The Japanese

fanny and brendas japanese cocktail with orgeat

This was an excuse to use my orgeat – a maceration of toasted, ground nuts (in this case almonds) in alcohol with the smallest dash of orange flower water. I made mine but you’ll be just as well seeking out a good commercial one to save time.

It’s also worth learning the correct pronunciation  of orgeat- we wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea this Christmas, particularly if you’re throwing a party and all that alcohol’s flowing………

INGREDIENTS
60ml cognac
15ml orgeat
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon peel for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1.
Fill a mixing glass about half way with ice. Add cognac, orgeat and bitters and stir well.
2.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
3.
Twist lemon peel over the drink and drop in as a garnish. A vegetable peeler works perfectly well for this

Christmas Grapefruit

christmas grapefruit fizz from fanny and brenda

You didn’t think for a minute I was advocating sitting there in your brushed cotton (in Brenda’s case Stay-Press polyester) jim-jams attempting to dissect a deeply acidic and outsize hemisphere of citrus fruit? Who possesses grapefruit spoons any more, anyway?

No, this is our incredibly simple way to breakfast bliss (and brunch battles if you’re not careful, but we’re not ones for adhering to rules of family etiquette….).

If you know how to make a Kir Royale, you can do one of these, except you substitute the Creme de Cassis in that classic cocktail, for Creme Pamplemousse Rose – literally out with the blackcurrant liqueur and in with the pink grapefruit liqueur. Now, honestly speaking, you won’t be able to pick this up this from you local supermarché, but a brief search on the ‘net will reveal quick convenient sources, no doubt for convenient home delivery.

A dessertspoonful (10ml) is a good place to start in terms of the quantity of grapefruit loveliness in a bottle you pour into you champagne flute to get things going – then pour a about the first third of the fizz you’re going to top up with smartish, to mix properly with the grapefruitiness at the bottom of the glass (champagne or sparkling white – we used Cava). Then fully top up carefully, as you would any sparkles, to avoid it all frothing over – which is not cool, a drag to clear up, wasteful and leaves the part that stayed in the glass flatter than necessary. I assure you a few seconds care exercised here, and you’ll create a beautiful drink which will elicit many more genuine oohs and aahs than the opening of acres of scruffily wrapped, panic-bought “designer” tat posing as “thoughtful gifts” which you’ll have to endure later….

Hot Toddy

fanny and brendas hot toddy

I love December. The year is virtually over and the Christmas lights are going up. There is that feeling of festivity in the air. Fanny looks more and more like Father Christmas every year due to her billowing white facial hair that she usually clips out before we start filming. It’s like a fairy tale.

These days the shopping takes place online. As some rather short sighted retailers now have aggressive parking practices that enable them to make money twice by employing moronic parking management companies I no longer bother, so everything comes to me – without the parking tickets.

After a strenuous day unpacking my latest gifts to myself I usually need a cocktail to improve my weary state. A favourite of mine is the Hot Toddy. I once had a boyfriend called Todd who was quite hot and I think of him with a wry smile before I click my fingers at Fanny and she makes one for me.

So, the ingredients are below but really, I’m going to let your imaginations run wild with the proportions as these are totally up to you.

Ingredients

Whisky or rum
Runny honey
Lemon juice
Cinnamon stick
Couple of cloves
Hot water

Fanny’s Method for a fabulous Hot Toddy

Take a little hot water to loosen around a tsp of the honey to a thin syrup – you won’t need a lot.

Put your tot of whichever spirit you are using into a glass, add some honey syrup and lemon juice (again, as much or little as you like so you get a drink where the sweetness/tartness is balanced how you like it – and Brenda prefers hers tarty, quelle surprise…

Drop in your cloves and cinnamon stick, then top up with hot water – leave the kettle for 20 seconds or so after coming up to the boil to reduce the likelihood of cracking your glass, although the other ingredients already there should help prevent this.

Stir with the cinnamon stick, check it is to your liking, adjust with more of any of the ingredients if necessary – then drink when it’s still hot but not burning your mouth. You get a much more satisfying result when you can pretty much fit the whole lot in at once………

Slow Cooked Chicken with Winter Veg Lemon And Thyme

slow cooked chicken and winter veg with lemon and thyme

It just goes to show that the following of received wisdoms too rigidly isn’t always the right way to go – like Brenda’s choices in designer wear. It’s not just her jumble of “bright” (i.e. gaudy) colours and horizontal stripes which she wrongly thinks take off the 10lbs the camera is said to add to everyone’s apparent weight. According to her, life is about balance and so, to make sure she doesn’t appear to completely waste away while co-presenting our famous “Fanny and Brenda” You Tube series on how to make gorgeous food, thinks it’s appropriate to consume a packet of chocolate biscuits and several Eccles cakes prior to the shoot. She’s probably got confused regarding that other received wisdom about not eating carbs after 8pm, perhaps thinking that you can eat as many of them as you like, before 8pm. Oh dear.

