Halloween Special- Spicy Roast Pumpkin

We have filmed a Halloween special and it is a delicious recipe with origins from Italy. You’ll notice that our make up artist made us look even more witch like than usual, largely on the instructions of Fanny who felt that looking even more gorgeous was quite necessary.

fanny and brenda's spicy herb roast pumpkin - ideal for halloween

Ingredients to serve 4

1-1.5kg pumpkin
350ml double cream
100ml milk
As much garlic as you like (we used 5 cloves)
A handful of red chilli flakes
Fresh thyme
100g fresh strong cheddar/gruyere/parmesan. We used a cheddar parmesan mix
Sea salt and ground black pepper for seasoning


Preheat the oven to 150°c

Cut lid off pumpkin

Scoop out seeds

Squish garlic through a press and add to milk and cream

Add thyme,chillies,salt and pepper

Heat cream,milk,garlic,thyme,chillies,salt and pepper

Bring to boil and allow mixture to thicken

When hot, pour into pumpkin

Sprinkle in half the cheese

Replace the lid of the pumpkin and place in oven

Remove lid and sprinkle with pepper and rest of cheese

Bake for 15 minutes more

Scatter over the remaining thyme

Scoop the pumpkin and cream into bowls

Serve with a wedge of crusty bread

Christmas Cake -Part 1- Preparing the fruit

Now that autumn (fall) is well underway it’s time to think about the Christmas cake as it is best made a few weeks before the big event to allow the fruit within to mature, allowing that wonderful fruity plum flavour to develop.

xmas cake cooked properly with fanny and brenda

Christmas cake is easily ruined and there are plenty of examples of awful make do commercial ones out there. Equally, there are some good ones so why bother? Well Brenda and I like to create something big to share and we like it with a substantial brandy input. We present a four part video, two of which will come out over the next few days and then we concentrate on the marzipan and icing at maturation, about a week or two before Christmas. It’s actually reasonably quick to make once you have portioned out all the ingredients. For this part of the recipe here they are:

Ingredients for the fruit mix in Fanny and Brenda’s Joyous Christmas cake

450g currants
175g sultanas
175g raisins
50g glacé morello cherries
100g mixed peel
25g cranberries
1 tbspn glacé ginger
40g dried apricots
50g chopped dates
2 chopped figs
50g chopped prunes
50cl 40% brandy


Portion out all your fruit as above
Place in bowl and stir into each other
Add the brandy
Cover with some cling film and leave to macerate for a couple of days.

Candying peel

It’s strange how the last days of a warm summer have passed and how quickly Christmas is now approaching. On the train today I saw two glittery ‘snowmen’ on a city roof along with some other festive decorations. The build up has begun and while it’s easy to complain about it all, actually it is a useful prompt to start some of the preparations for the food to be enjoyed at that time.

mixed candied candy citrus orange lemon lime peel

Today I have been candying citrus fruit peel – 3 oranges.  I am intending some of this peel to go into the Fanny and Brenda Joyous Christmas Cake and some of it to go into my really very delicious mincemeat.

mixed candied candy citrus orange lemon lime peel

Now wash the fruit. Cut off the ends. I did the same with the oranges, lemons and limes. Make sure all of them are unwaxed.

Cut the skin into quarters as it makes the peeling a bit easier.

mixed candied candy citrus orange lemon lime peel

Peel off the skin and cut into narrow slithers

Place them in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil.

Tip the water out and repeat twice. This will tenderise the skin.

mixed candied candy citrus orange lemon lime peel

Meanwhile in a bowl whisk up 400g of caster sugar in 200g of water.

Now tip into a small pan and turn on the heat. Let it simmer for about five minutes and then add the peel

Cook on a slow simmer for about 50 minutes.

When soft strain them and place them in a tray to cool down.

(I keep the resultant syrup for using in tarts and dribbling on ice cream….)

Once they have cooled you can use them in the fruit mix for the christmas cake or mincemeat or they can be covered in caster sugar and enjoyed individually.

I have found that  different citrus types cook slightly differently. Please check out my blog about candying lemon peel.

mixed candied candy citrus orange lemon lime peel

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

fanny and brenda make a sumptuous chicken with 40 cloves of garlic a classic french recipe, photo by simon c bennett photographer

In the video Fanny shows us how to make Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. This is one of those dishes that is a delight, and you always need enough for seconds as everyone will want them. It is good for a nice autumnal evening with friends and family, together with some colcannon potato and some greens.


