Sunday, 3 August 2014

Well (veggie) Jel

Many believed that Fanny Cradock may herself have been preserved in Aspic by the time she appeared in full technicolour in the 1970's, such was her outdated yet strangely fascinating style and technique. She brought to mind 'days of old' and labour intensive preparation in the kitchen, when in actual fact her aim (she said) was to save the ordinary housewife the shackles of such things. Even in the 70's the thought of making elaborate jellies and aspics to present to your guests was frowned upon, but not by Fanny. Her feeling was that the fault lay with the home cooks who had a number of 'culinary bogeys', which of course included gelatine, and it was her role to eliminate them! Fanny insisted that if you treated gelatine properly, it would ALWAYS behave as good as gold for you. Who knows what she'd have made of me trying to turn all her gelatine laden dishes vegetarian mind you...


It's always a little frustrating when chefs dream up a delicious dessert using gelatine, as I never quite know how to switch it up to a vegetarian friendly version... What quantity of those funny slippery sheets of slime they use do you substitute for whichever vegetarian version you are lucky enough to find. There are gels, flakes and powders, but no slippery sheets. Fanny provides detailed charts showing how much gelatine to use for each type and quantity of any given liquid. Here's the good news, she's not a fan of slippery sheets and instead uses gelatine powder. Maybe this conversion malarkey won't be so tricky after all?


Fanny insists that we are all firm with ourselves over accuracy. We MUST measure out not only the powder but also the liquids, making sure we give our scales a good prodding before we do so to ensure they behave. I do like to measure things anyway, clearly I am teachers pet in the jelly class. She has not time whatsoever for those women who write to her to moan that there gelatine has sunk to the bottom of their dishes, or has clumped in lumps. Fanny gets down with the kids in her response and can only think of a one word reply... 'punk!' I am pretty sure her exact response may have rhymed with that but was unprintable in the 70's. Her method is to scatter gelatine powder onto the given quantities of cold liquid in the charts, heat and stir over a low flame and then add it to the bulk liquid. The instructions for the Agar powder I am using first (from Experichef) are more or less the same, except I add the powder to the total amount of liquid before heating. It's 1g of powder to 100ml of liquid. Fanny says this is 'POPPYCOCK' but in fairness I don't think she was really referring to Agar...


Fannys' first foray into the land of wibble wobble is entirely decorative. She wants to show us the wonders of jelly by helping us recreate a Victorian table centrepiece for a ball or supper, which of course would have always been homemade. I didn't really imagine they had packet jelly in those days anyway, but I think she's warning us not to dissolve some flavoured cubes from the supermarket here. Fanny says all I need to produce an quick and easy 'elaboration' is some fluted pastry cutters and a sharp knife. As long as I prepare my jelly moulds correctly that is. If my mixture if contains cream they should be oiled, if they don't they should be thoroughly wetted. I'm trying out a range of different moulds for this Victorian sensation, but no cream. Wet it is! 


I am taking my inspiration from Fannys own illustration which shows a colourful plateful of cut jelly stacked high. I whip up a large batch of clear Agar jelly, just until the mixture boils, and decide to colour it in my moulds so I can get more variation. A muffin tin doubles up as a mould, as well as some individual baking trays, and of course some 'real' jelly moulds. They all take well to the gel colours (I like to use Wilton) mixed together with the ends of cocktail sticks) and set well while they cool. The cutters do their job and all there is to manage is the assembly. Fanny uses some pretty a Aspic cutters, and I have a modern day set of small shapes. I feel that I have well and truly eliminated the 'jelly bogey' and am ready to progress to a whole partwork of equally weird and wonderful 'set' creations! Are you ready to join me?

12 comments:

  1. That looks fantastic! I have had such disastrous gelatine attempts recently. I would just love to have that displayed as the centrepiece for my next dinner party!!!

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    1. I've never used the 'proper' stuff, but the Agar works well if your maths is good! Thanks!

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  2. I love the colours and the decorative nature of the jellies. As a child of the 90s I've never seen anything like this; I hope the people you served it to were impressed!

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    1. Thanks, it was well received! The 70s were outrageous for food presentation :-)

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  3. I've never seen anything quite like this! It looks like you had fun putting all of the jellies together, I'm sure Fanny would have approved of all the bright colours :)

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    1. I had great fun! Fannys was colourful too, maybe just not as bright ;-)

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  4. You have made me laugh!! This is totally bonkers Fan - love it, love it, love it!!

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    1. So glad about that, it's all a hoot for me too!

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  5. Gorgeous vibrant colours ! Can't wait to see where your 'set creations' journey takes you.

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    1. Thanks Sarah, I think it's going to be a LOT of fun!

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  6. These look fantastic - and they're vegetarian! Splendid! I would happily tuck into that gorgeous colourful tower of jelly :)

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    1. Thanks! Lots more jelly fun to come, even some savoury ones if you fancy!

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