Now I’m certainly not suggesting that we, the World’s Most Fabulous Divine Hostesses, have produced anything which could be termed “heavy” or “dense”, but a review of our more recent output did seem to reveal a bias towards what we might call the “hearty”. In one sense, this is completely understandable given the cooler temperatures this country “enjoys” at this time of year. However, whilst Brenda was happy enough to suggest dumplings be included in all our Winter recipes, I said I did not feel that dollops of animal suet and herbs would be suitable in, for example, a coffee and walnut pavlova and therefore, after some negotiation (i.e. me saying no), this idea was shelved.

There are occasions where something truly rib-sticking like beef with beer and root veg totally fits the bill, but frankly, we don’t always feel like ladlefuls of thick, dark stews so, having surveyed the fridge’s contents on Tuesday this week, I was rewarded with a combination that effectively enabled me to adapt a delightful spring like Chicken with Spring Veg and Herbs recipe into this still light, but more December-y Chicken with Winter Veg and lemon and thyme. By the way, speaking of adapting, we often do this to other people’s recipes to make them better – and detail them in full here for your wonderment – so I would repeat the advice that most recipes should be treated as guides only and tweaked by your good selves, dear acolytes, to suit your own preferences and ingredient availability. Due to our (my) exceptional pallet and careful product- testing, with the possible lone other exception of the rather fantastic Simon Hopkinson, this advice should be treated with caution when preparing any F& B recipe…… see what I mean about received wisdoms??

slow cooked chicken and winter veg with lemon and thyme

Ingredients

6 chicken pieces (we used thighs with the bone in and skin on)
about 200g baby leeks, split lengthways and carefully washed
about 200g carrots, split lengthways once for halves and twice for quarters depending on size – also we had “heritage” varieties available which did add a cheery colour variation
about a third of a bottle of dry white wine
about 200ml of chicken stock (although this could be substituted with more wine or, especially as this time the meat was bone-in, water)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic – not chopped or even peeled, just bashed
Small bunch parsley – medium chopped
Juice of a lemon
Few sprigs of fresh thyme – leaves picked
Pinch (or half a tsp) of red chilli flakes
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tsp flour (optional – use only if making a roux for gentle thickening)
knob of butter

slow cooked chicken and winter veg with lemon and thyme

Method

1) If time, pop your chicken pieces into a good glug of olive oil/juice of a lemon/thyme leaves/pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper to marinate. I did mine for a couple of hours, but even 20 mins is worth it

2) When ready to cook, switch on the hob to high heat and get a good size casserole dish up to temperature – you may need 3-5 mins to bring it to the point where it’s nearly smoking. If you haven’t marinaded first, add a good glug of olive oil direct to the casserole at this stage to fry the meat off

3) Pop the chicken pieces straight into the casserole dish in a single layer so they brown quickly and evenly. Reserve any leftover marinade. Leave the meat well alone for up to 5 mins to allow a really beautiful golden brown “crust” to develop – also not moving the chicken pieces constantly around at the beginning makes them less likely to stick which in turn makes turning them to brown the other side(s) much easier. Don’t bother to pat them dry first as, even though some lemon juice inevitably goes in, a well pre-heated cast iron vessel will have enough in reserve to quickly boil it off so you won’t have issues with the chicken itself stewing instead of browning . Add your bashed garlic cloves at around the half-way point which should avoid the garlic burning by the time the chicken pieces are browned.

4) Once well-browned, turn the heat down to low and add the veggies and wine (plus lemon juice, thyme, chilli, salt and pepper if you haven’t pre-marinated – and by the way any remaining marinade can be added now if you did pre-marinate). If you’re happy with a thin “soup base” consistency, just add the stock as is. If you want a thicker, but still very light base, heat a knob of butter in a small saucepan and when melted, whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of mins (i.e. make a roux), followed by about half the stock and, once incorporated, the rest. The contents of the saucepan can then be added to the main dish.

5) Simmer gently for about 20 mins until the chicken and veggies are tender. If you just used stock, and not a thickened stock base, add the knob of butter straight into the casserole dish, to give the sauce a nice glossy finish – and of course an even more delicious taste!

6) You can serve up with just a really good sprinkle of chopped parsley and enjoy a light, but hearty winter stew exactly as it is – or, as i did, with some fried potatoes, to which I added some minced garlic and the zest of the same lemon, the juice from which works so successfully in the main dish!

slow cooked chicken and winter veg with lemon and thyme

Slow Cooked Chicken Stew and Broccoli

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

Brenda and I were sitting in the kitchen last week almost congenially whilst waiting for a beef stew and some pommes dauphinoise to finish baking when suddenly there was a loud WHUMP from the oven which promptly stopped working. Trust me, trying to finish a potato gratin dish on the hob, doesn’t really work, but that’s an entirely different story.

Since then, we have had to be rather more inventive about how we cook and this has included us peering into the darkest recesses of the cupboards (prompting, I may add, ordering Brenda to give them all a jolly good clean!) and finding lurking there not Brenda’s latest beau in a casket, but a slow cooker. This seemed like the ideal moment to make use of it!

