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.

No bake chocolate cake

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This is a rich fruit and nut chocolate cake containing hazelnuts, cherries, stem ginger, raisins, dried apricots and amaretti biscuits all coated in dark chocolate and butter. The dark coloured chocolate contrasts with the colour of the fruit giving this cake a jewelled appearance. It sets in the fridge and can be cut into small squares to use as petit fours with coffee or small slices for a rich dessert. The amaretti are wheat and gluten free making this a useful gluten free alternative.

Rich fruit cake

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This traditional rich fruit cake has been my favourite for many years. It is packed with a mixture of dried fruits which have been soaked in brandy. This helps the fruit stay moist and the cake will last for ages. I made three of these cakes for my wedding 25 years ago. One layer was eaten at the time, one was kept for the christening of our first child and the top layer is still safely stored away. Every Christmas, I make this cake for our family. It will last until Easter if stored carefully. I normally cover it in marzipan and a lemon butter icing which help stop the cake from drying out.

Fruit tea loaf

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This tea loaf is a very different texture to other cakes – it contains no fat and the fruit is heated in tea before having the other ingredients added. The fruits used can vary accoring to whatever you have available, as can the tea. I made this loaf with Darjeeling but could have used Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong or Russian Caravan. It can be eaten as it is, but also tastes delicious with butter spread on it.

Fruit loaf cake

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I first used this recipe when I was about 8 or 9 years old and it was in a book that I was given for my birthday called ‘How to do baking’. It has been a favourite ever since – the fat is rubbed in to the flour making the cake a more crumbly texture. Over the years I have altered the ingredients slightly – this one is made with light soft brown sugar, sultanas, dried apricots and dried pears as that was what I happened to have in the larder. It keeps well, although with hungry mouths to feed after school it is usually eaten quickly!