Monday, 29 August 2016

Mmm-mmm-mmm-America

I'm not sure if Fanny ever went anywhere near America, but of course by the time she was pulling the partwork together in the 1970s, America was coming over here with a vengeance. Or at least the food was. So, Fanny being Fanny, she had to include a nod to our Stateside cousins on her culinary ladder, and the American Club, or 'three-decker', Sandwich appears to be it! She scarcely needs to give instructions for it, but simply cannot help herself...

Fanny Cradock Club Sandwich

According to Fanny, and according to generally accepted patterns, the American Club Sandwich should be made with toast, sliced tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce hearts, real mayonnaise, thinly sliced mixed brown and white chicken flesh and bacon. This appears to be the reason Fanny feels the need to explain it however, as according to her, what can be found in 'less reputable restaurants' is generally anything but!

Fanny Cradock Club Sandwich

Wherever Fanny has been tucking into her Club Sandwiches, she seems to have been served 'revolting bottled wallpaper paste masquerading as mayonnaise'. She probably wouldn't be best pleased with my jar of Hellmans then? It is labelled as 'real' mayonnaise however. It seems to get worse, her sandwiches have contained rather tatty bits of outsized lettuce. That's not the worst of it, the chicken has been replaced with scraps of rabbit and one or two rag, tag and bobtails of the coarsest streaky bacon. I'm sticking with cheese.

Fanny Cradock Club Sandwich

Fanny reckons, if made well, the Club Sandwich is one of the most filling and most delicious you are likely to come across. The toast must be made fast under a pre-heated and very fierce grill or it will fly apart when handled and somehow constitute a peril 'once again' for people with bought teeth. Luckily I still have all my own, but although my toast is made fast, it is made in the toaster.

Fanny Cradock Club Sandwich

As I'm avoiding the chicken and the bacon, I need not pay heed to Fanny's advice that they be economically used, with the chicken the merest shards from the carcass and the bacon definitely not in brine. My cheese slices are fresh from the pack, and on offer (two for £2) at the supermarket, surely that will do. Fanny might approve after all, she says at the end of the day practically anything can be made to make a Club Sandwich. Being American, they simply cannot be considered to be 'classic' and therefore we can do anything we like with them. Thanks y'all.

Fanny Cradock Club Sandwich

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Roll Out The Beryl!

I'm very excited to learn that a new authorised biography about Beryl Reid is about to be published - so excited that I just had to speak to the author, Kaye Crawford, to find out more, and of course uncover if there were any connections to Fanny! There must be...

"They were so different but, of course, Beryl was rather a gourmet herself. She absolutely loved cooking, and hosting dinner parties. She even went so far as to publish her own cookbook, Food and Friends, a collection of recipes interspersed with memories. Fanny gets a few mentions in my book! Beryl's niece recalled a rather disastrous dish Beryl attempted one Christmas that I'm sure must've been a Fanny creation. It was called Oeufs en Gelée, Boiled Eggs in Aspic! It was apparently revolting."

Fanny Cradock Beryl Reid

Yes, it is one of Fanny's very special favourites, I'll be making them soon, perhaps to enjoy while I read the book! This picture of them makes me smile - will I be smiling when I read your book? 

"Oh I hope so! Beryl was such a complex lady, very unconventional and totally unique. I've tried to get behind the laughter and see what the real Beryl was actually like. There's laughs a plenty though, with Beryl there couldn't be anything else! The book came about by accident really. I was in the middle of moving house and had to wait around for an electrician, so I just grabbed the first book on my shelf which was Beryl's 1984 autobiography, So Much Love. It's a wonderful book, but Beryl didn't write it, she dictated it to a chap called Eric Braun, usually after they'd shared a few glasses of brandy! As I read through it, I thought 'I'm sure there's more to this lady than meets the eye' and I wanted to find out more."

Fanny Cradock Beryl Reid
Beryl relaxes at Honeypot Cottage, c. 1980.
We all do! Fanny will be forever remembered for cooking soufflés in a ballgown, but she only ever did that on stage in the 1950s - have you uncovered any popular misconceptions about Beryl that you can share with us?

