Category Archives: starters

Baba Ganoush

I was busy on the phone disapproving about something missing in the service from one of our feckless utilities, when I was rudely interrupted by a rather strident voice from the kitchen ordering my immediate presence to “enjoy Fanny’s Baba Ganoush”. For a minute I was lost for words, as the worst of all images came to mind in a flurry of hideous technicolor. I ended my call and pondered. Was it time to have Fanny sectioned? She had been taking her pills so I decided on a diplomatic response and tentatively entered her domain. Despite the awful possibilities that could have lain behind the invitation, the reality was much simpler. She had been busy making a dip, – which can also be a side dish or indeed part of a meze. This is really rather a pleasing number and accompanies bread or a main course with equal aplomb. It is of Middle Eastern origin and very flavoursome.

baba-ganoush-side-dish or starter -from fanny and brenda

INGREDIENTS
large aubergine
2tbsp tahini, plus more as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 lemons – juiced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

sea salt, to taste

extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley roughly chopped

METHOD

Preheat an oven to 200°C

Place the aubergine on a baking sheet, prick with a fork in several places, drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt and bake for about an hour till completely collapsed.

Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, slice open and scoop all the aubergine flesh out into a bowl – using a fork, mash to a paste.

Add the tahini, garlic, most of the lemon juice and the cumin and mix well.

Season with salt, then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.

Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl, form a shallow well with a spoon.

Drizzle some olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the chilli flakes and parsley.

Serve at room temperature.

Ideal with flatbreads and/or part of a meze

Asparagus with Hollandaise

asparagus and hollandaise sauce from fannyandbrenda.com

Given that asparagus has a fairly short season – and April is its peak – I thought it would be remiss of Brenda and I not to show you something made with these perky green spears. This is this quick to make – and feels like a quite exotic dish.

I’ve adapted this from Delia – so you know you’ll be in good hands, if further reassurance is required. This serves 4 and like virtually all other recipes, can be halved/doubled etc, to suit. Allow about 125g asparagus per person. By the way I have roasted the asparagus as I think it keeps in more flavour and is also easier to manage timings-wise; although you can steam or boil yours if you prefer (in which case do it at the end of the process, instead of towards the beginning, as per below)

Ingredients

500g asparagus – just gently bend, and the spears will snap off at the natural divide between the woody “end” which you discard and the tender part you use.
2 large eggs – separated with the yolks in one medium glass bowl and the whites in another
1 dstspn white wine vinegar
1dstspn lemon juice
100g butter
pinch sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
 

Method

Switch the oven on to 200°C and place a knob of butter into an oven dish or tray with sides, just big enough to hold your asparagus spears in a singe layer. Season lightly.

In a small pan, place the 100g butter on the heat and begin to melt gently.

Using an electric whisk, beat the egg whites till light and fluffy – the soft peaks stage is great (you’re not making a meringue so don’t go mad but don’t worry if you do, it won’t really matter…). Leave momentarily to one side.

Place a medium pan containing just an inch or so of water on the hob which should reach no more than a gentle simmer. Place the glass bowl containing the yolks over the pan – season with a pinch of sea salt and a little ground pepper and whisk using the same beaters that you’ve just done your egg whites with. After not much more than a minute, the mix will have turned lighter and already be quite foamy, so you can now go ahead and add the lemon juice and vinegar – continue whisking for another 30 seconds or so.

asparagus and hollandaise sauce from fannyandbrenda.com

By this time, the butter should have completely melted (take off the heat if done before as you don’t want it going brown or burning). If you need to enlist a friend, great, but the idea is to add the butter fairly gradually (a bit like making mayo) so it doesn’t all split. So long that you’re fairly deft about it, start with a few tablespoons of the butter and whisk in immediately. Keep going adding butter and whisking in – I suppose I combined all the butter into the yolks in about 5 cycles over around 2 mins.

Continue whisking for another 30 seconds or so and take the bowl off the pan of simmering water.. Take about a quarter of the egg whites and whisk into the yolk/butter mixture for just a few seconds, then again for half of the remaining egg white and then the other half (i.e. 3 cycles). You should have a gorgeously smooth, pale yellow, light but creamy and foamy sauce ready to apply to the asparagus. The bowl containing it can be placed back in the pan of  water to keep warm (but the water pan should itself be off the heat)

All of the above takes around 12 mins which is the point where you need to check the asparagus for doneness. It should still be bright green and tender, but not soft. Return for another 2-3 mins if it’s still a bit firm.

Turn out onto a warmed serving dish and coat generously with the sauce and sprinkle with black pepper. Yum.

asparagus and hollandaise sauce from fannyandbrenda.com

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.

