Tag Archives: chicken

Southern (London) Fried Chicken

south london fried chicken - great food  and a favourite yummy recipe from fanny and brenda

I was feeling a little faint from my recent little bit of calorie counting and it’s at that point  I realised I was in danger of purchasing fast food.  Now most of us live near at least  one purveyor of such edibles but in south London, the choice is very wide, 24/7. This was an emergency – so I made what I thought was on balance a good decision; namely, I knew I was going to cave, but at least I thought if I made it myself, I could mitigate the harm both in terms of what I was swallowing (and who hasn’t done damage control there I ask you?) – and to my reputation in terms of being seen in curlers and Brenda’s stained bed jacket. Long story. Not a good week.

When you factor in the improved quality and taste  – not to mention the cost advantage – it’s well worth a go, particularly once you’ve done it a few times and are “set up” for it. Be warned though, you may find it so addictively good that you regularly exceed the Government’s recommended limits on consumption of “the good stuff”……..



4 chicken breasts – each cut into two, 4 thighs, 4 drumsticks -  I had this number as I’d just cut up 2 chickens to use the carcass for stock. This quantity should easily feed around six people.

600ml (around a pint) of buttermilk. I couldn’t get this on the day, so I used sour cream – or could have used creme fraiche or even yoghurt, let down with a bit of water to make it a bit more liquid.

1 onion – finely diced or sliced. You could easily cheat here and use a dessertspoon or so of onion powder. In fact it would probably be better.

1 or 2 cloves garlic – crushed (or, as per the onion above, about a tsp of garlic powder)

Hot chilli sauce – like Tabasco or Encona

About 100g self raising flour – but you can get away with plain if that’s all you have – although half a tsp baking powder added in that case, would be nice.

2 medium eggs (or one extra large one)

splash of milk

good couple of big pinches of salt

around 1 1/2 litres cooking oil – veg, sunflower, peanut, canola etc – your choice.

south london fried chicken - great food  and a favourite yummy recipe from fanny and brenda


2 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 tsp paprika (I used half in half hot- and smoked-)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme


Ideally, if you have time and the power to predict 24 hours in advance when you will have a craving, please do feel free to “brine” your chicken pieces overnight. The acid in the dairy tenderises the meat, helps keep it juicy after frying and really works the wondrous spicy flavourings well into the chicken. Because, also, the buttermilk both provides flavour itself to your crispy coating and a means by which your spice mix can stick to the chicken pieces, it’s absolutely fine to do this stage immediately before cooking. The chicken Brenda and I used for the video, had been marinating for 2 days. It’s up to you.

south london fried chicken - great food  and a favourite yummy recipe from fanny and brenda

So, in a medium to large size bowl, pop in your chicken pieces, buttermilk, onion and garlic (slice, dice, or powder – up to you), salt and loads of hot pepper sauce – maybe a third or half a small bottle (I’d say around 50-75ml) It may seem excessive but don’t forget the vast majority will be drained off the chicken pieces. It’s messy, but massage in thoroughly with clean hands and leave while you carry out some of the next stages if you’re cooking immediately – otherwise cover with cling and refrigerate over night.

If expecting to accompany your chicken with some fries (or chips, to us Brits), now might be an idea to make them.  By the way a good tip for those is keeping them in submerged in water (even better if it’s from a just-boiled kettle) with some salt and sugar added – stops them going brown before you’re ready to fry them, draws out some of the water which makes them fry to a crispier state – and if you’ve used boiling water, pre-softens them a bit before frying. Pat dry on kitchen paper before doing so. Or just use frozen bought ones.

south london fried chicken - great food  and a favourite yummy recipe from fanny and brenda

The question of accompaniments aside, now is definitely the time to get your dish of flour ready and make your spicy seasoning mix. If you don’t mind cooking your own “fast food” and enjoy the results (at least more than the offerings from whichever vendors you have previously sourced), to streamline this stage in future, you can always make up a big batch so you have spare mix pre made.. Should last OK for up to 6 months if stored in a cool, dark place in a sealed jar.  It’s Ok to simply mix up all the seasoning ingredients as they are and voila – but I wanted to make sure that the mix ingredients could incorporate thoroughly together/with the flour and stick super-well to the chicken pieces so I put the salt (Maldon sea salt crystals are quite big), cracked pepper, oregano and thyme into my spice grinder and whizzed to a fine powder. A mortar and pestle would do this too.The paprika, cayenne and garlic are already finely ground so even if, like me, you’re wanting a nice even powdery blend, these can be used as they are.

