Monday, 21 August 2017

Ice Cream If You Want To Avocado Faster

If you think that something is bang on trend, so 'right now', clamoured for by hipsters everywhere, you can be sure that Fanny Cradock got there first. She wasn't just the champion, riding the crest of a wave of the latest craze, she started the fads. Others followed. If you wanted to know what was hip and happening, you looked to see what Fanny was making. Others copied. She was in vogue, à la mode, the latest thing. Others tried. So, next time you roll your eyes thinking we've hit peak Avocado, Fanny was banging on about them before trending was even, well, a trend.

Fanny Cradock Avocado Ice Cream

She snaffled many of her best Avocado recipes from Madame Annette, who was Mr. W. Somerset Maugham's French cook. We've met her before. Avocados were the bane of her life. Dear old 'Meestair Moggum' (as she called him) apparently had the only fruiting, outside Avocado tree in Europe, so naturally they had to appear on many, many menus. Fanny seemingly 'clucked her tongue' in the deepest of sympathy but still managed to get her hooks on several of her special recipes. She made a mean Avocado mousse by all accounts. She was the only person Fanny knew who ever managed to successfully make an edible Avocado Omelette. However it was her Ice Cream which Fanny coveted most.

Fanny Cradock Avocado Ice Cream

Yes, Avocado Ice Cream. It's so 'now' it's no surprise to discover it's actually so 'retro'. I spotted a recipe for it in the new, and veggie-tastic, Veggie Desserts book I bought last week. We are so fortunate that Fanny was able to prise the recipe from the skilled hands of Madame Annette. To stop her Avocados from discolouring, Fanny uses only the very best silver cutlery, which my household budget purse will not stretch to. I shall try and invest in a silver Avocado knife for future recipes. Don't roll your eyes at me. The flesh is emulsified or sieved. Whizzed up for me. Fanny then adds an egg yolk and whizzes again, before scooping it all into a freshly made sugar syrup and heating gently for five minutes, stirring all the time. At this stage it looks a lot like very mushy peas, but I am not put off. And neither should you be.

Fanny Cradock Avocado Ice Cream

Once cold, the jolly green mixture should be transferred to the freezer compartment, frozen until the outer edges are set but it's still a little loose in the middle. A bit like myself. Mine seems exactly like that after a few hours. Fanny whips it up 'with beaters' and adds stiffly beaten double cream in big dollops, whipping all the time until it's all combined. Then simply refreezes it. Fanny, unusually, does not include a photograph of the finished ice cream as she notes that 'one ice cream looks very much like another' once it's placed in a glass or a coupe. She says it did not justify having a picture of it. More likely she forgot. More likely still a poor assistant forgot to take a snap. More likely Fanny would not let them forget again. Ever.

Fanny Cradock Avocado Ice Cream

I normally have Fanny's prodigious presentation to guide me. Inspire me. Baffle me. Not today. So I summon up all my innermost Fanny Cradock enthusiasm, creativity and insight. Grabbing the piping bag and nozzle which are never far from my hand, I set to work filling the empty Avocado shells ready for the freezer. The resulting ice cream is stunning. Such a smooth texture, just like it had been dreamily churned, defiantly and dazzlingly still tasting of avocado, dramatically green, but delicately sweet and deliciously creamy too. Unlike Madame Annette, I fear I will never tire of this recipe, whether Avocados are in fashion, a passing fad or long forgotten.

Fanny Cradock Avocado Ice Cream

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Push Pineapple, Shake The Tree

I'd say one of the many amazing things about Fanny Cradock is her ability to completely transform a few, very simple ingredients into something which has the unexpected 'wow' factor. She practically built her whole career on it. Partly through necessity as ingredients were scare after the war, but somewhat because, I am sure, it was fun and an appealing, eye-popping challenge for her. Add into the mix her other oft-used phrase 'and so quick to throw together when someone pops round unexpectedly' and you have her Pineapple Soufflé, or Les Zephyrs Maison. Entirely suitable for those that come and dance every night, singing with a hula melody.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Fanny being Fanny thinks strategically about the provocative presentation before she even begins. No point in planning a 'wow' that, well, has no 'wow'. She chooses a pineapple on the smaller side which has leafy green spikes a-plenty, and starts by slicing the whole thing down the middle, 'tufts' and all. Careful not to chop them off. The soufflé is baked and served IN the pineapple you see. It's all her own idea, and one which everyone that she has served it to has enjoyed immensely. No doubt she had the inspiration when she met a mistress somewhere in Waikiki, selling pineapple and playing Ukulele. Classic Fanny Cradock.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