1 large chicken, jointed into wings, thighs, drumsticks and breasts which should be cut in half.
300 ml olive oil
3 heads garlic
6-7 sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme
5 bay leaves
2 lemons
200 ml white wine
200 ml chicken stock or water
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C

During our clip, we fried off the chicken pieces first for about 10 minutes and this is perfectly fine. However strictly speaking I really dont think it’s necessary as it gets deliciously browned during the main part of the cooking in the oven.

Take your three heads of garlic, split in to cloves then peel about a third of the cloves. Add both peeled and unpeeled cloves to the dish in which you have fried off the chicken. We used paella dish which meant the frying and main cooking took place in the same vessel. Any heavy cast iron casserole or cooking pot would be ideal.

Nestle sprigs of fresh thyme amongst the chicken and garlic cloves, along with the bay leaves, two halves of the lemon, the white wine and stock/water. By the way although I used stock, water really is fine as the meat is on the bone so, along with the herbs and wine, makes its own stock as it cooks. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cover with lid or tin foil and put in the oven for 45 mins. After this time, check for ‘doneness’ but either way, an extra 15 mins in the oven, UNcovered ensures you get a lovely golden brown colour and crispy skin. If you need to add any extra liquid to ensure there is a good gravy after the final 15 mins, dont be afraid to do so.

a delicious bacon cabbage colcannon style mash accompanies this classic french recipe very well indeedA delicious bacon cabbage colcannon style mash accompanies this classic french recipe very well indeed

Remove from oven and take the chicken pieces and unpeeled garlic cloves out of the cooking pot and allow to rest somewhere warm for 10-15 mins, covered in tin foil (use the same pieces as you covered the dish with).Pour off excess olive oil from the pot – this can be reserved for all sorts of applications where a garlic and herb infused oil would add something to future dishes you create! Also remove the thyme and bay leaves – discard. Remove the lemon but squeeze any remaining flesh/juice into the gravy. Lastly, mash the peeled garlic cloves into the gravy, so that they become part of the gravy.

You should then have a fairly thick sauce, about the consistency of double cream, made from the remaining olive oil but mostly from the gorgeous chickeny, lemony, herby, garlicky juices. This can then be drizzled round the chicken pieces which we plated with a potato, cavolo nero and bacon mash.

fanny and brenda make a sumptuous chicken with 40 cloves of garlic a classic french recipe photo by simon c bennett photographer

Zucchini Linguini

fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini

This is one of those pleasing quick to make light tasty dishes, that is just so satisfying. And if you have vegetarian friends they will just love this recipe.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

2 courgettes
small tin of anchovies
handful of pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
tsp chilli flakes
1 lemon
200g of linguini
Fresh grated parmesan
Fresh chopped parsley to decorate


fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini

Take 2 courgettes and peel them with a potato peeler lengthways.

Meanwhile heat several good lugs of extra virgin olive oil and when hot, not smoking, fry strips of courgette.

fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini

Boil kettle full of water

After a few minutes, add crushed garlic to courgette pan, finely snip in the anchovies, scatter in the pine nuts and chilli flakes.

Once boiled, put hot water from kettle into roomy pan, add salt and tbsp olive oil – place linguine in water and cook as per packet instructions – probably 6-8 mins.

Meanwhile juice the lemon using a lemon squeezer, grate the parmesan and chop parsley (keeping an eye on your courgette pan!)

Drain pasta and immediately add to the courgette pan.

Add most of the lemon juice and parsley and toss everything together, removing from heat after 30 seconds.

Serve in warmed bowls with final sprinkle of parsley, the last of the remaining lemon juice and parmesan

Enjoy with a glass of fresh zesty white wine.

fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini

Fresh Mussels in cream and white wine

This is a delicious meal which is easier to produce than you may believe. In the video that we have produced here, I take you through the basic steps, revealing the possible pitfalls. If you are a fan of mussels watch the video at your leisure.


