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

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Olives Taste Test

olives taste test

I went to buy “some olives” the other day. Now you would think this would be a relatively straightforward task, with the choice whittled down from a few broad categories such as “green” or “black” “with pits” or “pitted” and perhaps a couple of stuffed options.

But no – I’ll save you the full rant but there was choice beyond what could be considered reasonable – I’m not advocating the return to the days when, within mine and Brenda’s lifetime, olive oil was procured from the chemist’s (being sold as a means to loosen ear wax). I expect actual olives also were similarly “exotic. However, 192 “versions” available at one well-known supermarket does seem unnecessary. We are, after all, discussing olives.

So, rather than getting bogged down with ensuring I got the “right” olives from the “right bodega” – I went for 2 options whose main distinguishing factor was price. The fact that the Moroccan “cheap” ones were merely moistened with oil (sunflower, at that) where the “deli” ones came swimming in a lake  of extra-virgin olive oil, further widened the already yawning price chasm. In fact nearly a quarter of the net contents of the ‘Olives Et Al’  jar was oil. Turning to the taste, while these things are nearly always subjective, Brenda and I both preferred the Moroccan ones – richer, tangier, saltier, denser. But we always had a soft spot for a Moroccan!

So £1.30 plays £3?  We’ll take the the Moroccan thank you – and for the price of  the ‘Olives Et Al’ we’ll enjoy more like 3 times the amount of olives in the process…

 

 

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Rather lovely Chicken Cacciatore

chicken cacciatore recipe from fanny and brenda

I was mulling what to cook for dinner one evening, as I so often do, when I came across Brenda who was engrossed at her computer. “What are you looking at that’s so interesting?” I enquired, nosily. She clearly hadnt heard my approach as the flustered look and speed with which the lid was slammed down (not in time for me to miss a flash of nudity though) told me a quite different story to the “I might be considering Internet Dating” reply I received.

Now don’t be fooled – behind Brenda’s stately facade, ls the soul of an alley cat. She therefore requires younger friends, with the stamina to keep up with her needs. Since it had also been her birthday, and a landmark one at that (for which I had bought her nothing), I thought what better than to make it up to the old chicken-chaser than with the reward of a Hunter’s Chicken – or as it is more pleasingly rendered in the Italian, Chicken Cacciatore

chicken cacciatore recipe from fanny and brenda

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs – boned, but skin on
1 tbsp flour (heaped – around 15g)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil
80g pancetta lardons or smoked bacon lardons
4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and well chopped
2-3 sprigs rosemary – I left mine as sprigs with good results but nothing to stop you stripping the leaves and finely chopping them
200-250g preferably wild mushrooms – I should have had Glistening Ink Caps and Horns or Plenty seen it was for Brenda but I used a mix of Forestiere and large flat field mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms, chanterelles and morels are other common wild mushies.
Good splash of dry white wine (about 50-100ml)
1/2 litre chicken stock
2tbsp tomato puree
small handful of dried red chillis – mine were Kashmiri which are not very hot – as always, use your discretion
10g dried porcini mushrooms – but soak them a for a good couple of hours (or overnight) in about a scant cupful of water and KEEP the soaking liquid.
Handful of chopped parsley
Approx 25g roasted pistachios, roughly chopped

Served with lentils

Method

chicken cacciatore recipe from fanny and brenda

1) Glug a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large casserole dish and set it over a high heat

2) Meanwhile, dredge your check thighs in the flour – plus season with salt and pepper.

3) When the chicken pieces are all coated and the pan hot, pop them in and fry for 6 -7 mins or however long yours take to go nice and golden.

4) Once this happens, set them aside, lose most of the oil (but keep any nice caramelised bits stuck to the bottom) and add the pancetta, rosemary, fry for s minute or two to give them a head start then the garlic which you don’t want to burn while the bacon and woody herbs turn darker and release their fragrances!

chicken cacciatore recipe from fanny and brenda

5).Now add the fresh mushrooms – chopped randomly depending on size but not too small – and the wine to cook and absorb for a few minutes – and follow that with the dried porcini and their soaking water.

