Category Archives: one pot dinners

Smoked salmon and asparagus creamy pasta

I thought this would be a great moment to introduce a light, but rich and tasty lunch or supper dish.

fanny ad brenda's quick to make salmon and asparagus pasta

With just a few ingredients, most of which will likely be on standby in the fridge anyway, you can prepare this from start to finish in less than 45 minutes. It’s probably only the asparagus you’ll need to pop out for – and speaking of which, this makes a change from serving  this wonderful vegetable as a starter with hollandaise or just butter.

Asides from anything else, we’re currently right in the middle of the English asparagus season so whatever you do, whether it’s part of this recipe or one of your own, do make the most of it. You can get it all year round of course, but I wouldn’t recommend it…… plus I try to do my bit in offsetting Brenda’s vast carbon footprint by avoiding out-of-season pale imitations of the real thing, flown in from Peru.

Ingredients – serves 3-4

340g butter
1 medium onion or shallot – finely diced
1 small glass vermouth/ dry white wine
150g cream cheese/creme fraiche (or mix)
juice ½ lemon
300g asparagus - each spear cut into 3
300g spirali or spaghetti
80g smoked salmon – cut into strips
Olive oil
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
3 tsp lumpfish roe/caviar (optional)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill

Method
Do all your prep first, including snapping the slightly woody end off the asparagus spears. If, like me, you had some quite fat ones, I also gently peel the skin at that end but use  a light touch. The “spear” end should always be left as is. Cut each into about 3 pieces.

Melt the butter in a pan, then fry the  onion/shallot for around 5 mins until softened. Then add the wine or vermouth and and boil to reduce to by half – another few mins.

Meanwhile, pop the kettle on and get a pot ready for the pasta and once the water’s boiled, add to the pot and switch on, making sure it’s well-salted and with a good glug of olive oil. Put the pasta in to cook.

Going back to the onion pan, now stir in the crème fraîche and/or cream cheese season and stir through to get a smooth sauce the consistency of custard. Leave to simmer very gently.

When the pasta is three minutes from being cooked, add the asparagus chunks to the boiling pasta. Mine was quite thin linguine which took 6 minutes, therefore I added the veg only three mins after starting to cook it.

While the pasta and asparagus finish cooking,  squeeze in the lemon juice to the creamy wine sauce and toss through the strips of smoked salmon. The hob should now be switched off completely, with the residual heat being more than enough to warm through the salmon and only very slightly cook it.

Drain the pasta/asparagus through a colander, ensuring about 100ml of the pasta water is retained. Now tong the pasta/asparagus through the sauce, ensuring everything is gently, but thoroughly combined. Add enough pasta water to ensure it stays smooth, glossy and  loose – it’s meant to be a delicate Spring eat, plus no-one likes claggy pasta!

Serve  a few twirls onto warmed bowls garnished with a teaspoon of caviar, if using, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill.

Vietnamese Beef Salad

For all salad dodgers – of which Brenda is definitely one – this is one you can make and enjoy with confidence…… the name “salad” is something of a misnomer as really, you can consider it more of a chilled beef noodle dish, with a few leaves in.

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

Having said that, it does also fit the bill for those tireless (and fabulous!) housewives looking to serve something reasonably light – but still filling enough to genuinely constitute a proper meal. It also uses steak in a slightly different way than the usual fried in butter and garlic and served with potato in some form.

There are so many delicious herbs and sweet, salty, sour and hot Far Easten flavours going on so just cooking off and slicing the steak, as is, would be more than sufficient, although you can also marinate it beforehand if you wish. Below however, is my version exactly as I had it this evening ….

