Monday, 19 February 2018

A Potted History of Cheese

Fanny Cradock has decided that the time is right. We've been through a lot together. Different ingredients. Different skills. Different techniques. We don't even need to mention all the different colours. We've done it all. Well, almost. Fanny has saved a particularly important aptitude to impart to us until now. We are ready. We are excited. We are cooking with cheese.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

Leftover cheese is not something which features heavily in my life, I have to admit. Fanny however has an idea from Ye Olde Days of Old for that challenging time when perhaps my refrigerator is blessed with more cheese that I can handle. My first reaction would be to simply eat it, however Fanny has a much more sophisticated solution should I find myself in such a pickle. Pot it.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

For this preserving technique, Fanny chooses Cheddar. First of all Fanny would like to clear something up. A fallacy. According to her, Cheddar was NEVER matured in caves at Cheddar Gorge. They are simply too cold and too damp for the job. Fanny says that English Cheddar is the best in the world. Cheddars of other countries are considered inferior. My Cheddar is Scottish.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

Fanny reckons that there is only ONE Scottish cheese on sale which is worth mentioning at all. Dunlop. It responds very well to being creamed down, apparently, with half it's weight in butter and the classic alcohol of the country it comes from, whisky. Fanny tells us that Dunlop was first made in 1688 by a dairy woman, Barbara Gilmour, and is an excellent cheese for toasting or for an imitation fondue. I still only have Cheddar. Scottish Cheddar.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

To 'pot' this already inferior cheese, Fanny grates it and adds it to a double-boiler with a tablespoon of thick cream, a few tablespoons of sherry, some butter and quickly scissored chives and tarragon. Fanny stirs the mixture over a gentle heat until it turns creamy and pale green in colour, before adding seasoning. Straight into sterilised pots, packed in well and covered with a covering of clarified butter when cold and then a well-fitted lid. Preserved Cheese. It still will not last long in my hands, but it is a super oomph in the savoury stakes and perfect with toast.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

Monday, 12 February 2018

Are Friends Electric?

Fanny Cradock had a chequered career off screen, as well as a chequered life. One of her many and varied careers was as a food demonstrator, convincing the housewives of Britain, at Ideal Homes Exhibitions and the like, to ditch their old cookers and install a brand spanking shiny new Gas one instead. It had to be Gas. She said she never cooked with anything else, she simply wouldn't trust it. She was of course sponsored by the Gas Board throughout her career, and she remained loyal - even repeating the same line on her final television cooking performance on TV-AM in 1985. Another face appearing on TV-AM in the early days was food demonstrator, retro-lover, Fanny-fan and all-round appliance expert, Jenny Webb. Had their paths ever crossed, I wondered...?

I never met Fanny but saw her on stage a number of times. An absolute enthusiast, entertaining and an exceptional communicator. Fanny and I operated in different worlds – and she was, of course, very much in a league of her own. Throughout my career, my world was not just about cookers, but all domestic electrical appliances. I was involved in developing test specifications in conjunction with the IEC and BSI, lecturing, writing and/or advising and being interviewed by the media and the public. As The Electricity Council's National Home Economist I also advised the home economists of each of the regional Electricity Boards (NORWEB, SEEBOARD etc) before they were privatised in the 1990s. Cookery demonstrations were a part of my early years in the electricity industry, having studied ‘domestic science as it used to be called...

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

What was the rivalry like between the gas and electricity appliance people, if any? Do you still cook on electric today?

My home is totally electric as I had the gas disconnected when we moved into the house in 1965 as I felt that if I was in the Industry I should practise what I preached!  The Electricity Council employed one of Fanny's biggest rivals, Marguerite Patten to represent the use of electricity for cooking. I also wrote a recipe book with Marguerite, where she advised on conventional cookers and I wrote the microwave recipes.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Fanny published over 100 books, including over 45 cookbooks, many of which covered ‘new’ things such as Cooking with Foil or perhaps using Tinned Goods - but never Microwaves - her last cookbooks in 1985 would’ve been her only chance I guess. Perhaps she was waiting for the Gas Microwave to be invented! What do you think about the current or recent ‘trend’ for Microwave cooking - Microwave Mug cakes and things like that?

