Summer nights -ideal to barbecue

fresh barbecued sardines

Fanny was shopping on her own (yes I know normally I have to watch over her) and came back with some fresh sardines. It didn’t take her long to have them gutted and filleted, and marinading ready for the evening’s barbecue.
“We could do with a light meal” she said looking at me rather accusingly.

fresh barbecued sardines

Ingredients to serve two:

6 fresh sardines

bunch of spring onions
olive oil
lemon juice
black pepper
red or green chili

Marinade for two hours:

At least two hours ahead of when you want to cook, head and gut the sardines. Place in a dish with olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper and thin rounds of either red or green chilli – as many or few as you like, depending on your tolerance/enjoyment of heat! Return to the fridge till you’re ready for them

Take the sardines from their oily bath and at least drain well, if not wipe a little to ensure no excess marinade clings as this will only drip in an incendiary way onto the charcoal. While this is not a disaster – the flames really adding that “done at the beach taste” – it may be less stressful not to have to retrieve your fishies for turning (which will probably be only 1 1/2 -2 mins later) from 2 feet of flame! Another 1 1/2 – 2 mins later and your sardines are grilled to perfection – enjoy with copious fresh lemon juice and some sea salt – the marinade will have given them a really great Portuguese taste.

fresh barbecued sardines

Watermelon Granita

watermelon ice granita recipe

This is a superb recipe by Dhruv Baker and recently featured in The Times. He has a new book out called Spice which I have sitting in front of me as write. This recipe is like the book – it’s stunning and the book is beautifully illustrated. We have now tried a few recipes for our own delectation and I highly recommend that you get a copy for your library. As it’s summer and hot, this will be the perfect antidote for those sticky days. We adapted it slightly by adding star anise.
watermelon ice granita recipe
40ml water
100g caster sugar
5-6 slices peeled ginger
1 kg Watermelon chunks- skin and pips removed ready to blitz through a word processor
Juice of 2 lemons
1.5 tbsps of finely shredded mint leaves
1 star anise

watermelon ice granita recipe
Add the ginger,sugar,water and star anise to a pan and place it over a medium heat. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved and then allow it to cool.

watermelon ice granita recipe

Put the watermelon through the food processor, and then press the resultant pulp through a sieve. Add the lemon juice and make sure you have no pips.

watermelon ice granita recipe

When the syrup is cool, remove and discard the ginger and star anise and stir the syrup into the watermelon. Add the chopped mint leaves.
watermelon ice granita recipe

Pour the mixture into a plastic container and freeze it for a few hours. Run a fork through the mixture every hour or so to break up the ice crystals. Serve in small glass bowls. Or glasses. Or bowls! Whatever.

watermelon ice granita recipe

As I said earlier in this piece, this is a fabulous recipe from a fabulous book. Try it you’ll be blown away. And when you do, you’ll then want the book.

No more tasteless pastry for us

forays into pastry making

A little while ago Brenda was making apple strudels. I don’t know what got into her but she started making these infernal things and I had to keep on giving them away when she wasn’t looking. They were perfectly acceptable but after the 20th had been baked it seemed kinder to let other people enjoy them.

Now I’ll be frank. All the recipes included the use of pre-made pastry – in this case filo. I became aware that my taste buds were picking up no sense of flavour, and the texture was like thin cardboard. Her fillings were excellent so I know it wasn’t Brenda having a senior moment. She used different pastry brands but the end result was much the same. In my view that wasn’t very satisfactory and I informed her that she would be better off spending some time studying the art of pastry before we had to suffer any more.

Furthermore we have to think about Laura the lodger who is a coeliac and has problems with gluten. Therefore, this seemed like an excellent opportunity to see where we could take this exploration.

The first of these was to use ground almonds instead of wheat flour. It is difficult to make this seem like a gluey dough that will stick together, and it does take some patience because of its crumblier texture. However the results were significant- a great flavour and much better texture. If you’re serious about your pies and tarts then keep tuned here at as we are developing our art and will share with you the secrets as we learn them.

For the almond pastry:

300g ground almonds
1tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
25g soft but not melted butter

Mix all the pastry ingredients together to create a dough. Chill for half an hour to an hour as it’s very sticky – while that’s chilling, put the oven on 200°C (180°C if fan assisted)

Meanwhile, use the time to butter a 24cm tart dish.

