The South East has been very hot for the last 5 days. Trying to bake in this heat is difficult – cakes don’t rise as much, buttercream icing melts and I feel as if I’m working in a sauna. However, at least I’m not a dog or cat wearing a fur coat!
Since lockdown has eased, I have been baking again for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough and business has been good. After all, why not treat yourself when so many other pleasures have disappeared. I have also been baking cakes for other customers who want a whole cake for a birthday or other celebration.
I have also been making chutney and jam – today it is strawberry jam which I use in the Victoria sponge. This is perhaps not the best pastime for such a hot day but it keeps me out of the sun. The chutneys were for Southborough Butchers – if you are local to Southborough, pop in and buy a jar from them. Jams can be bought directly from me – contact me via message or email and I’ll let you know which are in stock.
Thankfully, it has been easier to buy the basic ingredients for all the foods I make, although supply is still a little erratic. Icing sugar seems to disappear off the shelves very quickly so I have to bulk buy but flour and eggs are there every week now. Who knows what will happen in the autumn but for now, I will carry on making what I can when I can, making the most of the fruit harvest.
It may seem early but Christmas preparations are well under way at Too busy to make. I have a stall at the Chiddingstone Castle Christmas Fair on Saturday 23 November (10.00am to 4.00pm) so I am making various Christmas foods to sell.
This cranberry and orange compôte is not as sweet as most commercial cranberry sauces – it is made with fresh cranberries, oranges, red wine, port and spices with a small amount of sugar. It is an excellent accompaniment to your Christmas dinner and also goes well with gammon, nut roast and baked Camembert.
If you can’t get to Chiddingstone Castle on Saturday, I will be holding more open house sessions in December – dates will be available very soon.
Please keep reading these posts and if there are any foods you want to buy, get in touch by Facebook, Instagram, phone or email.
About once a week, I have a day off from baking. Today is such a day – I delivered two cakes to The Earl Grey this morning (Victoria sponge and gluten free Chocolate Fudge cake, for those that are interested) and their next order is for one on Thursday and three on Friday. I have loads to make for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden tomorrow for delivery on Thursday, so will have a long day in the kitchen.
Sometimes, my ‘day off’ is spent shopping for ingredients. I buy most from Sainsbury’s but also go to Waitrose (organic self raising flour, sugar) and Lidl (dark chocolate, limes, mascarpone and nuts). Going to three different shops does take time but I like the quality of the ingredients I use.
Sometimes, I make preserves instead. My latest is a new batch of lime marmalade which still needs labelling.
This afternoon, I am making a batch of Granola to see me through breakfast for the next month or so. Chopping the fruit takes a little time but it is worth it – toasted oats, seeds and bran with honey and groundnut oil, with dates, apricots, sultanas and toasted hazelnuts, which I have with yoghurt and fresh fruit.
Tonight I need to make 4 trays of Rocky Road so my cake tins are ready for baking tomorrow. This isn’t baking as it just requires melting, chopping and mixing followed by overnight in the fridge to set.
And then there is supper …. possibly Lebanese spinach and chickpeas, recipe courtesy of Riverford, followed by ironing (not my favourite job!).
So even on a day off from baking, there is plenty of cooking going on!
With fruit continuing to ripen earlier than the last few years, this week is becoming my ‘Processing Damsons’ week.
My other half loves Victoria plums and is very happy picking huge quantities of them but he prefers to eat them as they are. So, last Sunday, we went to our local pick your own fruit farm and picked a few pounds to keep him happy. Some were ripe, but most needed an extra week.
We also found a few Damson trees with lots of ripe fruit, so picked about 30 pounds!
This week, I am making loads of Damson chutney, Damson cheese and various other Damson recipes to use these small delicious plums. These should be available to buy in the run up to Christmas as well as at the Chiddingstone Castle Country Fair on Sunday 9 September, along with other preserves that I have been making.
I went fruit picking this week as I wanted to make more redcurrant jelly and blackcurrant jam. Even though we went early in the day, it was still very hot – the blackcurrants were significantly smaller but still have that lovely concentrated flavour.
Having picked the fruit, I then spent the following day making the jelly and jam – perhaps not the best job to be doing on such a hot day! However, I have 18 jars of Spiced Redcurrant Jelly and 22 jars of Blackcurrant Jam ready to be labelled and then they will be available to buy.
Other fruits seem to be ripening earlier than the last couple of years (I made redcurrant jelly in the middle of August the last two years) – I have seen blackberries in the hedgerows already looking ready to be picked – so I think my preserving pan will be getting lots of use in the coming weeks.
About a year ago, I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. To begin with, I made just Victoria sponges, then we added carrot cake, coffee and walnut and lemon drizzle cakes. Numbers have increased as their business goes from strength to strength and most weeks I am baking at least eight cakes plus some flapjacks or butterscotch brownies.
New favourites include lemon and blueberry, white chocolate and raspberry and a cherry Bakewell cake. I love trying out new recipes so it is always fun being set a new challenge by Roz and the team. Some recipes need tweaking so they produce a three layer cake, some are adapted after tasting to produce something that the customers will enjoy. Some have to be translated from American cups to metric but with my trusty balance scales, electronic scales, measuring spoons and calculator, anything can be done. I just have to remember to write everything down so I only have to calculate it once.
Since mid-March, I have also been making some cakes for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden. They mainly order gluten free chocolate fudge cakes, gluten free cocoa, courgette and pistachio cakes, Rocky Road and traybakes in a variety of flavours including white chocolate & raspberry, blueberry & Demerara, pear & hazelnut and plum & almond.
In addition, I occasionally make other cakes for special orders such as birthdays.
This increase in cake production has kept me busy but I am still trying to find time to keep up with preserve making, building up stocks of marmalade, chutney, jam and jelly to see me through to Christmas and making the most of seasonal produce like elderflowers, by making cordial. The delicious soft fruit season is starting so I will be making the most of as many different fruits as I can, including them in my baking as well as preserving them for the months and years ahead.
After a very busy end to 2017, I was left with just a few jars of chutney and jelly and no marmalade or jam for sale. So, in the early months of 2018, I have been restocking the larder.
So far, I have made my Apricot apple and hazelnut chutney and Lime marmalade and today’s job is to start a batch of apple jelly. These apples are being cooked up with some white wine vinegar and lemon zest. When the apples are soft, I will strain them overnight and then add sugar to make a savoury jelly to which I’ll be adding chillies. I will also be making another batch which will have mint added to it instead.
When ready, some of these will be delivered to my local butcher in Southborough, for them to sell. I will also keep a few to sell at Farmers’ Markets in the coming months. If you would like to buy any, please contact me via Facebook or email.
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.
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.