In 1985 only 14% of homes had a microwave. As I understood the technology and construction, plus with my background I was able to educate the public through my books and magazine pages. Initially I read and tested recipes from American cookbooks to familiarise myself and then developed recipes for the British needs. New developments are always interesting and exciting and younger people can use their own knowledge to meet the needs of today.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Things spread so quickly on Social Media these days - you have a great presence on Social Media - I love your Twitter and YouTube videos. Fanny too was a great communicator, but obviously social media wasn’t around in her time. I think she’d be ALL over it though… How do you find it? Do you think it’s helping to bring retro back?

What a shame Fanny isn’t around with her own YouTube channel today - she was a total one-off. But I must confess, I was initially hesitant about putting my TV back catalogue on YouTube, yet I’m now so delighted I did. However the success of my retro channel has amazed me – not just in the UK but also the USA, Australia and Europe! I never imagined that I’d end up back in front of a camera either! But the success of all my old clips, sparked my TASTES OF THE 70s series being filmed especially for YouTube. It was actually all shot in just one-day involving a lot of hard team work. It was a lot of fun too – with me running up and down stairs changing my genuine 1970s frocks, whilst trying to retrieve the clip on microphone from goodness knows where... I can now exclusively reveal to you that there are some out-takes left over from filming – dare I put my blunders on YouTube?!

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Of course - I'd say you must! Now I have a confession Jenny, please don't scold me the way Fanny might've... I’d normally cook up one of my guest interviewees recipes to include on the blog, but, erm, although I have your books, I don’t, gasp, have a microwave! Do you have a favourite retro recipe that I could make?

Choosing a favourite recipe is difficult but like most, Prawn Cocktail is one of my favourites as you can see on YouTube. And here's a retro recipe for you - easy to make and a versatile addition to many a mealtime. Parsnip Balls. Simply mash cooked parsnips, add some melted butter, milk, seasoning and a beaten egg. Form into balls and then roll in more beaten egg, breadcrumb and fry. Delicious.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Friday, 8 December 2017

We All Need Glittery Balls At Christmas - It's All In The Booklet #5

Christmas. It seems the word has been on everyone's lips for months already. I've been deliberately trying to not mention it. Not because I don't love Christmas. I do. I love all the food, drink, Christmas films and of course my favourite cocktail, the Snowball. It's just that there seems to be a lot of work to get through before celebrations can begin. Fanny knew all about this, and she began her Christmas work in January. For me, it's normally December. This year, however, Christmas was thrust at me a little early.

Fanny Cradock Bûche de Noel

Back in August, the irrepressibly glamorous modern day Fanny Cradock Charlotte White somehow convinced me to do a series of Fanny inspired demonstrations in the Cake and Bake Theatre at Foodies Festival in Edinburgh. Fanny herself toured the country doing similar demonstrations, so as my mantra in life is 'What Would Fanny Do?' - I had to say yes. OK, so Fanny sold-out venues like the Royal Albert Hall and the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, and this prospect was a tent in a muddy field. Still, it was enormous fun, and great to meet so many Fanny Fans.

Fanny Cradock Bûche de Noel

Charlotte asked me back as well, so perhaps I did alright. Christmas Foodies is indoors, so not a hint of mud anywhere, but it is also held in November, which is very early for Christmas I'd say. I packed my glittery balls (in homage to the Baking Nanna) and Fanny's very own Pyrex Bowls (a design - Winter Star - she had commissioned and sold directly to people through the part-work) and headed for the EICC with a whole new set of Fanny Cradock Christmas recipes to share with the good folks of Edinburgh. Also on the Christmas-tastic line-up were Lara from Bross Bagels and Amy from Baking with Granny. Such a hoot.

Fanny Cradock Bûche de Noel

We had a fun-filled three days. On Saturday afternoon I baked Fanny's Famous White Christmas Cake, complete with blue Royal Icing and stuffed with multi-coloured glacé cherries and Angelica. On Sunday, I constructed a Choux Paste Christmas Tree, with each Choux Bun filled with cream (and no goo) and covered in Green Glacé Icing. The Cake and Bake Theatre was filled with innuendo, much of it unintentional (honest), laughter and reminisces about 'how we used to bake'. Friday night was special though, as Charlotte hosted a 'Late Night with Fanny' session - well 7:30pm is quite late for bakers - and I only had one thing on my mind to make for this special occasion...

