We’ve slipped into the dark now, it’s black before 6pm. It’s not cold – far from it – but damp, dank. The warmness of the last few weeks is unnerving. It’s one thing having record-breaking hot days in July, quite another to be pushing 20c when the Halloween decorations are up. When the rain holds off there is consolation in the glorious colours of the season. The air smells of leaves and moss.
It was half-term last week, and there was barely time to take a breath, what with daytrips, parties and playdates. Plus for some reason I’ve been struck with the need for autumn-cleaning, scrubbing every surface, shining windows and shampooing carpets. Which is difficult when much of the floor is covered with lego, marble run and train tracks.
The warm and the rain and the school holiday means there’s been not much allotmenting. I started the mass clear out back on 9th October, stripping down sunflower stalks, bean supports and the enormous courgette plants. But the soil is just not ready to be fully covered yet – the cosmos are still magnificent, and the chrysanthemums are finally coming into their own.
On Sunday I picked an armful of Chrysanthemum ‘starburst’ plus – unbelievably – several dahlias, which are still coming and show no sign of giving up yet. In a few weeks we’ve gone from colours of summer to colours of autumn.
Speaking of autumn, it’s the perfect time to stock up on English apples, and these pancakes a very agreeable way of using them up. It’s a simple pancake batter, augmented with a grated apple or two, and warmed with cinnamon. I like this kind of simple, economical baking – plus the whole family will eat them, which is a bonus. Whisk them up in seconds, scoff on a Sunday morning, then any leftovers are very nice as a Monday snack with your morning coffee.
Apple and cinnamon pancakes
Serves 3-4 people
Place 200g plain flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp caster sugar and 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon in a bowl. Using a box grater, grate in 1 or 2 small eating apples (there’s no need to peel them). Crack 2 eggs into the bowl, splash in 150ml milk, then whisk the lot together with a balloon whisk. It will start off looking lumpy and unpromising, but after a few seconds will come together nicely. Stop when the batter looks smooth.
In a non-stick frying or crepe pan, melt a good knob of salted butter, then stir this into your batter. Then it’s just a question of cooking the pancakes – dollop tablespoons of batter into the hot pan, cook until browned on the bottom, flip, cook a little more, then whip them out. Keep going until all the batter is used up, then just gobble them up. I think these are best with golden syrup.
Also this month:
Harvesting: Cavolo nero, chard, chrysanthemums, dahlias. Could be harvesting cosmos but I’m bored of it now.
Also: Began clearing allotment. Pruned shrubs in garden (yes I know it’s the wrong time of year). The forced paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis are poking heads through the compost.
Cooking & eating: Apple pancakes. Gingerbread. Black bean and chorizo chilli. Baked squash. Cauliflower and chorizo cheese. Enjoying a glass of red wine for first time in about six years.
Also: A visit to Ludlow to stock the freezer up with pheasants, veal, beef ribs, sausage, bacon and duck. Space Centre in Leicester. Batsford Arboretum. Cleaning every surface and ordered a new sofa to replace the one that Gertrude has destroyed. Attempting to not allow the permanent political and economic crisis to bring us down: ordered my Christmas turkey, which is 15% more expensive than last year, but at least we can afford to get a turkey in the first place.