Magical Epping Forest. The smalls were on another planet of joy just exploring, running through the undergrowth, picking blackberries and discovering dens. Pablo threw himself into tree climbing and scaling, and Indy pottered across logs and tottered down hills grinning. So amazing what a bit of freedom in the wild can do, even the not-so-wilds of Essex...so lucky to have this on our doorstep.
Scorcher Sunday - 27 degrees, which is about as hot as we can hope for on this grey little island - and a rare day without plans, so we decided to hit the nearest beach. Left it too late to go anywhere famously lovely like Southwold or Whitstable, but felt brave enough for a trip to Southend-on-Sea, and despite the horror movie traffic on arrival it was worth the hot car journey. The beach down by Thorpe Bay was lined with a pretty rainbow of beach huts which provided convenient shade, and not at all crowded with big sunburned bodies. Pablo quickly made friends and found an impressive haul of big crabs and little jellyfish to net and bucket. After we'd had all the sun, sea & strawberries we needed, a scuttle back up the coast brought the pier and it's impressive funfair (Pablo's first roller coaster, which he loved), plus some compulsory fresh fish and chips.
Ok it was actually Saturday Saturday but after a late night and lots of margaritas vs little sleep it felt like a Sunday... We zoomed over to my brother & sister-in-law's in Stokie for the most delicious totally sugarless (!!) spelt cake** (I promise, it was actually nice - check out my epic portion, which I consumed in its entirety) and chats. I gossiped with Z, Uncle X took Pablo to Clissold Park to jump in some puddles, and Konch and Indy zonked on the sofa in a heap of teething and hangover. Dreamy (literally, for some of us)... I spent my actual Sunday cancelling exciting tea party plans to snuggle with our still feverish Indy. Those teeth need to HURRY.
Big thanks to Anna for her recommendation of The Spurstowe for a faultless Saturday lunch. Most of us had impressive cheeseburgers and a bit too much wine. Pablo found a shop selling vintage sunglasses and tried on lots, only to be gifted a pair by our lovely lunchmate Clem & baby Arlo. The bar staff were very tolerant of our ragamuffin bunch scampering about on the floor and stealing celery from the bloody mary jar, mostly (I think) because Pablo did a stellar job of flirting with them.
In my hand-scrawled recipe book (started circa 2001) I have this recipe down as "Best Choc Chip Cookies (Actual Best!)" and as far as I've experimented over the decades they really are. I have absolutely no idea where they came from, but what a find! On Sunday Konch's oldest pal Mark popped over to see his little god-daughter and I realised at the very last minute that we barely had a withered carrot in the house to offer him. These took about 15 minutes to whip up and were gone again almost as quickly. One batch makes a LOT o' cookies but the dough refrigerates like a dream and freezes great too. They are crunchy *and* chewy and everything they should be. I've made it so many times, often with way less chocolate than the recipe calls for and they still turn out scrummy, so they are great for just making at the last minute with whatever chocolate...nuts...etc... you've got. On Sunday I used choc chips, raisins and chopped pistachios in place of just chocolate and it was a magical combo...
225g butter, room temp (soft)
200g caster sugar
220g packed brown sugar
10ml vanilla extract
5g bicarb of soda + 10ml hot water
335g chocolate chips (I find chopped up good quality dark choc works better)
Heat the oven to 175C. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla. Dissolve the bicarb in hot water and add along with the salt. Stir in the flour and chocolate/nuts/raisins/whatever you fancy. Bake for 8-10 mins, then leave to cool a bit before trying not to eat all in one sitting.
I bravely drove across London to meet our lovely friends Robin & Caroline's brand new baby Tor Albion. I told Pablo his name was Thor, which is kind of true. Pablo was momentarily confused about whether it was actual baby Thor - from the Avengers. Then this happened...
I made it out on Saturday night for the first time in about a month (I've been too sleep deprived to contemplate having any fun after dark) so classically overdid it and spent Sunday in a bit of a haze. We still have a slightly crazy amount of turkey leftover from Thanksgiving, and I made a damn good pie with leftover cream, leftover thyme, bacon and other fine stuff. Then we topped it off with leftover s'more pie and a slump on the sofa watching movies and having indulgent naps. Yummy Sunday....
Growing up (in the US), buttermilk pancakes for breakfast was a weekend ritual. With obscene amounts of bacon and buckets of filter coffee and probably a few stray teenagers crashed out from the night before. Brunch was a once in a while mega-feast, usually at a restaurant with whole cake bars and omelet chefs and buffets of tiny bagels, sausages, immense waffles and rainbows of melon. These days Pablo demands pancakes or waffles at least once a week, but having people over for brunch is a bit more exciting. Brunch is perfect because it gives you an excuse to eat two meals-worth in one, and to basically get a bit merry at breakfast-ish-time (bucks fizz! bloody marys! yay!). It's also not too much of an undertaking to whip up brunch for friends, and when you're up with the cubs from something painful like 6:30am it's nice to have people over for a meal around midday and then have the last couple of hours before bedtime free for a family movie, rather than spending all morning and early afternoon cooking and then sitting around in the dark eating a roast exhausted...
Kristyn, James and very pregnant Laura came round and we feasted on papaya, mango and blueberries, stacks of waffles with cream and syrup and some pretty impressive Eggs Benedict with home made hollandaise (thanks, Kristyn!). Then Indiana helpfully had a mega nap so we could weep with laughter playing Cards Against Humanity and slurping grapefruit juice mimosas...
We have made a vague family decision to try and have a *proper* lunch or brunch together every Sunday over the autumn and winter, and even though it was technically still September it was dreary enough outside to kick things off. Lovely Jo, a friend for three whole decades as both our dads were journos based in Brussels together back in the VERY early 80s, came over to see us (especially Pablo, who has a bit of a crush on her) which was a great excuse for feasting. Konch made Jamie Oliver's pot roast pork with fennel, our first goose-fat parsnips of the season, buttered leeks and peas, and some little roasted salad potatoes. I decided to attempt Mary Berry's Queen of Puddings - have been lusting after it since the Great British Bake Off technical challenge a couple of weeks ago. My jam may have been a tiny bit runny but otherwise it was impressive and easy and a lovely hot winter pud. We ate it ALL, and the super super sweetness was a hit with Pablo until he decided he needed to take his top off to show Jo his muscles, then promptly dropped a spoon full of hot-ish custard onto his tummy. Whoops. After pudding it was compulsory to spend the rest of the day sipping wine and soaking up the dregs of fennel sauce with fat slices of ciabatta, grabbing little kips and watching cartoons.