Fanny Cradock Bûche de Noel

Fanny's Bûche. It's basically her special Swiss Roll (which never cracks) flavoured up with cocoa (or any other powdered flavouring, try Beetroot! You can find the recipe in the November edition of Foodies magazine... nestled alongside others from Jamie Oliver, Rosemary Shrager, Nadiya Hussain, Sabrina Ghayour - so in good company!), filled with cream and then smothered in chocolate buttercream. The old-fashioned treat went down well with the crowd, who even forgave me when Fanny's Bûche did sadly crack. The Buttercream hid all my shame, and a flurry of Icing Sugar made everyone forget. Well, what would Fanny have done?

Fanny Cradock Bûche de Noël

You can catch Fanny cooking up her Christmas favourites this year in the UK on the BBC Red Button Channel form Saturday 9th December - freeview channel 601, freesat channel 981, sky channel980 and virgin media channel 991 - it's all in the booklet! 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Enough Is Un Oeuf (I Can't Go On, No More, No)

Do you remember a few years back there was a trend for creating mahoosive versions of smaller, much-loved things? Everyone seemed to be baking giant Bourbon Biscuits, or jumbo-sized doughnuts. You couldn't move for monstrous versions of Jammie Dodgers, or hulking great Snickers bars (they will always be Marathons to me) so huge that they had to be sliced with a chain-saw. Fanny wasn't one for extreme snacking, and thank-goodness she didn't wield a chain-saw, but it's no surprise that she too had a soft spot for gigantic foodstuffs.

Fanny Cradock Giant Egg

It's not enormous sweet treats that catch Fanny's eye, much as I'd love to see a colossal packet of Spangles or a larger than life sherbert-y Flying Saucer. No, it's the savoury side of life that Fanny thinks will impress more. Specifically Eggs. Giant Eggs. She's not completely bonkers. She's not gone shopping to the local Ostrich Farm. She's looking closer to home, for something economical and simple to create. With the ethos of humungous creativity in her mind, Fanny suggests creating a Giant Egg, from, erm, eggs.

Fanny Cradock Giant Egg

Fanny begins her colossal creation by separating eight eggs, very carefully. The yolks are beaten together lightly with a fork. To make eight perfectly fine but little egg yolks into one large yolk, Fanny pops them into a fairly large polythene bag. Seasoned first of course. The bag is then held delicately in a large pan of well-filled bubbling, boiling water until the yolks, or rather yolk, sets. Fanny warns not to let the bottom of the bag touch the base of the pan, or the shape will be lost. When creating Giant Eggs, appearance is everything.

Fanny Cradock Giant Egg

The remaining egg whites need to be whisked up together until they are very stiff. Fanny seasons them before gently folding through a small amount of finely grated hard cheese. Second to appearance, taste is important. Fanny places half of the whipped-up mixture onto a square of oiled foil, on an ordinarily sized baking sheet. Yes, for this is no ordinary Giant Egg, it's a Giant Baked Egg.

Fanny Cradock Giant Egg

The cooled Giant Egg Yolk is placed into the centre of the Giant Egg White, then completed enclosed in the remaining mixture. It needs to be smoothed out as best you can, so that it resembles, well, a Giant Egg. Once it bakes for 20 or 25 minutes, until golden, it is ready to be transferred to a serving dish. Salad trimmings or mayonnaise pipings can be added if required. Fanny assures us that the effect is dramatic when we serve a person a huge slice from the Giant Egg, either as a buffet luncheon or a first course. Presumably followed by the biggest Fish Finger you've ever seen, and one enormous pea.

Fanny Cradock Giant Egg

Monday, 30 October 2017

Horror D'Oeuvres

Fanny Cradock doesn't mention Halloween much. She gives plans, ideas and instructions for almost every other festivity. Nothing for 31st October. It's a surprise as you'd imagine that all the spookery and ghoulishness would be right up her street. Dressing up. Making your food look eerily scary. Over the top, spine-chilling colourings. Putting the fear of god into children. Perhaps it's simply that, in England at least, it's only a relatively 'new' thing. Not on her radar. Growing up in Scotland, it was a major part of my childhood. Perhaps it's just that all this scary stuff was just everyday living for Fanny.