"In the book I talk about the 'Beryl Reid myth' - there's this idea that Beryl was a reclusive lesbian with 50 cats, an alcoholic who lived in a strange cottage in the middle of nowhere, and only played mad old ladies. But of course, there's absolutely no truth in any of that! I think most people assumed she was a lesbian after the 'Sister George' role. She was passionately against any form of prejudice or bigotry - in her own words, 'I don't care if you're black, yellow or bright purple, but I do care if you're a bore!' In fact, when two elderly ladies came to see her after a show, they said 'Oh we love you Beryl, but we didn't like that Sister George thing you did, we thought it very vulgar!' To which Beryl replied, curtly, 'Too close to home was it dear?'"

Fanny Cradock Beryl Reid
Beryl with Bernard Cribbins and June Whitfield at the BBC, c. 1976
I think I would've enjoyed Beryl's company! Fanny and Beryl both appeared on television Game Shows in the 1970s - do you think it helped their careers or just played into their 'characters'? Or was it just for fun? 

"Beryl was an absolute workaholic, but it came from a rather fragile place. She would make herself extremely ill, refusing to take a holiday, taking everything offered to her. She would say 'I just don't want them to forget me'. She absolutely loved panel shows, especially Blankety Blank. She kept going back because she adored Terry Wogan. When Beryl left, Beryl left too. She felt it would be disloyal to him to go on. But you know, all you really needed to do to get television magic with Beryl was to give her a glass of something and leave the camera on her..."

Fanny Cradock Beryl Reid
Beryl aboard the Orient Express, 1986, to celebrate her OBE.
A little drink always works well for me, camera or no camera... Did Fanny and Beryl ever meet do you think? 

"I don't know if they ever met, but in Beryl's personal archive there's a rather haughty letter from Fanny, inviting - or is it more of a command? - Beryl to come to the Cradock home for a cocktail party. Fanny mentions that she adores Beryl's work, but then commits a cardinal sin and suggests that if Beryl did come, it would get the party (and therefore Fanny's new book) a nice bit of publicity. That was exactly how NOT to get Beryl to attend something! I believe Fanny got rather short shrift in response."

Fanny Cradock Beryl Reid
Beryl with her agent Robert Luff at a celebration lunch, 1986, to celebrate her OBE. 
I can only imagine! The book, like Beryl, just sounds like a hoot, what are your hopes for it?

"It's twenty years since Beryl died. I was concerned that she was in danger of being forgotten. She deserves to be remembered. This will sound trite, but I can honestly say that in the time I spent 'with' Beryl, I came to absolutely adore her. So I took her 'don't let them forget me' as a sort of obligation. I want people to connect with her work, but also, to take something positive form her story, which is 'keep going!' I think the BBC should put together a tribute night, maybe even a drama, would't that be wonderful? But then, I would say that!"

Roll Out The Tribute and the film I say! 

Fanny Cradock Beryl Reid
Beryl as Gran in the BBC's adaptation of 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole'
Roll Out The Beryl! by Kaye Crawford is released on August 22nd by Fantom Film books and can be pre-ordered here. Kaye will be giving away a collection of Beryl goodies, including a signed, dedicated copy of the book to one lucky winner - be sure to follow Kaye and Fantom Films on Twitter for more details! Thanks to Kaye for the lovely chat, and permission to use the lovely photos from Beryl's own collection. Can't wait for the book! 

Monday, 25 July 2016

A Veggie Mighty Sandwich

Everybody loves a Birthday Cake, don't they? I think we all secretly hope that someone will bake that 'certain cake' that is our very favourite for our special day, but even when it turns out to be chocolate instead of sponge, we are still thrilled. Even when no-one has baked for us, we are often overly overjoyed to bake our own, or pop to the shops and get an off-the-shelf sickly sweet one to share and say to everyone 'ta-dah, it's my birthday!' But what about those 'tiresome menfolk' that Fanny mentions, you know the type. They say that they aren't bothered about cake, and even worse they mean it. What on earth do you make to celebrate their special day?

