Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Viennese Dreams - This Means Nothing To Me

Aspiration. That was what Fanny Cradock was all about. Every television appearance. Every recipe in the booklets. Every magazine interview she gave. Aspiration. She understood that food could be the key to unlocking the otherwise hard-to-climb social ladder. She made everyone feel that by introducing new ideas, combinations and recipes to their otherwise ordinary everyday lives they had some hope of escaping. Changing. Dreaming. Yearning for something that had once seemed completely out of reach.

Fanny Cradock Austrian Puffs

Pancakes may not immediately spring to mind as the saviour of society, but Fanny had a plan. Her trick was always to take very ordinary ingredients and make them extra-ordinary. Today, television cooks often rely on exotic, new or as-yet undiscovered ingredients. Fanny had eggs and flour. Everyone made pancakes. Hardly anything to shout about, never mind to give you a leg up the ladder of success. Imagine though if you made Austrian pancakes at home. Everyone would be envious. Imagine if they were really more like a cross between crumpets and pancakes. Everyone would be envious. Imagine if they were to be described as 'souffléd'. Everyone would be envious. Stretch your imagination even further and don't even call them pancakes. They are 'puffs'. Everyone would be envious of your Austrian Soufflé Puffs, wouldn't they?

Fanny Cradock Austrian Puffs

Fanny thought so. She thought transforming two humble eggs, one ounce of flour and one fluid ounce of water would induce a hankering for Vienna at home. She whisked up the egg yolks until they were list and fluffy. She probably got someone else to do this for her, by hand. However I have a passion for my modern mixer at times like these. Next, the flour is whisked in until smooth, followed by the water. In a separate bowl (thank heavens I have two, don't we all?) the whites are beaten until very stiff, before the yolk mixture is gently folded in. The resulting puffy clouds would be happy floating over any well respected opera house.

Fanny Cradock Austrian Puffs

To elevate them into Austrian Soufflé Puffs however, local chefs are trained to make tricky architectural, cylindrical cuffs from greased parchment paper. Fanny has another idea. Why not make good use of those otherwise discarded tins that we all have filled with Mandarin Oranges that we all enjoy so much. They are the perfect size, and once cleaned and carefully opened and trimmed at both ends are ideal for our Austrian Puffs. Simply brush them lovingly with oil, place on a hot griddle pan ready to dollop your soufflé in. Maybe save a Mandarin segment or two for garnish.

Fanny Cradock Austrian Puffs

Fanny includes an elaborate pic-strip where Dianne, just 19 and apparently never before tackled these wonders, makes Salzburger Nockerln on a griddle with ease. In the excitement, neither say how long to cook them for, or how to know when they are ready. We are instructed to turn the tins over, with a carefully placed cloth to avoid scalded hands, 'half way through', whenever that might be. Dianne gently eases the Puffs out of the tins and simply dusts them lightly with icing sugar. Perhaps she'd already eaten the Mandarin Oranges. Perhaps she'd suddenly been lifted out of the drudgery of Fanny's kitchen and climbed her own ladder to a more successful life elsewhere. We shall never know. The pancakes, erm crumpets, erm Austrian Soufflé Puffs are light, fluffy and elevated well above the ordinary in any case.

Fanny Cradock Austrian Puffs

Monday, 30 April 2018

Stop Messin' About!

I was so very fortunate to be invited to the launch party for the new book, The Kenneth Williams Companion, written by my lovely friend Adam Endacott. The launch was held at the iconic Elstree Studios - the room was filled wall-to-wall with celebrity friends, colleagues and fans of the late great Kenneth. It was the 30th Anniversary of his death, but the mood was upbeat and the room was ready for a celebration! Between innuendos and various cries of 'ooooh matron' reverberating around the room, I managed to grab a quick chat with the author... Adam, no messing' about - the launch party was a hoot... 

The book launch came about as Sir Tim Rice said if you’re having one then I’d love to come along! I hadn’t even thought about it and it became a celebratory afternoon at Elstree Studios which was very special indeed. It acted as a thank you to so many people who had been a part of the book and also to showcase and commemorate a genius and his work.

Fanny Cradock Kenneth Williams

And I guess if Sir Tim suggests an event, you go with it... maybe a musical will be on the cards one day? But first, the book - rather than a biography it's a complete record of Kenneth's work - how did you go about researching this encyclopaedic, ultimate companion to Kenneth's career?  