It would really need you to be quite organised in terms of having something ready for when you get back from work as the minimum cooking time seems to be about 4 hours, but, having made the necessary allowance for this, we have had a couple of good results, one of which I would like to share with you here… the salty garlicky tang of the crunchy broccoli you’ll hopefully find as pleasant an accompaniment to the mild chicken, as we did.

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

INGREDIENTS for the chicken stew

4 boneless skinless chicken pieces (thighs and/or breasts) – about 750g altogether
750ml chicken stock
4 carrots – rough chopped
2 stalks celery – finely chopped
1 large fennel bulb – medium sliced
1 large onion – medium chopped
1 400g can beans – cannellini, borlotti or butter
500g potatoes – into approx 2cm cubes
2 bay leaves
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 1/2 tbsp flour
olive oil

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli


INGREDIENTS for the broccoli

1 head of broccoli – separated into florets and each floret sliced a couple of times
handful of flaked almonds
2 fat cloves of garlic – minced
olive oil
knob of butter
soy sauce
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

Method for the Chicken Stew

1) coat the chicken pieces in seasoned flour
2) meanwhile heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy, spacious frying pan – then fry the floured chicken pieces over a medium heat until golden brown
3) remove the chicken pieces and place into the slow cooker. Add the celery, onion, carrot and bay leaves and fry for 5-10 mins in the frying pan until turning translucent.
4) add the veggies and bay leaves in with the chicken. Use some of the stock to deglaze the frying pan, tipping the liquid then also into the slow cooker
5) add the rest of the stock direct to the slow cooker, then the beans and potatoes and the fennel seeds and chilli flakes. I recommend adding a bit more seasoning at this point. Cook according to the directions on your slow cooker but this will likely be approx 4-5 hours on high or 8 hours on low.
6) 10 mins or so before you want to serve, whip up the broccoli as below….

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

Method for the broccoli

1) Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan or wok and when hot but not smoking, add the broccoli, garlic and almonds
2) Keep it moving all the time – adding a splash of water if it just needs a little extra steam to cook – but you definitely don’t want the garlic or salmon flakes to burn or for the broccoli to go floppy – it should only take 3-4 mins
3) Season with a good pour of soy sauce and pinch of sea salt
4) Dress with a knob of butter, give a final stir and serve hot and crunchy with the chicken and fennel stew

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

Salmon & Prawn Chowder

After a period of slackness (Brenda being very familiar with this concept already…), I decided to kick this week off with a creamy, easy-to-prepare, and of course delicious, chowder.

fanny and brendas delicious salmon and prawn chowder

There are many variants on which main ingredients can be added – I happened to have a couple of frozen salmon fillets and a handful of raw prawns lurking at the back of the freezer so this was a great way to use them – gentle, blanketing heat bringing out the best flavour and texture in delicate ingredients. You wouldn’t always swamp absolutely fresh, caught-this-morning prawns, or the firmest spanking fresh fish in a milky sauce, though if you have them, then great!

By the way, I used ham stock which might seem unusual in a fish dish but many recipes call for smoked bacon (cured pork products and seafood have a long history together – like Brenda and me) so, despite having some bacon available, I decided to leave it out and try the ham stock instead. We think it worked, but please don’t worry if you don’t have it, just use chicken or fish stock instead. It’s up to you if you want to fry up 75g or so of bacon with the onions.

Here goes.

Ingredients (serves 4)

300g salmon – cut into bite-size chunks
200g raw prawns, shelled and deveined
400ml ham stock
400ml full cream milk
100ml double cream
500g potatoes (which is about 3 medium size spud) – cut into bite-size chunks
1 extra large Spanish onion (or 2 medium ones) – chopped medium
1 clove garlic – finely chopped
2 corn on the cob – run your knife down the uncooked cobs to cut the kernels off – or use a small tin of sweetcorn
100g French beans – topped, tailed and cut into 2cm long sections
pinch of ground mace
pinch of cayenne
40g butter (40g is about a heaped tablespoon)
25g flour (25g is about a heaped tablespoon)
olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 lemon – juiced
small bunch fresh parsley – roughly chopped

Method

1) Heat a little olive oil in a medium size saucepan over a moderate flame and saute the chopped onion for 8-10 mins, stirring regularly, until translucent and beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic and butter for the last minute or two and after the butter has melted, the flour – cook for a final minute or so.

2) Meanwhile microwave your stock till virtually boiling (or boil the kettle and make up the stock, if using a cube) and add fairly gradually to the pan once the flour’s cooked off. Stir to ensure thorough mixing and then tumble in the cubed potatoes – add the mace and cayenne plus a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Add the milk, bring up to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

3) After 10 mins or so, the potatoes should be mostly cooked and you can now add the sweetcorn (if using fresh – add later, with the beans, if using tinned). Also gently fold in the cubes of salmon.

4) Allow to simmer for another 5 mins, then fold in the prawns and beans and simmer for a further 2 mins – the prawns turn from grey to pink.

5) Now add the lemon juice and a handful of chopped parsley, stir gently through and bring just back to simmer then switch off and serve, with a final sprinkle of fresh parsley.

fanny and brendas delicious salmon and prawn chowder