The unembellished but soon-to-be flashy flesh of the pineapple is carefully scooped out, and kept aside. Fanny stresses the importance of NOT making any holes through the skin, reminding us that this is the home for the soufflé. The central core of the pineapple is a bit tougher than the rest, but it generally pops out easily enough with a little help from a teaspoon. You may need to push the pineapple a bit, especially to the left and the right, but no need to shake the tree, grind coffee or to jump up and down then to the knees.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Fanny whizzes up the pineapple pulp, either by emulsifying it in a liquidiser, or more strenuously shoving it all through a sieve. Thankfully I have a machine to do the work. And another to whirr up the egg whites for the soufflé. First of all just on their own, then for a very precise three and a half minutes with a small part of the caster sugar. Only after that is the rest of the sugar is carefully folded in, so as not to knock out the precious air particles out. Wiggle and gently sway as you do it, think of the lovely beach and the sky and the moon of Hawaii. Failing that, imagine you are wearing a rum calypso sarong. You may be anyway, of course. I'm sure Fanny was.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Fanny suggests pushing the pineapple gently to the left (altogether now, once more with feeling) and sliding the purée underneath, before gently cutting it in very lightly. Pile the airy mixture into the pineapple cavity so it resembles a dome. It will look nothing like a dome. But Fanny says a dome. She also lovingly wraps the pineapple spikes in foil to protest them once they are in the hot oven. Pop the whole thing in for precisely eight and half minutes and serve, wow and enjoy. You might be compelled to sing a little song as you tuck in to this delightful pudding, if one is in your mind at all? No? Nothing?

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Friday, 11 August 2017

Haysi Fantasy - Johnnie's Pain Is Big Leggy

It seems I have something very particular in common with Fanny Cradock's husband, Johnnie. It's not that I am browbeaten at home, or in the kitchen. It's not that I quiver whenever my partner barks an order at me. It's not that I am shy, retiring or in any way intimidated or fearful of daring to contradict anyone where I feel it necessary. Even Fanny. It's not even that I am partial to a monocle, cravat and a sturdy glass of port to see me through the evening. No, it's something that others find strange, often won't believe at all and quite simply cannot comprehend. I, and Johnnie, hate Rice Pudding.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

For me, I still wince at the thought of the un-tearable, thick, black, leathery, tarpaulin skin that was always atop the Rice Puddings that emerged from the oven at home. I. Couldn't. Bear. To. Look. Never mind eat it. I once sat all night at the kitchen table when my Dad said I 'couldn't leave' until I'd eaten it. I won. Everyone I have ever met in life since (almost) thinks I am missing out. I always felt I was alone. There didn't appear to be a suitable support group for me to join. I just had to remain silent and get on with life. Until now. Johnnie is my saviour.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

Fanny's version of Rice Pudding, is, as expected, slightly different to all others. It's an Olde English recipe which she, naturally, found in France labelled subtly as Une Recette Familiale Anglaise. It does not looks like a Rice Pudding. Good. It does not taste like a Rice Pudding. Smashing. It is made with all the same ingredients as a Rice Pudding. Oh. The key is, it is made in a totally different way. No oven. No Black tent-of-death. No sitting at the table all night. Maybe.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

Fanny makes her Rice Pudding in a double-boiler on the stove-top. She uses Patna pudding rice, which I don't have. The only Rice I can find in my cupboard is Risotto. Which happens to have some Wild Black Rice mixed through it. Feel the Fear. Fanny adds milk, in stages, and a vanilla pod, while it heats. Stirring occasionally, cooking slowly, it seems just like a Risotto to me. Which is soothing. And it turns out that Black Rice is really Red Rice, and turns the whole mixture pink. Added bonus. Once all the milk is absorbed, Fanny adds in two egg yolks one at time, and continues to heat and beat gently before flinging in a little sugar, to taste, and some stiffly whipped cream.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

To tempt Johnnie (and me) even further, Fanny moulds the Rice Pudding and leaves it to cool in the fridge. It's hard to resist a bit of moulding. Fanny disguises it primarily to replace Johnnie's terrible memories. Decorated with seasonal fruit, I have cherries. Seemingly, when she visited him once during World War Two in the Royal Masonic Hospital where he was recovering from tonsillitis (which, Fanny notes is very serious in a grown man) she discovered Johnnie out of his bed, in his pyjamas (thankfully) pushing something down the wash basin that he didn't want the Matron to see. It was English Rice Pudding. Not Fanny's 'fantastic' French Rice Pudding, which he would never say no to. He would never say 'no' to Fanny full stop. Would you?