Researching was a combination of things. I set out to watch and listen to everything that exists and I did so that took some time - so many episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour, as an example. The BBC Written Archives in Caversham were a good start and then combined with looking through Radio Times and TV Times and other resources - it all came together along with memories from those whom he worked with. This would often lead to an introduction or producing a copy of a lost project. In all it took about five years and then writing and putting it altogether. I hope it will be well received and become a go-to book for Kenneth’s career.

Fanny Cradock Kenneth Williams

When people mention Fanny Cradock, they often reference her ‘cooking in ballgowns’ which she only really did in 1955/56 at the beginning of her career - I get a sense that Kenneth was similarly trapped in an image of himself forever. What do you hope that the book will reveal or ‘set straight’ to people about his wonderful career?

He was indeed and the way the diaries have been edited depict a very sad, lonely man but this was not the case at all. He had a lot of love, full of fun and a wicked sense of humour. Yes, he had his mannerisms and mystery’s about him but then we all do. This book is a celebration of a man who did so much more than 26 Carry On films for which he has become best known for. I hope it is very much a testament to a remarkable career over a 40 year career. He did it all and hopefully this will stand as a reference work that will be referred to by fans and researchers alike for many years to come.

Fanny Cradock Kenneth Williams

I was thrilled to see a clip at the launch of Fanny and Kenneth together on the TV show 'What's My Line?' in 1974, but how do you think Kenneth and Fanny got along when they met?

I reckon they did very well. Kenneth liked strong women who would stand up to him and Fanny would definitely have done that! There is an excellent playful relationship between them when she appeared on What’s My Line? Kenneth expresses his love of watching her on the television with his Mum, Louie. Two very British eccentric personalities that I think got on well and enjoyed some good banter.

Fanny Cradock Kenneth Williams

Yes, they seemed to have their very own Carry On! He says 'I adore you - you stuffed all those mushrooms up that chicken!'... Ooooh matron indeed! What about food? Did Kenneth have any favourites or places even to eat? What would he have made of Fanny’s creations?

Kenneth always said that he hated cooking and the most he could do was a boiled egg. He would have his meal with his Mum most evenings. Lorraine Chase said that he would have one main meal a day which was steak and a glass of red wine. Kenneth often entertained chums in restaurants such as Joe Allens and others which have since sadly closed down. In Joe Allen’s he would have the secret burger which has become my order each time that I’m in there! He would drink wine, Campari and soda water or gin and tonic. He had a delicate stomach so I’m not sure how well Fanny’s creations would have gone down but I should think her French cuisine would have been a hit certainly! He did however cook an omelette on Pebble Mill but sadly this is a lost episode. He did share the kitchen with Rustie Lee and Nanette Newman for breakfast television.

Fanny Cradock Kenneth Williams

I would LOVE to see those clips too! Fanny also did a spot on TV-Am, what a shame they missed each other - I'm sure Fanny would've made his eggs very special... What would Kenneth think of all this marvellous chronicling of his career do you reckon? By the way, I’m sure Fanny would’ve loved to have done the catering for your party...

The legacy he has left behind and what we can treasure for decades to come. It may seem corny, but I do feel Kenneth has been with me on this journey and I’d like to think he has given his blessing. I’m told by his chum that he would have liked me, which I’m rather chuffed about. Even if he didn’t approve, then I hope he would appreciate and reflect on what a body of work he actually had. I would have loved for Fanny to have done the catering - especially with her choux pastry!

Fanny Cradock Kenneth Williams

She would probably have replaced Kenneth's face on those cupcakes with her own mind you... If you want to read all about Kenneth's career, you can find The Kenneth Williams Companion here

Monday, 9 April 2018

Gotta Oughta Ricotta

The joy of Fanny has to be in the unexpected. I try not to look too far ahead to see what is coming next. I just love the element of surprise, delight and from time-to-time surprisingly delightful horror, that are contained within the technicolour pages of the partwork. It's not worth trying to second guess what Fanny has in mind, it's rarely what you might think, even if you apply previous knowledge of her work and erm, innovation, to your already over-active imagination. Fanny's is in overdrive.

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

We are still cooking with cheese. I've been hopeful for something savoury and well. cheesy. So far, however, it's all been sweet. Today is no exception as we tackle an Italian Budino di Ricotta, or a plain old cream cheese pudding if like me, you're Italian is ropey. Fanny's Italian was very ropey indeed, so let's hope that Budino does actually translate as pudding...

