Tag Archives: economy eating

Using up leftovers – Plum Vodka Pudding

plum vodka pudding -using up leftovers

I have worked my way through our plum vodka which we made last year. The recipe is on the blog but having now enjoyed the plum vodka I was left with the plums which had been sitting in the base of the jar. As I had emptied the jar of alcohol it seemed obvious that the plums could now be thrown. Then I ate one. Oooohh! I quite liked its addled steeped lusciousness. Now I could have eaten them on their own and been quite happy but I thought “why not turn it into a pud?”. And do you know this one is quite decadently delicious, – but economic too. Try it with a splash of cream it really will give you a smile! And let’s face facts I have to face Fanny Klunge every morning so I need something to smile about.

plum vodka pudding -using up leftovers


50g butter
1 dst spoon of vanilla paste
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs separated
50g self raising flour
150ml milk
Decanted and de-stoned plums from the plum vodka kilner jar


Preheat oven to 180°C/340°F


Place the sugar, butter, vanilla, and yolks into a mixing bowl and whisk up

Add the flour with the milk

Butter up a baking dish

Place the plums in the base

Whisk up the egg whites till stiff and add to the yolk mixture

Pour the whisked up mixture over the plums

Cook for 40 minutes until it has a light brown topping

Leave to cool for half an hour and then serve with a small drop of cream!

plum vodka pudding -using up leftovers


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


140g self raising flour
4 large 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


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….


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.

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.

Economical Eating Part 2 – Our delectable Cottage Pie

fanny and brendas gorgeous cottage pie starts with the meat grinder spong

This is what happens with the leftovers from the roast featured in our previous posting. You need to be aware that for the time and trouble that you go to, the results will be spectacularly worthwhile. In fact you’ll never want to eat shop bought mechanically pelletted mince again.


Leftover roast beef
2-3 sticks celery – finely chopped
2-3 parsnips – finely chopped
couple of cloves of garlic – crushed
fresh rosemary and thyme – roughly chopped
tin of tomatoes
squeeze of tomato puree
splash of red wine
Worcester sauce
2lbs floury potatoes
butter and cream
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
ground nutmeg


1) Hopefullly you’ve got about 3-400g beef left over – anyway simply mince it through your Spong or other meat grinding device and set aside

2) Heat some olive oil in a spacious frying pan and add the finely chopped veg (onions, garlic, parsnips – in my case, but most people would use carrots instead) plus the herbs. Give that chance to get a really good fry, ideally with the veg dice being at this stage quite tender and even starting to brown a bit.

3) Add the mince which, being already cooked, should only take another five mins or so – I got a few crusty brown bits developing which is good – it’s all flavour – although you don’t want it getting too dry.

4) Transfer the meat/veg mix to a very large saucepan or pot and add the tin of tomatoes, tomato puree a good gush of red wine and possibly some water – use your judgement but bear in mind the pot will now gently simmer for the best part of an hour to really meld the flavours. During cooking, test the seasoning and add a few splashes of Worcester sauce. Once done, should have a loose, pulpy consistency, but not be too sloppy.

5) Meanwhile, peel and chop your potatoes and simmer in salted water for 25 mins until very tender. I actually recycled some from the pot roast which meant I was able to slightly cut down on the amount of fresh spud needed. Once cooked, drain and allow to steam off a few minutes then process through a ricer – there really isn’t another such foolproof way of guaranteeing smooth mash! Add butter, cream, salt and pepper plus ground nutmeg to taste (but max half a teaspoonful) and set aside. You do need the mash to be quite firm though otherwise it won’t keep it’s shape as a pie topping, so don’t over do the cream even though I can hardly believe myself for that command to self-control!! Switch on the oven about now, to about 170C if eating the pie immediately.

6) Once the meat sauce has simmered to the state where it looks rich and combined, usually around 45 mins, then transfer to a pie dish, then spoon on dollops of the mashed potato ensuring you leave it nice and rustic – bake, and while it cooks, the “peaks” will go darker and crispier than the rest, providing a very jolly effect!