Beetroot Dip

fanny and brenda's cocktail party beetroot dip

Beetroot Dip

Tired of the same old guacamole? Bored of ready chilled tzatziki? Me too! And don’t get me started on supermarket humus . If I have to hand around another plateful of taramasalata I think I will scream. So it’s time for a refreshing alternative, and a ready mixed one from the supermarket chillers won’t cut the mustard. The dip here is a tasty, creamy, and quite rich beetroot dip, informed with flavours from the chives, orange and garlic and it’s quick to make. It’s rather lovely and a good excuse for a cocktail party actually.

Ingredients

2 beetroots cooked, peeled and diced ready for the blender
Juice of 2 large oranges
1 garlic bulb squished
Handful of chives cut fine ready for the blender
400g soft cream cheese
A splash of single cream
Seasoning to taste

Method:

Put the beets into the blender and add the soft cream cheese

Add the chives,garlic,orange juice, and a splash of cream

Blend for two minutes

Pour out into small serving dishes

Serve with biscuits/toast/pitta. The dip works well with a crunchy accompaniment so if you use pitta, toast it first. Celery (remove the skin as it’s stringy) and carrot batons are also equally good.

Sesame seed chicken mince patties with intense dipping sauce

fanny and  brenda's chicken sesame balls recipe

Ingredients

1 slice stale bread, crust removed or about 75 g breadcrumbs
500g minced chicken
1 medium onion – grated
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 thumb fresh ginger, grated (you should end up with 2-3 tsp grated ginger)
1 egg
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chilli  flakes
small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
salt
groundnut/sunflower oil for frying

for the sauce

3tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
3tbsp shaoxing rice wine
3tbsp chinkiang rice vinegar
1tsp Chinese 5 -spice

Method

This is a light course and recommended as a lunchtime special! If you are using cooked chicken, minced yourself, you’ll need to reduce the amount by about 20% as there’s a lot less water in that than found in raw chicken, so you’ll have the same amount of actual meat. Therefore I actually started with much nearer 400g which is an amount usually salvageable from the Sunday roast and is a great way of using up some frozen leftovers  (or indeed fresh from only a day or two back if you dont want to freeze any leftover chicken, and so have fresh cooked chicken available – moreover  in a really professional-looking, authentic tasting and unusual way.

1)  Put the chicken mince in a medium size glass bowl, soak the bread in water (or even a few mls of chicken stock if, again, you had a bit left over that wouldn’t quite fit in the containers when you made your last batch.  I have found it easily lasts a few days in the fridge so long as you leave it alone and covered), squeeze out any excess and mix into the chicken along with the grated onion, ginger and garlic.  If you are using cooked chicken mince, you will certainly need to crack the egg in – even more so if using your own breadcrumbs, which will of course make the mixture intrinsically drier than an equivalent starting point with shop bought ready-minced chicken and/or soaked bread. You can further add a few tsp sesame oil, which not only gives a more authentic, rich flavour, but will likewise help to bind the mixture. You really want to end up with a ball of mix with the consistency a bit lighter/looser than Play-Doh

2)  To this, you now add the chilli flakes (and you could certainly use finely chopped fresh red chilli too although remember you’re giving it a background heat and flavour, and not the full-on Phall curry experience measured in millions of units on the Scoville scale!  Then in goes a handful of chopped coriander (not too fine, you dont want to turn your fresh green herb into something akin to Pesto!) plus a tbsp or thereabouts of light soy sauce (that’s the saltier one compared to dark soy sauce which is more added for colour). Form the mixture into little patties about 2cm thick and a bit smaller than the palm of your hand. You’ll get 12 or so usually, depending on the exact size.

3) Some advise frying them off like this then rolling the fried patties in sesame seeds  straight afterwards, but I found the chicken mix was moist enough to protect the sesame seeds from going too brown (ie burning) so I rolled the patties in the sesame seeds before cooking and shallow fried for around 2-3 minutes on each side, turned out onto several layers of kitchen roll and the exterior was beautifully crisp with that gorgeous toasted sesame taste that would have been heightened by the frying process,

4)  While you’re frying the patties off, mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small saucepan and boil rapidly till it’s reduced by as much as a quarter by which time it will be syrupy. Strain it through a small sieve or tea strainer into a tiny bowl (like a salt cellar – which is a good example since it’s a powerful condiment) and serve as a dip for the hot and crisp patties. Maybe for colour, texture and some counterpoint for the very intense flavours from the patties with the dip, you could serve with some sliced cucumber – and even rice too if you wanted to make a main meal of it rather than a starter or snack.

Potted Shrimps

potted shrimps recipe from fanny and brenda

We don’t often say this, largely because we think a lot of quick recipes simply aren’t up to scratch, but this one can be done in a trice and is absolutely delicious. Please see the video which shows that with five ingredients and seasoning, you can have this recipe ready to chill before serving within 15 minutes.

