The Bellini – a drink to enjoy this summer

fanny and brendas peach bellini

This seems like a simple cocktail and in fact it is. But don’t be deluded, it’s easy to get wrong. The quality and sweetness of the peaches are paramount. Do not buy the cheap punnets of flavourless peaches; get the best. Not the best you think you can afford; get the best. It takes ripe flavour-filled fruit to make this drink work. Fanny made it three times before we were sure; don’t waste your time – just follow our instruction: only the best ripest flavoursome peaches will do. Why? Well anything less than that floral peachy flavour exuding from the fruit will leave you with a flavourless pulp which will have no influence over the Prosecco. And this is too satisfying a drink to get it wrong.

Ingredients

1 bottle of Prosecco
Four peaches (ripe ripe and ripe again. So ripe they are scented. Did we say they have to be ripe?)
30g sugar

Method

1) Skin and liquidise the peaches

2) Add the sugar

3) Add about a 1.5 glasses of Prosecco to the pulp (to thin it so that when it mixes with the rest of the Prosecco it will mix with ease).

4) Pour the pulp into four champagne flutes

5) Pour the Prosecco

6) Enjoy

Horseradish Sauce

We really don’t like the vinegary shop bought sludge that passes itself off as horseradish sauce, and this is our version made to our taste. We have grown our own and in the rain today we dug out a small chump of root and removed the leaves.

grow your own horse radish and make much superior horse radish sauce say fanny and brenda

Ingredients

A small chump of root
Two small splashes of white wine vinegar
dash of salt
sprinkle of white pepper
1/4 tsp mustard (English or Dijon)
75ml of sour cream

Method

Once you have your cleaned and peeled root:

1) Take a potato peeler to the outside and get rid of the rough outer layer.

2) Grate reasonably finely and place in bowl

3) Pour in a couple of splashes of white wine vinegar

3) Spoon in the sour cream and stir

4) Add salt and pepper to taste

5) Stir in the mustard

6) Cover and leave for two hours in the fridge

grow your own horse radish and make much superior horse radish sauce say fanny and brenda

Almond Cake with Plum Purée

This really is a lovely tea-time treat and simple to make. The end result is sweet and moist and with the plum purée it could double as a delicious pud too.
fanny and brendas almond cake with plum puréee - simple to make and an absolute treat

Ingredients

200g ground almonds

275g caster sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp almond extract

3 large eggs

250g salted butter (softened)

1 measure of Galliano (vanilla) liqueur (or apricot brandy or indeed cherry brandy)

75g plain flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

Icing sugar to dust

Purée

Small bowl of stewed plums

Icing sugar to sweeten

——————————————-

Preheat oven to 180°c/350°F

Take a cake tin with a push out bottom and grease it. Then place some baking paper in the bottom and grease that too.

Add a scattering of sliced almonds to the base.

fanny and brendas almond cake with plum puréee - simple to make and an absolute treat

Take your ground almonds and mix them with the sugar and salt in the blender.

Now take a small handful of that mixture and scatter it over the base and round the edges. This will give a rather lovely crust to the finished product.

Add the eggs, butter and Galliano to the mix and blend well

Add the flour and baking powder and blend

fanny and brendas almond cake with plum puréee - simple to make and an absolute treat

Pour mixture into cake dish and place in the middle of the oven.

Cook for 20 minutes and then reduce to 150°c/300°F for the last 15 minutes.

Leave to cool for a couple of hours and then take out of cake dish.

Place on presentation plate and dust with icing sugar

fanny and brendas almond cake with plum puréee - simple to make and an absolute treat

For the purée

Take a bowl of stewed plums

Sieve them into another bowl

Add icing sugar to sweeten to taste

Serve cake with cream and purée and watch your guests become friends for life!

fanny and brendas almond cake with plum puréee - simple to make and an absolute treat

Brenda’s Plum Vodka

From about the end of November through to mid January, Fanny spends herself enjoying the finer aspects of the season. I trail along barely able to keep up with her considerable consumption. However I am taken to parties with her because she has to show she has at least one good looking pretty and intelligent friend. It would be a tragic situation but for the fact that like her I enjoy a good drink. This year we have had a plum glut – our two old trees produce what we believe are Early Rivers plums. They aren’t the greatest ‘eaters’ if I’m honest, and they are better cooked. They make lovely stewed plums for instance. However I now have a freezer full of them so time to move on. This week I bought some Russian standard vodka and decided to merge the plums with vodka to be enjoyed leisurely at Christmas. I am storing this in a 2 litre kilner style storage jar which has been sterilised beforehand.

plum vodka makde using russian vodka and our own home grown plums

Ingredients

1l 40% Russian standard vodka
300g of sugar
Plums to fill the jar once the vodka and the sugar have been poured in.

