Every holiday has a hump day. That ‘everybody is irritating the shit out of me’ day. Where the allure of being away from home, on tour, on holiday, on a honeymoon or business trip has dissipated. It’s the day where everyone’s excitement whaps up against the reality of their surroundings or companions and each starts to miss their familiar. Its adrenalin fatigue. Its overtiredness. The anticipation has gone, reality has set in and the bleh spills out.
If you are lucky – the day will pass, people will get over the nonsense they unknowingly dragged on behind them as they boarded the holiday express. If you’re not lucky (and I have been that) – the holiday will dissolve into a schmear of mean and unhappy and tears and resentment. It won’t right out of the hump wobble.
The resultant fall-out takes years to heal. And experience has taught me the less said at the time, the better.
There’s always a hump day when we go to McGregor. The kids come down from their anticipation and the red mist sets in. They start fighting with each other, that escalates into pushing back at me and before you know it, we’re all thoroughly sick of each other. I’ve learned to see the signs as they are building up to the fall apart, so now I moor them to their beds for a few hours in the afternoon – hoping they will sleep it off.
And while they are there – I make something ‘yummy’ to eat.
Last weekend our friends Nic and Chris invited us to dinner to wet their new clock. A princely piece, bought for Nic’s birthday and installed in their lovely home (the Old Village Lodge where I used to stay before we bought 20a). I offered to make a chook and dessert. The kids wanted chocolate. Chocolate helps heal the cranky. And everyone loves a brownie.
I used a Jamie Oliver recipe, found in a magazine we had at home. Great quality chocolate is imperative. As is licking the bowl. I had no baking pans, so used my pal Natasha’s silicone muffin mould. Which worked well – but I will definitely use a flat pan next time – and bake for less time. I might also let the mixture sit for 20 mins or so … the second batch were even nicer than the first. Either way – Jamie’s brownies were sublime – sludgy inside, crispy outside. And they disappeared in seconds.
We sloped back home, full of roast chicken, slow cooked lamb and all the trimmings. Everyone happy. The kids’ beds were already set up in front of the fire, they tumbled into pjs and were out for the count in seconds. But not before they told me: “Suzie we love coming to McGregor. And Brownies”.
Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Brownies
200g/7oz good-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
250g/8 oz unsalted butter (though I used salted … I just prefer it)
optional: 150g/60z mixed nuts, roughly chopped
80g/3oz cocoa powder
65g/2.5oz plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
350g/12 oz caster sugar
4 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
How to bake your brownies
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4
- Line a 20 x 30cm rectangular baking tin with baking/parchment paper
- Smash up the chocolate into small pieces
- In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth
- Add the nuts, if you’re using them, and stir together
- In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar
- Add this to the chocolate and nut mixture
- Stir together well
- Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency
Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 18-20 minutes (check after 15 – especially if you have a convection oven – mine were almost ready). You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes, you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly crisp and springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle
Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. Dust with icing snow. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche mixed with some orange zest. Or, if you are in McG: with a huge scoop of cheapie store-bought vanilla ice-cream.
Even better in the morning, dipped in a strong cup of coffee: eaten while you watch your beloved fellow travelers sing as they scootch around the kitchen. They’re fixing breakfast in their dressing gowns – because it’s DIY Sunday in McG …and “we love DIY Sunday”.