6) Now switch the oven on to 180C (fan) and while that’s pre heating, return the chicken pieces to the pan, add the tomato paste to the stock, stir to combine, then pour the mix over the chicken dish, add the dried chillies and bring up to the simmer.

chicken cacciatore recipe from fanny and brenda

7) By this time the oven should be up to temperature so transfer the dish from the hob into the oven now,  Check after half an hour but it’s meant to slightly “catch” on top – which could be reminiscent of pots of food being cooked with an open fire. It looks attractive and gives the dish that extra layer of taste – you’ll probably need another ten mins which is just time to pour yourself a drink, roast off the pistachios for 4-5 mins and chop the parsley – add a sprinkle of the latter two as a final garnish when serving and apply as many mouthfuls of the former as you feel like/are necessary.

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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….

 

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Chinese Roast Pork with Stir Fry Vegetables

This is quite an undertaking planning-wise as the pork should ideally be left over night to marinate, so it would be good for an Easter celebration lunch. However, left for at least three hours should also give good results. You can also short-cut the mixing and roasting of the various spices by using a standard Chinese five spice blend but we’ve done the full home-made version here.
fanny and brenda's chinese pork stir fry at fannyandbrenda.com

INGREDIENTS
Pre-heat oven to 200°C
750g belly pork
5tsp sea salt
4tsp Szechuan peppercorns
3 star anise
1” cinnamon stick
1tsp fennel seeds
12 cloves
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cooking oil/veg oil

fanny and brenda's chinese pork stir fry at fannyandbrenda.com

INGREDIENTS for the stir-fry

500g bag of beansprouts
a carrot – sliced into batons
a red or orange pepper – sliced into approx 1cm batons
a few florets of tender stem broccoli
a small handful of sugarsnap or mange tout peas
a small handful of baby corn
a few asparagus spears
a handful of oyster mushrooms
a red chilli – finely sliced
a large clove of garlic (or two!) – minced
soy sauce
hoi sin sauce
oyster sauce
sesame oil
groundnut or vegetable oil

Pak choi – if using

fanny and brenda's chinese pork stir fry at fannyandbrenda.com

METHOD

The key is producing a tender and melting joint of meat with an intense and crunchy crackling – to this latter end, score the skin lightly (don’t go down to the flesh) with a Stanley knife unless you happen to have a particularly sharp carving knife. I keep a variety of weapons to hand as sometimes Brenda can be quite tense and occasionally needs fending off by force.

Next, boil the kettle and with the meat rind-side-up on a rack suspended over the sink, pour on the hot water. Leave to drain a moment and then pat dry.

Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan (you can use a wok but it’s probably over-large for this) over a medium heat and add the Szechuan peppercorns and the piece of cinnamon. Move these around regularly for one minute then add the star anise. Continue stirring to keep everything roasting evenly and after 30 seconds more, add the fennel seeds and cloves. Dry fry for another minute by which time all the ingredients should be turning one or two shades darker, the fennel and pepper may be beginning to crackle a little bit and just a haze of light smoke beginning to rise. Take off the heat immediately and continue moving around. The spices should be toasted and not burnt.

In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind these altogether along with the salt, then mix in the sugar.

Lightly oil the meat all over and then massage in the salt/spice mix – but particularly into the skin (rind). Leave in a cool, well ventilated area, lightly covered, at least a few hours but better overnight.

fanny and brenda's chinese pork stir fry at fannyandbrenda.com

When it comes to roasting, start at 200°C. While the oven is heating up, pour away any liquid which has accumulated around the pork (which is mainly excess moisture and salt) and put the pork on a wire rack placed over a roasting tray with a few cm boiling water poured in the bottom. The water level should not be touching the pork joint. Roast like this for 15 mins then turn down to 140°C for a further two hours. For the final 15-20 mins, raise the temperature again to 220°C to give a final fierce burst of heat to ensure that crunchy crackling! Take out and rest in a warm place for a 20 mins

Meanwhile, you can get to work on your stir fry which, apart from a little chopping and prep work, is made in minutes – here’s how
fanny and brenda's chinese pork stir fry at fannyandbrenda.com

METHOD for the stir-fry

The idea is to get your veg into pieces approximately the same size. Clearly, matching broccoli florets with batons of carrot is not going to be an exact science, but the lovely pictures we helpfully provide, should help. As a further hint, I just broke down the broccoli into fairly small individual florets, split the baby corn once lengthways, cut the mushrooms once or twice and split the carrots lengthways into either four or six and the peppers into slices approx half to 1cm width.. Sugarsnap peas I left whole.