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Exile At Castle Rising

Fanny Cradock could never be accused of sitting still. By the time she exploded onto our TV screens in 1955 she'd already had more than a handful of other, diverse, careers. She even continued some of them, using different names for each one, while she baked soufflés and piped swan choux buns for us all. Primarily she wrote. She wrote newspaper columns. She wrote cookbooks. She wrote Children's books. She wrote travel pieces. She wrote nasty letters to people who referred to her as Fanny Craddock. It seems she wrote from the moment she woke up until she fell asleep again. If indeed she ever did sleep.

Fanny Cradock Castle Rising

She wrote because she was good at it. She wrote because people wanted to read her words. She wrote because it earned her money. By the time the 1970s came along, she'd written nearly ninety books, thousands of weekly newspaper columns and so many nasty letters she'd no doubt worn out a whole factories worth of typewriters. She'd written so much, even she had lost count. Her first books were works of fiction, all penned with the usual Cradock charm but under pseudonyms. She claimed that her first novels were dictated to her from writers beyond the grave, so, according to her publicity, she would only earn a typists fee. Ever the marketeer. In the 70s she hit upon a scheme that was a little more lucrative. Tax evasion.

Fanny Cradock Castle Rising

Most of her money was tied up in property, her television shows were becoming less frequent, with more demanding contract demands from her making Fanny Cradock more expensive and less appealing, and sadly the weekly part-work wasn't quite the money spinning retirement bundle she had hoped for. She'd long longed to return to her works of romantic fiction. Upon discovering that 'new' authors were eligible for tax-free earnings on 'new' writing for up to ten years in Ireland, she pretty much packed her bags and set up her typewriter in the Emerald Isle. The Castle Rising saga was born, or rather re-born as she already had the first few volumes furtively written. She'd never published fiction using the Fanny Cradock name before...

Fanny Cradock Castle Rising

Capitalising on her celebrity, the series of books proved popular, but also became well-read in far flung places where no-one knew how to spell her name wrongly. The books were borrowed and bought the world over. Noses were buried into them, and impatient readers demanded the next, just as one was published. Fanny kept up regular appearances on TV chat shows, travelling to Europe for Nationwide and a series of society shindigs to keep up the illusion she was still 'around', risking a visit from the Tax-man every time she set foot on home soil. However her BBC file (which I was amused to discover was refereed to as The Fanny File) was clearly marked with the Top Secret information of where she was living. Essential for continued contact for work, and of course to send the cheques to.

Fanny Cradock Castle Rising

The place was Doneraile in Southern Ireland. Her and Johnnie stayed there for a few years, before seeking alternative tax-free roots, writing or plotting the ten Castle Rising family saga instalments. There was a planned eleventh, which never made it. Perhaps her ten years ran out. Perhaps her loyal readership had enough. Perhaps the publishers had already torn all their hair out trying to put right the huge number of historical inaccuracies and impossibilities contained within the saga. Perhaps Fanny had found another way to make some money. I wonder if she loved her time 'incognito' in Ireland. I passed through the town where she lived the other day, having arranged to see the house. However, the woman who was helping me said 'Ah, if only you were here tomorrow...' despite that being the day I'd said all along. All part of the Irish charm. So, the mystery of where she lived remains, for now. I'll just need to go back. The town appears to pay homage to Fanny Cradock on it's welcome sign though. At least that's what she would think.

Fanny Cradock Castle Rising

Monday, 17 July 2017

Twisting My Lemon, Man

With the sun making a hopefully sustained appearance, Fanny's mind has turned to ice in her latest attempt to cool her temper while looking after any number of children during the summer holiday. She knows that they will be sweetness and light (they had better be). She knows that they mostly like ice creams. She knows that the smaller ones show a marked preference for ice lollies. She knows that she needn't give us a recipe for those though. She knows that lollies made from sweetened fruit juices will be better for 'them' than the synthetic ones you buy in shops. So, Fanny proclaims, Give Them Lollies.

Fanny Cradock Lemon Whipped Ice

Well, except for today. You see, as Fanny says, no recipe is required for lollies. She wants to give us a recipe. It's what she does. Imagine an issue of the part-work without recipes? That would never do. Without recipes how would Fanny fill her time? It may be a holiday, but Fanny is still busy. So today, Fanny would like to suggest her Lemon Water Ices to us all. The recipe and the ingredients are fairly simple, so at least we won't overheat in the kitchen preparing these, but it will keep us amused while the children play. Alone. Without us. It's how Fanny prefers it.

