Open house 

 

I am holding two ‘Open House’ sessions before Christmas so if you would like to try before you buy, then please come along to 72 Prospect Road, Southborough on

Friday 9 December between 4pm and 8pm or on

Wednesday 14 December between 11am and 1pm or between 4pm and 8pm.

I will have a number of chutneys, jellies, jams and marmalades open for tasting as well as some biscuits and cakes. Most will be available to take away but I can make more Panforte or biscuits to order.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Some of my chutneys and jellies are also available to buy at Southborough Butchers on London Road, Southborough.

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Stir up Sunday


Stir up Sunday is the last Sunday before Advent and is the traditional day to make Christmas cakes or puddings so they have time to mature and the fruit can absorb the brandy (or rum, if you prefer).

Over the years, I have varied the fruits I include in my cake but the basic recipe is still the old one my mother gave me many years ago. I chop the dried apricots, prunes, dates, figs, candied peel, cherries and stem ginger and leave them to soak in brandy with the raisins, currants and sultanas for at least 24 hours before adding to the cake mix. I also add freshly chopped nuts, grated nutmeg and ground spices to the flour.

After baking, the cake is wrapped and stored in a tin until just before Christmas. I usually feed it a couple of times with a little more brandy which also helps to keep it moist.

As well as the cake for our family, I can make additional cakes to order if you do not have the time. These can be round or square, in a variety of sizes from 4″ square to 12″ square, from 6″ round to 12″ round. Please contact me if you would like to order one. Prices start from £10 plus delivery.

 

Try before you buy

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On Wednesday 16 November, I will have a stall at the Nizels Golf and Country Club ‘Christmas Beauty Evening’, near Hildenborough in Kent.

I am planning to take along a selection of preserves, biscuits, cakes and savoury nibbles which can be given as Christmas gifts and many will be available for tasting on the night. I will also be taking orders if you would rather wait until nearer Christmas to receive your foods.

I am also hoping to sell my foods at other locations in the run up to Christmas so watch this space for further information.

Email me at toobusytomake@btinternet.com or call me on 07787 963896 if you want to place an order or find out more.

 

 

Preparations starting early

I have made our Christmas puddings for a number of years. I have tried a few different recipes but prefer this one as it is less sweet, having no additional sugar. It contains raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel, cherries and flaked almonds. Vegetable suet and breadcrumbs are mixed in, along with eggs, brandy, Guinness and spices and the puddings are steamed for hours. I will now mature them in a cool dark place until Christmas Day.

We only eat one pudding each year but they last so well that I make and store one for the following year. This year I have made 4 additional small puddings which are available to buy. They each weigh 600g and come in a reusable pot. They will need to be steamed for another 1 ½ – 2 hours and then you can enjoy it with your favourite accompaniment whether it is brandy butter, rum sauce or custard! Each pudding will provide 8-10 servings and costs £10.00.

If you would like to buy one, please email me at toobusytomake@btinternet.com.

 

 

Just add cheese!

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One of our family Christmas traditions is the trip to Neals Yard in Borough Market to buy our selection of cheese .

It started many years ago, going to the Covent Garden branch, queueing outside in all weathers to buy some Stilton and maybe a couple of other cheeses. In recent years, we have switched to Borough Market because a change in job meant a different location. My husband used to make the selection on his own but nowadays it’s a family outing, often with workmates and friends tagging along.

We always buy half a Stilton which is eaten over the following month. There are a couple of family favourites which have to made with the stilton – a broccoli and stilton soup and pear and stilton bake, which my grandfather first made for us more than 35 years ago. It is worth tasting the individual Stiltons as if they are too ripe before Christmas, they won’t last until the end of January.

Other favourite cheeses include Cotherstone, Sparkenhoe Leicester, Applebys Cheshire, Hawes Wensleydale, Montgomerys Cheddar, Lincolnshire Poacher and Keens Cheddar. Soft cheeses like Innes Log are also excellent but we tend to favour the hard cheeses as they last longer.

To accompany the cheese, try a Spiced Damson Chutney flavoured with allspice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon, and some Damson Cheese – which is like a thick fruit jelly and goes really well with all the hard cheeses mentioned. Homemade oatcakes with thyme complete this selection. All can be ordered ready for Christmas – these three items would cost £8.50.

 

Christmas preparations – cakes and panforte

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I am still taking orders for Christmas cakes and Panforte. All cakes and Panforte are baked to order so if you would like one, please contact me as soon as possible.

The Christmas cakes are made with butter, dark muscovado sugar, organic eggs and flour and a variety of dried fruits that have been soaked in brandy for at least 24 hours, as well as nuts and treacle. The spices used are cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg and mixed spices. The cakes will last well into the New Year and in fact I used this recipe for our wedding cake and we used a layer at the christening of our daughter 5 years after the cake was baked – it was however, re-iced!

The Panforte are made with honey, soft brown sugar, dried figs and apricots, candied peel, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, ground almonds, flour, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg.

Both can be made in a variety of sizes but these are the main ones offered :

£8.00 Panforte 800g

£10.00 Panforte 1200g

£15.00 Christmas cake 6″ round or 5″ square

£20.00 Christmas cake 9″ round or 8″ square

£30.00 Christmas cake 11″ round or 10″ square

Cakes can be covered with marzipan and icing for an additional cost – please contact me to discuss details on 01892 523912 or 07787 963896

A busy week- and a busy weekend

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Last Saturday, I went to Frant Primary School to sell preserves and Christmas food gifts at their Christmas Fair. It was my first opportunity to sell to the general public so I was interested to see how it went. I had 2 chutneys, a jam and a marmalade open to taste as well as samples of Panforte and Christmas cake. It was good to get such positive feedback and I was delighted to sell several jars and cakes.

Then on Sunday, I delivered an order to http://www.southdownscellars.co.uk for their hampers – oatcakes, almonds, biscotti, Panforte, chutneys, mincemeat and compôte. I hope the food will be enjoyed with the excellent wines.

There is still time to order a Christmas cake or a Panforte to enjoy at Christmas and I still have some jars of mincemeat if you want to make your own mince pies. Please email me at toobusytomake@btinternet.com with your requirements.

 

 

 

Christmas preparations – cranberry and orange compôte

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Some cranberry sauces can be rather sweet. I like to make this compôte as it has a spicy tang and is not full of sugar. The cranberries are cooked with orange juice and zest, some red wine, cinnamon and cloves along with a little sugar and then port is stirred through to give it a rich flavour.

It tastes delicious with Christmas dinner as well as gammon and is equally good with cold meats, especially ham, for a Boxing Day spread. After opening, it should be kept in the fridge, but left unopened, it will last several months. The jars may contain whole cloves.

If you would like to order a jar, they cost £3.50 for 190ml.

It is also available in a 3 jar selection pack – try combining it with a spiced redcurrant jelly and an apple and sage jelly to give you accompaniments for various meats for £10.00.

Christmas preparations – the cake

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Before I make my Christmas cake, I like to soak the fruit in brandy for a few days. This helps to plump up the raisins, currants, sultanas, prunes, dates, apricots, figs, cherries, candied peel, cranberries and stem ginger. I normally make a 9″ or 23cm cake for our family which will last us until next Easter – over 2lb of fruit goes into this cake.

Stir up Sunday is 22 November this year, so this bowl of dried fruit will be perfectly ready to add to the rest of the ingredients and baked. I will then feed it with brandy over the next month before covering it with marzipan and icing it just before Christmas.