Thursday, 9 February 2017

Pinky & Perky

I always take Fanny Cradock's advice. Well, more often than not. Okay, sometimes. I certainly abide by one of her favourite recommendations, which is to scour the 'thrift' shops for hidden treasures. She's forever popping in to see if she can pick up an unusual dish, a discarded ornament or if she's lucky a delightful mould in which to present her food at it's very best. I can't resist a rummage myself. From time to time I pick something up though that I wonder 'when will I ever use that?' The vintage mould I bought last year is one such item...

Fanny Cradock Apricot Mould

Fanny's guidance is to make her Apricot Snow, or La Délice des Abricots, in an old fashioned pyramid mould. It's round and resembles a pyramid only in the way it reaches for the sky with each circular step slightly smaller than the previous one. A bit more like a pointy hat than a pyramid. Well, if only I had one. I am often envious of Fanny's moulds, and she knows it. She practically thrives on being the first to bag the bargains. I had thought I'd have to improvise wildly on this dish, when I suddenly remembered the mould I'd bought and tucked away at the back of the cupboard, waiting for it's perfect time to shine. The relief!

Fanny Cradock Apricot Mould

The recipe itself is a variation on the by-now-familiar blancmange theme. With the addition of cold tea. Fanny uses small, stoned, ripe apricots for her Délice, but they aren't really in season at the moment, so I grab a tin I had snuggled away next to the mould at the back of my long-forgotten kitchen cupboard. No shame in that, remember. Fanny cooks hers in a low oven, swimming in the cold tea and then rubs them through a sieve while they are still hot, to emulsify. I whizz mine up in the food processor. Perfectly pulsed purée.

Fanny Cradock Apricot Mould

Fanny whisks up a couple of egg whites, adds some single cream, mixes through the cold tea and folds in the purée. And so do I. I know when to strike out on my own, and this isn't the time. Fanny dissolves gelatine in a little extra cold tea. As I'm using my veggie-friendly Agar, I need to dissolve it in the tea, and bring it up to they boil to activate it. Once done, it's swirled into the mix. It looks light and fluffy, just like freshly drifted snow, as Fanny hoped, ready for the mould.

Fanny Cradock Apricot Mould

It's only now that I have rescued the mould from the dark recesses of my cupboard that I remember why I tucked it away in the first place. Yes, it makes a decent substitute for a pyramid, but it's, well, there's no escaping this, very booby. I'm really not sure when it would be acceptable to use it, or indeed what it's original purpose actually was. I should've made two perhaps. It's not like I'll be using the mould regularly, or even again for a while. It'll just nestle back into the back of the cupboard and be forgotten again more than likely. Maybe I need to donate it back to the charity shop? I'd have to hide it in something else, or try to disguise it? Would they accept it I wonder?

Fanny Cradock Apricot Mould

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Don't Believe The Tripe

Fanny Cradock was an untrained cook. No shame in that at all, and indeed she was not ashamed in the slightest. She was extremely proud however of the very many Gastronomic Honours that she and Johnnie were awarded*. Generally Johnnie's were for the wine, and Fanny for the food, but there were a few that they both 'secured'. One such honour entitled Fanny as the intriguing Grand Dame de la Tripière d'Or. The linguistic among you, and it doesn't really take much translation, will have clocked that made Fanny the Grand Dame of the Golden Tripière.

*or if I were cynical, purchased or contracted to promote...

Fanny Cradock Tripe

The what? The who? The why? Without questioning Fanny's honours (although see * above), the answer lies in an equally intriguing dish. One of the most famous in Europe, Fanny proclaimed and certainly the most famous Tripe dish in Europe. Without a doubt it is also a dish for cooking tripe in. With it's very own gastronomic order - Gastronomie Normande. The Tripière is certainly something special. Fanny describes it as an earthenware flying saucer. Perfect for casseroles, especially tripe. The shape of it encourages the rising fumes to be locked in resulting in a superb flavour. Makes perfect sense. You wouldn't really want the tripe fumes escaping now would you?