NB For those with allergies to peanuts or peanut oil, any light, flavourless vegetable oil can happily be substituted for the peanut oil

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

INGREDIENTS – serves 2

350g ribeye steak – I pushed the boat out and used 28-day aged.
100g dried rice vermicelli noodles
100g snow peas, trimmed – most halved, the smaller ones just left whole
1 medium cucumber peeled lengthways into ribbons with the veg peeler
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves
1/3 bunch fresh mint leaves – cut into thin strips
4 shallots – thinly sliced
thumb size piece of fresh ginger – peeled and finely grated
2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely grated (possibly only need this if marinating – reduce to 1 clove if using in salad dressing)
1 carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks
50g bean sprouts
60g Asian leafy salad mix – can be a bit specialist so I used lambs lettuce but great if you like to include tatsoi/mizuno etc
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
juice of 1 1/2 fresh limes
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

METHOD

If you’re going to marinate the steak, just use a dribble of rice wine vinegar, peanut oil, a grate of fresh ginger and garlic, a little lime juice and a dash of soy. Leave to infuse for an hour, covered, but out of the fridge to allow the meat to come fully to room temperature.

Put whichever salad leaves you’re using into a large bowl, along with the beansprouts, carrot matchsticks, a quarter only of the sliced raw shallots, strips of cucumber, coriander and mint.

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

For the rice vermicelli noodles, follow the packet advice on preparation which will inevitably involve merely boiling the kettle and pouring on hot water to cover and then leaving for 3-4 mins. However, don’t let them just sit there swimming in their hot bath – as soon as they have soaked to the required degree of doneness – perhaps one notch more tender than al dente – they should be tipped into a colander or sieve and run under the cold tap for half a minute or so, then left to drain with a tablespoon of sesame oil tossed through to stop them going claggy.

Fry the remaining 3/4 of your shallot slices in a little more peanut oil till crisp and set aside.

I even toasted my sesame seeds in the oven but this could probably be done quicker in a small dry frying pan over a medium low heat and watched like a hawk to avoid burning – which they will do extremely quickly. Set aside.

When ready to fry off the steak – just the usual instructions i.e. get the pan nice and hot, if you’ve marinated, gently pat dry – or if you haven’t, dab a tiny bit of oil on both sides. Bit of seasoning might be good too. Sear quickly for 2-3 mins each side and set aside, covered and in a warm place, to rest.

Now quickly conjure up your dressing by combining the peanut oil, sesame oil, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, chopped chilli, soy sauce, sugar and grated ginger – this will be so fragrant you’ll swoon! By the way I didn’t use any garlic in this dressing, having marinated the steak in some earlier and anyway, i don’t think raw garlic works that well in this!

Simply now add to the awaiting salad, the cold noodles, the dressing and the sesame seeds (or they can be sprinkled on top) and toss together.

Finally, slice your rested steak into thin strips and dot decoratively – or toss through – and garnish with the crispy fried shallots (and sesame seeds if you haven’t already combined them in the salad)

vietnamese beef salad recipe by fanny and brenda

Luxury Toad In The Hole

fanny and brendas toad in the hole recipe

Let’s face it, each of us has their own idea about what “luxury” is – and perhaps few will see at this moment in time, the possibility of a fine-dining version of something which is basically sausage in batter.

However,  even if the starting point is just a few simple ingredients, by “making it the best you can” you’ll hopefully see how something quite everyday can be transformed into something rather stunning!. The Italians have a phrase for it which is  “bella figura” – something Brenda had never heard of (which I didn’t have the heart to tell her was self-evident…)

Hopefully you’ll see what I mean and enjoy this special edition toad.

fanny and brendas toad in the hole recipe

INGREDIENTS

140g self raising flour
4 large eggs
Eggs

300ml semi-skimmed milk

1 tbsp mustard – Dijon or wholegrain
handful of herbs – leaves picked and chopped. To enhance the leek and onion in the sausages I used thyme and chives, plus sage. Rosemary would have also been good.
4 tbsp vegetable oil plus some goose or duck fat if you have it. Or use a bit of extra oil.
6 sausages – any variety – we used nice herby Lincolnshire ones.
2 red onions – each cut into 6
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

METHOD

Tip the flour into a bowl and crack in the eggs, one at a time, whisking as you go. Pour in the milk and keep whisking until you have a smooth batter. Finally, whisk in the mustard, herbs and some seasoning and set aside for 1-2 hrs. I’m not 100% sure why this seems to work – and you will see plenty of debate about it – but in any case, making the batter in advance gets it out the way!
Heat oven to 200C. Put the oil (and goose fat or equivalent – I did say this was the luxury version!) in a roasting tin or baking dish, roughly 30 x 22cm, with reasonably high sides. After a few minutes heating up, add the onion wedges and sausages to the dish, place back in the oven and cook for around 20 mins until getting nice and brown. You can turn everything half way through this if you like. For the last few minutes of this stage, increase the heat to 220C.