Fanny Cradock Lemon Whipped Ice

As these aren't lollies, the little ones will need to be sitting down to get stuck in. Fanny, cunning as ever, has a plan to keep them occupied for a while ahead of that though - get them to lay the table first. Whether it's the patio or dining room when the summer weather is in a very bad temper (worse than Fanny's) or on the terrace or plonked in the garden itself when the sun shines, the table should be resplendent. Hand embroidered chiffon organza from Madeira and matching napkins folded like water-lollies. That's what Fanny recommends, which is fairly niche it has to be said. Matching your dishes, side plates, salt and pepper pots and bowls with summer flowers will provide the perfect setting to induce good manners amongst the young, apparently. It is never too early to teach them which knives, forks and spoons to use so that they are not totally embarrassed when they go to grown-up parties.

Fanny Cradock Lemon Whipped Ice

Even the holidays are school days, seemingly. Always a chance to learn something new. Including how to make Water Ices. Fanny uses lump sugar for hers, cold water, lemons and egg whites. That's it. Saving a few lumps behind, Fanny places the remainder in a small pan with cold water and slowly heats it until they dissolve, without boiling. Once dissolved though the heat is raised to boiling, then lowered again to a simmer for ten minutes. During this time Fanny rubs her remaining lumps on the lemon rinds until they become yellow and collapse. After the ten minutes, they are added to the hot sugar syrup, stirred to dissolve and then chilled. I added the rinds again for added lemon-y-ness but don't tell Fanny.

Fanny Cradock Lemon Whipped Ice

When cold, the lemon juice is added, then the strained liquid is frozen in an ordinary freezing compartment until the edges are well crystallised but the centre is NOT set. At this stage, stiffly whipped egg whites are added and the whole mixture whipped again, before returning to the freezer one more time, until required. Fanny insists it is served piped (which is easier said than done) into long coupe glasses, with the simple addition of some summer fruit on a wooden cocktail stick on the side of the rim. Apparently any child will agree that this enhances the service of this quite delicious and light water ice. Well mannered, well taught and well frightened children especially.

Fanny Cradock Whipped Lemon Ice

Monday, 3 July 2017

Shakin' Up Your Soda

Fanny says that she seems to acquire children at an alarming rapidity. She says that there is always a gaggle of other people's about, as well as her own. The truth is probably somewhat different, given the reports that she had a often difficult relationship with her children, who she seemingly abandoned along the way. Perhaps she's getting confused. It's the summer heat. It's the summer holidays. She claims to love children, but admits that they can be a confounded nuisance under her feet when she is extremely busy, which is all the time as we know. One answer she has at her disposal whenever possible is to turn them out into the garden, terrace, local field or playground (seemingly anywhere), if it is not pouring with rain. Perhaps that's where she misplaced her own offspring...

Fanny Cradock Soda Bread

Tupperware seems to be the other solution. And a large bell. Oh and a split stable door in the kitchen leading out to the garden. At meal times she rings the bell (or presumably gets someone else to do it, why bother ringing your own bell when an assistant can do it for you?) and doles out, in plastic beakers, hot soup or cold drinks, depending on the vagaries of the English weather, and a filled luncheon box for each child, or teenager. Only adults are allowed indoors. Meals are dispensed over the half-open stable door, meaning there is no need to lay a table or do any clearing up. Or let the young ones inside ever. Fanny says that they prefer it this way, and frankly so does she.

Fanny Cradock Soda Bread

So what does she pop into these primitive 'Happy Meals'? The contents need to be filling and easy for Mums to prepare. Who wants to spend their days wondering 'What on earth can I give them today?' Housewives should be able to keep them relatively happy without killing themselves with extra cooking from now until they go back to school again. Perhaps that's when Fanny opens both parts of the split stable door and lets them back into the house? Although, with some attempt at compassion and empathy, Fanny does share that at that time the house returns to being like a morgue through which a hurricane has spread. She is so full of contradictions.

