Pecan Coffee Bites. Cheer-me-up Recipes for Covid

I managed to find a catering company sending out boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables for my Mum. Such a huge relief. On-line shopping is hopeless and there’s a three week wait. I listened in to BBC Radio Leicester, and heard an announcement about small companies trying to survive the covid crisis, and help. And amazingly, the catering company is in the next village to Mum! I’d never heard of them, but I listened as they described filling boxes with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, butter, eggs and delivering them around the county. Their livelihoods are at risk, all public events, parties and wedding are cancelled for this year. It’s a huge comfort to know Mum will have fresh food without having to go out. Anyway at home here, we have now run out of nice treats such as chocolate, biscuits and cakes. I never realised how many times I just popped to the shops for the odd item here and there. Not being able to go out is difficult. To say the least. I’m sharing my recipe for coffee pecan bites as they may be just the cheer-up you need today. Keep positive and focus on all the good everyone is doing. Lots of love to you all. Xx

INGREDIENTS

For the cakes:

50g self-raising flour

50g low fat spread, can be vegan spread

1 tbsp cocoa powder

2.5 tbsp sugar or granulated sweetener

1 tsp baking powder

1tbsp instant coffee powder

Pecan halves to decorate

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs ( or 1 mashed banana, or 4 tbsp oat milk, or vegan egg substitute)

You will need reusable silicone fairy cake cases. Ours came from Lakeland Plastics.

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

This is suitable for any cakes or biscuits you might make

INGREDIENTS

25g butter, or margarine, low fat spread ( can be vegan sunflower spread )

50g icing sugar

1tsp cocoa powder

1tsp coffee powder.

METHOD

Set the oven to 190c / gas 5

Place all the cake ingredients, apart from the pecans, in a bowl and mix with an electric hand whisk. The mixture should be light, smooth and fluffy with lots of air incorporated from the whisking.

Place a tablespoon of mixture in each cake case. Stand the cake cases on a metal baking tray.

Place the cakes in a pre-heated oven and cook for 16 minutes.

Cakes will slightly shrink from the sides of the cakes cases when cooked and a knife will come out clean.

Set aside to cool

METHOD FOR BUTTERCREAM

Mix the buttercream ingredients together. If using butter, slightly warm in the microwave to incorporate. Pile 1 tsp of buttercream on top of the cakes and add 1 pecan half for decoration. You can use any nuts if you don’t have pecans. It’s very nice with almond slices or hazel nuts.

TIP

Can be stored in airtight container for 3 days. Or can be frozen before adding the buttercream.

Perfect with morning coffee, or as a sweet for a main meal. Place one on top of any fruit, such as sliced pears, to create a simple pudding. Pear and coffee/ chocolate make a tasty combination.

What recipes are you turning to to help you through this current crisis? Are you managing to obtain all the shopping items you need? I can highly recommend listening to your local radio station. They have a campaign called BBCMakingADifference. And I think they are doing so. Thank goodness.

Wordless Wednesday -Cosmos Snow Puff

I’ve had a wonderful day at the field trials ground at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds in Suffolk. This new cosmos caught my eye. Perfect for pollinators. More words to follow when I’ve recovered from the journey. I will be growing this and many other new seeds next spring.

Please feel free to share on social media, and say hello in the message box below.

#wordlesswednesday- Malus Wedding Bouquet- with the Royal Wedding in mind.

Crab apple trees are among my favourites. I love the spring blossom- and then there’s the fruit in the autumn, which makes wonderful jams and jellies.

Malus Wedding Bouquet is highly recommended. It has soft pink buds which open ivory white and mature to a dazzling pure white. Finely tapering green leaves turn red in the autumn. Very disease resistant, it grows to 3.5m by 2.5m, although can be easily pruned to keep in a smaller space.

We’ve got our patriotic flags and bunting out, and my grandmother’s coronation glassware trifle bowls- all set for Saturday. Whatever you’ve got planned, enjoy your weekend celebrations.

In a Vase on Monday ….. er Wednesday.

Defeated by torrential rain, I’d given up on gardening until today. Here’s a brief glimpse into my day.

A quick peek in the greenhouse before I go off to work. And it’s sunny in here. At last. Yippee!!! Windows opened. Wonderful scent. Just love primulas. So cheerful.

Second year hyacinths are never as good. But they still have a value. I love the intense blue of this one, set against the yellow of the dwarf daffodils. I’m growing Tete-a-tete in pots for picking. And in honour of my wonderful Welsh grandmother, Tenby daffodils, which grow wild in Wales.

Love my newly acquired plant pots. The green one on the left is from Burgon and Ball , and the one on the right is from new company Plant Furniture.

After a quick snip of flowers for the show, I’m off to Radio Leicester for the Gardeners’ phone-in, 11-12 on a Wednesday. A fun place to work. Sophie and Jack the producers look after me. I’m always so grateful for all the encouragement and support they give. I probably couldn’t do it without their kindness to be honest.

We chatted about growing tomatoes. I’m growing bush tomatoes in containers and hanging baskets alongside programme host Ben Jackson. We’ve got cherry tomatoes from Mr Fothergill’s, Suttons and Thompson and Morgan to try out. And we’ll be growing them in Dalefoot sheep wool and bracken compost as an alternative to peat. It’s always more fun growing something with another person. I haven’t got an allotment, for example, where you would have neighbours to chat with and share hints and tips. so I’m going to grow along with Ben, and we’ll share seeds and compost and compare results. It will be a fun project to do over the summer.

