We really can’t remember such a hot summer. Week upon week of perfect weather, the Somerset grass warm and crispy-dry underfoot, everywhere alive with grasshoppers and butterflies having a field day. Recent weeks have been reminiscent of the endless summers of our childhood, recalled through rose-tinted glasses perhaps, but nevertheless a welcome change from the last few grey and wet summers that appeared to be the new norm. England seems to have taken on the balm and scent of the Mediterranean, of parched grass and richly blooming trees above. Bare earth has been baked by the sun to cracking-point, forming interesting crater patterns running away into the grass. Whilst these hot, dry conditions are not ideal generally for food producers, our orchard is heaving with fruits of all kinds, apples, pears, plums, black cherries, mulberries, all fatter, richer, more colourful than in previous years. And the vegetable garden has had a bumper year too, gently flooded each week using rainfall from the previous winter stored in a large underground tank, and bursting with productivity. The bounty always begins in late spring, broad beans, peas and asparagus at first, followed by the root vegetables and salads until, by late August, we’re struggling to put all of this to use. This is the time for preserving and storing, for making jams and pickles, and for big, rich vegetable stews. Our all-time favourite is this stew, we have been making variations for years changing the vegetables, and sometimes doing it with chunks of lamb to fall apart or tomatoes to thicken it. A mixture of sweet spices and herbs, combining with apricots and wine to come together into a little bowl of nourishing happiness. Such a joy to put the end of the summer glut into one big pot, slowly cook for a long time- you really want to tenderise and soften your fennel- and be able to sit down and enjoy what the harvest has given you. Delicious served with a lemony yoghurt.