Fanny Cradock Tripe

Fanny took her Tripe honour extremely seriously. She promoted Tripe at every opportunity, chastising the British public for their lack of love for the lining of the cows stomach. In France they seemed to not have the same disdain and indeed their youngsters seemed to be jolly excited to eat Tripes à la Mode de Caen, as Fanny reported in newspaper columns and in her books from the 1950s to the 1980s. The recipe changed a little depending on the decade, with calf's feet being replaced by pigs trotters, parsley for thyme and from time to time wine instead of cider and calvados. But always tripe. Lots of it. Fanny couldn't understand why it was not more popular.

Fanny Cradock Tripe

Fanny and Johnnie travelled to Normandy to attend a banquet given by the Order at a disassociated Abbey in the Norman capital of Caen. This was held to celebrate the original banquet on the same date in 1066 where William the Bastard of Normandy (not a title bestowed on the Cradocks, that I know of, at least not in polite company), his knights and gentlemen sat down to eat Tripes à la Mode de Caen from these marvellous tripières before embarking for England and the Battle of Hastings. You see, you cannot have Tripe without a Tripière. Perhaps Fanny has overlooked the victory in history as the mystery downfall for Tripe in England.

Fanny Cradock Tripe

Fortunately, for me at least, no-one has yet developed a vegetarian Tripe alternative, although I fear it may not be far away. Glancing at some of the questionable alternatives in the supermarket (Vegan Fish Fingers anyone?) I would say it has potential to be next on the list. Fanny's 'Mum's Tripe and Onions' would surely be a Quorn bestseller? I really must sign up to la Tripière d'Or, or perhaps I should just track down an old Tripière dish for myself and join the Tripe Marketing Board? Surely Fanny would've been at the helm if she were still around, so would only be fitting. Perhaps they'll induct me? Perhaps they may not accept vegetarian members? Perhaps I should set up the Tripe Alternative Marketing Board? Perhaps not.

Fanny Cradock Tripe

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

You Got More Rabbit Than Sainsbury's

Fanny Cradock is at hand to help the millions of women, and even men, who are only able to shop at the weekends. Or in their lunch-hours. Or who happen to live in a bedsitter. Or a flatlet. Or perhaps she's being unusually kind - she really means working people who live alone. Or children in the nursery. You see they share something in common - despite being hindered in life (seemingly by singledom or infancy), they deserve to eat well, and to eat quickly. Or something like that.

Fanny Cradock Milk Pudding

Fanny's a little embarrassed about this particular 'recipe' though. You see, it's not really a 'recipe' as such. It's so easy to do, so simple to make, and so uncomplicated to eat, it is hardly even a recipe. It is so plain and straightforward that it makes the perfect dish for those who find themselves with the horror of work taking up all their valuable time, living all alone or indeed those who have yet to develop teeth.

Fanny Cradock Milk Pudding

Fanny has another embarrassment to confess to before we start. It's a biggie. This recipe uses TINNED ingredients. Now, this in itself is not shameful, especially if you happen to be in gainful employment, living companionless or are too young to know any different. No shame in buying a copy of the book Fanny wrote specially to help, using a variety of canned goods as the basis for quick, nutritious but ultimately solitary meals. No, the shame comes from using a tin of unsweetened milk. Fanny is very quick to point out that this is the only instance you will ever find of her using this particular product. Let's hope it's worth it.

Fanny Cradock Milk Pudding

Fanny doesn't use tinned milk in the book. Only tinned cream, which must be somehow preferable. She never explains. Perhaps the reason is that she wasn't sponsored by Carnation. In each and every other recipe she 'brand-names' the tin which enables the best possible results. 'Only the best is good enough for us!' So this one obviously never made the cut. Apart from in this recipe. Again she never explains.

Fanny Cradock Milk Pudding

Fanny uses this shameful milk to make a Nursery Rabbit Cream. No real rabbits were used in the making of this, tinned or otherwise. Just my favourite retro mould. The humiliating tin of milk is simply mixed with the juice from a tin of fruit (any will do, so go crazy - I've used mango because, you know, that's what I had in the cupboard) and powdered gelatine. Or VegeGel for me. The bunny mix is brought slowly to the boil, which will please Glenn Close fans, poured into the mould, left to set and then turned out. That's it. Those with limited palates and/or living in desolation will certainly enjoy this more than if they just opened the tins and ate them separately.