We always have a laugh on the gardeners’ programme. If I see something a bit unusual, I’ll take it in to show the team. Today I took in these Badger Paw gloves. I spotted them at the Garden Press Event a few weeks ago and thought they looked interesting. The event showcases new ideas, new seeds, tools and machinery, containers and plant pots- all heading for supermarkets, garden centres and nurseries this summer. The Badger Paw is said to be perfect for preparing soil, planting, weeding and clearing roots. It’s made by Creative Products and has breathable stretchy fabric. What we couldn’t work out though was why the claw is only on one hand. It’s an interesting concept and I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

My posy of flowers this week also contains hyacinths – which just seem to keep on flowering. They love the cold weather. Tucked inside my paper wrapping are iris reticulata, hellebores, snowdrops, and dogwood twigs from my new florists’ “Hedge-in-a-Box” kit from Hopes Grove Nurseries. I spotted their ingenuous hedge kit for gin makers at the GPE. On the stand there was a sign saying make any suggestions for new hedge kits. So I asked if they could design a hedge for florists with coloured stems and flowers for all year round picking. And my wonderful “hedge-in-a-box”arrived on Monday! I’m really thrilled with it.

Thanks for joining me today. Thanks also to Cathy for hosting this meme and kindly allowing me to join in later in the week when either the internet – or the weather – has let me down.

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#WordlessWednesday #GardenPressEvent

Sending you these photos today from the London Garden Press Event. I reckon we all need some colour and cheer right now . It’s -4 here in the city, and -6 at home. So here’s a gallery of David Austin Roses for you to enjoy.

These are from the cut flower range.

All the latest flowers, seeds, machinery, products- you name it – are showcased at the Garden Press Event . It’s a whirlwind of a day. I’m sitting here surrounded by a huge pile of brochures, catalogues, samples. It will take me a week to work though them, so this is just a little taster for now. Keep warm and safe all of you. Hope we get better weather soon.

#wordlesswednesday – Smoke

Gardener’s Cottage at dusk at Easton Walled Gardens in Lincolnshire.

Visiting the Food Fair in the courtyard. Famous for its jam and chutney, fudge and cake. The gardens look fabulous. Wonderful to see the topiary pruned and the beds prepared – all ready for Snowdrops 17-25 February. A highlight of our winter calendar. The photo below was taken this February.

Meanwhile. Some more autumn photos to brighten your day:

I worked here, the winter before last. Such a beautiful place. Historic gardens dating back 400 years. Visit the website to see more photos. Sadly the house was demolished after the war.

The terraces and walled gardens have been lovingly restored.

A special place to visit at any time of the year. Do you have a favourite garden you like to visit to see the changing seasons?

#wordlesswednesday  Frilled. 


Cut flowers from my garden today. Carnations, sweet peas, dahlias and alstroemerias. Have a listen at 2.08.20 on the timeline for the gardeners’ phone in programme. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056qg0d. Regular readers will know that I joined the BBC’s Down to Earth programme about a year ago. The programme has been running for 50 years. I’m not a natural speaker. Much happier listening to be honest. But I’ve been given this opportunity to encourage others to grow flowers, food, fruit. So I push myself out of my comfort zone. Today I did my second weekday gardeners’ phonin programme. Sadly there was only one caller – right at the end. So if I sound a bit nervous, that is the reason why. A whole hour to fill is rather a daunting  prospect! Somehow, I survived. But I feel as if I’ve lost a stone in weight! 


#wordlesswednesday- RHS Hampton Court

I wish you could smell these Malmaison carnations. They are old fashioned glorious! 


More like a rose than a carnation, these historic flowers were displayed by Jim Marshall at RHS Hampton Court this week. They rightly  won Gold and Best in Show in the plant heritage section of the floral marquee.


They remind me of buttonholes, Floris soap, and country house glasshouses. Such a romantic clove-like scent, and a story of rescue and revival. The Malmaison carnation originated in France as a chance seedling. It was named Souvenir de la Malmaison after the rose grown in the Empress Josephine’s garden and quickly became fashionable. Nurserymen started to breed new forms in a sumptuous range of colours. Favourites of English country houses until the Second World War,  they gradually died out due to disease and labour intensive requirements. Malmaison carnations are prone to damping off disease and red spider and need constant renewal by cuttings and layering. 

Grower Jim Marshall has made it his life’s work to save the carnation and now uses micro-propagation to improve vigour and disease resistance. Plant supplies for sale are still in relatively short supply and favourite colours soon sell out. They are a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort for the beautiful colours and unforgettable scent.

For more information contact Plant Heritage,  jim@malmaisons.plus.com. 01473822400 Hullwood Barn, Bolton Lane,Shelley, Ipswich IP75RE. 

#wordlesswednesday -RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

This is what greets you as you enter the show grounds via the Palladian Bridge. Jonathan Moseley’s floral extravaganza is a foretaste of what’s to come. Rising from the River Derwent is the base of a willow snake, inspired by the Cavendish crest. It is covered in waxy-textured flowers and succulents to evoke the serpent’s scales. As soon as I saw it, I hoped the show would be as spectacular. And it is. I travelled a long way today to visit the show, and I’ve come home smiling-all the way down the M1. 


The RHS has managed to capture the essence of summer.  A real festival feel.  The new Chatsworth Flower Show showcases everything that’s fabulous about horticulture.