The quantities listed above are about right for the stated amount of chicken so just put the spice mix in a bowl or small oven tray ready for use and, in another dish, beat the egg(s) with a splash of milk, a few more dashes of hot chilli sauce and a few pinches more or garlic powder.

Now put the oil on to heat up on the hob, in a big spacious pot which should ideally allow the 1 1/2 litres of oil to come up to around a third – but definitely not more than half – full. While this is heating up,take the chicken pieces out of their creamy bath and allow to drain on a wire rack. Even on a high flame, it may take up to ten minutes to get to temperature but, depending on the size of your chicken pieces, you may need to fry cooler for longer or hotter for a shorter time – this is both to avoid over-cooking the coating while under-cooking the chicken. Generally, 160C seems to provide a fairly moderate simmer, you definitely don’t want the oil smoking hot and burning everything, If no thermometer to hand, test after about 8 mins with a cube of bread which should just sizzle nicely and go golden brown in about a minute.

So, to get that finger-licking coating, first lightly sprinkle some of the seasoning mix all over the chicken pieces, then add the rest of it to the flour. Now thoroughly dredge the chicken pieces in the  (seasoned) flour, then through the egg mix and then once again back through the flour. This will give you a fabulously crispy carapace to bite through! At this point, all that remains between you and that crunchy, spicy satisfaction is to fry the chicken off. You’ve got this far so do be patient and do therefore fry in batches as there’s no way you’ll be able to fit this much into even a big (4 litre) pot – so have the oven on low (like 60C) and a tray lined with kitchen paper so you can keep the completed batches warm. Lower each piece in carefully using tongs or a slotted spoon – I reckon 3 big pieces or 4-5 smaller pieces max. When the chicken goes in, make sure the flame is turned down to medium low as any higher and it goes too fast. You’re looking for a core temperature of 75C or, in the absence of a food probe, for the juices to run clear – test cut a piece when you think it’s ready and return if there’s any pink juice which comes out. Another helpful hint is that the pieces float to the top when they’re done and the sizzling sounds of the frying has become quite quiet.

PS, As well as making fries, I steamed and buttered a corn on the cob to serve!

south london fried chicken - great food  and a favourite yummy recipe from fanny and brenda

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


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


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.

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.


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


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

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


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


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.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

slow cooked chicken and winter veg with lemon and thyme

Slow Cooked Chicken Stew and Broccoli

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

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

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

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

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

INGREDIENTS for the chicken stew

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

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

INGREDIENTS for the broccoli

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

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

Method for the Chicken Stew

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

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

Method for the broccoli

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

slow cooked crock pot chicken stew with broccoli

Chicken & Tarragon Pie

fanny and brendas filo chicken and tarragon pie


500g rough puff, or filo pastry
400 g cooked chicken – chopped or shredded roughly
300g mushrooms – button are fine, but obviously more flavour is to be found in the black field mushrooms – or chestnut mushrooms
2 medium onions – fairly roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic – finely chopped, but not minced
small bunch flat leaf parsley – de-stalked and the leaves roughly chopped
small sprig fresh thyme – leaves taken off
few stalks of fresh tarragon – leaves taken off stalks and very roughly chopped
1 level tsp ground nutmeg
1 bayleaf
1 heaped tbsp flour
large knob of butter
150 ml chicken stock
150 ml dry white wine
150ml full cream milk
glug of olive oil
1/2 lemon or lime
1 lightly beaten egg
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

fanny and brendas filo chicken and tarragon pie

As I compiled the above list, I felt, frankly, a little bit of a dweeb – the reason for which is that really, quantities are largely superfluous, certainly where the main ingredients are concerned. Just use what you have left on the carcass (within reason – if you are unfortunate enough to have teenage children, you may find yours stripped bare and useful for nothing more than the stock pot). In my case, I had a nice plump breast and an equally fetching thigh salvaged from a large chicken and that, after de-boning, getting rid of any tendons and other gristly bits, happened to give me 400g. If it had been 250g or 500g, great, no problem – you could always add a bit more mushroom – or vice versa if you’re strong in chicken and weak in mushroom.

Likewise, if you haven’t any chicken stock, just use a bit extra wine and/ or milk – or even water. This ends up a very tasty dish almost whatever you do, so you probably don’t need to deploy the standby block of hydrolysed vegetable protein and salt, aka a stock cube.


1) If you’re making your own pastry – well done! If you are using shop-bought then fine but do check out our puff pastry recipe on this blog which is quick to make. Either way, roll it out around 2-3 mm thick and to give you enough area to line your pie tin which, with the quantities above, should be big enough to take around a litre of liquid. Butter and flour it before lining and do remember to cut a separate piece for the lid. If you wish to create “artistic” motifs, please feel free to do so if you have leftover pastry – we didn’t bother as Brenda’s attempt at a chicken shape looked more like a pig. It was a good self portrait though I have to say.