Fanny Cradock Milk Pudding

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Vine Romance

Fanny Cradock loves a mould. They are so useful to transport the simplest of dishes to a whole new level, into a whole new shape and often in a whole new way. Fanny has lots of moulds in her amply furnished kitchen, many which she has collected over the years from the many fantastic places she has visited. She likes to show them off. At. Every. Opportunity. She never misses a chance to demonstrate her one-up-(wo)man-ship, thinly disguised as educational, inspirational and aspirational.

Fanny Cradock Tomato Ice Cream

She's clearly rubbed off on me, as I can barely resist eyeing-up and then buying-up a mould myself. I have them hidden in every available nook and cranny of my rather limited kitchen. I even have some on display. I know that I will never compete with Fanny. However, she continues to rub it in. She's making moulded ice creams, and shamelessly displays her multi-flavoured Bombes in all their glory, moulded in eighteenth century pewter moulds that she 'happened' to pick up for a measly £1.50 ten years earlier. In Halifax. I'm clearly searching the wrong fantastic places.

Fanny Cradock Tomato Ice Cream

Fanny recognises that I am unlikely to have the same kind of moulds as she has. She's not wrong. She knows she has all the good stuff stashed away. Fanny doesn't think this is important. She obviously is overlooking my burgeoning obsessive collection tendencies that she herself has encouraged. The reason however that she thinks I shouldn't be too bothered is that I am likely to have the perfect mould already in my kitchen. Has she seen my paltry collection of everyday animals, traditional shapes and almost fancy-pants contours? No, dear old Fanny has another altogether more organic idea.

Fanny Cradock Tomato Ice Cream

A melon. I don't need to travel to the heady heights of Halifax to obtain one of those. It hardly adds much glamour to my mould collection. A melon? Fanny suggests scooping it out so that it is hollow, which seems reasonable to me. Fanny, always concerned with food waste, has a delightful idea of what to do with the flesh. I'm imagining something fantastic that my neighbours will never even have thought about. No. Fanny's idea? Eat it. How terribly inventive.

Fanny Cradock Tomato Ice Cream

More innovative, imaginative and perhaps ingenious is her idea for the ice cream. She calls it a Bombe Anglaise. It's actually Tomato Ice Cream. Savoury. It sounds avant-garde to me. Fanny makes it from what-she-calls Tomato Purée, but what I-would-call Passata. Fanny makes a savoury custard, which is like a sweet one but without any sugar. Fanny whips up some double cream. Fanny adds a range of Bloody Mary seasonings. Fanny beats them all together. Fanny fills the scooped out melons. Fanny freezes them. Fanny then un-moulds them and 'claps' them together to look like a giant tomato. With a mint leaf garnish. Fanny is incredible. Fanny is inspired. Fanny is impressive. The ice cream is 'Da Bombe'. I've almost forgotten about those antique moulds that I've yet to obtain. Almost.

Fanny Cradock Tomato Ice Cream

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Aspicable Me

Everyone loves a party. Fanny certainly did. Well, that's the impression she liked to leave us with. Endless parties, soirees, balls, luncheons, functions and banquets. She was ready for them all. At the drop of a hat, or a simple knock at the door, she'd jump into her ballgown and have that celebratory buffet table adorned and ready to be adored. She was aspirational. If she could do it, so could you. You just need to follow her simple instructions to the letter, and voilà, you shall be a social success.

Fanny Cradock Mushroom Aspic Souffle

Fanny aimed to raise the bar, boosting the boasting possibilities of her bashes to blow-out levels. Her books, and the partwork, are rammed full of party ideas as well as ideas to lift a very 'ordinary' recipe to 'party' level. Often the solutions were in the planning, preparation and presentation. Visually stunning at the time, some of these ideas can stun the eyes for very different reasons these days, although I am of course very fond of them. I was so thrilled to buy a copy of the book 70s Dinner Party by Anna Pallai recently, collecting together fabulous images of fun and festivity, including a fair few from Fanny. Fanny would've been over the moon, even though she would probably wonder why any other people's pictures had been included.