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

Fanny begins by beating together the ricotta - or any of her dreamy creamy homemade cheese should you have any left - with ground almonds, icing sugar and a flavouring. Fanny suggests lemon, but I don't have any, so substitute with vanilla. The mix is quite wet. Fanny whips up a lot of egg whites until they are very stiff indeed and gently folds them in, before transferring to a buttered soufflé mould to bake for thirty minutes.

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

It emerges from the oven as a gloriously risen, well, soufflé, but as it cooled it sank down again. I think Fanny knew it would be looking less than appealing as it was turned out of the mould, so she had an idea up her chiffon sleeve to turn things around. Boudoir Biscuits and coloured icing. She sits the ricotta pud on a sponge base before surrounding it with the biscuits dipped in heavily coloured icing. Of course she does. What else would she do?

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

It certainly makes it seem cheerier. She's not finished there. Cream piping. Always required. Suddenly this old pudding is looking quite splendid indeed. Unless of course my retro-loving eyes have become tainted by Fanny? Fanny finishes it off with some rose petals, primarily because she had a pretty plate with roses on it. I don't. The smell is lovely though, so shouldn't complain. It's a very unusual pudding, to look at and to taste, light and pillowy, nutty and sweet. As always with Fanny, she delivers something unexpected and slightly wonderful.  And blue.

Fanny Cradock Ricotta Soufflé

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Fanny Cradock Invites... you to the iPlayer

There's been quite the hullaballoo this week in the press about the 'Return of Fanny Cradock' to the BBC... Every newspaper, every radio show and even some television shows have covered the 'breaking news' story. The BBC are at last adding some classic cooking shows to their iPlayer archive for us all to savour, showcasing the changes from the 'early days' of Fanny and Delia to erm, well, the 'later days' of, erm, Levi Roots and Lorraine Pascale. It's Fanny that has set the headlines alight however - and I'm not just talking about those nasty tabloids who stole my blog photos to illustrate their stories, but that is another tale for another day...

Fanny Cradock Invites

Once again, Fanny will be showing us all how to throw a proper Cheese and Wine Party. She happily invites us into her actual home to do this, and cooks for us in her actual kitchen. She'd actually campaigned fiercely for many years behind the scenes to move cooking programmes out of the dreary studio, to show the housewives of Britain how to cook in ordinary kitchens. She wanted to cook in ordinary housewives homes. The producers were't keen. Fanny cooked up the plan to use her own kitchen instead. We'd all love to see that! Just before we get that exclusive peek of Fanny's kitchen, she, of course, introduces us to her dog, Mademoiselle Lolita Saltina Cradock, who is not yet quite a lady. No more explanation required.

Fanny Cradock Invites

Fanny is sick to death of looking at walls while she cooks at home, so she shows us around her time-saving kitchen where everything faces the camera instead. Which is fortunate. Peter and Sally are on hand, looking terrified, to help out when barked at. We're having a Cheese and Wine party after all, and time is tight. We all have dramas, nothing worse than the doorbell ringing before you are ready, you really should have your frock on by now and the food isn't presented as it should be. Don't worry, just pull in your army of amiable assistants to rummage through your endless cupboards to make the show happen with ease. It's what every ordinary housewife would do.

Fanny Cradock Invites

To celebrate Fanny on the iPlayer, I am making her very special Italian cheesecake with her very special homemade cream cheese, that we very specially made earlier. This one uses a pastry base. The cream cheese is simply mixed together with egg yolks, orange zest, sugar and a little flour. Oh, and fresh grapes and mixed peel. They are funny lot these Italians. This mixture is poured into the raw pastry case. Fanny then covers the surface in unbeaten egg white and a trellis of pastry offcuts. She sprinkles on a few pine-nuts and a dusting of icing sugar, and it's ready to bake.

Fanny Cradock Invites

Her kitchen at home has four ovens, but we only need one for this. Once baked, sit back and enjoy a slice while catching up with Fanny on iPlayer. It's a treat. Sing along to the jaunty theme tune and gawp in amazement at her talents. She never misses a heartbeat as she tours round, whips up several meals, cleans as she goes, fries stuff, forks stuff, fondues stuff, shows off every piece of equipment she owns and gives detailed explanations of the culinary terms involved. She has diplomas you know. All in one take. The camera follows her round the kitchen with ease. You'll be amazed. Of course if you miss the recipes, don't worry, they are all in the booklet. Back where she belongs on the BBC. Enjoy!

