BBC Radio Leicester Gardeners’ phone-in recipes


February is a cold, dark, short month. But everywhere there’s signs of spring. Wild violets and the first primroses pop up by the front gate. And snowdrops cheer up the hedgerow, pushing up through hats of curled, brown leaf mould.

It’s traditionally a month of self-denial and fasting. Many people give up something for Lent – chocolate, wine, or favourite foods. Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day is a way of using up egg supplies before the fasting period begins. I make orange curd to use up eggs and butter.

But I also like to make marmalade now. An antidote to winter. I line up pots of marmalade along my kitchen window. A kind of ribbon of orange light. My own stained glass window. Here’s my favourite recipe, which I make with Seville oranges – and some citrus fruits from my heated greenhouse. Tucked up indoors and standing over a steaming pan of oranges makes for a heart-sing moment. And we need plenty of those in February. My grandmother’s old saying is usually true. As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens. I highly recommend staying indoors, keeping warm and making marmalade.


2lb or 900g fruit ( I used Seville oranges, and some kumquats and calamondin fruit from the greenhouse.)

1 lemon

4lb or 1.8kg granulated sugar, warmed

4 pints water

6 x 1lb jam jars

Square of muslin

Cut the lemon and oranges in half and squeeze out the juice. Put any pips or pith that cling to the squeezer into a square of muslin placed over a pudding bowl. Now cut the peel into quarters. Scrape off the pith and add to the muslin. Cut the quarters into thin shreds. Add the juice and peel to the water in a heavy-based preserving pan. Tie up the muslin square and tie loosely to the pan handle with the bag suspended in the water. The pith contains pectin which will help the marmalade set. Simmer gently uncovered for 2 hours until the peel is completely soft. Remove the muslin bag and set aside to cool. Put a plate in the freezer. Pour in the sugar and heat gently until the sugar crystals have melted. Squeeze the muslin bag to extract the jelly-like pectin. I used plastic gloves, or you can press it between two saucers. Increase heat. As soon as the mixture reaches a fast boil, start timing. After 15 minutes, spoon a little of the marmalade onto the cold plate and pop in the fridge. If it has a “set” the marmalade will crinkle when you push it with your finger. If not, continue to boil for another 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stand for 20 minutes. Add a tsp butter to disperse scum. Pop the jam jars in the oven to warm for five minutes. Pour the marmalade into jars with the aid of a funnel, cover with wax disks and seal while still hot. Label pots- and enjoy!

A visit to my mother-in-law’s house would always find us searching the pantry for the cake tin. Over the past 50 years, you could pretty much guarantee to find some flapjack in there. Joan recently gave me all her treasured recipe books. Here’s my own version, adapted from Joan’s family favourite. It travels well and is ideal for picnics.


250g or 9oz unsalted butter, chopped into pieces

250g or 9oz golden caster sugar

175g or 6oz golden syrup

425g or 15oz porridge oats

50g or 2oz walnut halves,slightly crushed.

Grated zest of 1 orange.

3 tbsp orange marmalade

160C gas / mark 4 for 30 minutes

28cm x 18cm shallow baking tin

Melt together in a microwave the butter, sugar, and golden syrup. Stir into the oats, walnuts, and orange zest. Tip the mixture into a lined tin and level it off. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the centre is still slightly soft. It will firm up as it cools. Mark into 12 pieces while it’s still warm. Leave to cool and then brush the top with melted orange marmalade. Keeps for a week in an airtight tin.

Each week on BBC Radio Leicester there’s a Gardeners’ Phone-in programme between 11am and 12 noon. I like to take in a posy from my garden, showing what’s in flower all year round. And I also take in something I’ve made using produce from my plot. This week it was a jar of marmalade and some flapjack. Tune in on the i player to listen to the programme which starts at 2.11.31 on the timeline at Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a photo of my greenhouse from last summer. A reminder of lovely warm weather to come.

47 thoughts on “BBC Radio Leicester Gardeners’ phone-in recipes

    • Thank you Catherine. I’ve filled the freezer with spare supplies. It thaws out quite quickly, so if visitors arrive, there’s always some flapjack to offer them. None seem to refuse:) Thanks for reading and for getting in touch. Spring- soon xx


    • Oh, I nearly took that phrase out. But do you know, heart-sing was just how I felt. So I left it in. It’s no good trying to please anyone else with your writing – just yourself. And I felt really happy lining up my jars of orange light. Thanks for reading xx


    • Forgot to say. Yes it is. Flowers all year round, but especially pretty in the summer. Making it a standard keeps in under control. I am trying to train my orange tree to go up and over the eaves. And I fancy a pink bougainvillia to intermingle.

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    • Oh, do hope you have had a lovely time travelling. We’ve got two girls studying so can’t take off just yet…. but once they have fledged, we will travel. Meanwhile… it’s mooching in the heated greenhouse and pretending it’s in the Mediterranean. Works while I’m in there. Thanks for reading. All the best. Karen x

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  1. I was going to ask about what was blooming in your greenhouse but when I read the post again I realise the photo was taken in the summer! I shall give Joan’s flapjack recipe a go, although I was a little disappointed the marmalade was not actually IN the flapjacks – not sure I would want a sticky layer on the top… I am from a family of marmalade makers (Mum and both sisters make it) but as I don’t use it much (not a toast for breakfast person) I was slow to come round to making it, although I have always made my own jam. I have made it the last 2 years but one was a complete failure and the other was only rescued by adding more liquid but is at least edible. When I Googled, I found recipes varied hugely with the amount of water they use and I guess oranges have a variable amount of pectin too. While Seville oranges are around I need to decide if I am going to try again this year 😉