Now you can add the batter – ideally by opening the oven door and pouring the batter round the sausages/onions, in situ, using a jug. But if you don’t want the extra washing up or just feel more confident doing it on a surface, the key thing is to ensure you work quickly so that when the batter hits the fat, there’s a good sizzle. If you’ve achieved this stage outside of the oven, get the dish back in ASAP, leaving enough room overhead for it to rise, closing the door nice and smartly to keep as much of the heat in as possible.

The main advice to getting a lovely rise, a crisp golden brown finish while retaining a soft, mallow-ey base, is don’t open the door before 25 minutes. Depending on your oven, it may need a few more – I deemed 27 minutes perfect.

The eggy, light crispness of the batter, puffed to perfection by the roiling goose fat – further enhanced with the herbs and mustard – is a masterwork. If you have some leftover gravy, serve that with it, along with some greens perhaps. You probably won’t need potato as the batter takes care of the carbs! I hope having tried this, you’ll be reluctant to return to the “standard” version any time soon….

 

Beer Cheese Philly Steak

philly beer cheese steak from fanny and brenda

I’d got some steak in the other day but despite it being a nice ribeye (don’t forget folks, your beautiful hostesses never do slumming it….) I just couldn’t face another large slab of meat, which is not something you’ll ever catch Brenda saying.

It was midweek, so it didn’t need to be elaborate (and neither, frankly, did I have time as I was expecting a gentleman caller later that evening) – so it was just the two of us and although the lights had been dimmed as much as the switch would allow I could still make out Brenda chewing, even in the half light which is a sight for sore eyes.

philly beer cheese steak from fanny and brenda

As it so happened, I’d set out to make enough for three but we ended up finishing it between us which must mean the end result was gorgeous! Give it a go folks, and let us know how you get on…

Ingredients

1 green peppers, sliced
1 large onion, sliced thin
350g rib-eye steak, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
garlic powder
1/2 loaf ciabatta or similar, cut into 1 inch cubes
75g butter
40g flour
350 ml beer
hot pepper sauce
bunch of fresh parsley – finely chopped
paprika
Worcestershire sauce
soy sauce
250 g strong cheddar cheese – grated
100g medium (“nutty”) cheese like gruyere or Comte – grated

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C

Heat splash of olive oil in a largish frying pan over medium-low heat; add the green pepper and onion to it along with some sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and about 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder - cook until soft, about 20 minutes; set aside.

Raise the heat to medium, add another small splash of oil and add the sliced steak. Season exactly as above (salt, pepper and garlic powder) and cook for about 5 minutes, till beginning to brown. Set aside.

Meanwhile, arrange the bread cubes in the bottom of a 8×11 (approx) dish. Layer the steak on the bread and then layer the pepper and onion mixture over the steak layer; set aside.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour to make a roux and once it’s cooked out a bit, pour in the beer, whisking continually. Season with salt and black pepper plus add garlic powder, about a tsp paprika and splashes of Worcestershire, hot and soy sauces to taste – stir to combine. As the mixture thickens, add the cheddar and stir till melted, at which point you can stir through the chopped parsley. Now pour the mixture over the meat/peppers/bread assembly in the pan. Top with your Comte or Gruyere cheese.

Bake for about 15- 20 mins or until the top layer is golden and bubbling.

philly beer cheese steak from fanny and brenda

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

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

A lovely warming and delicious lamb tray bake

fanny and brendas delicious lamb tray bake

I found myself with two lamb steaks yesterday and, given that Brenda had gone on another date with someone unsuitable, I had the place mercifully to myself, although I did miss her potato peeling skills……

We’d also defrosted the freezer earlier in the day so I was keen to use up any veggies which seemed to be getting past their youthful prime (I’m not saying a word here!). The bottom tray in the fridge gave me some olives, some parsley, the aubergine was too far gone so that didn’t make it (highly unusual for us that) and in fairness, the courgette was picked straight from the plant in the garden. The tomatoes were quite recent purchases (Vine tomatoes so they taste of something) – and obviously your store-cupboard standbys of onion and garlic last for weeks no problem.

