Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Split Decision Salad

Fanny Cradock has views on salads, and she's not afraid to share them. First of all, in the words of the late Samuel Goldwyn (for reasons unknown) she wishes to make to clear that she is 'including out' things which are simply 'beneath her contempt'. A good salad is not a bowl of chopped lettuce, not cucumber with the skin cut off (so that everyone gets the burps), not un-skinned tomatoes and a most definitely not bottle of bought 'salad cream'. I'm with Fanny on that last one - she feels it is a misnomer as it contains no cream, and it does contain malt vinegar. Said vinegar is excellent for cleaning refrigerators and for taking stains of polished surfaces, but, Fanny maintains, is lethal to the taste buds and should be banned from home cooking. I just can't bear salad cream.

Fanny Cradock Banana Salad

Fanny feels that by the very nature of it's ingredients, the humble salad is potentially a perfect example of a gourmet's requirements no matter how modest the expenditure is. Tomatoes must be skinned. Cucumbers must be un-skinned and sliced very thinly. Lettuce must be washed, torn, shaken and served cold. Real mayonnaise must be used. This makes the absolute minimal salad assembly and avoids the abomination of limpness. Pimentoes must be hard, crisp and tight skinned. Eggs must never be boiled for longer than eight minutes, and must be slung immediately afterwards into cold water to avoid nasty black lines around the yolk, which is off-putting at the best of times.

Fanny Cradock Banana Salad

Most people in England, Fanny says not meaning to wade in on national divides, labour under the monumental misconception that a 'green salad' should be a kind of vegetarian dog's dinner compromising rabbit food and oddments, all higgled together on a kidney-shaped dish under the wrong name of 'Tossed Green Salad'. The main offence however remains that it is clearly not green, but multi-coloured. So what is the real deal? Fanny is keen to evoke feelings of nostalgia to explain...

Fanny Cradock Banana Salad

Not sure who's nostalgia it is, perhaps her own? The answer lies in France, of course, where all things civilised reside. Between the hours of noon and two, every French working man, whether he quits his office desk, road excavation, factory yard, field, counter or luxurious limousine, returns home to discover the homemaker shaking out crisp, well picked green stuff, Salade Verte, from their saladiers, to be served after the main course. Fanny suggests a slight change of colour with her idea for British homes, the Iris Salad. Just please do not serve it with any wine. Fanny begs you. Not at lunchtime at any rate, surely.

Fanny Cradock Banana Salad

Perhaps it is not the colour which gives the Iris Salad it's name. It's far from a violet hue. Perhaps it is because you will not believe your eyes. Especially after all Fanny's demands. She makes a simple dressing with wine vinegar, oil, crushed garlic, chopped pimentos, paprika and pickles. No salad cream. All good so far. She washes and spin dries crisp, cos salad leaves. She slices tomatoes neatly, more pimentos, perfectly boiled eggs and just before she drizzles the dressing over, she adds slices of banana. Yes, banana. In a salad. At least it wasn't salad cream, that would just be disgusting...

Fanny Cradock Banana Salad

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Stick a Feather in His Cap

Fanny Cradock is planning her summer holiday, and is hoping you are too. She knows that you will not be anywhere nearly as well travelled as she. She knows that you will not be as well informed on the best places to go. She knows that if going 'abroad' is comparatively unfamiliar to you, and your experience is limited Jersey, Knokke or Dieppe, she has somewhere in mind which will get you using all five of your senses in a manner to which you will very probably have been unaccustomed. So that's us put firmly in our place. I need a holiday.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

Where is this paradise for the senses that she has in mind? It's a country of strong, clear, brilliant light which gives an almost theatrical performance at sunrise and sunset. It has white, cubic houses where people wear brilliant costumes among the breathtaking architecture. They have hills. They have beaches. They have unfamiliar smells. Where else but the fair isles of Greece. It would seem that they also have Macaroni Pies.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

It's no standard Macaroni Pie of course, this is a Pallas Athene's Macaroni Pie. Fanny seems to have picked this one up on one of her jaunts. She reckons in Greece if you happen across a little Taverna, you are welcome to just trot into the kitchen as a matter of course, lift the lids on the pots, sniff the contents and either say 'thank-you' and go away, or order and go and sit down in the restaurant. I suppose it reduces the need for the gay, colourful Taverna hosts she recalls, who have roles more akin to a performance rather than to serve and receive, to have waiting staff.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

This pie is less performance and more pleasure. Simply cook the macaroni, add some dried herbs, grated cheese, blobs of cottage cheese and a good splash of single cream before baking in a moderate oven. I'm not spotting any of the glorious Greek produce that Fanny practically insists you bring back from your Greek holiday. As well as textiles and pottery, Fanny's list of priorities are Halva, Turkish Delight, Olives and Oktapodaki. That's tinned Baby Octopus. Perhaps it's best that she saves that for a more suitably tentacle-icious pie.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