1kg fresh mussels, in their shell
½ onion, finely chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
large glass dry white wine
50ml double cream
small knob butter
fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

French bread and lemon wedges, to serve

fanny and brenda show how to cook delicious mussels

fanny takes delight in being rude about fanny as she cooks the musselsBrenda is not amused as Fanny takes delight in being rude about her as she cooks the mussels


Scrub the mussels well in a large bowl of cold water, removing the beards and any barnacles. Also discard any with broken shells or any that don’t close tight when tapped on a hard surface. This is because any displaying those characteristics, are probably already dead and therefore decaying. I know Brenda is decaying too and that doesn’t stop her, but we prefer our bivalves to clamp tightly shut upon being disturbed…. By the way I actually did 2 or 3 water changes about an hour apart and it really made the difference as it’s the first time I’ve ever eaten mussels with no sand in – it having all been purged and sunk to the bottom of the bowl of water. When ready, drain, but don’t dry, the mussels.

fanny and brenda show how to cook delicious mussels

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, bay leaf and thyme, and cook for 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cook for a further minute.

Put the oven on 200°C ready for your main course, more of which in a minute, and place in the French bread and bowls- enough heat will have built up by the time you’re ready to serve.

fanny and brenda show how to cook delicious mussels

Pour over the wine and simmer for 1 minute. Tip in the mussels then cover and steam, shaking the pan every now and then, for about 3-4 minutes or until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that stay shut. This is for the same reason as before only in reverse, i.e. any dead ones which were already clamped shut, will not suddenly open in the heat!

fanny and brenda show how to cook delicious mussels

Stir in the cream and chopped parsley, check the seasoning (it probably will not need much as, despite the fresh water purging, they do release their very distinctive briny juices…) and serve in the warm bowls with the bread and lemon wedges…. although do feel free to lift the bowl to your lips and down any remaining which might otherwise escape

cameraman james finds the wall more stimulating than the conversation
Cameraman James finds the wall more stimulating than the conversation

Crispy Vegetable Fritters (good as Dhal accompaniment)

Pretty much any vegetables can be used for these – aubergine, courgettes, peppers, cauliflower, onion, mushroom etc. We used aubergines and zucchini and they were really quite delicious. They are good accompanied by the dhal.

pakora- delicious vegetable fritters recipe

The idea is to get everything into very thin rounds or sticks, no more than 2-3 mm (cauli into 1.5cm florets)

For the batter

4 tbsn gram flour (chick pea flour)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp kholanji (nigella seeds/black onion seeds)
1tsp baking powder
75-100 ml water

pakora- delicious vegetable fritters recipe
Mix all batter ingredients together till smooth – how much water you use will determine the final consistency with a larger volume producing a thinner version and vice versa. How thin the batter is will determine how easily it slides off your veg pieces – again, a thinner one will stick less so the batter will be lighter.

pakora- delicious vegetable fritters recipe
Heat some vegetable oil in a wok/pan/karai and heat till a drop of the batter sizzles when dripped in. Now start coating your veg and adding to the pan, being careful to turn and do the other side till a pale golden brown and not to overcrowd the pan – it’s far better to do several batches rather then attempting it in one which will likely result in soggy veg/batter! And we don’t want that, do we?
pakora- delicious vegetable fritters recipe
You can season with some salt if you like – I also sprinkled a few dried red chili flakes and a pinch of garam masala.

Frugal tastiness with Dhal

This is a wonderfully tasty dish that is good on a winter’s day or indeed equally on a hot summer’s day. On summer days Fanny wears rather less than she should given her advanced age and I won’t disturb you with the nightmare images she inspires in this state. Suffice to say I am on the tablets.
lentil dhal - absolutely delicious vegetarian recipe
However don’t let me put you off this delicious dish, it really is very moreish and is good eaten with vegetable fritters.


200g red lentils
1 litre water
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 green chillies
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
3 tbsp ghee
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely sliced
lentil dhal - absolutely delicious vegetarian recipe

Bring the lentils to the boil in the litre of water in a large saucepan and remove any scum

Add the turmeric, cumin and tomatoes and mix in

Lower the heat and simmer for about 40 mins until tender. Add the salt, chillies and coriander and mix in. Remove from the heat.
lentil dhal - absolutely delicious vegetarian recipe

Meanwhile in a medium size frying pan, heat the ghee and fry the onion and garlic until golden brown – pour this over the lentils and serve.

lentil dhal - absolutely delicious vegetarian recipe