Monday, 9 April 2018

Gotta Oughta Ricotta

The joy of Fanny has to be in the unexpected. I try not to look too far ahead to see what is coming next. I just love the element of surprise, delight and from time-to-time surprisingly delightful horror, that are contained within the technicolour pages of the partwork. It's not worth trying to second guess what Fanny has in mind, it's rarely what you might think, even if you apply previous knowledge of her work and erm, innovation, to your already over-active imagination. Fanny's is in overdrive.

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

We are still cooking with cheese. I've been hopeful for something savoury and well. cheesy. So far, however, it's all been sweet. Today is no exception as we tackle an Italian Budino di Ricotta, or a plain old cream cheese pudding if like me, you're Italian is ropey. Fanny's Italian was very ropey indeed, so let's hope that Budino does actually translate as pudding...

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

Fanny begins by beating together the ricotta - or any of her dreamy creamy homemade cheese should you have any left - with ground almonds, icing sugar and a flavouring. Fanny suggests lemon, but I don't have any, so substitute with vanilla. The mix is quite wet. Fanny whips up a lot of egg whites until they are very stiff indeed and gently folds them in, before transferring to a buttered soufflé mould to bake for thirty minutes.

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

It emerges from the oven as a gloriously risen, well, soufflé, but as it cooled it sank down again. I think Fanny knew it would be looking less than appealing as it was turned out of the mould, so she had an idea up her chiffon sleeve to turn things around. Boudoir Biscuits and coloured icing. She sits the ricotta pud on a sponge base before surrounding it with the biscuits dipped in heavily coloured icing. Of course she does. What else would she do?

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

It certainly makes it seem cheerier. She's not finished there. Cream piping. Always required. Suddenly this old pudding is looking quite splendid indeed. Unless of course my retro-loving eyes have become tainted by Fanny? Fanny finishes it off with some rose petals, primarily because she had a pretty plate with roses on it. I don't. The smell is lovely though, so shouldn't complain. It's a very unusual pudding, to look at and to taste, light and pillowy, nutty and sweet. As always with Fanny, she delivers something unexpected and slightly wonderful.  And blue.

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Fanny Cradock Invites... you to the iPlayer

There's been quite the hullaballoo this week in the press about the 'Return of Fanny Cradock' to the BBC... Every newspaper, every radio show and even some television shows have covered the 'breaking news' story. The BBC are at last adding some classic cooking shows to their iPlayer archive for us all to savour, showcasing the changes from the 'early days' of Fanny and Delia to erm, well, the 'later days' of, erm, Levi Roots and Lorraine Pascale. It's Fanny that has set the headlines alight however - and I'm not just talking about those nasty tabloids who stole my blog photos to illustrate their stories, but that is another tale for another day...

Fanny Cradock Invites

Once again, Fanny will be showing us all how to throw a proper Cheese and Wine Party. She happily invites us into her actual home to do this, and cooks for us in her actual kitchen. She'd actually campaigned fiercely for many years behind the scenes to move cooking programmes out of the dreary studio, to show the housewives of Britain how to cook in ordinary kitchens. She wanted to cook in ordinary housewives homes. The producers were't keen. Fanny cooked up the plan to use her own kitchen instead. We'd all love to see that! Just before we get that exclusive peek of Fanny's kitchen, she, of course, introduces us to her dog, Mademoiselle Lolita Saltina Cradock, who is not yet quite a lady. No more explanation required.

Fanny Cradock Invites

Fanny is sick to death of looking at walls while she cooks at home, so she shows us around her time-saving kitchen where everything faces the camera instead. Which is fortunate. Peter and Sally are on hand, looking terrified, to help out when barked at. We're having a Cheese and Wine party after all, and time is tight. We all have dramas, nothing worse than the doorbell ringing before you are ready, you really should have your frock on by now and the food isn't presented as it should be. Don't worry, just pull in your army of amiable assistants to rummage through your endless cupboards to make the show happen with ease. It's what every ordinary housewife would do.