Fanny Cradock Savoury Gateau

Fanny, as ever, has the solution. She never does say, but I imagine that dear old Johnnie is the annoying man in question here, who, bizarrely but absolutely does not like cake. Well, a sweet cake at any rate. Fanny reckons that a savoury version is the way forward - namely her Savoury Gateau, which she translates into French as Gâteaux Savoureux, just to avoid any confusion. What man could resist a multi-layered, many flavoured, varicoloured, erm, sandwich disguised as a sweet celebration.

Fanny Cradock Savoury Gateau

Fanny starts with a humble loaf. Her preference is a cottage style one, or a specially baked brioche. That seems like a lot of bother to go to for an unappreciative bloke, so I make do with a hipster faux-sourdough from the supermarket. It looks like a brick, but with Fanny's advice it's soon trimmed down to fit neatly into a 6-inch cake tin. Off-cuts are blitzed to breadcrumbs and frozen, nothing goes to waste. Fanny practically insists that I slice it 'parallel to the table' into a bare minimum of five slices. She also insists I cut paper-thin slices with ease, and without a serrated-edged 'euphemism' of a bread knife. I need to go to work with a perfectly ordinary, well-sharpened. smooth-edged French knife, seemingly.

Fanny Cradock Savoury Gateau

I like my bread knife, but Fanny says I must throw it away. Don't tell her, but I can't bear to. I am already paying the price however, as I only manage the cut the loaf into four parallel slices. I am ashamed. It's too late for me to test out if a French knife would've been more successful, but if you try it, let me know. I do take Fanny's advice on slicing technique though - she again insists that I do not grip the loaf while I slice it for fear that it will develop a 'pressed-in waistline' producing the most peculiar-shaped slices. Thank goodness I've done something right. Fanny is only trying to make sure I obtain first-class results with the easiest of methods after all.

Fanny Cradock Savoury Gateau

Fanny stuffs the layers with all sorts of fillings - fish, if we feel like ringing in the changes; cream cheese if we feel like playing it safe. Either way, each layer should be different, with the addition of other cheeses, eggs, cream, nuts and the all important food colouring to make the biggest impact. Oh dear, Fanny will not be pleased, again, as I opt for colourful beetroots and avocados to obtain the same pink and green layers she does. No artificial colours, this time. I use a mix of quark and cream cheese, whizzing them up in a food processor to make a mousse with my chosen accompaniments. Another layer is just a mix of cheeses. Layers of bread and filling are alternated back into the tin, then the finished cake, once chilled, is 'iced' with mayonnaise and left over filling, before being decorated with piped filing and walnuts. What tiresome man wouldn't be delighted with this, served with a sherry or a beer. I think in future I will opt for both sweet and savoury!

Fanny Cradock Savoury Gateau

Monday, 18 July 2016

Uh-huh, Fanny's All Fried Up

If you thought perhaps that none other than the King himself, Elvis, invented the artery-clogging deep-fried sandwich, then you'll have to think again. It may be his hefty, burning, burning hunks of love - those deep-fried Peanut Butter and Banana favourites that he enjoyed before he left the building permanently that sticks in everyones suspicious minds, but their history seems to go way down back in time. According to Fanny, it was another kind of 'royalty' altogether, and possibly not who you'd be expecting. I won't be cruel, but the hot-headed woman in question, was Fanny's mother-with-the-wooden-heart, Bijou.

Fanny Cradock Fried Sandwich

So the story goes, Fanny's mother was arranging another wedding (presumably this happened a great deal) at their humble house for an orphaned member of the family. Fanny was the Bridesmaid. Her mother and the cook were at logger-heads about the buffet, even though her mother had trained this 'country born cook' she appeared to have quite different ideas for catering. The cook insisted that Fanny's mothers plan would not contain enough food for the guests. Her mother was adamant it would. Rage ensued, until strangely Fanny's mother, not normally one to surrender, 'gave in' and trays of sandwiches were made...