Method

Pour in vodka
Pour in sugar
Shake
Add plums
Seal lid
Place somewhere cool for three months, occasionally shaking it up to dissolve the sugar.
Test 1 month before using that you like the sweetness. If it needs more sugar, now is the time to add it.

Ragu sauce for Spaghetti Bolognese

spag bol by Fanny Klunge - and absolute treat!

If you think that the sloppy red chewy meat and tomato sauce commonly served in the UK with spaghetti (aka spag bol) bears much resemblance to what a wizened old nonna (excluding Brenda) would make for her extended family, then I have some work to do!

Once we’re over the idea that “spag bol” is something that can be rustled up in half an hour flat, between arriving home from work and slumping in front of the tv, that will be a significant step forward in understanding this wonderful, deep rich sauce which many of us currently quite possibly have our best understanding of, from a jar. At the same time salty, but thin (and probably loaded with sugar, too) over-seasoned yet utterly bland and one dimensional, some quickly fried up mince with a jar of this tomato-y horror is enough to consign this delicious, aromatic treat to our student days without a second thought.

It may look and sound a bit of a faff – and it is – but if you make sufficient quantity, you can make for four people with a dozen or more portions left over for freezing, to make it worthwhile. Incidentally, being a dish primarily composed of minced meat, this is excellent for those of you at home with a Spong – ours was manufactured in 1929 and looks like it was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and, as Brenda will confirm, age is no barrier to efficiency, even if it is to looks. Transforming the leftovers of Sunday lunch into something you can use as the basis for your ragu sauce is as easy as shepherds pie. Here goes.

Ingredients

350g of beef mince
350g of pork mince
(you can just use 700g beef mince but it is just a richer thing if you use half beef/half pork. Also, these are amounts for meat that’s already roasted – and ground. If you’re using raw mince, increase the total amount to 1kg)
2 large onions – finely chopped
2 carrots – finely chopped
2 or 3 sticks celery – peeled and finely chopped
8 fat cloves of garlic – minced
200g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon – finely chopped
6 anchovy fillets
1 small can (approx 140g) tomato puree
1 tin tomatoes – 400g
250ml full fat milk
1 bottle red wine – something you’d drink, but not your best vintage.
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 bay leaves
small bunch thyme
6 cloves
1 level tsp ground nutmeg
olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

grated parmesan and torn fresh basil leaves for serving

Method

1) Begin by setting a medium/large casserole dish on a medium heat and adding a good splash of olive and adding your chilli and fennel seeds

2) Cook fairly gently for a minute or two until fragrant smells begin to waft about then add the onion, carrot and celery. Turn up the heat and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the veg mix is softened and translucent – it’s great if some of the edges start to gain a little colour but not 100% necessary. This stage should take around 10 mins, at which point add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves and a good pinch (say a teaspoon) of salt and a smaller pinch of black pepper. Stir in and cook another 2 mins. Don’t over-season at this point as this can be adjusted at the end of cooking – the reason being is that the sauce is quite intensely reduced so you don’t want to end up with it too salty.

spag bol by Fanny Klunge - and absolute treat!

3) At this point you can add the minced meat to the veg pan. It’ll be much easier if you’ve got your own home-ground stuff because it doesn’t clump together but obviously most will be using raw mince, so there’s nothing for it, but to stand over it stirring and chopping to make sure there are no big clumps of it and that everything gets a good chance to brown evenly. Be prepared to stand over it for up to 20 mins more

4) In the meantime, while the mince is browning, fry your bacon/pancetta in a separate pan a little olive oil until crisp. Tip the contents of this pan – oils and all – into the mince/veg pan, once the mince is sufficiently browned.

