Pork Stroganoff a la Baroness Von Boom Boom

There was some profane yelling through our letterbox at some hideously early hour this morning. I watched from the top of the stairs as a bleary eyed Fanny got her stick ready to cause the shouting imbecile some immense harm as she opened the door in case it was a nutter intent on a rampage. It turns out that it was a nutter, an old friend of Fanny’s called Bebe. There was this hilarity and in walked this ghastly loud woman. I always thought it would be difficult to find anything louder or more insolent than Fanny but believe me Baroness Bebe Von Boom Boom takes the biscuit.

And what a hellish Saturday it was. Having been with us all day regaling us with fairly uninteresting stories about running pheasant shoots and hunting deer she then decided to stay for dinner which really delighted me I don’t think.

delicious pork stroganoff recipe from fanny and brenda

She’d arrived with some scratchcards which she had never played before and when nothing matched on the matches game she started muttering about legal action against the lottery. Well you would wouldn’t you. Undeterred by not winning millions, she decided to drag Fanny up to the local supermarche where a fillet of pork and some mushrooms were purchased. She had decided we were all going to eat pork stroganoff, which gave me a night off and Fanny time to have a much needed shower.

delicious pork stroganoff recipe from fanny and brenda

Boom Boom started chopping up the ingredients while Fanny downed a beer and offered me one of her cheesy balls. Then a heated debate took place between Fanny and Bebe about how to cut up the Cavalo Nero.

delicious pork stroganoff recipe from fanny and brenda

I was drawn in to the argument against my will as Fanny declared that she liked her foliage firmly trimmed, and whose method was better? Fanny used a knife while Boom Boom reverted to fingers. I don’t like to call her coarse, but regrettably I have to.

delicious pork stroganoff recipe from fanny and brenda

However I have to say her dinner was rather delicious so here is her recipe.  Sadly she stayed the night before heading off the next day. Hopefully we won’t see Bebe von Boom Boom again for a very long time….

Now for the recipe


pork fillet 500g
sliced (chestnut or button) mushrooms 250g
1 finely sliced large onion
290ml good chicken stock
290ml medium cider
Half tsp ground black pepper
200ml (full fat) creme fraiche
2tbspns  dijon mustard
2 crushed cloves of garlic
Handful of chopped parsley
Salt to season

Lemon wedges to serve

delicious pork stroganoff recipe from fanny and brenda


Cut the pork into strips

Fry onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft

Remove from pan

Fry the pork until browned lightly on each side but still soft and pink in middle

Remove from pan  and set aside

Deglaze pan with cider

Add the stock and reduce by third

Strain through a sieve to remove any wanton black bits

Return the stock to the pan

Add dijon and pepper and stir, and boil and taste.

Then add creme fraiche but only to a simmer point (you don’t want to boil the creme fraiche)

Salt to season and taste

Add the pork, stir, add the mushrooms and onions, stir, and low simmer the mix for five minutes

Add 2/3 of the parsley and stir in

Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve with steamed rice, or boiled potatoes, and some steamed green cabbage, or broccoli. We used cavalo nero.

Sprinkle over rest of parsley as you serve and serve with a lemon wedge on the side.

delicious pork stroganoff recipe from fanny and brenda


A visit to the Abergavenny Food Festival

 abergavenny food festival 2014

A couple of years ago I was taking tea with a Vicar of a highly esteemed church based in the South of England. Amongst other things we talked about holidays and he had recently taken a B&B holiday around Wales.
As he clinked his Royal Doulton teacup and saucer he made mention of his experience.
“Lovely country. Diabolical food”.

abergavenny food festival 2014

I have heard this elsewhere and indeed the Welsh have not had a good ride in recent years as cuisine has become such an obsession for the British. I never quite understood how a country that provides such marvellous produce could actually fail to produce good food but it now seems that things are radically changing if my trip to the Abergavenny Food Festival last weekend was anything to go by.

abergavenny food festival 2014

I love Wales and any reason to visit is good enough for me. I left Fanny in an alcoholic stupor, grabbed the keys to the old Citroen and flew up to Abergavenny waving gaily at anyone who gesticulated strangely as I overtook them.

abergavenny food festival 2014

Having parked, I, looking gorgeous I’ll have you know, took off into the town. I passed the Miserable Cow cafe (which would have suited Fanny had I taken her), and walked straight into the high street where a rather cheerful woman sold me a couple of rather splendid pies.

abergavenny food festival 2014

There were producers from all over the country and one I noticed from France, selling onions. I bought an awful lot of garlic, some pickled, some just plain large and spicy as Fanny likes her garlic.

abergavenny food festival 2014

There was so much to see on the high street that it could have been questionable to pay for entry into the old cattle market. However I was glad I did as I stopped for a moment at a stall selling the most delicious ice cream and sorbet from Rowlestone.

abergavenny food festival 2014

And I mean delicious. I had a blackberry sorbet and stem ginger ice cream tub and I can tell you it was one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had with genuine natural flavours evident – and it is produced in Wales.

