batter into the hot pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

With a serrated knife, cut the corn bread into 8 to 10 squares or wedges. Serve the corn bread warm. Or cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap or foil, place in a resealable plastic bag or storage container, and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

And you're done. The Cornbread is best served hot so try and bake it just before you want to eat it. The overall consistency of Cornbread makes it ideal for Baby Led Weaning so do try cutting manageable 'soldiers' that baby can pick up themselves and eat.

Cooking Thai Food for Baby

Four years ago I was invited by the guys at Saba to visit Saba To Go for a personal cookery lesson with Saba Executive Chef, Tweesak Trakoolwattana (known as Tao). Needless to say I jumped at the chance to learn about my favourite food from a native and professional (Tao was born and trained in Bangkok).

Since his arrival we've also discovered that we have a third fan of Thai cuisine in the house. Beckett especially loves Thai Green Curry. So how could I not share with you Saba's own Thai Green Curry recipe.

What particularly makes Thai cuisine suitable for a baby is the different ingredients that are key to good Thai food. Perhaps unsurprisingly at the core of this is fresh vegetables and the best cuts of meat. When it comes to Thai food you only use the freshest vegetables and ingredients. This was something that Tao stressed was beyond important - use nothing but freshly prepared ingredients at all times.

The three dishes I was taught to cook were Chicken Thai Green Curry, Beef Phad Nam Prik Pao and Prawn Phad Prik Sod. Each of these dishes is fine for a baby but I would be aware of the salt content of your Dark Soy Sauce. You may want to cut this out or at least substitute it for a low salt Soy Sauce. The only other thing I would have is that you may like to try Brown Rice instead of the suggested Jasmine Rice.

Chicken Thai Green Curry

1. Add oil to the wok and turn up the heat (it needs to be hot!).
2. Put a large tablespoon of Green Curry Paste in the oil and sauté until fragrant, then reduce the heat and gradually add 1 cup of thick Coconut Milk and a 1/4 cup of water.
3. Add the chicken and Kaffir Lime Leaves, continue cooking for 3 minutes until the chicken is almost cooked through. Season with 1/2 tablespoon Palm Sugar and 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce.
4. Add the vegetables (Aubergine, Chillies, Peppers, Bamboo Shoots, Green Beans and Onions) and cook for a further 2-3 minutes (you want the vegetables to still have a crunch).
5. Finally add Sweet Basil Leaves and turn off the heat.
6. Serve with Jasmine Rice.

Beef Phad Nam Prik Pao

1. Add oil, a large tablespoon of Chopped Garlic and a large tablespoon of Chopped Chillies to the wok and turn up the heat to high.
2. Put a large tablespoon of Red Chilli Paste in the oil and sauté until fragrant, then reduce the heat slightly.
3. Add the beef and continue cooking for 3 minutes (the beef can be cooked to your liking - rare to well).
4. Season with 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce, 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce and 1/2 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce.
5. Add the vegetables (Chillies, Mushrooms, Peppers, Baby Sweetcorn and Spring Onions) and cook for a further 2 minutes (again, you want the vegetables to still have a crunch).
6. Serve with Jasmine rice.

Prawn Phad Prik Sod

1. Add oil and a large tablespoon of Chopped Garlic to the wok and turn up the heat to high.
2. Add the prawns and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
3. Season with 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce, 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce and 1/2 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce.
4. Add the vegetables (Chillies, Woodear Mushrooms, Peppers and Onions) and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5. Finally add Sweet Basil Leaves and turn off the heat.
6. Serve with Jasmine rice.

Each of these dishes is super easy to make and yet unbelievably tasty. They're also really quick to put together so even if you're running the gauntlet of a napping baby, you should easily get it made.

For more information on the cookery lessons that Tao does you can contact Fabulous Food Trails whom run the courses on Saba's behalf. Either call them on 01-4971245 or email info@fabfoodtrails.com. The lessons are run both for individuals and groups, and can be done onsite or in your own home.

Despite it being four years ago, I would still like to give my biggest thanks go out to Alan Cadden, Saba To Go's Owner, and Tao for the opportunity they gave me. I never stopped using these delicious recipes and I added a few more to my repertoire straight out of the Saba Cookbook!

Alan Cadden and Tweesak Trakoolwattana (Tao)