Switch on the oven to 200°C fan assisted

2) Make the sauce. Start off with a roux, in other words allowing a knob of butter to melt in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, then adding the flour and cooking it for 2-3 mins until it’s light golden brown and smelling toasty. Then whisk in your milk, wine and stock which should, after another few minutes, give you a smooth glossy and fairly thin sauce, about the consistency of double cream. Season with salt and pepper and the chopped parsley, bayleaf, tarragon and nutmeg (if using) – and finally a squeeze of lemon or lime. Set aside.

3) In fairly large frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil and another knob of butter and then add to the pan the onions, mushroom and garlic and thyme. When the mix has released its water and is starting to go from translucent to beginning to pick up some light, golden colour, tumble in the chicken pieces. Stir in thoroughly and fry for a couple of minutes more – you’re not really looking to add any more colour at this point, it’s really a combining and warming-through exercise.

4) Combine the two pans together (so, the sauce and the chicken/mush/ mix – it doesn’t matter which you add to the other) and pour into the lined pie dish. Brush the edges with the beaten egg and skilfully lay the pastry lid over the top. Crimp together by going round with a fork and finish with a brushing all over the lid with the egg wash. Don’t forget to make one or two steam holes.

5) Bake for around 30-35 minutes until the crust is a delightful golden brown and should be light and crisp. It makes enough for 4 people so Brenda and I enjoyed it two nights running, both times accompanied by creamy mash and, on evening 1, some runner beans from the garden and evening 2, some olive oil and chilli fried courgette rounds, also from the garden. A winner.

fanny and brendas filo chicken and tarragon pie

Sesame seed chicken mince patties with intense dipping sauce

fanny and  brenda's chicken sesame balls recipe


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
groundnut/sunflower oil for frying

for the sauce

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


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.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

fanny and brenda make a sumptuous chicken with 40 cloves of garlic a classic french recipe, photo by simon c bennett photographer

In the video Fanny shows us how to make Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. This is one of those dishes that is a delight, and you always need enough for seconds as everyone will want them. It is good for a nice autumnal evening with friends and family, together with some colcannon potato and some greens.


1 large chicken, jointed into wings, thighs, drumsticks and breasts which should be cut in half.
300 ml olive oil
3 heads garlic
6-7 sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme
5 bay leaves
2 lemons
200 ml white wine
200 ml chicken stock or water
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C

During our clip, we fried off the chicken pieces first for about 10 minutes and this is perfectly fine. However strictly speaking I really dont think it’s necessary as it gets deliciously browned during the main part of the cooking in the oven.

Take your three heads of garlic, split in to cloves then peel about a third of the cloves. Add both peeled and unpeeled cloves to the dish in which you have fried off the chicken. We used paella dish which meant the frying and main cooking took place in the same vessel. Any heavy cast iron casserole or cooking pot would be ideal.

Nestle sprigs of fresh thyme amongst the chicken and garlic cloves, along with the bay leaves, two halves of the lemon, the white wine and stock/water. By the way although I used stock, water really is fine as the meat is on the bone so, along with the herbs and wine, makes its own stock as it cooks. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cover with lid or tin foil and put in the oven for 45 mins. After this time, check for ‘doneness’ but either way, an extra 15 mins in the oven, UNcovered ensures you get a lovely golden brown colour and crispy skin. If you need to add any extra liquid to ensure there is a good gravy after the final 15 mins, dont be afraid to do so.

a delicious bacon cabbage colcannon style mash accompanies this classic french recipe very well indeedA delicious bacon cabbage colcannon style mash accompanies this classic french recipe very well indeed

Remove from oven and take the chicken pieces and unpeeled garlic cloves out of the cooking pot and allow to rest somewhere warm for 10-15 mins, covered in tin foil (use the same pieces as you covered the dish with).Pour off excess olive oil from the pot – this can be reserved for all sorts of applications where a garlic and herb infused oil would add something to future dishes you create! Also remove the thyme and bay leaves – discard. Remove the lemon but squeeze any remaining flesh/juice into the gravy. Lastly, mash the peeled garlic cloves into the gravy, so that they become part of the gravy.

You should then have a fairly thick sauce, about the consistency of double cream, made from the remaining olive oil but mostly from the gorgeous chickeny, lemony, herby, garlicky juices. This can then be drizzled round the chicken pieces which we plated with a potato, cavolo nero and bacon mash.

fanny and brenda make a sumptuous chicken with 40 cloves of garlic a classic french recipe photo by simon c bennett photographer