Fanny Cradock Invites

To celebrate Fanny on the iPlayer, I am making her very special Italian cheesecake with her very special homemade cream cheese, that we very specially made earlier. This one uses a pastry base. The cream cheese is simply mixed together with egg yolks, orange zest, sugar and a little flour. Oh, and fresh grapes and mixed peel. They are funny lot these Italians. This mixture is poured into the raw pastry case. Fanny then covers the surface in unbeaten egg white and a trellis of pastry offcuts. She sprinkles on a few pine-nuts and a dusting of icing sugar, and it's ready to bake.

Fanny Cradock Invites

Her kitchen at home has four ovens, but we only need one for this. Once baked, sit back and enjoy a slice while catching up with Fanny on iPlayer. It's a treat. Sing along to the jaunty theme tune and gawp in amazement at her talents. She never misses a heartbeat as she tours round, whips up several meals, cleans as she goes, fries stuff, forks stuff, fondues stuff, shows off every piece of equipment she owns and gives detailed explanations of the culinary terms involved. She has diplomas you know. All in one take. The camera follows her round the kitchen with ease. You'll be amazed. Of course if you miss the recipes, don't worry, they are all in the booklet. Back where she belongs on the BBC. Enjoy!

Fanny Cradock Invites

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Marsk My Pony

Fanny Cradock loves cheese. Don't we all? Fanny says that there is nothing more frustrating to a cook or hostess than reading about delicious items which people in other parts of the world can put on their tables and which are, for one reason or another, unobtainable in Britain. Naturally then, Fanny continues to give extensive lists of cheese which at the time of writing were only available from her very favourite shops in London. She rattles of the delights of English Cheese, French Cheese, Italian Cheese, Danish Cheese, Swiss Cheese, Dutch Cheese, German Cheese, Austrian Cheese, and even a limited supply of Scottish Cheese. So basically all the unavailable cheese.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

We needed worry though, Fanny has an idea. She always does. This time her idea is, if we simply cannot buy the cheese that we want, why don't we make our own? She doesn't suggest we start with Blue Vinney. She doesn't suggest we start with Pont l'Evèque. She doesn't suggest we start with Osterola. She suggests we start with cream cheese.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

Fanny being Fanny, gives us a choice. We can make a 'Basic Modest' version, which is made simply from milk. We can make a 'Basic Luxurious' version which is made from milk, single cream and double cream. Or, we can make a 'Basic Sweet' version which can be 'modest' or 'luxurious' but adds in sugar and a vanilla pod. I was hoping for an 'Advanced' version, which may still be to come later on the part-work, however I am happy to plump for luxury. This should always be the choice.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

The only other ingredient is rennet. Fortunately for me, with the rise in home cheese making, vegetarian rennet is now fairly easy to source. I bought mine in Lakeland. The process of luxurious cream cheese making involves heating the milk and creams together over a 'mere thread' of heat until it is really hot. Blood heat, apparently. Add the rennet, allow to cool then transfer to an ordinary sieve lined with butter muslin. Tie knots in the top and hang it somewhere (over the sink for me) to drip for 48 hours, until it stops dripping, and then a further 24 hours in a draught to firm up a little. It's quite strange to have it hanging in the kitchen for days on end...

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

... but so worth it in the end! Fanny informs us now that we can serve this cheese with trimmed sticks of celery for hors d'oeuvres or canapés. We can use it instead of buying Ricotta, which we probably wouldn't be able to buy at the time anyway, in baked tartlets. We can add herbs, parmesan and celery salt to make it suitably savoury if we prefer our tartlets that way. We can make an Italian gateau which Fanny says is normally made with 'Mascherpone' from the Lombardy region. It's really like the creamiest, most delicious, best ever Philadelphia you've ever tasted. So, we can also serve it simply 'forked up' and decorated with fancy pretzels, for scooping and scoffing, to impress and amaze anyone at our buffet table.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

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