Fanny does think that Greece is exciting. Fanny does think that you will need to take pains to 'tune in' to a different way of living. Fanny does think you will need to get accustomed to drinking endless amounts of Ouzo. Greek people, you see, use a lot of oil and resin in their food and wine, neither of which Fanny notes are suited to the rather conservative stomachs of British people. Or other British people, as I assume she means. This must be why she keeps this pie thoroughly suitable for British stomachs, with the absence of all whiffs of Greece. Fanny says you will return from Greece uncomprehending, a little dazed and feeling drunk. This seems to be the case with this pie. Fanny says it makes a filling and suitable adjunct to the overload of meats on offer. Vegetarians rejoice! Fanny cannot resist however mentioning that this particular dish would be greatly improved by the addition of a huge chunk of barbecued meat. So, stick that in your cap and call it Macaroni.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

OMG BTW IT'S FC's DIY BBQ LOL

So, we *all* have a pile of old bricks, a few lengths of metal piping from the local junkyard and precisely four strong garden canes lying around at home, don't we? And, of course, simply no idea what to do with them. You know the kind of thing, a local famous ancient monument was being demolished to widen the road, and you nipped along and 'bought' a selection of Eighteenth century rose-coloured bricks just on the off-chance they'd be useful further down the line. It's always happening to me. Well, luck is in, Fanny has a solution. Build your own spit barbecue.

Fanny Cradock BBQ

Fanny is under no illusion that Britain may not be best placed for barbecue lovers, after all the climate can turn 'at the drop of a sun-hat' from 'set fair' to 'downpour'. Fanny recommends that we shouldn't cry about it. Her mantra is 'barbecue-without-tears' and indeed, without exhaustion. And while we are at it, without smoke in our eyes to spoil the enjoyment. Choosing the location for your barbecue is, therefore, key. You must have a windbreak. You do not want the fire to become so fierce a strength for cooking or so intense that it can do 'scorch damage' to a nearby fence or hedge. Let alone the cooks hands or face. How do you think Fanny got those signature eyebrows?

Fanny Cradock BBQ

Fanny assumes that everyone will want a barbecue. Naturally. For those who do not wish to invest in a professional one, used by professionals in the professional way, a homemade one can be made in just a few moments. She draws a diagram to make it even quicker. Pay particular attention to the holes. A draught is required. And please, Fanny begs, do not use any cement. If your bricks have not been reclaimed honestly from a beyond-help historic home, if they are old and faffy with knobbly leftovers of cement adhering to them, do chip these off first or the bricks will simply not stand level. Safety first, remember. Eyebrows. That's all I'm saying.

Fanny Cradock BBQ

The next most important thing for a successful barbecue is the position of a table near to it. Where on earth will you put the essential accoutrements for grilling without one? Fanny lists these as bread, butter, salt, pepper, a cheese selection and a massive basket of fruit. And before you ask, the butter must be protected in a suitable tub which is then set into another larger tub with ice cubes packed around it. The only other essential is paper towels, there must be a generous supply of those for guests to wipe their greasy hands on. Fanny insists that plastic plates are used for COLD items only. The beastly plastic, ammonia flavour which they impart to hot food is unfortunate for all. We *may* fall back upon cardboard plates if absolutely unavoidable, but we will need the addition of a basket under the table for *immediate* discarding. No-one must see a used cardboard plate. The shame!

Fanny Cradock BBQ

Now that we have the set-up clarified, we can consider the food. Sally is shown brushing oil onto her kebabs with obvious joy, at the 'spit bar' as Fanny calls it. She has Spit Roast Duck, Spare Ribs, Mackerel, Hamburgers and Jacket Potatoes too. Fanny knows that some people eat hot dogs. She does not claim to be an expert on them, as she has been unable to find anyone who will indeed eat them. She simply knows that they exist, and are sometimes sold in tins. She is an expert on Gammon Steaks however. Thankfully. They must be scissor-snipped at intervals around the rind so that the flesh does not 'hump up' during cooking. They inevitably will if you don't. Be warned. No humping at the barbecue.

Fanny Cradock BBQ

So, we are all set to do our first spit-roast just when Fanny throws an almighty spanner straight into the hot coals... She has a flaming alternative if, after all this, you really would rather do things the professional way. Not as much room for the cardboard plates under this one though.

Fanny Cradock Barbecue

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Bijou Sprew with a Hue

When Fanny Cradock starts a recipe 'First, dear Members, do not use Asparagus for this Asparagus soup' I no longer bat an eyelid. With Fanny, you really do learn to expect the never-in-your-life unexpected. Normally she delivers, and then some. Things that look like something else entirely, things that taste like nothing you'd ever thought of and things might've been better if less thought had been put into them. However, no asparagus in your asparagus soup? Fanny, what are you thinking?

