Fanny feels that folks are frightened of Aspic. She's not wrong. However she finds that people are fearful of forming the jelly stuff, not forcing to down their fragile throats. I'd say it's definitely the other way round. Fanny would scold me though. I clearly do not know how to make it properly to a high quality. We've already made a simple aspic together, but now it's time to step up a gear and make real aspic. I'm scared. She tells me that once I am familiar with it I will discover in fact it is much easier to make than any Yorkshire Pudding or Soufflé. I think I'd rather eat those.
Fanny's idea is to make a classic hors d'oeuvre that would delight any buffet party - Oeufs en Cocotte en Gelée. You may remember that they were a favourite, or not, of the lovely Beryl Reid at her very own 70s Dinner party. Surely then this is the one to learn with, and hopefully to change my mind? Fanny reminds us that when working with aspic, moulds must be prepared carefully. She insists that if the intended jelly is creamy, moulds should be oiled. If the jelly is sweet or savoury, they should be simply wetted with water. Be careful not to let the oil or water collect in puddles at the base of the mould by using a small brush to sweep it upwards. This dish is a savoury jelly. Look searchingly at my photos to spot a shocking slip-up that we shall sweep under the carpet.
If I'd spotted that I'd have gone into the panic that Fanny details that most eager home cooks find themselves in when dealing with aspic. She reassures me that provided that the aspic is played 'like a fish on a hook at the end of a line' that all will be well. I'm not entirely sure I understand, not being a fishing kind of person, but I set to with the set too. Fanny prefers soft boiled eggs, or Oeufs Mollets. Normal everyday eggs should be lowered into steadily bubbling water for 4 minutes precisely, then plunged into cold water. To peel them, tap them all over until the shell resembles the fine veins of a neglected oil painting, and get in under it with your finger nails. Carefully of course, as one would presumably handle an old master. If you were peeling it.
For the aspic, the very best stock is required. Add to a pan with some vinegar, sherry, a bay leaf, peppercorns and of course some gelatine. Or Agar Agar powder for me. I get mine from the Chinese supermarket. It does feel a little odd weighing out a few grams of the white powder in my kitchen. The mixture should be heated to just above blood temperature (test by sticking your clean finger in it) and then whisking it while it comes to boil. Fanny says that a normal whisk is fine, but exhausting. A rotary whisk is tiresome. An electric whisk however is ideal. I go 'normal' and 'exhausting'. The end result should not be set into the form of an India Rubber substance but should be a light, holding, savoury jelly. Let's hope so.
Fanny can not give enough emphasis to the whisking. Do not stop. She does acknowledge that this is particularly difficult for people who have little children running around at their feet, or those with tradespeople arriving at the back door. Even those who may have a telephone ringing off the hook. Fanny's advice is to ignore it, make the aspic when the children are securely tucked up in bed and hopefully all tradespeople are safely in their own homes. Whisk away, and set a little aspic in your mould (or tea cup as I am using) before adding the carefully de-shelled egg. Top up with aspic and leave it all to set before turning out the mould to delight your guests. Fanny says that aspic is ideal for making ordinary things look as attractive as possible, as you can see. But still, it's an egg in a slightly vinegar-y savoury jelly. I'm still petrified.