If you also want to serve some pak choi, this can either be separated into its individual leaves, left whole or cut in halves or quarters lengthways. Just lightly steam just before starting the stir fry.

Get the wok nice and hot and follow with a couple of tablespoons (about 30ml) oil. When starting to smoke, throw in the minced garlic and stir fry for ten seconds or so – don’t burn it which will happen very quickly – then add in the veg and toss and coat quickly and continue to stir fry for about 1-2 mins.

Add the beansprouts and stir through, mingling and coating with the other veg for about 30 seconds and then add a few tbsp soy and the same of oyster and hoi sin sauces. Stir/toss a final time and switch off.

Just before serving, drizzle a few tsp of sesame oil, ditto on the steamed pak choi if using.

fanny and brenda's chinese pork stir fry at fannyandbrenda.com

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Fanny and Brenda’s quick Beef Curry

fanny and brendas quick beef curry

Now I know “we don’t do slumming it” and are “the most gorgeous party ladies”. But even belles of the ball like us need to have some slightly simpler, set pieces which can be put together simply. Brenda likes simple things, which explains a lot really.

Again, it may surprise you to learn that we do have occasional days off from our whirl of social engagements although most of the time I am trying to find ways of having Brenda permanently sectioned. To date I have failed, largely because Brenda invites herself on my jaunts as she did recently when there was fun to be had at Mrs Davida Clam’s, – Brighton’s ghastliest landlady (who some of you may remember from our recent visit there making seaside-appropriate fish pie), who on learning of Brenda’s self-invitation then had to cancel her “ladies macramé gathering” at her high class brothel, otherwise more widely understood to be a boutique premium AirBnB-listed luxury apartment. Brenda’s face simply wouldn’t have been acceptable at Mrs Clam’s that night, and I completely agree.

Meanwhile, with my evening at the macramé now ruined, all I can think about is a taste-bud twanging curry even though I’ll be far too resentful to stand there peeling and micro-dicing fresh ginger and roasting off and grinding individual spices to create  a home-made garam masala. And yet we’ll still want something which will be quick to prepare and cook which will be a step up from virtually all other “Curry in XYZ minutes” recipes you may have seen elsewhere. Anyway this is a recipe that is great for a cold spring night after work.

The secret is using a tenderer cut of beef which won’t need a lot of cooking, although you can use cheaper cuts if you’re prepared to simmer it longer – which achieves at least as good results but obviously nibbles away the time-saving. Here’s what you need and how to make it

INGREDIENTS

600g top rump – cut to 1” cubes. ‘Ready cubed’ saves time, although I cut up a joint.
2 medium onions – sliced or cut medium
4 cloves garlic – bashed, peeled and chopped medium. You could also use 4 tsp garlic puree but fresh is better and only takes 1 min
3 good tbsp ghee
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 heaped tsp ground turmeric
1 heaped tsp ground black pepper
1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder
1 level tsp ground ginger
5 cloves
3 cardamom pods – lightly bashed
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 regular can chopped tomatoes
3 or 4 dstspn  natural yoghurt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt
chopped fresh coriander to serve

METHOD

Heat a medium size deep frying pan which has a lid – or a medium casserole dish, add the ghee and once melted, fry off the beef cubes. Don’t worry about doing them in batches, just try to get some light browning – about 7 mins. Remove the cubes and set aside for now.

Into the same pan, but with the heat turn down to medium low add in the onions and garlic. Fry fairly gently for a good ten, but nearer 15 mins is better – so that you end up with lovely intense golden brown onions. At the point where the onions are nearly done, add in all your spices, turn the heat back up to medium high, to continue cooking out the onion/garlic/spice mix, about a further min or so.

Now add the can of tomatoes plus a bit of water if you don’t like your curries too rib-sticking – although careful with this as some yoghurt is about to get mixed in, plus it will in any case thicken naturally as the sauce cooks down.