Fanny Cradock Invites

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Marsk My Pony

Fanny Cradock loves cheese. Don't we all? Fanny says that there is nothing more frustrating to a cook or hostess than reading about delicious items which people in other parts of the world can put on their tables and which are, for one reason or another, unobtainable in Britain. Naturally then, Fanny continues to give extensive lists of cheese which at the time of writing were only available from her very favourite shops in London. She rattles of the delights of English Cheese, French Cheese, Italian Cheese, Danish Cheese, Swiss Cheese, Dutch Cheese, German Cheese, Austrian Cheese, and even a limited supply of Scottish Cheese. So basically all the unavailable cheese.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

We needed worry though, Fanny has an idea. She always does. This time her idea is, if we simply cannot buy the cheese that we want, why don't we make our own? She doesn't suggest we start with Blue Vinney. She doesn't suggest we start with Pont l'Evèque. She doesn't suggest we start with Osterola. She suggests we start with cream cheese.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

Fanny being Fanny, gives us a choice. We can make a 'Basic Modest' version, which is made simply from milk. We can make a 'Basic Luxurious' version which is made from milk, single cream and double cream. Or, we can make a 'Basic Sweet' version which can be 'modest' or 'luxurious' but adds in sugar and a vanilla pod. I was hoping for an 'Advanced' version, which may still be to come later on the part-work, however I am happy to plump for luxury. This should always be the choice.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

The only other ingredient is rennet. Fortunately for me, with the rise in home cheese making, vegetarian rennet is now fairly easy to source. I bought mine in Lakeland. The process of luxurious cream cheese making involves heating the milk and creams together over a 'mere thread' of heat until it is really hot. Blood heat, apparently. Add the rennet, allow to cool then transfer to an ordinary sieve lined with butter muslin. Tie knots in the top and hang it somewhere (over the sink for me) to drip for 48 hours, until it stops dripping, and then a further 24 hours in a draught to firm up a little. It's quite strange to have it hanging in the kitchen for days on end...

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

... but so worth it in the end! Fanny informs us now that we can serve this cheese with trimmed sticks of celery for hors d'oeuvres or canapés. We can use it instead of buying Ricotta, which we probably wouldn't be able to buy at the time anyway, in baked tartlets. We can add herbs, parmesan and celery salt to make it suitably savoury if we prefer our tartlets that way. We can make an Italian gateau which Fanny says is normally made with 'Mascherpone' from the Lombardy region. It's really like the creamiest, most delicious, best ever Philadelphia you've ever tasted. So, we can also serve it simply 'forked up' and decorated with fancy pretzels, for scooping and scoffing, to impress and amaze anyone at our buffet table.

Fanny Cradock Homemade Cheese

Monday, 19 February 2018

A Potted History of Cheese

Fanny Cradock has decided that the time is right. We've been through a lot together. Different ingredients. Different skills. Different techniques. We don't even need to mention all the different colours. We've done it all. Well, almost. Fanny has saved a particularly important aptitude to impart to us until now. We are ready. We are excited. We are cooking with cheese.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

Leftover cheese is not something which features heavily in my life, I have to admit. Fanny however has an idea from Ye Olde Days of Old for that challenging time when perhaps my refrigerator is blessed with more cheese that I can handle. My first reaction would be to simply eat it, however Fanny has a much more sophisticated solution should I find myself in such a pickle. Pot it.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

For this preserving technique, Fanny chooses Cheddar. First of all Fanny would like to clear something up. A fallacy. According to her, Cheddar was NEVER matured in caves at Cheddar Gorge. They are simply too cold and too damp for the job. Fanny says that English Cheddar is the best in the world. Cheddars of other countries are considered inferior. My Cheddar is Scottish.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

Fanny reckons that there is only ONE Scottish cheese on sale which is worth mentioning at all. Dunlop. It responds very well to being creamed down, apparently, with half it's weight in butter and the classic alcohol of the country it comes from, whisky. Fanny tells us that Dunlop was first made in 1688 by a dairy woman, Barbara Gilmour, and is an excellent cheese for toasting or for an imitation fondue. I still only have Cheddar. Scottish Cheddar.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

To 'pot' this already inferior cheese, Fanny grates it and adds it to a double-boiler with a tablespoon of thick cream, a few tablespoons of sherry, some butter and quickly scissored chives and tarragon. Fanny stirs the mixture over a gentle heat until it turns creamy and pale green in colour, before adding seasoning. Straight into sterilised pots, packed in well and covered with a covering of clarified butter when cold and then a well-fitted lid. Preserved Cheese. It still will not last long in my hands, but it is a super oomph in the savoury stakes and perfect with toast.