Fanny Cradock Mushroom Aspic Souffle

So, if like Fanny, and Anna, you're keen to host your very own glamorously presented 70s Dinner Party, this recipe may just be the one for you. As usual in English it sounds far from appealing. Cold Mushroom Soufflé. However magically when presented in French it takes on a suitable celebratory tinge. Soufflé Forestière. Who wouldn't want to introduce that to the neighbour that you never really liked very much? Especially with an Aspic top.

Fanny Cradock Mushroom Aspic Souffle

I was intrigued how on earth Fanny managed to get a topping of Mushrooms in Aspic on a soufflé without it flopping. I should've known better. Fanny had a presentation plan, all of which was aspic-tastic. She begins by making up some real aspic, as before (I switch to an Agar base, as before) and setting some slices of mushroom in a fancy pattern in the base of a soufflé dish. The base, yes. Then, she blitzed up mushrooms and poaches them gently in white wine and stock. She makes a roux of butter and flour, and slowly adds the mushroom mix. She adds cream, and cheese, mixing all the time. When it's cool-ish she beats in egg yolks. All very standard soufflé sounding so far.

Fanny Cradock Mushroom Aspic Souffle

However, before she adds the beaten egg whites, she adds more of the still-hot and still-liquid aspic to the mixture. It's then poured into the mould on top of the set mushrooms, levelled off and whisked off to the refrigerator. Not the oven. Once chilled it all sets into a wobbly vision of wonderfulness, simply turned out onto a serving dish to reveal the seductively decorated top, ready for any shindig. Party guests, whether in the 70s or today, will be mesmerised, amazed, delighted and frankly flabbergasted by your funghi feast.

Fanny Cradock Mushroom Aspic Souffle

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Aspic

Fanny feels that folks are frightened of Aspic. She's not wrong. However she finds that people are fearful of forming the jelly stuff, not forcing to down their fragile throats. I'd say it's definitely the other way round. Fanny would scold me though. I clearly do not know how to make it properly to a high quality. We've already made a simple aspic together, but now it's time to step up a gear and make real aspic. I'm scared. She tells me that once I am familiar with it I will discover in fact it is much easier to make than any Yorkshire Pudding or Soufflé. I think I'd rather eat those.

Fanny Cradock Eggs in Aspic

Fanny's idea is to make a classic hors d'oeuvre that would delight any buffet party - Oeufs en Cocotte en Gelée. You may remember that they were a favourite, or not, of the lovely Beryl Reid at her very own 70s Dinner party. Surely then this is the one to learn with, and hopefully to change my mind? Fanny reminds us that when working with aspic, moulds must be prepared carefully. She insists that if the intended jelly is creamy, moulds should be oiled. If the jelly is sweet or savoury, they should be simply wetted with water. Be careful not to let the oil or water collect in puddles at the base of the mould by using a small brush to sweep it upwards. This dish is a savoury jelly. Look searchingly at my photos to spot a shocking slip-up that we shall sweep under the carpet.

Fanny Cradock Eggs in Aspic

If I'd spotted that I'd have gone into the panic that Fanny details that most eager home cooks find themselves in when dealing with aspic. She reassures me that provided that the aspic is played 'like a fish on a hook at the end of a line' that all will be well. I'm not entirely sure I understand, not being a fishing kind of person, but I set to with the set too. Fanny prefers soft boiled eggs, or Oeufs Mollets. Normal everyday eggs should be lowered into steadily bubbling water for 4 minutes precisely, then plunged into cold water. To peel them, tap them all over until the shell resembles the fine veins of a neglected oil painting, and get in under it with your finger nails. Carefully of course, as one would presumably handle an old master. If you were peeling it.

Fanny Cradock Eggs in Aspic

For the aspic, the very best stock is required. Add to a pan with some vinegar, sherry, a bay leaf, peppercorns and of course some gelatine. Or Agar Agar powder for me. I get mine from the Chinese supermarket. It does feel a little odd weighing out a few grams of the white powder in my kitchen. The mixture should be heated to just above blood temperature (test by sticking your clean finger in it) and then whisking it while it comes to boil. Fanny says that a normal whisk is fine, but exhausting. A rotary whisk is tiresome. An electric whisk however is ideal. I go 'normal' and 'exhausting'. The end result should not be set into the form of an India Rubber substance but should be a light, holding, savoury jelly. Let's hope so.

