A Pinch and a Punch…
A few days late admittedly, but when the boy child greeted me with his little fist balled up at breakfast on Thursday, I had to practically pinch myself that it was already September. That’s Autumn, right? Where did Summer go?
So, this week’s Sunday Best is dedicated to the best ways to see in Autumn (as done by our family).
In at number one, is our self-named “sausage walk” – named by the kids in a fairly Ronseal fashion, it is literally a walk in the woods, but it’s the one we have done every year since the kids were tiny, usually late September when the leaves are crispy and the whole range of coppers, greens, yellows and reds.
There’s already been talk of it amongst the kids for this year. We take a big flask of sticky honey and mustard sausages with us for half way (hence “sausage walk”) and tea and often some carrot cake or warm banana bread. We even have our own designated bench on our preferred walk, which faces the section of woods with the silver birch; there’s a carved sign saying “the lady of the woods” and without fail our youngest girl will demand a photo there. So we all pile on the bench, often with friends or our in-laws, snarfing sausages, generally laughing at each other, kids discussing Halloween, upcoming school stuff and of course Christmas… (and avoiding eye contact with the dogs who also want to join in).
It really does signal the start of autumn for us. For it to be a success we have to get the timing absolutely right, so its crispy and cold but with bright sun. You can’t enjoyably eat sausages in the rain. Fact. So that’s our first yearly autumnal kick off.
Autumn also brings for us the return of our weekly pilgrimage along the seafront down through the harbour to the coffee and oyster stand for warm doughnuts, which I’ve written about before. I guess you can tell my family is pretty much led by its collective stomachs.
Get to mid-Autumn (the October half term), and we drive down to Cornwall for the week. The waves are big, the water is warmer than spring (it’s had all summer to heat up), and we head straight to Watergate Bay for bodyboarding and surfing. We are total amateurs at surfing, but there are some great surf schools for the tiddlers there, so we combine a mix of surf lessons in the mornings, with the easier bodyboarding in the afternoons.
Wetsuits, thermal rashies and gloves are essential, but there’s not better feeling when we’re all tingling from the exhilaration (and cold!) as we head up to the Beach Hut for hot chocolates and teacakes afterwards. *Beware the “Extreme” hot chocolate if you prefer to limit your kids’ sugar intake. We always make at least one trip to the Cornish Arms in St Merryn for pints of prawns and big steaming bowls of mussels with delicious crusty bread. You can’t book, so head there early.
Autumn of course is when soup makes a reappearance on the menu at home…easy as (was going to say pie, but it’s far easier than pie so who made that saying up?) anyway, easy peasy and great to come home to after a blustery walk or day out. A recipe which has become a family favourite is Pumpkin and Toasted Sweetcorn which is a Delia Smith one.
Blustery walks along our Kentish coast clear all the cobwebs; often deserted beaches which are great for really running off the smalls and the dog. Whitstable and Tankerton beaches can stay pretty busy on a bright autumnal day, but slightly further along the coast there’s Minnis Bay with it’s vast stretches of sand, as well as Broadstairs Viking Bay and Joss Bay.
A really, really fantastic place to go for the ultimate cobweb blowing walk in Autumn is down to Dungeness. It’s other-worldly sense of isolation, with its huge sky and rugged beaches gives the whole family a sense of space and head-clearing. There are loads of beautiful, unique gardens and houses to nose at too, including Derek Jarman’s inspiring gardens as well as some Grand Designed houses. You can either drive there and park up, or for a bit of fun you can catch the minature Romney and Hythe steam train from Hythe, which has a really regular service.
And when we really need to baton down the hatches because the weather has got just too filthy, there’s nothing that signals Autumn more for me than throwing some logs on the burner, cooking up some brownies (*recipe below) with the kids and cosying up with a film – preferably Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox….(and maybe a delicious glass of red).
So that’s this week’s Sunday Best ways to see in Autumn. Please join in and share any autumnal rituals you have with their own families or friends – please add at the bottom as a comment. X
Autumn’s Best Brownies
175g plain chocolate, 175g butter, 85g self-raising flour, 40g good quality cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 5 medium eggs, 300g caster sugar, 1 tsp vanilla essence.
You’ll need a 30cm x 20cm x 5cm tin, fully lined with greaseproof baking paper. You can use a roasting tin too but don’t use a tin less than 5cm deep as it will be flat and you’ll lose the chewy texture that is so important in a brownie.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Break the chocolate into squares and put in a heatproof bowl with the butter and melt over a pan of simmering water. Take off the heat after about 5 minutes then mix really fast to get rid of any unmelted lumps, rather than over cooking it as it will go all grainy.
- Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Put to one side whilst you separately whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence together in a large mixing bowl til its moussey.
- Stir in the sifted flour and cocoa into the eggy mixture until well combined – then pour in the melted chocolated and stir to thoroughly mix it all together. You could add some walnuts at this stage too but my family don’t like them so we leave them out.
- Now pour all of this into the lined tin and bake for 25 minutes. It should form a lovely crust on the top that’s just starting to crack around the edges but still soft in the middle. Put the tin on a wire rack to cool and then transfer the brownie and its paper to a board to cut into squares. Dust with icing sugar and you should have the perfect, autumnal brownie.
* Note – don’t overcook or you’ll lose the chew. Also, don’t over-stir either, it makes the resulting brownie much less airy and light.