Ingredients

250g butter
2 bay leaves
Half a lemon
Pinch or two cayenne pepper
(about 200g) Brown shrimps (we had enough for 5 ramekins)

Method

Melt butter in pan with a pinch or two of cayenne pepper and bay leaves

Place brown shrimps in ramekins

Pat down and add butter to submerge the shrimps

Decorate with parsley leaf on each ramekin

Place in fridge to chill

Warm chorizo and quails egg salad

Fanny Klunge's Chorizo and Quails Egg Salad

Warm chorizo and quails egg salad (serves 4)

approx 100g rocket leaves – either snipped,
or more conveniently if slightly less desirably, from a salad bag.
125g chorizo, sliced into “coins” about 3mm thick
8-9 quails eggs

For the dressing

olive oil
white wine vinegar or lemon juice
Dijon mustard
runny honey
sea salt
cracked black pepper

Start by making the dressing by whisking together 6tbsp olive oil to 2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice (or combo thereof, if you like), a tsp mustard, a tsp honey and plenty of salt and pepper. Set aside

Boil kettle

Place chorizo in a dry frying pan and switch on hob to medium high heat – as the chorizo warms, it will start to release its oils and fry. After a couple of minutes, it should be getting crisp in which case, flip over the pieces, fry on the other side for a few minutes until also getting crisp then switch off heat. I also few off a few teaspoons-full of the gorgeous paprika-laden oil and mixed it with the dressing but this isn’t compulsory

Use hot water from kettle to set pan of water on to simmer then carefully put quails eggs in to boil. They’re so tiny they will only need 1 1/2- 1 3/4 minutes to reach a point where they are hard boiled but retain a soft yolk. They can be retrieved using a slotted spoon and then, as they lose heat so fast, can almost immediately be picked up by hand and run under the tap for about 15 seconds which will totally stop any cooking without turning them fridge cold which is not desirable given this is a warm salad!

Peel the eggs.

In a large bowl, dress and toss the leaves

To assemble, gently pile a handful of the glossy leaves onto a plate, scatter some crisp slices of chorizo and two quails eggs, all of which should still be warm.

For those who cant do without carbs, a few croutons are ideal, plus they add extra colour and crunch!

Chick pea cabbage and chorizo soup

This really is a lovely fresh and warming soup with vital flavours that are good for cold days. Nourishing and gorgeous, there won’t be any leftovers when you make this recipe!

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Ingredients

1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
1 chorizo – they’re usually 200 or 225g – cut into fine rings
I small Savoy cabbage finely sliced(although any dark green leafy cabbage will work well – just avoid the almost white, very crunchy versions – the sort associated with coleslaw)
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed.
1 lemon or lime cut in halves
1 litre rich chicken stock
Fresh thyme/lemon thyme
3-4 bay leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
Olive oil

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Method

Gently heat your chicken stock which should take about 20 minutes to start simmering, during which time…

Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes in several tablespoons of olive oil, fairly slowly. Then add the chorizo and continue to fry for at least another 10 minutes so that the vegetables get really transluscent and also with some edges turning brown although be careful not to burn as the garlic easily goes bitter. The chorizo should be getting some crispiness and also have released beautiful reddish brown oils.

Add a paprika, chilli, thyme and bay leaves and continue to fry for 1-2 minutes until the pan is releasing very rich spicy aromas.

Now add the simmering chicken stock directly to the onion pan and stir together. Then immediately add the chickpeas and lemon/lime halves and simmer for 5 minutes.

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Finally, add the sliced cabbage, simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the cabbage is tender but not mushy. Remove the citrus halves and squeeze any remaining flesh/juice into the soup. Given the saltiness of the chorizo, you should only check the seasoning at this point – adjust accordingly with sea salt and black pepper.

Serve immediately in warmed bowls with an additional squeeze of lemon juice and some finely chopped parsley. You definitely won’t need bread with this as the chick peas and rich, meaty, paprika flavours make for a satisfying, but still quite light and immensely tasty meal.

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

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.

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Quick and delicious Prawn Pil Pil

Prawn Pil Pil – it’s small, hot and immensely flavoursome. It’s very satisfying and although we have listed it as a starter, it can also double as a light main course for a summer’s evening.

Ingredients
Preheat oven to 200° and put ramekins or small pots in to heat up.
6-8 jumbo king prawns per person
A red chilli per person
A clove of garlic per person
A squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped parsley

Chop dried red chili and garlic
Remove the digestive tracts from the prawns
Fry lightly in 50ml of oil per person
prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter
Add the prawns to the pan of chili and garlic until they go pink. (Approx 3 minutes)
prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter

prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter
Empty the contents into the preheated dishes
Add a quick squirt of lemon juice and some chopped parsley, serve with some lovely fresh bread, and you’re ready to eat.

prawn pil pil - a simple but delicious starter

This should be served bubbling at the table. It’s hot, spicy and outrageously wonderful. The prawns probably don’t agree.