Fanny Cradock Fried Sandwich

Needless to say, a vast amount of disconsolate, curl-edged caviar sandwiches remained after the last guest had left. However, instead of crying in the chapel, Fanny's mother suggested to the crestfallen country cook 'it's now or never' so whip up a thinnish fritter batter, pass each sandwich through it, drop them into hot smoking fat to fry them, and serve them with a lemon sauce. Delicious. There we go, no wastage. Although, quite who they were being served to we will never know, presumably the 'household' the next day? That'll teach 'em.

Fanny Cradock Fried Sandwich

Fanny of course is not suggesting that we must use caviar sandwiches here, any old residue from a mixed package will do. For example, Fanny herself made up sandwiches for one of the assistants who was out all day driving, but when they returned so did the sandwiches, untouched. Apparently during this long day of driving, he went into a pub for a glass of beer and happened to run into a friend who invited him for luncheon, so the sandwiches remained uneaten. Perhaps if a little less conversation had occurred, and a little more munching these sandwiches would not have been returned to sender. Fanny made Dianne and Sally cut them into small triangles and fry them up, just as Fanny's mother had for his latest flame.

Fanny Cradock Fried Sandwich

I haven't catered for a wedding, or bumped into friends randomly in the pub, so I am lacking in a tray of curled-up sandwiches. So, supermarket versions will have to suffice. Fanny's batter is delightful. Whisk up an egg yolk, add the juice of a lemon, seasoning, melted butter and then some flour. Whisk up the egg white separately and fold it in for a thinnish and very light and airy batter. I cut my Cheese and Onion and slightly more upmarket Brie and Grape efforts into small triangles and fry until golden. They look smashing. I can't help falling in love with the Cheese and Onion ones. The Brie and Grape were perhaps a poor choice, who wants deep-fried lettuce? Fanny says that her mothers deep-fried sandwiches are like a 17th Century recipe for a cure for corns, which promised that they would 'swiftlie vanyshe'. It may not be the most appetising note to end on, but she was right. They are little devils in disguise, oh yes they are.

Fanny Cradock Fried Sandwich

Monday, 11 July 2016

Which Witches 'Wich

Fanny Cradock really was one of a kind. A unique kind of cookery writer, her books and recipes are certainly not like those by anyone else. Ever. Let's test it out. Take a wander over to your bookshelf. Stare hard at your collection. Let your eyes gaze over the titles and think deeply about the recipes contained within. Concentrate. Can you recall any of the books containing recipes that you would 'only serve to your most detested female enemy in moments of extreme rage'? Recipes that were supposedly the 'most horrific' in the world? Let me know if I'm wrong, but I reckon it's only in one of Fanny's volumes that you'll find just that.

Fanny Cradock Open Sandwich

In this fairly unique start, even for Fanny, to part 32 looking at Sweet and Savoury Sandwiches, the focus is first of all upon Danish Open Sandwiches. After all, Fanny says, the Danes have some of the best pastry cooks in the world, have Sandwich Houses and apparently the sandwich servers wear leather aprons. What's not to like? The sandwich selection is enormous, around five hundred different possibilities, all offered 'by the yard'. So naturally you'd choose one that that you absolutely one hundred percent detested, served only to those who disgust you even more, to showcase here.

Fanny Cradock Open Sandwich

Fanny chooses Danish Open Sandwiches to 'widen our basic arc of thinking' when we consider sandwiches. At the lowest possible sandwich level is the national loaf, sold frequently from the deep freeze, wrapped up in the modern equivalent of mackintosh knickers and pre-sliced. Always tasting like inner soles. Fanny isn't a fan. It is possible to progress though, Fanny recommends French bread, rye bread, black bread, brioches and pumpernickel. Even diet 'biscuits', but not Ryvita. They taste like minced straw mattresses apparently. We'll perhaps have to take Fannys word for that one.

