Sunday, 21 September 2014

Fannys Freeze Expertise for Canadian Fleas and Portuguese Soup devotees

Fanny Cradock's didn't use her weekly Cookery Programme partwork to update any of her recipes or styles for the modern age of the 1970's. Instead she reinforced her traditional, unwavering sense of 'proper' cooking and presentation, with little regard for how people were living or eating at the time. The partwork was her opportunity to collect together everything she knew and to show off to her readers her years of experience and skill, so that they too could in turn show off to their neighbours and husbands bosses. If ordinary housewives wanted to learn to cook then they should learn the Fanny way, and be grateful. However, some eight years after the series was published, Fanny released a book of freezer recipes in line with the then current boom in availability of home freezers. The recipes for Portuguese Potato Soup and Canadian Raisin Pie from the Bill of Fare, or menu, for the Jelly partwork appeared again.

The freezer cookbook, 'Cook First, Freeze Afterwards', aimed to do what Fanny had never done before - modernise. Fanny even proclaims within the pages that 'housewives' may be of either sex! Progress! It's a fascinating book. Not just for the recipes, but for the endless narrative that accompanies them. It doesn't appear as if Fanny had an editor, or anyone willing to cut a word out. On almost every page she spits out venom at the frozen food company that had engaged her to research and produce a range of meals for them, only, after several years and great personal expense, to renege on the deal. Fanny tells the readers that this resulted in her losing an annual income for £50,000 - a significant amount back then. But fear not, as Fanny has not wasted the endless rehashing and freezing of her recipes, they appear collected in the book of course.

The Portugeuse Soup, or Calde Verde, is a simple affair, using a technique I hadn't heard of before. The recipe calls for the juice of a small onion. Fanny doesn't bother with any instructions to obtain this juice, so I assume I should grate it, place it in muslin and squeeze the juice through. All I need is one teaspoonful which a small shallot seems to yield. It's a bit fiddly, so better be worth it.

Other than that, the soup, which even Fanny refers to as 'sounding dull', is made from simmering three large, old potatoes in a pot of stock until tender. The onion juice is added and stirred through, before hairlike slithers of cabbage are plonked in. The heat should then be raised to a fierce, noisy, bubbling boil, for only three minutes before serving. In the freezer book, the instructions don't vary too much - but the soup is frozen before the cabbage is added. Cabbage, says Fanny, does not like life in the deep freeze and is best added fresh once the soup is defrosted and reheated. So there you go, years of research led to this, and a small fortune lost.

Fanny tends to use the Bill of Fare that ends each partwork to introduce recipes from foreign lands that would no doubt wow even the most staid of dinner guests. The Canadian Raisin Pie is one of these. In Scotland, we'd call this a Flea Cemetery, but that wouldn't be nearly as exotic or sophisticated sounding enough. The raisins are cooked in water, with lemon juice, lemon zest and brown sugar until they are plump. Then a little bit of magic is added. Potato Flour. Fanny mixes it with a little water and instructs it to be stirred 'like mad' after which time the raisins will be swimming in a thickened, clear sauce. It's actually like a raisin jam, all gooey and sweet.

While the raisins are left to cool, I make some sweet shortcrust paste to line a pie dish, and a lid. I even have enough paste leftover to fashion (by hand) a Maple Leaf. How fancy, who wouldn't be impressed by that? The raisin mixture is piled into the pie dish, topped with the pastry lid, dusted liberally with icing sugar and baked for 30 minutes. The version in the freezer book is no different at all, Fanny just adds the instruction that it can be frozen after baking. Years of research. Bank accounts emptied. Freezers full. Both dishes are packed with flavour despite their sparse ingredients - the trickle of onion juice transforms the soup and the magical potato flour shifts the gears of the otherwise simple pie. I'll freeze some and see if Fanny is right. How wonderful would it have been to delve into the freezer aisle of the local supermarket and pick up some Fanny Cradock ready meals though - you can imagine the elaborate creations with lurid colours and ingredients. Forget Lasagne or Cottage Pie, Fanny would've given us rich Casseroles with Green Duchess Potatoes and a range of her famous filled savoury and sweet omelettes. I can't imagine why the frozen food manufacturer decided against it in the end!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Zest for Life - Fanny Cradock's Lemon Soufflé Jelly Cake

Fanny says that you can make a jelly out of any fruits you might happen to have lying around the house. She even recommends replacing sweet wine wine for any water when making a jelly, for adults only, I like that. Alcoholic jellies always seem like a naughty treat. For this final creation in the Jelly partwork Fanny gives the humble lemon centre stage. I've been learning a lot about Agar Agar as a replacement for gelatine over the past few weeks as I turn all Fannys jellies vegetarian, and the main thing to learn is that it doesn't mix well with acid, in particular citrus fruits. I wonder though how it would react to that Italian Lemon liqueur, Limoncello, often found lurking at the back of even the most respectable cocktail cabinet. Certainly in mine. So, would an alcoholic Limincello Soufflé Cake be fitting of a finale (for now) for Fannys jellies?

