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The Great British Public responded to the Eat Out to Help Out rallying call in their droves. It was such a success, Maria Broadbent, of CASA, Bury St Edmunds, is going to keep the offer going through September, but not before taking a short break to enjoy the Suffolk coast and all it has to offer




Instead of succumbing to cabin fever as a result of not wanting to leave the country (we are catering for wedding receptions in early September), we decided to take our long yearned for break in Suffolk. Not being from this part of the country originally it was great to take some time to explore.

We stayed near the coast not far from Felixstowe – I even braved a swim in the sea as it was such a lovely day. There were children paddling, dogs swimming, boats sailing and the ever beautiful multi-coloured beach huts piled up against the steep bank. Parasols and sun loungers dotted around with kettles on, corks being popped and a great deal of laughter. All this just 45 minutes drive from Bury St Edmunds. How lucky are we?

For the second part of our staycation we are headed to Walberswick for three nights – it will be my first visit there and I have heard many times of its reputation for crabbing. Not sure any attempts will be successful and certainly not on any commercial level.

Beach huts (41226099)
Beach huts (41226099)

For the first part of the holiday we stayed at the very beautiful Kesgrave Hall and had a very lovely dinner of stone bass with basil and tomatoes and this reminded me of our yummy Mediterranean Fish Stew we haven’t had on our menu for a while. I have given you the recipe, see right, and here are a few ideas to serve it:

Fish Stew – simply pan fry fish of your choice (salmon, squid, prawns, cod etc) then add a ladle or two of the sauce and heat through. Serve with garlic mayo and either rice or crusty bread.

Seafood Linguine – cook your linguine as per packet instructions, pan fry some prawns and add a ladle or two of sauce, plus a good dash of cream. Chuck in some fresh herbs (parsley, the fennel fronds from the fennel, dill or basil) and serve. Traditionally, Parmesan is not served with fish-based pasta – but that is, in my view, an individual’s choice.

Mussels Marinara – cook your mussels in white wine as you would for marinière or buy them ready cooked in white wine. Add them to a pan with the pre-heated fish stew base.

Tuna Pasta Bake – Mix the hot sauce with tinned tuna and some hot cooked pasta penne. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs mixed with chopped mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 180 centigrade

MEDITERRANEAN FISH STEW BASE

Ingredients:

1 white onion - sliced

1 bulb fennel - sliced

2 cloves chopped garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

¼level tsp dried thyme

2 tins chopped tomatoes

200ml white wine

100ml water

½ fresh chilli (chopped)

2 heaped tablespoons fish stock

2 heaped tsp paprika

½level tsp course ground black pepper

1 tsp lemon juice

Method:

In the olive oil, sweat down the onions, fennel, garlic and thyme until soft. They do not need to colour.

Add all other ingredients and bring to the boil, then allow to simmer and reduce. Stir to avoid catching. When it is spitting at you violently, it is done.

Keeping up the momentum

Well, all I can say is Rishi’s plan certainly did the trick! Assuming the basis was to reassure the public that it is safe to eat out, the scheme has been a roaring success. The Great British Public love a rallying cry and this one hit the spot. It has at times been a challenge to manage the sheer volume of customers wanting to dine on these days – but everyone has been very understanding and patient.

There was the feared nominal impact on the weekend trade the first week for many businesses, but we certainly haven’t felt the impact on a Saturday and the overall increase in business has been welcomed. The challenge has been the demand on the supply chain – not normally geared for a busy Monday – and many businesses were ordering as they would for a Saturday with others opening on what would usually be their day off. Prepping was a challenge too. . . with almost every dish needing to be prepared before noon on Monday in quantity – a particular challenge for tapas given we have nearly 200 ingredients with 50 elements to prepare to create 35 tapas dishes!

Not only did we manage it, but the team even agreed we had enjoyed it. They may live to regret this confession as we have decided to continue with the scheme throughout September. It will run on Tuesdays-Thursdays from 10am-8.30pm starting from Wednesday, September 2nd. In all other respects it will be exactly the same as the Government backed scheme – 50 per cent off up to £10 per person per sitting, excludes alcohol (but you can still buy it at regular price though).

We just feel that having been given this boost for August we would like to maintain the momentum into September and to give an opportunity to all those we had to turn away due to being fully booked. From a PR point of view we gained a lot of new customers and hope this will continue.

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Tel 01284 701313

See casabse.co.uk