Fanny Cradock Open Sandwich

Fanny's final slimming tip is to make your sandwiches with a Cambridge Loaf, which has enabled Fanny to maintain her waistline at the same measurement that it was 20 years previously, even after becoming a mother and grandmother. Allegedly. If you make any 'off' comments about Fanny's waistline, then beware, it will be this sandwich that is served to you. Fanny calls it a Jansen's Temptation, but when I google that it seems to be a Swedish casserole of potato and onions. Fanny won't have mixed up her Nordic countries by any chance and surely knows her smørrebrød from her smörgåsbord?

Fanny Cradock Open Sandwich

She lets us know that Danish people themselves do not think sandwiches are even worth eating unless they contain the same amount of butter as bread, so bang goes the diet. This particular horror is topped with another thick layer of blue cheese. It should be Danish of course. And then smothered with raspberry jam. I can think of many, many worse things to spread on a slice of bread to serve to my most hated enemy, female or not, in moments of extreme rage, than butter, some lovely blue cheese and fruity jam. Fanny never divulges just who that nasty woman was, or what she did to upset her so. She does nonetheless suggest serving the sandwich with a spicy snifter of spirited Snaps in an attempt to salvage the situation. My only wish is that Fanny had produced a whole cookbook stuffed with recipes for people you despise. Meanwhile, Skål.

Fanny Cradock Open Sandwich

Monday, 4 July 2016

If The Horse-Choux Fits

Fanny is still chatting on about weddings. There doesn't seem to be a wedding any time soon, or even anyone on the verge of an announcement, but more she is just 'putting it out there' that if there were to be such a celebration, she'd be as eager as a beaver to get that buffet bulging. She has so many ideas for the ideal wedding reception buffet, but don't worry if all you are planning is a simple garden party, or indeed any outdoor or indoor warm weather reception, these ideas are still for you. If you've been following Fanny with me for a while, you'll probably be able to guess what her ideal buffet ideas are...

Fanny Cradock Savoury Choux

Everything revolves around Choux Paste. It's so versatile that almost all of your wedding/garden party/outdoor/indoor/warm weather party canapés can be made with it. All the others can be vol-au-vents. Perfect. Easy. Tasty. Fanny suggests 'basic' choux made with water, also a 'basic' sweet choux made with milk, a 'basic' orange choux and a 'basic' coffee choux paste. They are all essentially the same 'basic' recipe using different liquids, but are sure to impress your 'basic' guests. And that's even before they are decorated and filled. I've made choux before with Fanny, so my eyes are drawn immediately to her 'basic' savoury option, made basically with Cheese.

Fanny Cradock Savoury Choux

Fanny starts by melting butter gently in milk, only allowing it to come up to the boil once the butter has completely dissolved. She quickly tosses in some flour and lets the mixture 'seethe up as usual' around the flour. Remove immediately from the heat, season, add cheese and beat, beat, beat like your life depends upon it. Stretch yourself, Fanny says, over the beating until you are 'practically fed-up' for airy puffy choux. The mixture should be entirely smooth and come clear of the pan. Sally is on hand with a pic-strip guide to show you what it should look like, which of course I have followed and recreated. Fanny then beats in three eggs, one at time. The first one will turn the mixture into globules which will look throughly depressing, but carry on. If you pay no heed and go on beating the mixture will become perfectly smooth again. Once it is, beat in the next egg, and so on. She is right.

Fanny Cradock Savoury Choux

Then comes the most important part. Fanny absolutely and without any discussion or debate, insists that this is followed to the letter. Cover the mixture with a plate and leave it at ordinary room temperature until it is absolutely cold. Do NOT pop it into the fridge, you will be sorry. And, if you use it while it is hot, not only are you completely off your rocker, but you will 'descend to the depths of culinary shame', because, when the mixture is baked, no matter what shape you choose, it will have horrible goo in the centre which you will need to scrape out with a teaspoon. Say no to goo, say no to shame and do as Fanny says, ok?