Take the pastry from the freezer and using a WELL floured rolling pin (we used potato flour for this just so we could inform Laura that there is no wheat in this dish at all) and roll out to approximately 3mm thick on flat greaseproof paper or baking paper. You will have to roll it carefully towards the edges because of its crumbly texture.

Then line the greased tin with your pastry -to do this pop the tin upside down over the pastry and and then you invert the whole thing – it is unfortunately quite delicate and by the way, feel free to fill any holes or gaps with the spare that you cut from the edges).

Line the tart dish with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans (or anything else suitable), bake for 10 mins, remove from the oven and take out the parchment and baking beans and put the pastry case back in for another 10 mins to brown.This is better if its left to become a good biscuity colour.

At this point you are ready for the filling of your choice, sweet or savoury.

Strawberry taste test

strawberry taste test
The strawberry is the single biggest seller in the supermarkets today. When Fanny was growing up they were available for about three weeks in the year – now thanks to modern science they are available most if not all the year round. Of course at this time of the year they are in plentiful supply and you’d expect them to be top notch. After all it’s summer. However faced with the choice of two different types while browsing around Sainsbury’s I decided to buy both. I like deep red strawberries like ‘Premier’, but they looked large and my experience of large strawberries ( I do mean the giant ones) is that they aren’t terrific in flavour or texture. So I also bought the ‘Murano’ strawberry to compare. This is paler and less obviously attractive to me – but it also seems to be more moderately sized and that is a big plus point in my experience.

So I trudge home, and Fanny eyes up the strawberries so we cut up a couple of examples from both punnets and tried them.

What we found:

The Premier was fibrous and more woody – which I expected considering its larger size. It was a very attractive colour however.

The Murano was paler, but had a pleasanter texture and was nicer to eat. It also had a remarkably better flavour.

So there you have it- big and red does not mean bigger and better. If you’re out buying strawbs from Sainsburys today then get the Murano!

Quick and delicious Prawn Pil Pil

Prawn Pil Pil – it’s small, hot and immensely flavoursome. It’s very satisfying and although we have listed it as a starter, it can also double as a light main course for a summer’s evening.

Preheat oven to 200° and put ramekins or small pots in to heat up.
6-8 jumbo king prawns per person
A red chilli per person
A clove of garlic per person
A squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped parsley

Chop dried red chili and garlic
Remove the digestive tracts from the prawns
Fry lightly in 50ml of oil per person
prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter
Add the prawns to the pan of chili and garlic until they go pink. (Approx 3 minutes)
prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter

prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter
Empty the contents into the preheated dishes
Add a quick squirt of lemon juice and some chopped parsley, serve with some lovely fresh bread, and you’re ready to eat.

prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter

This should be served bubbling at the table. It’s hot, spicy and outrageously wonderful. The prawns probably don’t agree.

It’s Friday already and frankly I am whining.

eating with fanny and brenda is just wonderful!

It’s been a busy week here at the Klunge Mansion.

Brenda and I now spend a great deal of our time investigating recipes. It has come to our startled notice that a lot of recipes simply do not work as they are written. Initially we believed that either they are inaccurate or we were following them incorrectly. Now we know having worked on more than a few, that many are incorrect, or missing vital information, or are just so badly written that they would never work. I can think of a few recipes we have followed from well known and award winning chefs where the recipes clearly do not work, and they are evidently not properly tested. I am surprised that these chefs put their name to this type of exercise.

One notable exception to this is Delia, who Brenda secretly adores. It is evident that when you undertake a Delia Smith recipe it will work. Her recipes have integrity and she always provides plenty of recipes to try that everyone will like. Nigel Slater and Simon Hopkinson’s work is also notable and delicious. Both evidently love their food in much the same way that we do.

In the few months since I was persuaded by Brenda that this cooking mularkey would be a fun pastime (I had to keep her employed doing something worthwhile after her enforced repatriation from Australia) I have found my palate has stretched having become much more interested in unusual flavours. We are lucky that we have so much fabulous produce on our doorsteps. Provenance has also become a lot more important to me- watch out for the supermarket butcher that will sell “Welsh” lamb when that actually means the sheep were raised somewhere else and were ferried across the border a couple of days before they were slaughtered, purely for marketing purposes. Anyone who has enjoyed real Welsh lamb (sheep that was born and raised for the most part in Wales- possibly excepting the very cold months) will know that the full rich taste is something that eludes a lot of the lamb sold in the supermarkets. Despite the labelling we are not convinced.