To just bring it altogether, I was lucky find also some quite fresh fresh rosemary and about a third of a bottle of dry white wine

Here’s what happened

fanny and brendas delicious lamb tray bake

Ingredients

2 lamb leg steaks (about 140g each)
1 medium red onion, cut into 6 wedges
2 cloves garlic, medium chopped – no big lumps but doesn’t need to be finely minced
1 tsp dried oregano/ 2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary – actually I used both, just adjust the quantities of each down a bit
150ml white wine
200g medium or small tomatoes – i had a mixture of both and just sliced the bigger ones in half, leaving the small ones whole
1 medium courgette – sliced into about 8 pieces – i did them diagonally for a change.
2 medium sized potatoes
50g black olives – pitted if not already
handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
olive oil
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

fanny and brendas delicious lamb tray bake

Method

Switch on the oven to 180°C and boil a kettle.

Peel and cut potatoes into wedges – about 6 from each spud and then transfer to smallish pan and cover with boiling water – bring back up to the simmer along with a good pinch of salt and carry on with peeling/slicing your onions, courgette, garlic and tomatoes (and pit the olives and/or chop your rosemary if necessary )

Heat a good splash of olive oil in a medium size roasting dish on the hob over a high heat. Drain the potatoes - which should have simmered for no more than 7-8 mins (which is how long the rest of the veg prep takes at the maximum), leave to steam dry for a minute during which time, give the lamb steaks a thin coat of oil and season both sides. Now gently place the par-boiled potato wedges in the hot oil, along with the onion wedges and fry on a high heat for 4-5 mins until picking up a nice golden brown colour.

Now place in the seasoned lamb (which should easily fit into an area unoccupied by veg) and fry for a minute or so on each side, along with the courgette slices.

Finally, tumble in the tomatoes, olives, garlic and chopped fresh rosemary(and/or oregano) and pour over the wine. Season but don’t over-do it as the sauce will evaporate during the cooking time and will thus concentrate the salt.

Place the dish in the oven for 15-20 mins, depending on how thick the cutlets are until the lamb is cooked. Don’t worry about keeping a perfect pink middle, but thicker cut lamb will obviously tend to stay juicier. In any case, the vegetables release water and combined with the wine should make a nice amount of sauce – not flooded, but very moistened. The potatoes, which will have only been half submerged, will be soft and fluffy underneath with a nice golden crust on top.

Scatter with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

fanny and brendas delicious lamb tray bake

Spanish Omelette

fanny and brendas gorgeous spanish omelette

A couple of Sundays ago  Brenda was sitting there rather bombed out  and, although this may be her usual state when seen through the eyes of a casual onlooker, to those of us who have the misfortune of observing her at close quarters, I could tell she was in a state. Was it the vapid, slack-jawed expression? Or the slumped posture? No, these are quite usual for her.

It was the fact that, with the changing of the clocks, we were now officially into autumn. I hear the cries of “Well that’s her favourite time of year! …and that therefore this ought to have improved her mood – the opportunity to wear even more padding than normal, thereby avoiding the necessity for depilation and plucking; and not bothering with her maquillage because it’s darker, so she doesn’t frighten so many people without it.

In fact the new season meant she had to do some work! One of Brenda’s very few talents is pie-making and it dawned on her that, with Britain’s bounteous harvest of autumn fruits, she had to make one. I thought it was quite normal that she filled herself with her favourite fruits all year round, but she doesn’t like discussing her private life. However you will find details of her gorgeous Blackberry, Blueberry and Apple pie here.