Fanny Cradock Savoury Choux

When it is stone cold, piping can begin. In a variety of shapes, naturally. Sally has a glass of cold water to hand to dip a knife into it to 'snip' the end of the piping off neatly. For eclairs, long strips. For buns, pipe vertically and push down before lobbing off the end. For weddings, Fanny says horseshoe shapes. She makes no shoe/choux jokes. This is serious business. Whatever you choose, (I'm fighting the desire to say 'choux-se') a hot oven is required until golden brown. Mine emerge a little dark, but smelling great. And no goo. Yippee! Fanny whips up some blue cheese and piping it on for decoration. Mix it with a little splash of port for easy piping. She insists on using the best possible port which you can 'steal from your husband'. This doesn't seem like the best start to married life to me, but who am I to argue with Fanny? Especially when these are so good. After all, there is no wedding here. No party of any kind - just me a a table full of very quickly disappearing savoury delicious choux.

Fanny Cradock Savoury Choux

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A Whack of Leather - Our Third Fanny-versary!

Three really is a magic number, but sometimes it feels a little overlooked. I mean everyone likes a 'first' don't they? Nothing better. The Winner! The Original! The Pioneer! Second feels like a real achievement, having kept going and 'done it again', still pretty good compared to first. Third though, it's a bit like, okay, that's great. A kind of 'well done' but also a 'what's for tea' kind of celebration really. So, it may just be me, but today I am shouting it loud and cheering (for myself) as Fanny and I celebrate a terrific three years together. Aw. That's 'leather' in anniversary terms... Oh. Best move on.

Fanny Cradock Three Tier Cake

Three years! You may not have been reading along from the very beginning (erm, but now I think of it, what not?), but that's a lot of weird and whacky recipes, a lot food colouring and a lot of mentions of poor, down-trodden assistants getting into hot water for not following instructions. That's probably where the leather comes in - a quick whack with a belt? It's also three years of learning new techniques, uncovering new flavour combinations and generally having a real laugh. Every day. That's not bad going is it? With Fanny watching over me. Every day. I don't think I've done anything deserving of a good belting. Yet.

Fanny Cradock Three Tier Cake

I must distract Fanny's mind from leather. Fortunately Fanny has just the thing in mind for 'our' celebration - a three tired cake. Okay, so she's got her celebrations a little mixed up, but it's the thought that counts isn't it? She remembered! Her idea is to make a three tiered wedding cake, perfect for a June bride. She did love a good wedding, whether in June or not. She even had a fake one or two along the way, often more than one at the same time, and never really much clarity on who was married to whom, but we're not being judge-y today of all days, it's a day to celebrate.

Fanny Cradock Three Tier Cake

Fanny suggests her tried and tested Christmas Cake (is it too early to mention?) for the three tiered triumph. We've made it before, together of course, but never in triplicate. Fanny informs us that the base layer is to be cut and eaten on the wedding day. The second layer should be stored away to celebrate the First Anniversary, or if we are more ambitious, and have blooming good storage, the Silver Wedding Anniversary. The Third and final tier is intended to celebrate the birth of the first child. I fear that Fanny may be waiting quite some time for that particular celebration. Maybe a sacrificial leathering is the best option after all.

Fanny Cradock Three Tier Cake

So, it's a spicy, fruity, slightly boozy cake fest in June. Once all three cakes are mixed up and baked, Fanny urges us to move swiftly onto the decoration. Almond Paste followed by Royal Icing is essential as a starting point. She advises that it is best to practice decoration on an entirely irrelevant cake that you just happen to have lying around. This is what she makes Johnnie do. Poor Johnnie, it keeps him occupied. He decorates the bottom layer with stars. I, on the other hand, do not have any irrelevant cakes, or indeed any that hang about too long, but I am always applying the knowledge that wise old Fanny gives me. So I know cakes should be blue. Mix the two together and surely this is the ultimate Third Fanny-versary cake? The big question is, will we still be together for the next five years of Fanny Fun required to compete the Cookery Programme? Our next Fanny-versary is the much more suitable Fruit and Flowers, so don't be scared...

Fanny Cradock Three Tier Cake