Fanny Cradock Hors D'Oeuvres

We can only imagine, but my guess is that Fanny's house was one of those doors that the 'guisers' as we call them up here, or Trick or Treaters elsewhere, just walked on by. Not worth the actual total fright that chapping on her door would provoke. Don't make me knock on the scary lady's door. No amount of treats would be a suitable reward for accidentally hammering on her door. Poor Fanny was likely inside waiting expectantly for the bash that never came. Surrounded by her own blood-curdling bespoke blow-out buffet, ready to share them with the local children. Perhaps this was the real issue. What Fanny thought of as treats would have been at best terrifying to many young eyes.

Fanny Cradock Hors D'Oeuvres

As all the kids skip merrily by, or perhaps run at hair-raising speed, Fanny was inside preparing party snacks just in case. We know her beloved banquet bites were Hors D'Oeuvres that could be easily passed around by the horrifyingly hearty hostess. We know that her favourite party food can be made in advance. It gives you more time to get yourself ready for guests to appear like it's all been an effortless excursion, despite the fact you've been preparing for weeks. We know that Fanny simply loved eggs. So put all three together, add a sprinkle of spookiness and get the Halloween Party started.

Fanny Cradock Hors D'Oeuvres

Fanny has seven ideas of egg based Hors D'Oeuvres. Seven. All a variation on a theme. All start with boiled eggs - some hard, some soft - and end up usually with something or other being van dyked. Not as in Dick, but as in cut into zig zags. I'm only making three of the seven. You'll see why. For the first ones, Fanny stamps out rounds of puff pastry, bakes them and then hollows out a circle in the centre. The eggs sit in this as a base. The eggs themselves can be excavated, removing the cooked yolks, replacing them with lemon mayonnaise if you like. Then small rosettes of Orange Mayonnaise are piped round the base of the egg. Or it can be a row of peas. The final flourish is a leaf of parsley on top. Maybe a splash of Tabasco. It's like an exploded vol-au-vent, if they ever made vol-au-vents for the film Alien.

Fanny Cradock Hors D'Oeuvres

You never really see eggs paired with oranges do you? You do in Fanny's world. As if orange mayonnaise wasn't already a step too far, she van dykes a small orange, places an egg inside then pipes more mayonnaise into the gaps. Remember those egg yolks you hollowed out earlier to replace with lemon mayonnaise? Fanny uses them to stuff into hollowed out tomatoes. To disguise the tomato as, erm, an egg, she van dykes some egg white to cap it off. You get the idea. Marry eggs, van dyke skills and orange mayonnaise in any combination for a treat that will never be tricked. Children will give your horrifying home a wide berth at Halloween, which may also be a neat trick, depending on how you view them. You'll be left with the full horror of eating the hors d'oeuvres yourself though, so beware.

Fanny Cradock Hors D'Oeuvres

Monday, 23 October 2017

Beeton Eggs

Fanny Cradock wasn't really known for her love of other people, let's be honest. She was rarely portrayed as a supporter of other cooks, other broadcasters, other writers or for that matter other women. There are of course many exceptions, she did have some friends (honest) and some professionals that she raved about, but they were few and far between. She saved all her very special wrath for one particular female cookbook author however. She was a marketing genius, expert at self-promotion, and remains famous to this day. Sound familiar? Fanny 's blood boiled for a perfect four minutes at the very thought of Mrs Beeton.

Fanny Cradock Mrs Beeton Eggs

Fanny was proud of the amount of research that she did to dis-credit this 'no-cook cookery writer' who 'could not even fry an egg.' The recipes that she published were not her own, but rather other people's ancestors recipes, sent in as part of a competition and published by Beeton - who Fanny recognised was at least 'a clever journalist'. Mrs Beeton died aged 29, and Fanny calculated that if she had tested every recipe in the Book of Household Management, even if she had cooked for 32 hours a day, she wouldn't have been able to cook them all even once. Fanny, by comparison, never poached other people's recipes (ahem) and always tested them over and over and over again before publication. Or at least her petrified assistants did. Fanny was too busy doing the research.

Fanny Cradock Mrs Beeton Eggs

One area of severe criticism that is often scrambled Mrs Beeton's way was her recipes which began 'take 16 eggs...' People thought them excessive and out of reach for most household budgets. Fanny, rather surprisingly, defends her arch rival, stating that the criticism is simply NOT valid. Eggs are cheap and nutritious, and quite frankly, according to Fanny, Mrs Beeton certainly knew her eggs.