Many of the prescribed times allocated towards cooking a recipe are also horribly inaccurate. These days there is this expectation that food has to be prepared and cooked in about three minutes, because otherwise the punter won’t be interested and will switch off. This annoys me. It cheapens the artistry that it takes to develop a really fine meal. Don’t expect it done in a short time if you wish to feed like royalty; -have some respect for the cook that has spent time creating a masterpiece that will be consumed in a fraction of the time it took to prepare. It really isn’t a quick job, although admittedly one or two recipes can be wonderfully fast. These are the exceptions not the rule.

And books written about ten minute meals that rely on a fridge stocked with items like home made pre-prepared Confit of Duck (who keeps Confit of Duck in their fridge for general use for heavens sake?) also make me seethe. These aren’t quick recipes- if anything they are just the opposite. Is there this belief that we have such a low attention span we won’t allocate the time required do the job properly – so let’s tell everyone it can be done yesterday?

We take time to develop our own recipes and should you try them I hope you love them. Our inspirations come from far and wide, using everyday and more unusual ingredients, with meat and without. The challenges posed are to find wonderful ways to create flavoursome dishes. Enjoy them – but please allocate some time to do them justice!


Fanny chanced upon this recipe by Simon Hopkinson, and it’s fabulous so we have to tell you about it. It is a remarkably simple formula, quickly prepared – and eaten the next day. It is light with marvellous flavour.

500g fresh ricotta
100g fresh grated parmesan plus extra
About a third of a nutmeg, grated
500g semolina
100g unsalted butter
About 20 fresh sage leaves

gnudi recipe by simon hopkinson

Measure the semolina and place half of it in a baking tray
Place the ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg into a mixing bowl and combine until the mixture is smooth.

gnudi recipe by simon hopkinson
Now wet your hands and place them flat in the baking tray so that they get a covering of semolina

Spoon a small amount of the ricotta mix from the bowl into your palm and roll into a ball and then place it into the semolina. Push the ball around to cover the it completely.

gnudi recipe by simon hopkinson
Continue this process until the mixture is used up and you have a tray of ricotta balls.

Now cover the balls with the remainder of the semolina.

Chill them overnight.
gnudi recipe by simon hopkinson
The following day extract the gnudi from their tray. You will notice that they are firm to touch.

Boil some water in a large pot, and place the butter in a saucepan to melt on a low heat.

Once the water is boiling turn it down to a low heat to give a simmer and slide in the gnudi.

In about 5 minutes you will see the gnudi float to the surface and this means they are ready. Lift them out and drain them of water.

Meanwhile turn up the heat on the melted butter and when it’s beginning to bubble add the sage leaves, cooking them till crisp. The butter will turn a golden colour but don’t let it brown over too much. The leaves will crisp and at this point you need to serve up.

For those that want it, include fresh parmesan on the table.

gnudi recipe by simon hopkinson

Making a decent chicken stock

chicken stock recipe by fanny and brenda
An old chicken carcass
2 onions
A handful of black peppercorns
3 carrots
2 leeks
2 celery sticks
parsley stalks
lemon thyme
fanny and brenda's proper chicken stock recipe There is no substitute for a decent chicken stock. For the well developed palate a stock cube simply won’t do. There are differences and these will influence the end result very considerably. chicken stock recipe by fanny and brenda For this stock we used an old roasted chicken carcass as the starting point . To that we added two leeks, two onions, two celery sticks, parsley stalks,lemon thyme, black peppercorns, and four bay leaves, which have been placed in a large pan of water. chicken stock recipe Now bring to the boil and then simmer for about two and a half hours.

making a gorgeous chicken stock

Place in a jug or large bowl and allow to cool. Then place it in a fridge. chicken stock recipe by fanny and brenda The following day you will notice that you have a rich jelly like chicken stock with a layer of chicken fat above. set jelly chicken stock -fanny and brenda's recipe for superb stock The important thing is to be able to use the old bones and leftover meat bits to your liking and it is so much better than the stock cubes.