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!