Pumpkin time again

Yesterday I gathered these pumpkins from the field at Four Winds Farm near Bidborough. I will be spending the next few days making them into chutney, soup, cake and other meals – they work well in savoury and sweet recipes.

I know there are pumpkins in the supermarkets but why not support a local farmer and gather them yourselves. It’s a fun half term activity and you can carve a pumpkin for Halloween while enjoying the flesh in your favourite recipes.

Four Winds Farm have pumpkins ready to pick on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 October, from 10:00 until 16:00 both days. 

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Biscotti and roasted almonds

I have been baking biscotti this afternoon, getting ready for the Penshurst Farmers’ Market this Saturday, 7 October. These are pistachio and flaked almond flavour with mixed spice – try them with a cappuccino or a cup of tea, or with a creamy fruit fool.

They keep well in an airtight tin if you can keep them out of reach. I usually find they evaporate – how else would I explain the tin emptying so quickly!

As well as these biscotti, I will have wheat free oat and walnut biscuits (try with some blue cheese), gluten free seeded biscuits (great with cheddar) and gluten free very cheesy biscuits (great with a dry sherry or g&t before dinner). Also good as a pre-dinner nibble are the roasted almonds with smoked paprika.

The Farmers’ Market is open from 9:30 until 12:00 this Saturday in the car park by Penshurst Place – I hope to see you there.

Even more cake baking

When I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough, they were asking me mainly for Victoria sponges with the occasional carrot and mascarpone or coffee and walnut cake for a change.

This week, I have delivered eight cakes, some flapjacks, rocky road and cookies. New cakes include the Dundee cake, which always used to be my favourite (I love fruit cakes!) and a gingerbread cake made with fresh grated ginger and treacle (which I forgot to photograph so I’ll have to make another!). I think I am getting quicker at making some of these cakes but others take time, such as the gluten free chocolate fudge cake which needs chocolate to be melted and cooled for both the cake and the buttercream icing. However, the smell is divine so I’m happy to make it regularly.

If the supermarkets are analysing my recent shopping habits, they will notice a huge increase in my consumption of eggs, flour, sugar, butter and olive spread. I have also been getting through the baking parchment circles very quickly – a pack of 100 will only last a month now! 

I’m hoping to try out a few new recipes over the next few weeks including some different gluten free cakes. The Great British Bake Off caramel week has inspired me to try that as a flavour although I’m sure mine won’t look as spectacular as some of their creations!

Ingredients and quality


When I started making foods to sell, I was very aware that my prices might seem quite high. However, I hoped that once people had tasted them, they would agree that they were worth it!

Balancing the cost of the ingredients and the selling price has always been tricky. In the same way that supermarkets have loss leaders, I have one or two products that my percentage mark up is greater than others. But then I must add in the increased gas and electricity bills, the cost of packaging and something for my time as well as the cost of the ingredients.

By buying jam jars in bulk, I can keep the unit cost down but I have to store both the empty and full jars. I make all the biscuit packaging so it fits the biscuits I make – so when I am baking for the local Farmers’ Market, I also have to allow extra time to weigh, pack and label all the biscuits I have made. 

I try to use the best quality ingredients I can afford as I believe flavour is so important. I always use organic free range eggs and organic flour, and cakes and biscuits are made with either butter or an olive oil spread. When possible, I pick fruit at a local farm to make my chutneys and jams. Other ingredients like dried fruit and nuts are bought regularly so they are always fresh. I know I could buy cheaper elsewhere, but I want my foods to taste good.

I have also invested in better quality baking tins, a new hand mixer, triple tier cooling racks and loads of baking parchment – ready cut discs are an essential when I am baking in bulk! My trusty Rayburn is great for cake baking but I can’t fill the oven too full as it affects the cooking time. I still have my electric cooker but I rarely use it as I think it dries cakes out too much. My next investment will be a banner to use at Farmers’ Markets and maybe a gazebo and table (although I need to sell a few more cakes and biscuits to be able to afford those!).

I am in this business because I enjoy cooking and I enjoy making foods for others – even when I am finishing labelling biscuits at 2am before a Farmers’ Market! 

I hope that you enjoy eating them!