7) I was lucky enough to have left over gravy from the pot roast, which I topped up with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquor from the meat sauce which seems to separate to the top of the pot in the earlier stages of simmering so is easy to retrieve for that purpose! This, along with a few frozen peas, (they’re done when they’ve JUST boiled) with some butter and seasoning makes for a simply superb winter supper – with the added advantage of hoovering up a lot of leftovers otherwise cluttering your fridge up and generally being wasteful.

fanny and brendas gorgeous cottage pie - there won't be any leftovers! photo by Simon Bennett

Cheap Eats with Fanny and Brenda – Beef Pot Roast

fanny and brendas economical eating part 1- beef pot roast

Economical eating does not mean eating poorer quality food. On the contrary, it can often mean eating better quality food if you have the interest in making your food go further. The results are surprising to many as you can often eat for the same price as those ‘value’ ready meals of stodge and have something far more enjoyable and of much clearer provenance too.

So today we start with Beef Pot Roast. This recipe is a gem and the whole house is filled with this marvellous aroma of beef stewing over a long period. It is one of the reasons why I love winter food as I have a love affair with unctuous stews and casseroles and meat dishes of this type. You will be able to feed a family of four with this dish and then in our next installment we will show you what to do with the gorgeous leftovers.


1kg beef topside or silverside
2 large onions – fairly roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic – fairly roughly chopped
3 carrots – cut into about 3-4 pieces
3 parsnips – cut into about 3-4 pieces
6 medium sized floury potatoes, each cut in halves or thirds
250ml red wine
600ml beef stock
olive oil and butter
sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper


1) Begin by adding a good lug of olive oil to your casserole dish and getting it nice and hot on the stove. Also heat the oven to 160°C. Having patted dry and seasoned your piece of meat, slap it down in the oil and just leave it for 3 minutes or so to get a really good crust. Turn, and do another side the same way until all sides of the joint are browned, which will take about 12 mins. People talk about “sealing the meat” which it hardly does at all – moisture can be lost or gained by the meat similarly whether raw or fried off first! What you are really getting by treating the meat this way, is FLAVOUR – the dark areas of caramelization both on the joint and stuck to the pan are the essential origins of a lot of your dish’s rich meaty savoury taste at the end.

2) Remove the browned meat to a plate and then stir in the chopped onions and garlic into the same vessel as you cooked the meat (obviously without washing it up first!), stirring quite a bit to make sure all those lovely crusty bits I mentioned above get incorporated into the liquid the onions release and they’re transluscent and quite probably also starting to brown a bit too – again, all super flavour!

3) Add the meat and any accumulated juices back into the casserole with the onions/garlic and now you can add your wine and stock. Once these have gone in, scatter some sprigs of fresh thyme and your bay leaves, plus any extra salt and pepper you feel the sauce might need. Place in the oven with the lid on and cook for an hour and a half to two hours.

4) When you take it out of the oven at this stage, you can tumble in your potato, carrot and parsnip (I don’t think parsnips are especially traditional for pot roasts, but there seems to be a great variety of suggestions as to what root veg accompanies the beef and frankly I used parsnips because a) we like them and b) we had some which needed using up).  I recommend about another hour back in the oven at this stage. Although the lid should have prevented most of the evaporation of the sauce, clearly it will be a little more concentrated than it was initially but this is good as again, it means richer flavour – in any case the veg do release some water during the last hour of cooking  – your meat may need longer, it all depends on the exact cut/quality – but what you’re looking for is a state of tenderness where you can just shred it apart with 2 spoons – which indeed  is a great way of serving it, perhaps in the middle of a platter, with the veg arranged round the edges along with some of the sauce spooned over the shredded beef – don’t forget also to take out the remaining twigs from the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves. As a final touch, I also added a knob of butter to the gravy once the meat and veg had been taken out the pot.

This is amazing one pot cooking – though we did add some buttered green beans to ours!