Fanny whips eggs, extra yolks and icing sugar together until they are thick and almost white. Fanny does warn that the mixture needs to be whipped for a VERY long time in a very large bowl. My KitchenAid Mixer, Sarah, comes in super handy for this task. I click my fingers, give her a very fake smile and she sets to work while I get on with the rest of the cake. Well actually, when I say cake I really mean assembly of the cake. Fanny suggests making a sponge, but I've bought a Madeira cake in the supermarket. Shoot me. 

Fanny says that this cake can have two presentation styles - individual or party for very special occasions. I think it might be fun to combine the two and have an 'individual party' - I'm celebrating the last of the jellies after all! So while Sarah works away without complaint, such a dedicated assistant, I exhaust myself by cutting two semi circles from the cake, which will make a full circle base. I really should've bought a bigger cake, or maybe used a smaller cutter, it's all too strenuous. 

Sarah does a marvellous job of whipping the eggs and sugar. Unfortunately I need to prepare the lemon jelly all by myself, but it's all the usual way so I am well rehearsed. The Agar flakes go into cold Limoncello (replacing the lemon juice and grated rind) brought to the boil then simmered for a few minutes until the flakes are all dissolved and mingled in nicely. Sarah continues to assist to whip the mixture as I add the hot lemony jellied Limoncello slowly. Fanny warns that the light mixture will collapse a lot as it combines, and sure enough it does. At this stage some double cream is blended in before heading straight into a pot, which is the same size as my cake base, to set. At least I hope it will.

I needn't have worried, after around an hour the Souffléd Lemon Creamy Jelly is set with still a good quiver evident when it's released from the mould. It comes away easily, as I wetted it before adding the mixture, naturally. Fanny assembles her party cake in layers and pipes cream stars. So do I. Almost apologetically she urges me to rush to the supermarket again to buy some candied lemon slice decorations. She's apologising because she simply doesn't have time to teach me how to make my own just yet, that will be saved for a future partwork. I don't have time to learn either, it's my party and I'll continue to add shop bought ingredients if I want to. The finished cake is really tasty, quite zingy and a more than a little bit naughty. I'm a little bit sad and a little bit happy to be saying goodbye, for now, to the wonderfully wibbly wobbly world of jellies, but this is a great send off. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Bon Viveur's Eat, Drink, Discover Scotland

Fanny and Johnnie had so many careers on the go at any one time, with different pseudonyms for each venture, and mostly all having a foodie connection. Their anonymous restaurant reviews, which appeared in the Daliy Telegraph, using the Bon Viveur moniker, were extremely popular. Fanny herself used to boast that they could 'make or break' a place once they were in print. They never accepted offers to review, that would be vulgar, and only revealed their identity after eating and settling the bill. The original food bloggers! For five years from 1950 until 1955 they remained elusive, but once their faces were firmly attached to their words, they found a new way to review and recommend. They expanded on their restaurant reviews to include travel and discovery, presumably for those less fortunate than themselves to hear about all sorts of exotic and fantastic adventures at home and across Europe. Their newspaper columns continued to charm readers, and they released several volumes of 'travel guides' for home and abroad. The original travel bloggers! 

One of their most popular editions was their Guide to London and the British Isles. Advertised as the definitive manual informing readers 'where to dine, wine, visit, stay, relax and entertain' around the country. As with most of Fannys output, it was largely recycled from their columns and expanded from a previous volume which looked at London only. As Fanny used to say 'money for old rope'. The original entrepreneurs! The guide itself is charming and the Scottish Section lists a variety of places to explore from Aberfoyle to Turnberry. Each location gives the very best hotels, a headline of what to expect - 'Motorists Mecca', 'Shooting', 'Escape from Cities' or perhaps 'For Business Men' - contact details, the all important review, prices, what local speciality food to expect, what drinks are likely to be available, what sights can be seen around and about and crucially, of bizarrely, if dogs are welcome. The original Dugs'n'Pubs

Fanny liked Scottish cuisine, and was a trailblazer for Haggis before it was seen as a national treasure. She gave recipes to make your own at home, mainly as she felt that the very best ones which were produced in Scotland were kept by the Scots themselves, leaving only small and considerably inferior ones available in shops locally. By locally she meant in London. It's one of those recipes that starts, 'First clean a sheeps stomach carefully...' Fanny claimed to be half French from time to time too, so included recipes for the French version too, which she called Franchemoyle. She liked to balance out any debate of provenance! The original diplomat! 

Either way, she recommended it be served with a fine Scotch Whisky and enjoyed while discovering the country! She even claimed that Haggis cured her of a nervous breakdown, or was it simply marvellous marketing? You decide. Certainly the original Bon Viveur's! 

The Bon Viveur guides were essential reading to track down what to Eat, Drink and Discover. Fanny and Johnnie claimed to aim to share their extensive knowledge and good taste with us all, and I have no doubt that their books were clutched by excited travellers and followed with fervour. Today it's even easier to find out what's new, what's local and what's trendy with so many online reviews, TV shows and festivals celebrating food and drink. 

