Fanny Cradock has rules. Not guidelines. Commands. Laws. She insists that readers follow her every move, chapter and verse. No deviation. As per regulation. Especially when it comes to simple things. Like vegetables. Fanny grows her own produce, wherever possible, so she knows exactly what produces the best and worst results. Her fundamental formula for success is fairly well documented. Fanny liked to water her own garden with, erm, her own water. Madam's Tonic. Yes. A natural sprinkler system. It produced the best results.
However her criteria for vegetables need not to stretch to us modelling that. Her ruling is that, like her, we are simply able to recognise on sight the 'duds' that some shops sell. Fanny's maxim is that even at the worst greengrocers, it is hard to find leathery spinach, overgrown rhubarb and giant new potatoes. Vegetables are gorgeous in spring and early summer, Fanny says, and her only prescription for success, apart from her natural fertiliser, is that they should be cooked with kindness. Never boiled. That is a ruling. That would be cruel.
She sets a precedent with spinach, for example. It should be flung in a hot pan and wilted. The job should be done in eight minutes, by decree of Fanny. Just enough to draw out the natural water content, of which there will be much. A panful of spinach juices will run free, leaving only the smallest amount of spinach when Fanny's direction is followed. Perhaps you might want to cook it slightly longer if you picked your spinach from Fanny's garden.
Fanny serves her spinach by statute too, either 'en branche', in full leaf, or 'en purée' which is simply rubbed through a sieve. It is raised to great heights though with the addition of some cheese and a little cream, often served as a separate course by the French. They simply would not make a course from boiled vegetables, not with their palates. The French collect the juices from the spinach, as they recognise that they will contain the highest flavour. If boiled, this would mean slinging the best away. As in Fanny's bathroom regimen, presumably. Although, it may be more sanitary to boil in Fanny's case.
Fanny knows that she is always ramming French edicts down our throats. Her best guide for vegetables is English however. The Steamer. She claims it is a virtuous pastime, and valuable too if you can stack it correctly. The French may call this 'trucs' but we would simply know it as a 'tricks'. Like boiling rice in the pan, and having carrots steaming above, with cabbage leaves above that. The carrots should be mashed up and served simply, ruffled up with a fork, with a blob of cream added. The cabbage leaves will be happiest stuffed with the rice and a simple sprinkle of, erm, paprika. You were worried there, weren't you? Stick to Fanny's rules in the kitchen, if not the garden, and be kind to your vegetables.