Autumn holds a very special place in my heart. It always has. Growing up in the Midwest of the US we were treated each October to beautiful, richly coloured orange, red and yellow trees, the joys of pumpkin and apple picking- both of which sometimes included a hayride, but always included a warm cup of (non-alcoholic) spiced apple cider and an apple fritter to top it off. My love of this particular season in this particular place is why Nick and I got married in October in Cleveland. It’s why I drag us out to the apple orchard each year, why I throw a Halloween party, and prepare a Thanksgiving dinner no matter what country we are in.
Autumn traditions are one of the memories I took from my childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, carrying them with me wherever I went. I keep them close. They are important to me, reminding me of my first home, the home I am actually traveling to as we speak! I have also picked up new traditions along the way since leaving Cleveland; craving the smell of roasted green chilies and glow of luminarias in New Mexico, watching the Guy Fawkes fireworks from our bedroom window in London, but these first autumn traditions from Cleveland are the oldest and some of the dearest that I have. They remind me that it doesn’t matter where in the world I am, I am rooted.
I was explaining the importance of passing on these traditions to a friend the other day, clarifying them a bit for myself as I did so. I don’t expect my children to stay close to me when they’re grown. Not that I wouldn’t be happy if they did, but, knowing my own nature, it wouldn’t surprise me if they caught the travel bug quite early on. I want them to go explore the world, see the things and places that fascinate them, things they didn’t even know existed. I want them to find a community that they love, and one that loves them in return. By giving them these little, simple traditions, seasonal nuances, I am hoping they will always feel I am close to them, even when I am far away. I hope it will root them in happiness, in love, in acceptance, no matter where they go or how lost they may sometimes feel whilst finding their place in the world.
I make these muffins every year for Halloween and Thanksgiving, and now my girls do too! They are easy to make, easy to freeze, and delicious slightly warmed, accompanied by a hot bowl of chilli and a crisp autumn evening.
makes 12-16 large muffins or 24 mini muffins
1 cup prepared pumpkin or squash puree
3-4 tbsp Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
200g (or 1 stick in the US) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup fine ground cornmeal or instant polenta
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar or coconut sugar, packed
Melt your butter and set it aside to cool slightly. In a medium size bowl whisk together yoghurt, eggs, pumpkin or squash, and then melted butter once it has cooled slightly (no as not to curdle your other ingredients).
In a large separate bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients. Tip your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and combine with a wooden spoon.
Line and fill your muffin cases. Pop into a preheated 200C/400F oven for 16-20 minutes, until they are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. Try the old toothpick trick- if it comes out clean when inserted, the muffins are done.