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    • Hi Cathy. Well, I picked all the citrus – and then realised I hadn’t taken a photo. Silly mistake. So I had to use the one from summer. Luckily, there are loads of flowers on them, so there will be more fruit in the spring. You could buy some Seville oranges now and pop them in the freezer till you have more time. When I made mine (thawed) , i popped them in the microwave for 1 minute which made them easier to squeeze. It makes the juice flow easier. I can’t remember which famous chef wrote about that. The marmalade on the top is just a tiny bit as a glaze. I bet you could put some in the flapjack instead if you liked. Love karen x


      • I found simmering the oranges (whole) in the Aga ensured they were soft, which is what used to be my problem in the past. Yes, perhaps I will make more this year – will check how many jars are left first ☺

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  2. The flapjacks are very tempting but growing your own oranges is quite remarkable, after all Leicestershire is not the warmest of counties. Nice to see your pelagoniums in flower too, I have to over winter mine as pots of twigs!

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    • Ah, thank you. You’ve made me smile. I never thought of it as poetic. I just much prefer an orange glow to the dull grey skies we seem to have at the moment. Do try the recipe and let me know what you think of it. I’ve taken it to work today for the gardeners and they loved it. Luckily we had a massive aga to stand in front of at tea break time to warm us up. Thanks again. Karen x

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    • Thank you. They are too bitter to eat on their own, but they do make gorgeous marmalade. And the kumquats can be sliced and put on top cheesecakes which look quite pretty. Luckily the oranges and lemons flower and fruit all year round. And the flowers smell glorious too. Thanks again. Have a lovely weekend. x


    • Thank you for your lovely comments. My greenhouse was second hand and cost £250 from the classified ads in the local paper. I was so lucky to spot it. Hope you get one soon. I love mooching in mine, thanks again. Karen x


  3. I like the idea of orange flapjack.
    I was in Peterborough the other day when Leicester was playing. It was a very jolly atmosphere as masses of townspeople walked purposefully towards the match. (I think Leicester beat Peterborough 5 – 1.)

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    • The team is well supported that’s for sure. Last year when we visited Rome, leicester was top of the league and everyone knew where we came from. We even got free ice cream at the hotel because we came from leicester. Such fun. Thanks for reading, Lucy. x


  4. Karen, your Snowdrops are beautiful. Thank you very much for your recipes, especially for the orange marmalade: I did not know how the jam was made. Oranges from Seville and from your Greenhouse, a good mix. You have returned to the radio: I am very happy. That is that you are much better! Please tell me what days you are on the radio to listen to you. The photo of the Greenhouse in Summer is a Garden of Eden: I love it. Karen, I ask you a favor. I have never planted Dalia bulbs and this year I will plant. I hope to be in the country house at the beginning of April: but that will be a jungle and I have to remove all the grass and prepare the soil, which will take me the whole month of April. It has always been a cold month but time is crazy and the same is tempered. If it does not freeze, the bulbs will start sprouts and if not the plants will spoil. If the plants in the garden can come an unexpected frost and kill the bulbs. Forgive me for so many assumptions. Could you advise me what to do, please? You are a great gardener. Thank you very much. Many memories and love for your Mother. For you sweetheart and stay warm. Take care. Very loving greetings from Margarita.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Margarita for your lovely kind words. Is it possible to cover your soil with black plastic which will both warm up the soil and kill the weeds and grass. If not, try that idea next autumn when you leave the country house. That way, you would return in the spring to a clean border, ready to plant. Now the dahlias need to be grown in a frost free greenhouse or sunny window ledge. What you could do is put them in trays and start them off. Then take cuttings from the shoots and grow the cuttings on which would give you stronger plants and more time. I got this too from a prize winning dahlia grower. He never plants the tubers in the ground, but always takes fresh cuttings in spring and plants them out after frosts have finished. Send an e mail for more information to good luck dear friend. Love karen xx


      • Karen, thank you very much. With your valuable advice I do not need more. Just a question. If I plant the whole tuber of a dahlia in a pot inside the house, I do not have a greenhouse, and I leave for the next year to cut the plant. Would the Dahlia plant grow with the same force? Thank you very much for the trick of black plastic to eliminate weeds. But I have vivacious plants that lose all the leaves at the end of Autumn and in Spring they resurface with more force. And bulbs. If I cover them with black plastic, they would die, would not they? I beg you to tell me that days you go out on the radio to be able to listen to you, thank you. You are very kind Karen. It would be an honor if you let me consider you a friend. Greetings with love of Margarita.


      • Ah, that’s a shame. I didn’t know about the bulbs. No – you can’t use plastic with bulbs and other perennials. But you could mulch perhaps. We have something called Strulch here which is a chopped straw mulch which is fabulous. Well, my dahlias are in pots indoors at the moment. I will plant them out end of May. You could of course just grow them in large pots on the patio. That would give you time to sort out the garden. Last year I grew quite a few on the patio and they were quite happy. Good luck. I will let you know when I’m next on the radio. Don’t worry. You know, I always consider you a kind and supportive friend Margarita. Your kindness is always very much appreciated. Greetings and much love- karen xx


      • Thank you Margarita. Hope you are enjoying your weekend. We are sat in front of a log fire, reading- and listening to a fox in the field opposite or garden. It is screeching, barking and making such an eerie sound. Living in the countryside is never quiet! xx


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