Tag Archives: pasta

Smoked salmon and asparagus creamy pasta

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

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

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

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

Ingredients – serves 3-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linguine Carbonara

The Italians can understandably be somewhat protective over their food – they have after all been doing it rather well for over 500 years. I have not veered far from the traditional here, just refined it to our taste, which means it’s fabulous of course.

fanny and brenda's delicious linguini carbonara


50g pancetta or smoked, streaky bacon – cut into small cubes or strips. Plus 2 strips separately for serving

40g any soft, creamy blue cheese like St Agur – crumbled
40g Parmesan cheese – finely grated

40g strong cheddar – finely grated
150g chestnut mushrooms (or button)
2 egg yolks
200g linguine
2 cloves garlic – minced
50ml double cream
knob of butter
olive oil
Maldon salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 nutmeg – freshly grated


1) Put a large pot of salted water on to boil

2) Set a frying pan onto a medium heat, add the butter and fry the mushrooms, adding the minced garlic towards the end of the 5-10 mins

3) In a separate frying pan, fry the bacon/pancetta pieces in a little olive oil. Put the bacon in with the mushrooms but reserve the oil/bacon fat

4) Once boiling, add a glug of olive oil to the water and add the pasta which should take about 6 mins

5) Meanwhile combine most of the parmesan with the other cheeses, the egg yolks and the cream. Grate the nutmeg into this mix and a good pinch of black pepper

6) In the frying pan with the reserved bacon fat, gently re-heat and sizzle the two separate strips of pancetta/bacon

7) When the linguine has cooked, pull the pasta out of the water with tongs and place directly into the frying pan containing the bacon/mushroom mixture. It is perfectly fine, indeed necessary, for some of the pasta water to go in along with the pasta itself.

8) Switch on to a low heat and then gently combine the cheese mix into the mushroom/bacon/pasta pan. It should start to gently simmer as you stir and turn into an incredibly smooth, glossy sauce – it should not curdle or scramble.

9) You will probably need to add more pasta water as the linguine continues to absorb moisture and will tend to go thick and gloopy. Not elegant.

10) Serve into the awaiting warmed bowls, with a nice twist from the pasta tongs – you may even need to add a few more tablespoons of pasta water. Ensure you end up with a fairly thick but still very “saucy” consistency. Garnish with the reserved Parmesan and the crisped bacon.

Ragu sauce for Spaghetti Bolognese

spag bol by Fanny Klunge - and absolute treat!

If you think that the sloppy red chewy meat and tomato sauce commonly served in the UK with spaghetti (aka spag bol) bears much resemblance to what a wizened old nonna (excluding Brenda) would make for her extended family, then I have some work to do!

Once we’re over the idea that “spag bol” is something that can be rustled up in half an hour flat, between arriving home from work and slumping in front of the tv, that will be a significant step forward in understanding this wonderful, deep rich sauce which many of us currently quite possibly have our best understanding of, from a jar. At the same time salty, but thin (and probably loaded with sugar, too) over-seasoned yet utterly bland and one dimensional, some quickly fried up mince with a jar of this tomato-y horror is enough to consign this delicious, aromatic treat to our student days without a second thought.

It may look and sound a bit of a faff – and it is – but if you make sufficient quantity, you can make for four people with a dozen or more portions left over for freezing, to make it worthwhile. Incidentally, being a dish primarily composed of minced meat, this is excellent for those of you at home with a Spong – ours was manufactured in 1929 and looks like it was engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and, as Brenda will confirm, age is no barrier to efficiency, even if it is to looks. Transforming the leftovers of Sunday lunch into something you can use as the basis for your ragu sauce is as easy as shepherds pie. Here goes.


350g of beef mince
350g of pork mince
(you can just use 700g beef mince but it is just a richer thing if you use half beef/half pork. Also, these are amounts for meat that’s already roasted – and ground. If you’re using raw mince, increase the total amount to 1kg)
2 large onions – finely chopped
2 carrots – finely chopped
2 or 3 sticks celery – peeled and finely chopped
8 fat cloves of garlic – minced
200g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon – finely chopped
6 anchovy fillets
1 small can (approx 140g) tomato puree
1 tin tomatoes – 400g
250ml full fat milk
1 bottle red wine – something you’d drink, but not your best vintage.
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 bay leaves
small bunch thyme
6 cloves
1 level tsp ground nutmeg
olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper

grated parmesan and torn fresh basil leaves for serving


1) Begin by setting a medium/large casserole dish on a medium heat and adding a good splash of olive and adding your chilli and fennel seeds

2) Cook fairly gently for a minute or two until fragrant smells begin to waft about then add the onion, carrot and celery. Turn up the heat and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the veg mix is softened and translucent – it’s great if some of the edges start to gain a little colour but not 100% necessary. This stage should take around 10 mins, at which point add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves and a good pinch (say a teaspoon) of salt and a smaller pinch of black pepper. Stir in and cook another 2 mins. Don’t over-season at this point as this can be adjusted at the end of cooking – the reason being is that the sauce is quite intensely reduced so you don’t want to end up with it too salty.

spag bol by Fanny Klunge - and absolute treat!