Fanny Cradock Potted Cheese

Monday, 12 February 2018

Are Friends Electric?

Fanny Cradock had a chequered career off screen, as well as a chequered life. One of her many and varied careers was as a food demonstrator, convincing the housewives of Britain, at Ideal Homes Exhibitions and the like, to ditch their old cookers and install a brand spanking shiny new Gas one instead. It had to be Gas. She said she never cooked with anything else, she simply wouldn't trust it. She was of course sponsored by the Gas Board throughout her career, and she remained loyal - even repeating the same line on her final television cooking performance on TV-AM in 1985. Another face appearing on TV-AM in the early days was food demonstrator, retro-lover, Fanny-fan and all-round appliance expert, Jenny Webb. Had their paths ever crossed, I wondered...?

I never met Fanny but saw her on stage a number of times. An absolute enthusiast, entertaining and an exceptional communicator. Fanny and I operated in different worlds – and she was, of course, very much in a league of her own. Throughout my career, my world was not just about cookers, but all domestic electrical appliances. I was involved in developing test specifications in conjunction with the IEC and BSI, lecturing, writing and/or advising and being interviewed by the media and the public. As The Electricity Council's National Home Economist I also advised the home economists of each of the regional Electricity Boards (NORWEB, SEEBOARD etc) before they were privatised in the 1990s. Cookery demonstrations were a part of my early years in the electricity industry, having studied ‘domestic science as it used to be called...

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

What was the rivalry like between the gas and electricity appliance people, if any? Do you still cook on electric today?

My home is totally electric as I had the gas disconnected when we moved into the house in 1965 as I felt that if I was in the Industry I should practise what I preached!  The Electricity Council employed one of Fanny's biggest rivals, Marguerite Patten to represent the use of electricity for cooking. I also wrote a recipe book with Marguerite, where she advised on conventional cookers and I wrote the microwave recipes.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Fanny published over 100 books, including over 45 cookbooks, many of which covered ‘new’ things such as Cooking with Foil or perhaps using Tinned Goods - but never Microwaves - her last cookbooks in 1985 would’ve been her only chance I guess. Perhaps she was waiting for the Gas Microwave to be invented! What do you think about the current or recent ‘trend’ for Microwave cooking - Microwave Mug cakes and things like that?

In 1985 only 14% of homes had a microwave. As I understood the technology and construction, plus with my background I was able to educate the public through my books and magazine pages. Initially I read and tested recipes from American cookbooks to familiarise myself and then developed recipes for the British needs. New developments are always interesting and exciting and younger people can use their own knowledge to meet the needs of today.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Things spread so quickly on Social Media these days - you have a great presence on Social Media - I love your Twitter and YouTube videos. Fanny too was a great communicator, but obviously social media wasn’t around in her time. I think she’d be ALL over it though… How do you find it? Do you think it’s helping to bring retro back?

What a shame Fanny isn’t around with her own YouTube channel today - she was a total one-off. But I must confess, I was initially hesitant about putting my TV back catalogue on YouTube, yet I’m now so delighted I did. However the success of my retro channel has amazed me – not just in the UK but also the USA, Australia and Europe! I never imagined that I’d end up back in front of a camera either! But the success of all my old clips, sparked my TASTES OF THE 70s series being filmed especially for YouTube. It was actually all shot in just one-day involving a lot of hard team work. It was a lot of fun too – with me running up and down stairs changing my genuine 1970s frocks, whilst trying to retrieve the clip on microphone from goodness knows where... I can now exclusively reveal to you that there are some out-takes left over from filming – dare I put my blunders on YouTube?!

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb

Of course - I'd say you must! Now I have a confession Jenny, please don't scold me the way Fanny might've... I’d normally cook up one of my guest interviewees recipes to include on the blog, but, erm, although I have your books, I don’t, gasp, have a microwave! Do you have a favourite retro recipe that I could make?

Choosing a favourite recipe is difficult but like most, Prawn Cocktail is one of my favourites as you can see on YouTube. And here's a retro recipe for you - easy to make and a versatile addition to many a mealtime. Parsnip Balls. Simply mash cooked parsnips, add some melted butter, milk, seasoning and a beaten egg. Form into balls and then roll in more beaten egg, breadcrumb and fry. Delicious.

Fanny Cradock Jenny Webb