abergavenny food festival 2014

Wales is known for its meat and today was no exception. I stopped to pick up a shoulder of lamb and some black pudding and some stunning bacon and chorizo- again produced locally.

abergavenny food festival 2014

It was all delicious and showed that the country’s attitude to cooking is definitely modernising. If it continues with the rise of high quality artisanal producers Wales will undoubtedly be on the European food map sooner than you or I or indeed the vicar might believe.

abergavenny food festival 2014

Butternut squash curry

butternut squash curry recipe

Serves 4

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 medium (roughly 2 pound) butternut squash

A good lug of vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced 

1 teaspoon turmeric

3 green chillies – fairly finely chopped (with or without seeds depending on how hot your prefer)

2 small, dried red chilies also fairly finely chopped – you could also use a teaspoon of red chile flakes

1 400g can coconut milk

1/4 can water (rinse out the empty coconut milk can)

1 teaspoon salt (or preferred amount to taste
Coriander, for garnish

Cooked rice, to serve

You have no idea what it’s like to feed the cavernous stomach of Brenda Gateway. If eating was an Olympic sport she’d be a gold medal wearing champion. But it isn’t, and she isn’t either. It’s a wonder she isn’t the size of an elephant quite frankly. The other day she arrived back with a suspiciously large butternut squash which she had felt inclined to buy on a whim. Who buys a squash on a whim I ask you? Brenda. I could have slapped her but instead, feeling congenial for a change I dropped a nice little valium into her coffee and some well deserved peace reigned for several hours, before she woke and got chastised for being lazy.

Now finding something to do with a butternut squash is interesting because it has a mild sweetish flavour and so for a savoury dish this made it a challenge.

So this is what you do:
Take a small pan and heat on medium with no oil and once fairly hot, add the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds and dry fry, stirring and moving around for a minute or two until some of the seeds start to pop and the spices are beginning to smoke slightly and smell fragrant. Once they have had their warming, leave them to cool and then grind them up in a heavy mortar and pestle. Why heavy? Well you need to grind those seeds into a dust! Weight always helps as the cat has found when Brenda sits down too fast in Ruby’s favourite chair, and Ruby hasn’t moved quickly enough. By the way, this is worth doing as the aroma of freshly roasted and ground spices is unbeatable.

butternut squash curry recipe

Now take the squash and peel it and then dice it into cubes – don’t obsess, but your cubes should be 1 – 1 1/2 cm, that sort of size (you’re looking for something not so small that would turn to porridge while cooking, but not so large as to be unwieldy to eat)

Add the vegetable oil to a large saucepan and combine the ginger, onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is soft. At this point add the spices that you have previously dry fried and ground, the chopped green chilies, the chopped red chilies and the turmeric. Stir in for a couple of minutes.

Then add the squash, coconut milk, water and salt and simmer for roughly 3/4 hour until the squash is cooked through and tender – check and stir a couple of times during the cooking time in case the bottom is starting to catch.

Garnish with some gorgeous chopped fresh coriander and serve with some pilau rice – just a few lightly crushed cardamom pods, a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt and a dessertspoon of veg oil cooked with basmati rice.

Roast Gressingham Duck on a bed of Cavalo Nero with Roast Potatoes

There’s nothing like a little bit of indulgence and luxury. Living with Brenda in the house is sadly neither. However whilst she hangs around the place drooling and dribbling in her usual uncouth manner, she occasionally comes up with a good idea. In this case it was having a roast duck, and indeed I liked the thought as frankly my exposure to a good duck has been rare. A lot of the modern trend is for a pink duck but actually I like the unctuous softness of a well cooked duck. The flavour is more concentrated, it’s less watery, and it’s wonderful to eat.

fanny and brenda roast gressingham duck

Firstly weigh the duck without the attached giblets to get the true weight for cooking time resolved. (It would be nice if Brenda got her weight sorted with or without her giblets and no I’m not being rude.) The cooking time is then 20 minutes for every 500g plus twenty minutes as with chicken. Get a large pan with a rack and place the duck within. You want the rack so that the fat will be able to drain off during cooking. Duck gives off a large amount of fat and you don’t want your bird swimming away do you! Brush with a little olive oil and a teaspoon of fine salt over the skin and stick it in the oven at 200°C. Meanwhile peel 1.5 kilos of potatoes and par boil for ten minutes. As you drain off keep the water for the gravy.

fanny and brenda roast gressingham duck

Take a large onion or two and remove the outer skin and split into wedges. Take two garlic heads and cut horizontally into two parts each. Once the potatoes are ready to be added to the pan, add the garlic and the onions, and a sprig or two of rosemary and place back in the oven to roast. Once your duck has done its time, take it out to rest – keeping it warm under some foil. Meanwhile place the potatoes back in the oven to finish roasting. Once they are done take them out and place in a bowl.

