Pick Your Own Pumpkins

Halloween has never been my thing. I don’t like things jumping out at me. I don’t like creepy clowns, lunatics escaped from the asylum, vampires in their coffins or skeletons fresh from the grave. Cats are the tamest (literally) part of the whole thing and I don’t like them either (I’m very allergic).

But I love anything festive, all year round. Waiting for midnight on New Years Eve, hunting out chocolate eggs at Easter, watching fireworks fill the sky on Bonfire Night and the complete delight that is Christmas, I love them all. So I can’t skip Halloween, but it needs to be adapted. Which brings me to this Sunday’s blog post – pumpkin picking. Entirely Halloween and not remotely scary.

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Every Halloween, Secretts throw open their farm gates for Pumpkin Week. The Pick Your Own farm becomes dedicated to pumpkins and for just £1 you can jump on a tractor down to the pumpkin fields. You ramble around the field for as long as you wish, selecting the biggest, smallest, prettiest or most misshapen pumpkin you can find, before seeing which hole it fits through (each hole is a price), paying what you owe and then hopping back in the tractor to the farm.

In the run up to Halloween weekend I did my fair share of research into pick your own pumpkins, and the distinction between pumpkin field and pumpkin patch is not one to be overlooked. At pumpkin patches the pumpkins have already been picked, and are then displayed so you can pick the prettiest to take home. Pumpkin fields are the real deal, leaving you to roam around in the mud carrying as many pumpkins as you can manage. There aren’t many farms that let you lose in their pumpkins fields, but Secretts is one of them and it is definitely the only way to do it.

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Back at base, Secretts have all kinds of pumpkin treats to greet you (think tiny gourds with warm pumpkin soup inside). Or you can venture into the farm shop where they have an enormous selection of home grown fruit and veg, freshly baked breads and cakes, preserves and sauces, chocolate and confectionary, a delicatessen stocked by the in house butcher and a cheese counter with an impressive listing of over 300 cheeses. If you couldn’t find what you were after in the pick your own fields, you’ll definitely find it in the farm shop and you can rest assured that it’ll be just as fresh.

There are also cafes onsite for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Having worked up an appetite in the pumpkin fields, we opted for Eliza’s Teashop and warmed up over baked potatoes and homemade quiche. The perfect setting for the post-picking discussion of what exactly to do with the pumpkins (pie, soup or lantern?)

We took our pumpkins home and Tiarnan’s mum kindly whipped up a pumpkin soup, which we will be lunching on all week. Who says that Halloween needs to be scary to be fun? Certainly not me.

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A Healthy Sunday Breakfast

Sundays are for lazy breakfasts, right?

This morning, Tiarnan and I fancied whipping something up rather than eating yet another bowl of porridge, but with New Year’s resolutions hanging over us we passed on the traditional fry up. Instead, we created an entirely guilt-free feast which (and here’s the best part) is a complete doddle to make! Say hello to our resolution-friendly-but-still-delicious Sunday breakfast creation: tropical smoothies and banana pancakes.

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*TROPICAL SMOOTHIE

If I’m honest, yellow smoothies are more Tiarnan’s thing than mine (I’m all about the pink ones, which I shared in A Super Simple Smoothie) but a cup of sunshine is undoubtedly the best way to start a Sunday when it’s miserable outside. This one is super thick and creamy, so you could just blitz up extra and have it for breakfast on its own. However, Sunday is for feasting, and it makes the perfect accompaniment to the pancakes.

For a smoothie that can serve two, all you need is one banana, a couple of handfuls of mango, an equal amount of pineapple, a dollop of vanilla yoghurt and a splash of apple juice. Blitz it it up and you’re done!

This smoothie is a really thick one, as mango and banana are good as smoothie bases alone and yoghurt really bulks it out. If you don’t love that so much, skip the yoghurt or just add more apple juice or pineapple.

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*BANANA PANCAKES

These pancakes take just two ingredients. Two ingredients. (Although we cheated and used three). However, they are still deliciously light and fluffy and taste like banana bread and french toast rolled into one. They are also super quick and easy to make. And they don’t need to be reserved as a Sunday treat, have them every day if you want!

All you need is one extra ripe banana and two large eggs (and that’s it!).

Mash the banana well until there are no large lumps, then whisk in the two eggs. If you like you can add vanilla (for extra flavouring – we did), baking powder (to make them super light and fluffy) or anything else to flavour them, like cinnamon, honey or cocoa powder.

Pour small amounts of the batter in to a hot frying pan, and flip when the first side is done. Wait for the other side to cook and you’re done! You should manage 6-8 small pancakes. Top with whatever you feel like. I personally love maple syrup and blueberries, but extra banana, honey, cinnamon, granola or whatever takes your fancy will also be delicious.    

Sunday Brunch: Graze Kitchen and Bar

I’m sorry if it’s painful to talk about the weekend on Wednesday, when it just seems so far away… But this brunch was too good to not share with you!

My sister, Rosie, and I often go cruising down the high street where we live with our eyes peeled for new eateries. It seems to be the thing of the moment for our hometown: a new day, a new cafe opens up. While we’ve been promising to go to a few now, there was one that we had to visit as soon as we spotted it.

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Previously a very dodgy pub, this cute little building on the bridge overlooking the river has completely turned itself around into an all day eatery. Graze Kitchen and Bar opens early to provide busy commuters with espressos and pastries and then stays open into the night offering sharing platters and cocktails. Choosing when to go was a tricky decision!

However, rumour had it that their brunch menu was the best, and what better day to brunch than a Sunday?!

We arrived reasonably early and got in easily. The dining space is fairly small but nicely spread out, so we didn’t feel as though we were sharing our fellow brunchers’ coffees and conversations. We sat by the window and watched the world go by.

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The menu is varied and (to our pleasant surprise) not too expensive. If you are in a hurry you can opt for the bircher muesli or pastry selection, or if you have more time you can go for the full ‘graze breakfast’ (essentially a full English with a more original name).

We, of course, had plenty of time so I chose the graze breakfast and Rosie went for the American Pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. These delicious offerings shared the table with a luxury hot chocolate, a pot of tea and apple juice.

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The portion sizes are generous and service is quick but not rushed. The poached eggs were OK but nothing to write home about but this was the Graze brunch’s only downfall. Happily, there were so many marshmallows on top of the hot chocolate that drinking it was a bit of a challenge at first (the only way a hot chocolate should be)!

So if you’re in the area, skip Starbucks or the Waitrose cafe and walk that bit further up the high street for Graze. It is 100% worth it.