When the mixture comes up to the boil, add the yoghurt and vinegar, test for seasoning and add salt as required, turn the heat to low and simmer for half an hour with the lid on.

Once the curry is tucked away, wash and set going your rice and chop up the coriander. Serve a bed of lightly buttered fluffy rice with good dollop of curry and a handful of the chopped coriander. Apart from perhaps a blob of your fave chutney or pickle and maybe a crisply fried poppadom, this really is a complete meal, easy to scale up for larger gatherings and will stand being made ready in advance to allow you to shine at your function – rather than developing one toiling in the kitchen while others enjoy.

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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

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Coconut Ice Cream

fanny klunge's homemade cocnut ice cream

We wanted to film one of our epic YouTube masterpieces and make a pineapple and coconut soufflé which required coconut ice cream. This sounds simple enough but, surprisingly, that particular ingredient was nowhere to be found in the apparent wilds of south London where there are, of course, no people of Caribbean origin who would never dream of eating anything with coconut in it.

So, instead of firing off “Inconvenienced, of Streatham” letters to our local supermarket management – or having a stand-up row with some of the smaller shopkeepers – I decided to make my own.

As for the soufflé, the idea was binned. After a couple of tries we realised that hot pineapple is dubious and the end result was disgusting. This ice cream recipe is delicious however!

Ingredients

400ml can of coconut cream
250ml double cream
300ml full cream milk
1 x 50g sachet creamed coconut
1 vanilla pod
6 egg yolks
165g golden caster sugar
60g desiccated coconut

Method

Combine the coconut cream, cream, milk and creamed coconut (break up the single piece into about ten smaller chunks to help it dissolve) in a medium saucepan. Split vanilla pod in half lengthways, scrape the seeds into the pan then place pod in pan.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until well combined and lighter in colour; when the milk pan is getting towards boiling, ladle out some of the cream into the beaten eggs and immediately whisk them together – this loosens the eggs and heats it a little which is called tempering and means you’re less likely to turn your whisked egg/sugar mix into scrambled egg when all of the hot cream goes in.

When the cream mix boils, add it to the tempered egg mix, whisking all the time,

Strain into a large heatproof jug, discard the vanilla pod and any small lumps which get caught in the sieve.

Switch on the small oven (if you have a double oven) to 180C should come up to temperature while you carry out the next step

Wash the pan quickly and return mixture to it. Set over a low to medium heat and stir constantly, without boiling, until it is thickened slightly – if you have a thermometer, it should read about 78°C. While the mixture is gently heating, put the desiccated coconut into an oven proof dish/pan big enough to allow the coconut to spread thinly over the bottom and place in the oven. You cannot, however, turn your back on stirring the egg/cream mix for more than a few seconds – and neither can you take your eyes off the roasting coconut as it will go from done to done-in in seconds! Around three minutes is all it will take to go a lovely toasty golden brown and that’s what you’re looking for – so you may need a second pair of hands here. But it’s do-able if you’re prepared to focus and have the confidence. Stir in the toasted coconut and pour into a baking tin, cover and freeze until almost set – 3 to 4 hours approximately.

You could then scoop out the partially frozen ice cream into a large bowl, and blend it for a minute or two with an electric whisk till smooth – but depending on the height of the baking tin sides, you might well be able to carry out this final stage in situ in the tin but you’ll need to judge that for yourselves. My tin had sides about three inches high and, although I did get a few splashes, was able to whisk it up in the tin, which saved transferring it and washing up!

Put in a tin or container that will approximately give you a block shape – like an old ice cream container, or loaf tin, for example – then freeze until firm. The whisking process mid-freeze helps get a bit of air into the mix and so give it a creamier/more scoop-able texture although you’ll still benefit from leaving it for 15-20 mins out of the freezer before serving.

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Spicy oregano chicken breast roll with avocado and lime mayonnaise

spicy oregano chicken breast roll with avocado and lime mayo

I’d spent the previous day chopping chickens, primarily for another batch of stock – feeling like a latter-day Dr Crippen (although that may have been influenced by Brenda’s “soothing conversation and light badinage”……..)

Anyway, I found myself with a couple of chicken legs and breasts going spare so thought I’d knock us up a quick and tasty lunch that’s partly a salad and partly a warm sandwich.