5) Even if you absolutely detest anchovies, I insist you now snip 6 of the little blighters into the mix – please please just trust me on this one, you will not taste anything fishy in the end product. Think of it like extra seasoning. By the way I also add the oil from the anchovy tin.

6) At the same time, add your tomato puree – if things are beginning to catch on the bottom, don’t worry, if anything it’s a good thing. Think of it in terms of the burnt bits in the roasting tray when you’ve made Sunday lunch – all great flavour!. However you obviously don’t want this to go too far so don’t be too long about getting your tin of tomatoes in, the liquid from which will obviously douse the ardour of the borderline burning happening. Rinse out the tomato and tomato puree tins, adding the water to the pot (so about 300ml of water altogether, plus most of the bottle of red wine.

7) Drop in the cloves (you could put these in a small muslin bag to make retrieval easier later on) and grate in most of a whole nutmeg if using fresh, or your tsp of pre-ground

8) Stir and allow to come up to the boil at which point turn down the heat to the lowest possible, pop the lid on and simmer gently for an hour – it’s possibly worth checking once or twice to ensure things aren’t sticking too much at the bottom.

9) Switch on the oven after 45 mins to 130C and 15 mins or so later, take the lid off the pot and add the milk fairly slowly which you have popped in the microwave for a minute or two to get hot but not boiling. Swirl through the ragu sauce and transfer, UNcovered, to the oven.

10) Check after an hour, stir, and confirm that most of the liquid has evaporated – the consistency should have changed from soupy to fairly thick. Put back in the oven for anything up to another hour and what you’re looking for is certainly not something completely dried out, but definitely very thick – some sauce spooned out should just about hold its shape as a heap on the spoon. Check the seasoning, still being a little circumspect as the parmesan for serving is pretty salty. Retrieve as many of the sprigs of thyme, bayleaves and cloves as you can

11) The sauce is now ready. It can be used as the “meat” filling in a lasagne – or, as I did today, in a spaghetti Bolognese. To serve, boil the pasta in water about as salty as sea water and a glug of olive oil. When cooked, drain most, but NOT all the water. You’re looking for approximately 3 tbsp water per person left. Then add around 3-4 tablespoons of ragu sauce per person to the pasta and stir in – the water will reconstitute the thick ragu which will loosely coat all the pasta. Don’t serve naked pasta with the ragu sauce just piled over it unless you want it to look like a Dolmio advert…..

12) Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan, torn/shredded basil leaves and a pinch of black pepper

13) There will be masses left over which, because it’s quite concentrated, can be conveniently frozen for at least two if not three further meals for four – thus you don’t have to go through the above each time you want to eat this and will, overall, have actually probably cost you less time than doing a “quick” version three or four times over. And, as if it needs saying, will also be three or four times as good……

spag bol by Fanny Klunge - and absolute treat!

Rose Syrup

rose syrup recipe from fanny and brenda

In conjunction with making the rose petals I decided to make some rose syrup. This is to use in other recipes or as an addition to something like vanilla ice cream if you feel particularly indulgent. I won’t mention Fanny’s waistline but evidently she has no problem allowing herself life’s little luxuries not that I am saying anything.

I snipped at some more of Fanny’s precious fragrant roses and filled a 250ml cup (I believe by definition this is ’1 cup’ if you are American) and placed them in a pan with three cups (750ml if you are British) of water and left them to steep for 48 hours. You can reduce the water amount if you want a stronger syrup. I also added a splash or rosewater – about a 100ml.

fragrant rose syrup from brenda gateway

The colour of the syrup will depend on the petal colour, how many you use and the ratio of water to petals in the first place. My results delivered an almost orange colour syrup despite the flowers ranging from white through to deep magenta.

I added 750ml caster sugar – again it’s a case of try and test for your own taste. Heat on a gentle simmer.

When the sugar has dissolved, let the water boil and cook till it has thickened and the way to know it’s done is to use the one thread consistency. Place a drop (when it has cooled slightly) and press it between the thumb and forefinger. When you retract your fingers and have a thread consistency the thickness of spiders web you are there!

fragrant rose syrup from brenda gateway

You can store it for a while in the fridge ready to be used…

Ingredients

1 cup fragrant rose petals which should be pesticide free
3 cups water
1/2 cup Rose Water
3 cups sugar