3) At this point you can add the minced meat to the veg pan. It’ll be much easier if you’ve got your own home-ground stuff because it doesn’t clump together but obviously most will be using raw mince, so there’s nothing for it, but to stand over it stirring and chopping to make sure there are no big clumps of it and that everything gets a good chance to brown evenly. Be prepared to stand over it for up to 20 mins more

4) In the meantime, while the mince is browning, fry your bacon/pancetta in a separate pan a little olive oil until crisp. Tip the contents of this pan – oils and all – into the mince/veg pan, once the mince is sufficiently browned.

5) Even if you absolutely detest anchovies, I insist you now snip 6 of the little blighters into the mix – please please just trust me on this one, you will not taste anything fishy in the end product. Think of it like extra seasoning. By the way I also add the oil from the anchovy tin.

6) At the same time, add your tomato puree – if things are beginning to catch on the bottom, don’t worry, if anything it’s a good thing. Think of it in terms of the burnt bits in the roasting tray when you’ve made Sunday lunch – all great flavour!. However you obviously don’t want this to go too far so don’t be too long about getting your tin of tomatoes in, the liquid from which will obviously douse the ardour of the borderline burning happening. Rinse out the tomato and tomato puree tins, adding the water to the pot (so about 300ml of water altogether, plus most of the bottle of red wine.

7) Drop in the cloves (you could put these in a small muslin bag to make retrieval easier later on) and grate in most of a whole nutmeg if using fresh, or your tsp of pre-ground

8) Stir and allow to come up to the boil at which point turn down the heat to the lowest possible, pop the lid on and simmer gently for an hour – it’s possibly worth checking once or twice to ensure things aren’t sticking too much at the bottom.

9) Switch on the oven after 45 mins to 130C and 15 mins or so later, take the lid off the pot and add the milk fairly slowly which you have popped in the microwave for a minute or two to get hot but not boiling. Swirl through the ragu sauce and transfer, UNcovered, to the oven.

10) Check after an hour, stir, and confirm that most of the liquid has evaporated – the consistency should have changed from soupy to fairly thick. Put back in the oven for anything up to another hour and what you’re looking for is certainly not something completely dried out, but definitely very thick – some sauce spooned out should just about hold its shape as a heap on the spoon. Check the seasoning, still being a little circumspect as the parmesan for serving is pretty salty. Retrieve as many of the sprigs of thyme, bayleaves and cloves as you can

11) The sauce is now ready. It can be used as the “meat” filling in a lasagne – or, as I did today, in a spaghetti Bolognese. To serve, boil the pasta in water about as salty as sea water and a glug of olive oil. When cooked, drain most, but NOT all the water. You’re looking for approximately 3 tbsp water per person left. Then add around 3-4 tablespoons of ragu sauce per person to the pasta and stir in – the water will reconstitute the thick ragu which will loosely coat all the pasta. Don’t serve naked pasta with the ragu sauce just piled over it unless you want it to look like a Dolmio advert…..

12) Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan, torn/shredded basil leaves and a pinch of black pepper

13) There will be masses left over which, because it’s quite concentrated, can be conveniently frozen for at least two if not three further meals for four – thus you don’t have to go through the above each time you want to eat this and will, overall, have actually probably cost you less time than doing a “quick” version three or four times over. And, as if it needs saying, will also be three or four times as good……

spag bol by Fanny Klunge - and absolute treat!

Zucchini Linguini

fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini

This is one of those pleasing quick to make light tasty dishes, that is just so satisfying. And if you have vegetarian friends they will just love this recipe.

Ingredients (to serve 2)

2 courgettes
small tin of anchovies
handful of pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
tsp chilli flakes
1 lemon
200g of linguini
Fresh grated parmesan
Fresh chopped parsley to decorate


fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini

Take 2 courgettes and peel them with a potato peeler lengthways.

Meanwhile heat several good lugs of extra virgin olive oil and when hot, not smoking, fry strips of courgette.

fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini

Boil kettle full of water

After a few minutes, add crushed garlic to courgette pan, finely snip in the anchovies, scatter in the pine nuts and chilli flakes.

Once boiled, put hot water from kettle into roomy pan, add salt and tbsp olive oil – place linguine in water and cook as per packet instructions – probably 6-8 mins.

Meanwhile juice the lemon using a lemon squeezer, grate the parmesan and chop parsley (keeping an eye on your courgette pan!)

Drain pasta and immediately add to the courgette pan.

Add most of the lemon juice and parsley and toss everything together, removing from heat after 30 seconds.

Serve in warmed bowls with final sprinkle of parsley, the last of the remaining lemon juice and parmesan

Enjoy with a glass of fresh zesty white wine.

fanny and brendas delicious zucchini linguini