Ingredients

1 chicken breast
1/2 avocado
1 bread roll – like a focaccia or ciabatta
two pinches of dried oregano
pinch cayenne pepper

2 dsp mayonnaise
juice and zest of half a lime
small handful of finely sliced spring onions (green part)
pinch of red chilli flakes

olive oil
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Method

1) Bash out the chicken breast between two sheets of clingfilm, using the bottom of a pan, until it’s no more than 1/2 cm thin

2) Heat a medium frying pan on the hob while you rub a little olive oil onto both sides of the meat. Sprinkle a pinch of the oregano on each side – also, season with salt and pepper plus a light dusting of cayenne if you’re feeling adventurous but this can be omitted.

3) Slap the flattened breast onto the hot pan and hear the sizzle! Leave well alone for 2-3 minutes which you can use to make your dressing

4) In a bowl, add the mayo, lime juice/zest, finely sliced spring onion tops, chilli flakes and a little salt and pepper.

5) Turn the chicken breast which should be a lovely sizzling golden brown. While the other side fries, cut the roll in half and lightly toast. Also cut the half avocado into fine slices.

6) To serve, spread just under half the sauce onto the cut surface of each half of the roll, fan the avocado slices equally over each half. The other side of the chicken breast should by now also be golden brown and sizzling (having cooled altogether 5-6 mins). Cut it in half and place each piece on each half of the bread roll and spread the final tsp or so of dressing onto the chicken breast portion.

spicy oregano chicken breast roll with avocado and lime mayo

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Lemon braised chicken thighs in white wine with mushrooms and peppers and chive mash

fanny and brenda's chicken mushrooms and white wine with mash

I know many of the womenfolk out there will sympathise greatly when I say I was struggling for inspiration as to what to give Brenda for dinner yesterday – it’s not so much that she’s got a refined palette (she doesn’t), nor has the memory of an elephant such that she would remember if a dish I did in 1979 was presented to her again (she doesn’t) – even if other elements of her could be considered elephantine. Not that I’m saying that she or any aspect of her (hips) is of course, but some may think so. And they would be right.

No, it was more the case of not allowing Brenda to find any reason for complaint, in turn meaning I can continue being in a position in being untouchable during our many disagreements…

fanny and brenda's chicken mushrooms and white wine with mash

As always, this little creation came partly from what I know tastes good and doesn’t take forever – and partly from what I had available in the fridge. Do feel free to leave out the peppers if you don’t have them – and substitute aubergine, onion, asparagus etc, whatever you have.

You could also toss in a small handful of chopped capers with the parsley towards the end of the cooking time.

fanny and brenda's chicken mushrooms and white wine with mash

Likewise if you didn’t have chives, normal mash is just fine – for this version I simply changed my usual butter and cream for some olive oil and finely chopped chives

fanny and brenda's chicken mushrooms and white wine with mash

INGREDIENTS

4 chicken thighs (on the bone makes for a tastier sauce)
200ml dry white wine
250g mushrooms – sliced
1 red pepper – sliced
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
juice of a lemon
small bunch of flatleaf parsley – roughly chopped
olive oil
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

fanny and brenda's chicken mushrooms and white wine with mash

METHOD

1) Set a spacious casserole on high heat, allow to get hot, add a splash of olive oil and fry the chicken pieces for 10 mins, allowing to brown all over

2) Add the sliced mushrooms which will create water and ensure you gently start to scrape any brown gooey bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Arrange the sprigs of thyme around the dish.

3) After a further 5 or so mins, add the white wine and lemon juice and make sure your chicken pieces are at least half submerged. Turn the heat right down, put the lid on and leave to bubble gently for 15 mins.

4) Check to ensure the liquid level is still OK and add the peppers – these will also bring water to the dish as they cook down.

5) After another half hour of gently simmering, the chicken should be tender and falling off the bone – at this point add half the chopped parsley and contiunue to cook on the lowest possible heat for five more mins while you ready the mash and any other veg you’re serving with this – in my case today, just some olive oil fried courgette slices with fresh green chilli and dried red chilli.

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We don't do "slumming it", which is awfully bad English but there we go. Exquisite food for people who appreciate the better things in life.