That set me to thinking what equally ordinary ingredients I could transform into a midweek supper. Having initially despaired at a bowl of cold, boiled potatoes, leftover from one of Brenda’s earlier meals (I go on strike a few times a week, forcing her to attempt something, which I nearly always regret). It occurred to me that with a few eggs and some fried onion, this could be transformed into something really delicious, and yet simple and quite quick. Traditionally, Spanish omelette is just five ingredients (potato, egg, onion, olive oil and parsley) but I’ve added a few extra ingredients which I happened to have and which fitted well with the basic recipe.

fanny and brendas gorgeous spanish omelette

Ingredients

about 500g cooked potatoes - sliced about 1cm thick
1 large onion - medium sliced
1 clove garlic – roughly chopped
1 red chilli – finely sliced
sprig of fresh rosemary – leaves stripped and roughly chopped
about 100g chorizo, sliced into rounds about 1/2cm thick
2 medium tomatoes – halved
about 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
small bunch flatleaf parsley - roughly chopped
6 eggs - loosely beaten
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Method

Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium low heat, add the onion and garlic and fry gently with a lid left open a fraction, stirring occasionally. You want them translucent and turning golden but you don’t really want too much colour, so half an hour should be more then enough.

When ready, take out the onions, add the rest of the olive oil and fry the chorizo “coins” and tomato halves for a few minutes each side. The oil will turn fragrant and red from the paprika-spiked chorizo. Remove them and set aside with your onions – and now add the potato slices and rosemary to the same paprika-fragranced oil, turn up the heat to medium high and fry for about 5 mins. After this time, turn them and add the onion, chorizo and tomato – plus the chopped chilli – back to the pan while the other side fries.

Meanwhile, switch on the grill to high and beat the eggs in a bowl to which you add the chopped parsley and a few good pinches of salt and pepper.

Turn the heat on the hob back to low, pour the seasoned egg/parsley evenly into the potato mix and let sit, cooking very gently, for about 10 mins.

Then transfer to the grill for 5 mins max to finish. Put a plate on the top of the omelette and invert, so what was on the bottom, is now on top! Give it ten minutes or so to cool a bit (it’s nicer warm than straight from the heat – and can be eaten cold), sprinkle with some more chopped parsley and serve tasty slices to your eager guests…..

fanny and brendas gorgeous spanish omelette

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!

Lemony Chard and Lentil Soup

summer lemony chard and lentil soup from fanny and brenda 

Our editor decided to bring some home grown chard with him that he had grown in his front garden. Bursting with freshness it would have been a crime not to have done something with it and bless me because there was soon a hive of activity around the oven.

Ingredients

500ml chicken stock
120g green lentils
1 medium chopped onion
1 courgette cut into cubes
1/2 aubergine cut into cubes
2 fresh tomatoes cut into cubes
1 fresh jalapeño pepper – sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 lemon – juiced and finely zested
1 tsp za’atar or sumac
1 tsp paprilka
1 tbsn fresh flast leaf parsley – chopped
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil

Method

I would like to say you can use water and a chicken stock cube for this, but you can’t. Or at the very least, I wouldn’t. But there again, I write this from a very advantageous position as the Fates were smiling on me (which I think was the Universe’s way of compensating me for Brenda’s hideous grimace).Not only did i have my own gorgeous chicken stock ready and awaiting me in the freezer, but, upon retrieving it from there, I chanced upon a little dish containing a disc of pure chicken essence (I’d been inspired to recreate an Elizabeth David butter roasted chicken, served it with its own juices, poured from a small jug. The following day, I discovered that underneath the 2 inch thick layer of butter, was a layer of, as I said, pure chicken essence. By the way, it was from a Norfolk Black chicken and you know what they say, once you’ve had black…..)

1) Set the chicken stock onto the heat and bring to the boil, adding the lentils

2) Start frying the onion, aubergine and courgette, then after 10 minutes, sprinkle on the sumac and add the tomato and jalapeño , continuing to fry for another 5 mins

3) Tip the contents of the frying pan into the simmering lentils, add about half the grated lemon zest and all the juice, the chard and the paprika

4) Simmer for another 5 mins or so until the chard is wilted into the soup

5) Serve with a rough chopped fresh flat leaf parsley and a light sprinkle of lemon zest

6) A slice of sourdough goes awfully well too.