Fanny Cradock Soda Bread

Today she suggests a simple soda bread to keep them fully amused. Quick to make, filling and tasty, it meets all the requirements. She borrows the recipe from a 'super-Mum' she knows who has seven children and still manages to be a championship golfer as well as run her home without help, dye and lay her own carpets, make tents, clothing and curtains, and even do her own carpentry and electrical work. So Soda Bread should be a doddle. Mix the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar in a bowl. Rub in some butter, add in buttermilk and mix to a dough. If you're feeling fancy, add cheese. I do. Or if you think they are in the mood for sweet, add sugar and sultanas. Shape, mark with a deep cross and bake for half an hour and you are good to start flinging it into tupperware tubs and tossing it over the half-opened stable door as you head out for a round of golf. Perfect parenting.

Fanny Cradock Soda Bread

It's a little flat and scone-like, but a tasty treat all the same. Well, it will do. Minimum effort and all that. The little dears will need a drink to wash it down though. Fanny laments that we are not more like the French, who will give their little monsters youngsters watered down wine from age five onwards. Instead she suggests a Milkshake. Made from vegetables. They'll, erm, never guess. She whizzes up grated carrot, diced celery, chopped parsley, watercress and spinach with a little milk, fresh orange juice and water, before passing through a sieve to remove all traces of leftover veg. She whizzes again with added yoghurt and serves the frothy creation with straws, and at least one ice cube per child. You wouldn't want to be cruel to the children on a hot day now, would you?

Fanny Cradock Soda Bread

Monday, 26 June 2017

Another Brick In The Wall

School's out for summer, in Fanny Cradock's world at least. A little early in the real world perhaps. She is imagining that all over the country harassed mums are being pestered by the cry "Mum, I'm hungry" and just have no idea how to respond favourably to the relentless badgering. There is no need to feel so tormented however, Fanny is on hand. She devotes an entire part-work exclusively to filling-up the perpetually ravenous young folks. Young people, Fanny reckons, are always easier to handle when their stomachs are well-filled. Especially if they are teenagers.

Fanny Cradock Breakfast Bricks

It's not only tumultous teenagers tummies that Fanny is concerned with though. It's their outfits. She simply cannot understand the lack of enthusiasm among the female of the species, in particular, for wearing pretty party frocks. Shockingly the 'gear' they prefer can be summed up as 'The Absolute Minimum'. This normally means, notably in the summer months, 'disreputable' rolled up jeans and equally disreputable bare feet at the end of a day spent incessantly 'trotting about'. Fanny's wrath is saved for skimpy hot pants and gingham outfits, again with 'the minimum', this time over 'the front'. Teenage girls eating habits are like their fashion choices - an inelegant preference for wolfing at the wander and for chomping on 'wedges and wodges' (whatever they may be), particularly in the garden. I don't think Fanny approves.

Fanny Cradock Breakfast Bricks

Fanny still has a suitable snack for them though. She says we should dispense with fancy French names for down-to-earth things at this time (which presumably do not deserve the effort) and simply call them what they are. Bricks. Ones you can eat. That's what she suggests here for those barely gingham-covered reprobates. She borrows the idea, but of course makes them suitable for the English home, from a trip to Tunisia. A considerably conventional ceremony with a cabinet minister's wife showed Fanny how they were made. Presumably Ferrero Rocher weren't around then. The wife was not welcome in her husband's home for the formal occasion (doubtless not because of her chosen attire) but instead was banished to her 'separate and primitive chamber' known as the kitchen. She took three hours to make the 'bricks'.

Fanny Cradock Breakfast Bricks

Fanny says that she is not 'screwy' enough to think that we would spend three hours making snacks for inappropriately dressed teenagers. I am saying nothing. So she has modified the recipe to suit the occasion, or lack of occasion, which ever it really is. Instead of a 'Tunisian paste' made of semolina and water, extravagantly, and lovingly, prepared and cooked on a griddle, she uses shop-bought puff pastry. This allows the 'bricks' to be made at speed to fill the eager youthful mouths, but to otherwise remain authentic. I imagine that this would be the prime concern for the denim-clad teenagers trotting around Fanny's garden.

Fanny Cradock Breakfast Bricks

In Tunisia, squares of paste are filled with freshly milled parsley, minced veal and an egg yolk. Folded into triangles (as surely all 'bricks' are) and deep fried. I switched the veal for some chopped vegetarian sausages, but otherwise I stuck with authenticity all the way. The resulting wedges, or wodges, as indeed they might be, are ideal as hand-held hunger hinderers, especially for garden wanderers in hot pants. Guaranteed to fill up the exposed tummies of teenage girls. And tasty too. No need to be stuck away, shamefully, in the kitchen for hours on end, when you could be outside showing all the shame on your face for the fashion choices of the young. Perfect summer holiday pastime.

Fanny Cradock Breakfast Bricks