Fanny Cradock Eggs in Aspic

Fanny can not give enough emphasis to the whisking. Do not stop. She does acknowledge that this is particularly difficult for people who have little children running around at their feet, or those with tradespeople arriving at the back door. Even those who may have a telephone ringing off the hook. Fanny's advice is to ignore it, make the aspic when the children are securely tucked up in bed and hopefully all tradespeople are safely in their own homes. Whisk away, and set a little aspic in your mould (or tea cup as I am using) before adding the carefully de-shelled egg. Top up with aspic and leave it all to set before turning out the mould to delight your guests. Fanny says that aspic is ideal for making ordinary things look as attractive as possible, as you can see. But still, it's an egg in a slightly vinegar-y savoury jelly. I'm still petrified.

Fanny Cradock Eggs in Aspic

Thursday, 15 December 2016

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

Fanny Cradock and her husband, Johnnie, were, in their own words, persistent globetrotters. They loved nothing better than relentlessly roaming round the world (well, at least the European part of it) in search of new and interesting gastronomic delights to bring back, and of course share with those of us who were less fortunate. Not everyone could easily afford be a continual globetrotter back in the 1970s. So, we are well and truly thankful that Fanny has done a special rundown of her principal perpetual picnics from 'abroad'.

Fanny Cradock Picnic Sausage Rolls

Yes, picnics. It's what you think of when you think of 'overseas cuisine' isn't it? Fanny and Johnnie have experienced a great deal of so called 'foreign' picnics as well as those, to their jaundiced eyes at least, which seem so prevalent in the British Isles. Fanny refers to these as the 'sadness of picnics'. They normally consist of a Thermos flask full-time of lukewarm, dishwater resembling tea, and some curled up fish paste sandwiches in a crumpled up brown paper bag, often eaten in lay-by with the added bonus of petrol fumes. These are not the kind of picnics that Fanny has in mind here, nor are they the kind her and Johnnie take. They are the kind of picnics I had back in the 1970s though.

Fanny Cradock Picnic Sausage Rolls

Fanny is thinking more of romantic occasions like her and Johnnie had when they were 'nesting' before they became engaged, or Family picnics on the sea shore with a host of accoutrements to save sandy mishaps. Perhaps picnics that could be munched as you wander, particularly great for children, who abhor being made to sit properly in the open air. Seemingly. How about Spring Picnics which can be eaten in the car when it pours down? Fanny has suggestions for them all, so never feel stuck for a picnic idea again.

Fanny Cradock Picnic Sausage Rolls

Fanny suggests that whichever picnic path you decide upon, you will need quite a car-load of 'stuff' to ensure that all goes smoothly. Don't forget a length of string to tie to your wine bottle while you keep it cool in a stream. Never leave home without a damp flannel in a small polythene bag for those grizzly, sticky and messy children's faces and hands. Pillows should be taken, but should be inflatable, so as not to take up room unnecessarily and forcing tall people in the back seat of the car to sit with their necks bent at cramp angles because they are wedged in right up to the roof. Everything that can possibly be made of plastic, should be, to bypass the bother of breakages.

Fanny Cradock Picnic Sausage Rolls

Fanny does recommend all things Thermos, almost as if she has been sponsored by them. Strange. There are ones for every event. There are small ones suitable for picnics with children too. You'll need them as well as a steady supply of balls for breaking windows, cricket bats to facilitate this, fold up chairs to put things on (never for sitting on) and a radio to blast very loudly. Fanny's picnics sound so, erm, continental and not-at-all British. Doesn't it? The other essential seems to be sausage rolls. Definitely not British. No busy Mum, and certainly not British ones, wants to spend two hours making individual sausage rolls though, so Fanny recommends saving time by making long ones and chopping them up. Much more time to frolic by the sea, like the oh-so continually cooking-out Continentals do.

Fanny Cradock Picnic Sausage Rolls