Eat Drink Discover Scotland, Scotland’s largest celebration of Scottish food & drink will open its doors on Friday 12th September, allowing visitors the opportunity to experience the very best Scotland has to offer all in one day!  Billed as the ultimate celebration of food and drink in Scotland, it's a three-day foodie extravaganza, bringing together over a hundred exhibitors showcasing top notch Scottish food & drink, a stellar line-up of celebrity chefs (Fanny of course was the original!) and a packed programme of demonstrations, tastings, talks and sampling sessions. I'm heading along to see what I can Eat, Drink and Discover about Scotland. Fanny and Johnnie would likely be there in a flash too, probably insisting it be billed as Bon Viveur's Eat, Drink, Discover Scotland though. And they'd sell you a book about it afterwards. And a homemade Haggis. And you'd be delighted. 

Eat Drink Discover Scotland is one of the highlights of the Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2014. An annual celebration, this year the fortnight runs from 6th-21st September, during which there will be a calendar of events aimed at encouraging people to try some new food adventures such as foraging, visiting a pick your own farm or even just trying a new product or recipe.
Created to promote the healthy, locally sourced food and drink available throughout the country, the 2014 celebration aims to be the biggest yet. The festival will also act as an excellent introduction the Scottish Government’s 2015 Year of Food and Drink celebrations.
Eat Drink Discover Scotland has been put together by the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS). Chief Executive, Stephen Hutt, said: “Our vision when creating this event was to provide a unique regional showcase. At Eat Drink Discover Scotland you can truly taste Scotland in one day – from Orkney Lamb to Galloway Chillies – all regions are represented.”
Tickets for the must-attend food and drink event of the year are on sale now, at 
• Organised by Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS)
• Advance Tickets £12.50(£10) Children under 15 go free
• Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston
• Free Parking
• Opening times: Friday 12noon-8pm Saturday 10am-6pm Sunday 10am-5pm

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Bright and Breezy, it's Cheesy à la Zizi

Fanny clearly feels that her own creations may not be entirely eccentric enough, so introduces us to the creator of 'à la Zizi' for our next lesson in 'making it jell'. Fanny says we can learn a great deal from the whimsicality of Alexis Soyer, who was a one time chef at London's great Reform Club. Some say he was the very first celebrity chef. For Fanny to recognise outlandishness in someone else must've meant he was REALLY out there, which no doubt sealed his celebrity. He was seemingly obsessed with everything being 'at the slant' - Fanny notes that his ties, waistcoats and hats were all 'à la Zizi', either slanting in pattern or cut or being worn at an angle. Food presentation was not immune. Fanny says his lesson to us is to create 'charming and unusual vari-coloured sweet or savoury moulds' to match his diagonal obsession, so let's get our slant on!

Fanny recommends this treatment for any and all jellies or aspics, be they sweet or savoury, but notes that the effect is especially charming in creamy creations. She suggests savoury creamed mousses filled with chicken, salmon, cod or shrimp. Not for me. Her own pic-strip and example is a savoury cheese tower in pastel shades of pink, orange and green surrounded by Scottish Oatcakes. It feels only right for me to recreate it just as is, no tweaks, no tiddling, just as Fanny intended. No slant on the original ;-)

The base of the savoury mousse is a custard of egg yolks and milk. I use Almond Milk for mine, I'm really not a fan of large amounts of cows milk in anything, and I imagine it will give an even more savoury, nutty flavour to the finished dish. Fanny whisks the eggs, milk and seasoning together over a double boiler before adding the grated cheese. Fanny waits until the mix is thick to add her gelatine, but as I'm using Agar Agar it goes in while the mixture is cold and heats up and dissolves with everything else. The final additions are single cream (Fanny says you can use coffee cream if you can't get single, but that's not something I've ever seen) and whipped up egg whites. The cheesy mix is really thick and quite stringy to mix, but tastes great - ok I'd admit it I dipped my fingers in. Fanny does recommend tasting for seasoning though at this stage, so I'm only doing as I'm told. 

Fannys trick to present the moulded mousse 'at the slant' is to rest the mould, in my case (following Fanny) a simple wetted - I'm learning - Pyrex bowl, on a wooden spoon while pouring in the first slanted layer. Fannys first layer is pink, therefore so is mine. Once set, the bowl is slanted in the other direction and a green layer added, followed by a purple one and finally an orange one. The cheesy mousse takes the colour well - I use Wilton Gels and only a very small dot is required. Fanny doesn't give any tips for doing this successfully to allow each layer to set without the rest of the mix also setting meantime. The benefit of using Agar is that the mixture can be reheated and liquified when required, poured on and left to set again, but this wouldn't be possible with gelatine. When the mousse is unmoulded it's very firm - probably due to the Agar Agar which seems to turn everything the same solid structure - but tastes good. It's hard to see past the slants of colour and rubbery feel that trick your brain into thinking it's sweet. (Slanted) hats off to Chef Soyer though, it most definitely an eccentric presentation for cheese. It's very savoury, certainly 'à la Zizi', but if I'm honest leaves me feeling a little queasy.