Summer days ……


This year, the summer holidays started very early in our household. We collected our youngest from university in mid-June and our eldest arrived home from working in Spain at the beginning of July. As no one had any holiday plans, I hastily arranged a family break in Portugal (warm, sunny and very relaxing) but this has meant we were back home at the end of July, having already had our break, with most other people still with their holidays to look forward to. Never mind, we thought. August at home can be lovely – warm, sunny, places to go. However, this has not been the case. 

After the deluge on Wednesday, Thursday had a distinctly autumnal feel to it. The plants in the garden look washed out and battered, as they tend to look in October just before the end of the season. The tomatoes on the plant on my patio are just not ripening. 

I have had a busy time baking cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom – eight cakes and some flapjacks since our return from holiday. As these are freshly baked to order, there is no problem with having leftover cakes to sell. I have also started making more chutney as I delivered another order to Southborough Butchers last week which used up my stock. The autumn fruits are ripening much earlier than the last few years so I ordered two more huge boxes of jam jars ready to be filled with various chutneys – rhubarb & coriander made this week, plum apple & chilli, pear & apple, apricot apple & hazelnut and other flavours to follow over the next couple of weeks and spiced redcurrant jelly, apple & chilli and apple & mint jelly to follow. I have seen cobnuts, rosehips, elderberries, sloes and blackberries already waiting to be picked on my walks in the area. This must be at least 3 weeks earlier than the last few years. I even made a blackberry and apple crumble at the weekend with fruit picked that morning.

When I started ‘Too busy to make’, I hoped it would give me a chance to make foods that I enjoyed making and to sell them to people who would enjoy eating them. Since I have had the regular outlets, this has certainly proved to be the case. I am looking forward to a busy late summer and autumn, making foods to sell at Penshurst, at the Country Fair and Christmas Market at Chiddingstone, at Southborough Butchers and other local outlets.

Back to biscuit baking

This week I am back to baking biscuits to sell at the Penshurst Farmers’ Market this weekend, on Saturday 5 August.

These biscotti have flaked almonds and pistachio nuts – great for having with coffee or with dessert. The oat and walnut biscuits can be eaten with cheese – try with a blue cheese or ripe Brie – or with a morning cup of tea. The seeded biscuits go well with any cheese board. Both the oat and walnut and seeded biscuits are made with buckwheat flour so are fine for gluten-free and wheat-free diets.

Having baked all these biscuits, I now need to spend the evening weighing, packing and labelling them ready for selling on Saturday.

And more cakes ….

It is always reassuring when you get positive feedback and I have been delighted with the comments I have been getting about the cakes I have made recently for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. 

This week, I have delivered ten more cakes – Victoria sponges, carrot cakes, a coffee and walnut cake and lemon drizzle cakes. After a short break, I will be back baking, hoping to try out some different recipes as well as these popular ones. 

Redcurrants


When you are getting ready to go on holiday, there are all the normal things to do such as washing, packing, tidying up, taking the animals to kennels, emptying the fridge, turning off lights …… and picking redcurrants!

Having had a busy week or two, I realised I had not had time to pick redcurrants and as the season is so short, by the time we get home, they would be finished. So, it had to be done. At least we will be able to have redcurrants jelly with our roast lamb over the next few months.

Enjoy your summer!

Baking cakes

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In an exciting new venture, I am now baking some cakes for a local business The Earl Grey Tearoom, in Southborough.

So far, I have made them a carrot cake with mascarpone icing (left) and two Victoria sponges with butter cream icing and jam. I have also supplied them with some spiced almond and pistachio biscotti – great for dunking in your coffee or tea!

I hope this venture will continue for a long time – it is great for Southborough to have an independent tearoom and I love the fact I can make a cake and deliver it on foot! I must also admit, I have missed not baking cakes regularly. There is something I find relaxing about mixing together ingredients to produce a (hopefully!) light sponge cake and then decorating it. The very hot weather has made the mixing quite problematic but hopefully by the end of the week, as temperatures return to near normal, cake mixes will go back to the right consistency. Since my youngest went off to University, I can’t justify baking anything for just me. My neighbours have become my testing ground so if you see me crossing Prospect Road with plates of cake or biscuit, you know I am experimenting again.