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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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.

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. 

Happy Christmas!

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I have finished making all the food ordered this Christmas and the final deliveries are scheduled. Many thanks to all of you who have bought from me – I hope you enjoy your food and come back in 2017.

Now I can concentrate on Christmas with my family and friends. There are several traditions to observe, like baking mince pies while listening to the Festival of nine lessons and carols on Christmas Eve, a trip to Borough Market to stock up with delicious foodie bits and pieces (including the pilgrimage to Neal’s Yard to select our cheese) and decorating our tree, which is always left until the last minute! I will be taking a couple of weeks off over Christmas and the New Year but will be back testing our new recipes and making new preserves in 2017 – watch this space.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2017!

Open house – a quick reminder


If you are in the Southborough area today, please come along to try before you buy. I will be open between 11am and 1pm this morning and then between 4pm and 8pm this afternoon/evening.

I will have a selection of chutneys, jams, jellies, marmalades, cakes and biscuits available for tasting and purchase.

If you are looking for Christmas food gifts, I can make up gift boxes with 3 jars of your choice.

I look forward to seeing you later!

More Christmas preparations

This week I have been making more cranberry and orange compôte and mincemeat to sell at The Skinners’ School Christmas Fayre and Farmers Market.

If you want a cranberry sauce to go with your turkey or gammon that isn’t as sweet as many cranberry jellies sold, then try this one. It is made with a little sugar but the main flavour is cranberry. It would also go well with brie or a baked camembert.

The mincemeat recipe I use has lime juice and zest to go with the dried fruit. This gives it a fresh zingy taste. It is suitable for vegetarians.

I will have jars for sale on Saturday 3 December at The Skinners’ School –

£3.00 for a 190g jar of cranberry & orange compôte and

£3.50 for a 320g jar of mincemeat.

 

Selling my food

I have a table at The Skinners’ School Christmas Fayre and Farmers Market on Saturday 3 December 2016 on St Johns Road in Tunbridge Wells.

If you would like to try some of my chutneys, jellies, cakes and biscuits before you buy, please come along between 11am and 2pm.

I will also have Panforte, traditional Christmas cake and Christmas Puddings for sale along with gift boxes which can be made up with your choice of chutneys, jams, marmalades and jellies.

I look forward to seeing you this weekend.

PS Please bring cash with you as I don’t think my card payment machine will have arrived in time – sorry for the inconvenience!

Spiced redcurrant jelly

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I picked redcurrants a few weeks ago and made another batch of spiced redcurrant jelly. From the field to the jar within 24 hours – perfect! The jelly will be delicious with roast lamb or venison or I use it to enrich a game gravy. As I don’t own a stand for the jelly straining bag, I go for an upturned chair and bits of string – this works just as well! The jelly has white wine vinegar added to give it extra flavour as well as cinnamon and cloves.