Monday, 30 June 2014

Veg and Vim - Fanny Cradock's Meat Free Monday

After all the sponge cakes, Fanny brings this partwork to a close with a savoury treat for vegetarians in the shape of her first Menu, or Bill of Fare. Fanny is of course known more for her meat dishes, but in reality she was also a fan of meat-free cookery. Her only provisio was that it was cooked well, in other words, to her standards. She could not bear 'wasted' ingredients. She did admit that some of her recipes, like these, would be 'acceptable to vegetarians' and even the most carnivorous of humans had been know to 'react favourably' to them. Not exactly the most glowing endorsement for vegetarianism, but in 1970 I think we would have been even more of a minority than today. Although they couldn't be described as 'vegetarian' as such, Fanny did write two 'Vegetable Cookery' books in 1959 - the first called 'Cabbages and Things' and the second 'Veg and Vim' which explained how to prepare vegetables, how to grow them, how to balance out meals by replacing protein that would be normally be found in meat and so on. Probably based more on the necessity of the times than morality, but both still hold up very well today.


For this particular vegetarian supper, Fanny introduces some simple, exciting and exotic dishes aimed at helping you to get 'one-up-manship' on your neighbours as they are scarcely known in this country famous for it's meat and two veg. Ditch the meat. The first, a Tunisian delight called Chachouka, I am guessing didn't catch on as I still hadn't heard of it, but the second, Champignon Mornay or Baked Mushrooms in Cheese Sauce has become a vegetarian staple. Fanny prefers fresh vegetables, and even encourages us to go foraging like she did during the war to find large field mushrooms. However if foraging is not for you, and fresh is not available, Fanny does say that tinned can be substituted in 'emergency situations'.


The Chachouka starts life as slices tomatoes and peppers, or Pimentoes as Fanny always calls them, sautéed in butter. First though, they need to be peeled. The tomatoes are submerged in boiling water, but Fanny has a new technique to pimp up the Pimentoes. Fanny says to only buy hard ones which feel crisp to the touch, soft and wrinkly are not worth the money. So don't do it. To remove the skin 'successfully' they should be halved and set under a very hot grill until they blacken. The skin should now peel away like 'paper from a damp wall'. It does, and the benefit over my usual technique of placing them after blackening in a plastic bag is that they don't go slimy.


Once the are mingled nicely in a pan over a gentle heat with the tomatoes and butter, which appears to be the only flavouring added, and are piping hot they should be served with some scrambled eggs, again cooked in lots of butter. Butter is back in the foodie headlines as a 'good' ingredient at the moment, but Fanny always knew that.


One ingredient that Fanny uses which would certainly not be acceptable to any vegetarian, in 1970 or not, is pork fat. She uses this to 'impregnate' the mushrooms with flavour before they are baked. I make a substitution for more butter. It goes nice and nutty brown during the 'impregnation'. Then pile on a mix of cream, chopped shallot and cheese, which is seasoned slightly for baking. The two dishes are very simple, but very flavoursome, and really show off the vegetables to their best. I think vegetarian palettes and expectations might quiver a little at these if served in a restaurant today, but for a quick, homely supper full of 'veg and vim', and as 'penny plain dishes' as Fanny describes, they are perfect. Fanny knew her vegetables, and that seems acceptable to me.

4 comments:

  1. Those baked mushrooms do look pretty marvellous...

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    1. Thanks, tasted good too, nice and simple for supper!

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  2. I was going to say that I actually managed a meat-free Monday for once because we had Cauliflower Cheese last night but then I remembered the breadcrumb topping had pancetta in it. Oh, well!

    Sounds like Fanny and I have the same definition of "vegetarian." When I'm cooking for other people I always say things like, "oh if anyone's a vegetarian they can just have more soup." Then my husband reminds me that chicken stock doesn't count as vegetarian-friendly...

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    1. I love cauliflower cheese! I'm impressed that Fanny even acknowledged that veggies existed way back then though, despite her rather loose definition (and yours!)...

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