Take the cavalo nero cabbage and chop up reasonably finely. Steam for a few minutes.

fanny and brenda roast gressingham duck

Now take the roasting pan and place on the hob. Add some cornflour to the fat and turn on the heat. Add the potato water and stir with a whisk. I added a teaspoon of honey and a splash of dry white wine (in this case Chablis!) because I like to do that. Whisk until thickened. And now you are ready to serve and enjoy.

fanny and brenda roast gressingham duck

Windfall Plum Crumble

gorgeous almondy plum crumble - good for gluten free photography by simon c bennett
It never fails to amaze me that people can think that free fruit is probably ghastly or at worst poisonous. It’s very useful that such ignorance pervades when foraging, as free food of this ilk is a superb bounty for the cook that desires high quality but doesn’t want to pay through the nose at the local supermarket. Sometimes free food is growing in one’s own garden.

Fanny has a very old plum tree in her garden which she studiously ignores, as it obliterates a ghastly anti social neighbour when it’s in full leaf in the summer. So it is rather unruly but rather fabulously it does tend to crop quite heavily. I suspect it is an Early Rivers plum, – small purpley skin with yellow flesh. It’s better cooked than raw – there are more interesting plums for the fruit bowl if I am honest.

gorgeous almondy plum crumble - good for gluten free

Ruby the cat looked astonished as she saw me scrabbling around on all fours picking up the fallers. I tend to leave the ones that have been eaten by the insects (- although they are probably the sweeter ones). However once I had my kg of plums I strode back to the kitchen, washed them, de-stoned them and put them in a small pan with about 200ml of water and some sugar to stew them for about quarter of an hour.

gorgeous almondy plum crumble - good for gluten free

And all this before breakfast! Fanny meanwhile was sleeping her head off upstairs and I can tell you the snoring was horrendous. How there aren’t cracks in the foundations I really don’t know.

gorgeous almondy plum crumble - good for gluten free photographer simon bennett

Whilst the plums were stewing I got out some ground almonds, butter and some almond flour and combined them till I had a flakey texture in my hands.

I poured the gorgeous plums into the souffle dish, added some cinnamon and star anise and a measure of plum liqueur. Actually I added two measures and knocked one back myself to check it was ok. It was perfect. The day had started well.

I then put the almond flour mixture on top and then added a layer of demerara sugar. The trick here is to cook for 35 minutes at 150° and then whack up the temperature for the last 15 mins to 200° to get the sugar to crisp

gorgeous almondy plum crumble - good for gluten free

We then served it with some of Fanny’s home made plain yoghurt!

1 kg of plums
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 measures of plum liqueur ( we used Prucia)
100g ground almonds
100g almond flour
30g of butter

A sizeable price difference – but what is the difference?


It makes a lot of people in this country, particularly men smirk if offered a glass of sherry fearing for their sexuality by association for some reason. It seems to be something that offends British masculinity. It’s absurd but true.

This all stems from the seventies and the era of Abigail’s Party when cheap “British” sherry was all the rage and quite undrinkable. It seems to have informed today’s thinking however, and now if you are seen drinking sherry in some downmarket taverns it is considered amusing. Extraordinary! In London there are fortified wine specialists who are overturning these sad misconceptions. A trip to Gordon’s wine bar in Villiers Street should leave one in no doubt about how fantastic this drink can be. An unfortunate situation as no other fortified wine has such a stigma, and nor should it. However this unfortunate association means that it represents very good value and these are really sumptuous wines that are well worth enjoying.

You see the real thing is altogether too delicious to ignore and if the population wishes to ignore it, then so be it – that is their loss! Last Christmas Fanny bought me the Pedro Ximenez Bodegas Malaga Virgen Reserva de Familia as a present. And the silly troll went and bought herself the cheaper Sainsburys one to slurp back in desperate moments. At least I say “silly troll”…

pedro ximenez sherry taste test photographer simon c bennett

At the time she thought she was buying a cheaper product for quick illicit swigs straight from the bottle when no one was watching only to find it wasn’t cheaper in quality. Not at all. In fact these two sherries are almost inseparable. They both have a sweet full bodied and delicious flavour redolent of raisins and prunes. And although they are at the sweeter end of the spectrum they are not not cloying. Three out of the four testers in the blind taste test could not discern any difference – and the one that did acknowledged it was subtle. (He did correctly guess which sherry was which).These would both make superb alternatives to any of the established after dinner drinks like port or madeira.

pedro ximenez sherry taste test photo by simon bennett

So, which IS better?
Answer? Neither. They are both equally good but there is a considerable price differential and because any difference is subtle we would snap up the Sainsbury version at £8.00 for a 50cl bottle. In fact you could almost buy two with the saving.

Prices as at 30th August 2014

Pedro Ximenez
Bodegas Malaga Virgen Reserva de Familia 50cl

Ultracomida £14.95
Village Wines£13.98
Wines Of Interest £14.25

Pedro Ximenez 50cl
Aged 12 years

Sainsburys £8.00