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

Well, it seems that she's not quite as barmy as I first assume. Fanny feels that asparagus is to expensive to be used in soup, too good to be blended up and too wasteful to consign to a bowl. Instead, she wants to use 'sprew'. I haven't a clue what are sprew, do you? Fanny comes to the rescue - they are, according to her, young, thin shoots of asparagus. Google corrects my attempts to search further - did I mean sprue? No I meant sprew. It seems that Fanny's spelling is at odds with Google, but I am sure she would still argue that she was correct and a mere search engine was mistaken.

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

So, the sprew are the thin, green, first growths of the crop, normally taken out to encourage the proper stuff to grow stronger and should be available early, should be far, far cheaper and should be bulging with flavour. Well, after all the kerfuffle I couldn't find any. Thanks to the 'wonders' of globalisation however the supermarkets are full of asparagus out of season specially flown in from Mexico. Oh dear. Would Fanny say 'First, dear Members, do not use Mexican imported Asparagus for this Asparagus soup?'

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

Fanny's soups are always made in long-forgotten ways, and I love rediscovering them. Fanny firstly simmers the asparagus in water which just covers them meanly, with only a pinch of salt for company. I try and be as mean as I can possibly muster. When they are tender she removes them from the 'sprew liquor' (try Googling that), scrapes the flesh off on a wooden board and simmers down the liquor to a reduction. I just whizz them up in the processor to a paste. The soup starts with melted butter and flour, making a roux for the sprew - adding the liquor back in gradually, followed by some white wine, then some milk and finally some cream, all the while stirring over a gentle heat. It's like a béchamel sauce at this stage.

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

It doesn't sound attractive when Fanny describes it, but she adds in the 'sprew pulp' next and gives it a good beating. The 'soup' turns a lovely shade of pale green. Fanny adjusts the consistency with more milk if needed, a little much needed seasoning and a teeny-tiny grating of hard cheese. It's a rich tasting soup, the wine is fairly prominent but goes well with the asparagus. Fanny prefers this soup to served iced, en Glacée, so chill out for a while as the soup chills in the fridge. Fanny also prefers the rather pallid colour to be amplified somewhat with a little tint of harmless vegetable colouring. Asparagus soup without Asparagus I can almost go with, but maybe I'd say 'First, dear members, do not use food colouring in your soup'...

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

Monday, 27 February 2017

Strawberry Meals Forever


Fanny Cradock is always inspired by the seasons as to what to whip up for us to enjoy. She's just a little bit ahead of herself here though as she urges us to prepare for splendid days of Summer. She's planted some lovely strawberry plants, carefully selected for both flavour and flower, in every nook and cranny of her, she would claim, modest garden, and is keen to make the most of them while the season is here. I am all for pretending that it is already summery strawberry season. We all need a little sunshine in our life don't we?

Fanny Cradock Strawberry Shortbread

I am not using home-grown strawberries. Even it were the correct season, I have nowhere to grow them. No nooks or crannies. Fanny would be sad for me. She does enter, a little unusually I feel, into a prayer for those who have home-growing abilities though. Fanny's prayer is for their health. She prays that they are using all natural compost in their gardens, and are totally bereft of artificial sprays and fertilisers, so that at the very least the little strawberries arrive at their doors safe and pure. We would all say Amen to that.

Fanny Cradock Strawberry Shortbread

Fanny considers a range of special treats that would be enhanced by chemical-free strawberries. Perhaps a Strawberry and Cream Choux Paste Gateaux is what you are dreaming of? Maybe you'd prefer Choux Paste Strawberry Swans? Possibly a Strawberry Mille Feuille is more your thing? Or a simple Sponge Sandwich with Strawberries? Whichever it is, Fanny rustles them all up. She claims they are perfect if you want to make something gorgeous even if you can't cook. Awkward. Presumably they are good too, even if you can. They all involve simply filling the chosen sponge or pastry with strawberries and cream. Sometimes custard too. My prayers have been answered.

Fanny Cradock Strawberry Shortbread

I'm in the mood for Strawberry Shortbread. Fanny gives it the usual French translation to fancy it up - Gâteau Biscuit Anglais aux Fraises Chantilly - but when you get down to it, it's shortbread, strawberries and cream. Fanny makes her shortbread with butter, sugar, self-raising flour (which she is sure will horrify the Scots, but she insists on using it for everything) and also rice flour. She creams the butter and sugar together, folds in the flours and presses them into suitably buttered and floured moulds for baking. Simple. A moderate oven will suffice.

Fanny Cradock Strawberry Shortbread

While one shortbread circle is cooling, Fanny suggests cutting the other in half ready for presentation.  When both are fully cool, she piles in sliced, hulled and heavenly strawberries, pops the two halves on top as 'wings' or a lid, and adds generous amounts of piped cream. I'm not sure where this traditional display originates, but it does make a very pleasing offering. The shortbread is crumbly and buttery. The strawberries sweet and juicy. The cream light and fluffy. Next time I need a little sunshine in my days, this will be my go-to brightener. Let's pray for all those that are burdened by chemically treated fruits while we are feeling so worthy.

Fanny Cradock Strawberry Shortbread

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