Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Joyeux Anniversaire Fanny Cradock

Today would have been a very special day for Fanny Cradock. I do find it a little odd to celebrate 'special days' when someone is no longer around, but hey, this is Fanny Cradock we are talking about. If she were still with us today, Fanny Cradock would have been celebrating her birthday. A Big Birthday. She would have been a staggering one hundred and ten. Quite what she would be doing is anyone's guess. One of the many things about Fanny, you could never predict what she'd get up to, what mischief she might be behind, or indeed what she would be saying. No-one ever could. Thankfully.

Fanny Cradock Happy Birthday

One thing that could be predicted, year on year, at least while Johnnie was alive, was that he would make an incredible fuss of her on her significantly special day. Legend has it that every year on her birthday he would send her a very formal invite to a very special, secret event to mark her very momentous day - another year with Fanny in the world! All would be revealed 'at appropriate times'. I think to think of Fanny being blindfolded and led to the nearest airport on her way to some exotic, mystery location by a rather giggly, excitable Johnnie. She was a terrible driver, by all accounts (and police reports) so there would be no danger of her driving herself, Bird Box-style. That would be too scary.

Fanny Cradock Happy Birthday

For a more low-key celebration, in keeping with the occasion, Fanny is showing us how to make a very simple version of her very favourite luxurious pudding. The Crème Marie Louise, or the Empress Marie Louise Pudding if French is simply too much to handle. Fanny usually makes it with a collar of set chocolate surrounding a large dessert. Dare I say, like a mahoosive chocolate trifle, although Fanny would simply never describe it as such. She made it at the Royal Albert Hall for an audience of 6750 people. For this, oh-so-simple version, no chocolate collar is required and the ingredients needn't stretch to feed thousands.

Fanny Cradock Happy Birthday

Fanny, without any elaboration, takes eggs yolks and double cream, plonks them in a roomy bowl and sets them ready to whisk. She recommends getting someone to help here, it really is a two-man job. My assistant today is my trusty KitchenAid mixer, my modern-day extra pair of hands! Fanny then softens some perfectly ordinary chocolate chips over a simmering double-boiler. When soft, she beats them vigorously until they are cool and thick. Then, with the yolks and cream whipping away (or being whisked for you), Fanny suggests we simply 'dump' the melted, whipped chocolate in and continue to whisk. