I love late summer – but it is hectic!

I love this time of year as we gently drift almost imperceptibly into Autumn. Before we became allotmenteers we used to spend time walking, talking, admiring the view. At this time of year there are always bargains to be had in the shops and markets and I’ve always bought vegetable to be made into pickles, jams, lovely fresh ratatouille’s or whatever has sang to my soul in the green grocers that morning. Even though I made these lovely things, we still seemed to have time to raise a family, we both worked (okay I worked part time) and have time for late summer/autumn walks.

Now, my ironing pile is sky high – again! because every morning I wake up with my to do list rattling through my brain as to which is the most urgent job required to preserve my lovely crops, pick them, thin them, weed them, hoe them, curse at the caterpillars and slugs, plant them. (I’m still planting lettuces – you’d be surprised how hardy they are)) I then lug my produce that was ready for picking home, often stopping for a chat with other allotmenteers who lament their failures and proudly show me their successes – I like this bit the best.

I then spend several hours in my kitchen, with the kitchen door shut because of the influx of wasps, making potions often in a haze of vinegary fumes to delight the palette come the dreary part of winter when it doesn’t shine and the simple act of opening a jar of something tangy can put a spring back into ones step.

Sunday was spent at the plot, such a glorious day, we both worked hard and came home to a bottle of wine and a cold chicken sandwich.. Sometimes you grow all of these lovely vegetables and you just don’t have time or the energy to cook and eat them!

Monday, I was back up to the plot, picking and weeding and hoeing before coming home then I made a huge batch of sweet piccalilli, (remember that cauliflower,, I still have a third of it left in my fridge) and ran out of steam again. I had a choice, do I, cook the leg of lamb that was meant to be Sunday’s meal, and spend another two hours preparing vegetables, nursing potatoes to perfection and then we would have eaten really quite late.. Or do we have another sandwich and make use of the figs??? The figs won.

I’ve noticed that Waitrose’s coco powder is really quite good, which then lead me into the delightful debate of figs and chocolate, chocolate and figs.. Hubby came home, hungry as a horse, looking for his supper. I tentatively asked, “How do you fancy a fig upside down chocolate cake?” there were positive murmurings, quickly followed by “we could just have a sandwich OR, I could start on the roast but that will be hours off”.. He’s a good boy my bloke and he also has a very sweet tooth and within this, I rarely make puddings..

Game set and match. *wink*

By the time the oven had heated up, I’d warmed a little butter and sugar together to make a base on the bottom of the cake tin, cut my fresh figs (from my own tree!) in half having cut the tough stem away at their top, placed them on the top of the buttery sugary mixture and made a mix of 2 by 4 by 4 by 4..

Remember this ladies, it will stand you in good stead.. to make a basic cake mix, nothing too fancy its not going to win you prizes at the local WI, but it will feed a family without having to refer to a recipe book. 1 egg equals, 2 oz of sugar, 2oz of butter, 2 oz of self raising flour. Multiply as necessary. A Victoria sponge, made in 2 layers in eight inch sandwich tins is a 3 by, 6,6,6, If you want to add coco powder, take a couple of table spoons of flour out and add the same amount of cocoa, if its a little stiff, add a drop of milk. Cook on 180 degrees C. Always underestimate, I checked mine after 25 minutes and it was perfectly cooked, it will depend on how hot your oven runs.

My fresh fig upside down chocolate cake.. the coco is so good it smelt devine,

and a quick shot of my supper… there was custard, I have to admit (because of the lack of eggs at the moment) it was shop bought. The mix of the toffee like topping, fully ripened figs which were gently cooked through but still retained their freshness and the strength of the coco powder with a goodly dollop of cold custard with vanilla was sensational.

Today the courgettes were calling. I have a pile of them in the fridge, I’ve been waiting for tomatoes to ripen and yesterday evening I was able to pick enough to make this recipe.

I’ve made this one before, if you look for ‘spicy courgette chutney’ on my blog that’s the one, .. I changed a couple of items, I used fresh chilli’s from the greenhouse, malt vinegar and also added ground dried chili instead of flaked chilli’s and a little more cumin and more fresh ginger. I loved last years recipe but thought it could do with a little more zip. It has to settle for a couple of months, but I am absolutely sure that this recipe – in whatever guise – the essential route of this recipe is a winner.

And of course, whilst stirring, it does take nearly six hours to make this recipe, I made some shallots in sherry vinegar.

This is just a snapshot of all that I have produced, 10 jars of piccalilli, 9 jars of spicy courgette chutney, 2 of pickled shallots.

Remember the lamb, Oh that lamb, Sundays lamb, well that is gently casseroling with haricot beans, home grown carrots, onions, tomatoes, garlic, chicken stock and red wine and we should eat before the sun goes down.

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