Fanny Cradock Mrs Beeton Eggs

To showcase these wonderful orbs, Fanny chooses a very filling dish which makes the humble egg go a very long way indeed. There are three main components. The first is an onion sauce, which Fanny makes very simply from simmering chopped onions in milk until they are soft, draining and straining them through a sieve. Meanwhile the saved milk is further heated until it reduces, before the sieved onions are returned to it. It smells amazing. The next essential part is of course perfectly soft-boiled eggs. Four minutes, remember? Run them under cold water immediately and shell them. No need for 16 by the way.

Fanny Cradock Mrs Beeton Eggs

Finally, Fanny takes an old cottage loaf, trims all the crusts off, cuts a large cavity in the top and deep fries it. This seems a step too far for me, and with premonitions of the fire brigade beating down my door (although...) I decide against this. I do cut a deep cavity though, which is filled with the onion sauce. Then the eggs. Fanny completes this treat by pouring a little of the onion sauce over the eggs, and decorating them with dill frongs. And of course a frill of dill around the edge of the cavity. Mrs Beeton would never have time for any of this marvellous detail.

Fanny Cradock Mrs Beeton Eggs

Monday, 9 October 2017

Just Can't Get An Oeuf

Eggs. Fanny Cradock loves them. She has a myriad of recipes that she can whip up with them. Actually she boasts that she has five hundred. She doesn't cover them all in this new partwork, instead, showing only a little of their versatility on a fairly modest level. Eggs, Fanny tells us, are a nutritious investment which 'open sesame' to a vast range of sweet and savoury delights. Fanny has 'knitted' as much of her recipe repertoire into the cookery programme as she can manage, but to cover them all would be like, well, trying to mop up the Niagara with a baby sponge!

Fanny Cradock Eggs Cocotte

Fanny urges us to think for a moment about how many culinary methods can be applied to a humble egg. They can be boiled, poached, fried, grilled, scrambled, baked, stuffed, pickled or, erm, roasted on a spit. This is not a technique I am familiar with, but Fanny assures me it is. She says she will not waste any time on it however, before starting to explain. For Oeufs à la Coq, the eggs are spitted onto a slender set bar and then something happens which is all a bit chi chi, which instead of elaborating on, Fanny suggests we learn some of the basic rules of eggs. We are left high and dry wondering how on earth to spit roast a chi chi Coq.

Fanny Cradock Eggs Cocotte

Fanny has something much more straightforward in mind. Full warning. It involves Aspic. She calls them Cocotte Eggs with Pâté and Aspic. It doesn't help. I'm imagining individual oven baked eggs, which is what Cocotte normally means. However, as always, Fanny has other ideas. Firstly, she soft-boils the eggs, by which she means for precisely four minutes. Precisely. She then makes up a batch of Aspic 'for masking'. Masking what, she is not so clear on. What she is clear on is that once made it should be mixed with some mayonnaise. I fear it is myself who needs the mask.

Fanny Cradock Eggs Cocotte

For the pâté, any simple shop bought or pâté familial (home made) will do. Fanny whips up an appropriate amount of double cream and blends most of it into the pâté along with a large spoonful of sherry. Well, at least there is booze. She pipes this mixture, once the seasoning is corrected, into individual cocottes, or miniature soufflé moulds. I'm using some plain old tea cups. Fanny plonks the perfectly soft-boiled egg in the middle. Then it is time for a horror of the aspic'n'mayonnaise.

Fanny Cradock Eggs Cocotte

Fanny spoons the still 'syrupy' aspic over the egg to set, being very careful not to let it run onto the pâté. It glides smoothly over the already smooth egg white, making a shiny white surface of the already shiny white surface. Another layer makes it even shinier. Fanny sets half a stoned Black Olive in it to garnish, but as I am absolutely terrified of them, and frankly this is all bad enough, I substitute for some slivers of tomato. It doesn't end there. Remember that cream we whipped up earlier, and saved a little behind? Fanny takes a small nozzle and pipes it around the egg as a thin 'thread' of border. It makes it look pretty, but there is no masking the fact that it is an egg, covered in mayonnaise-y aspic, plunged in pâté. Pass me the sherry instead. Just the one, as Mrs Wembley taught me. Hic.

Fanny Cradock Eggs Cocotte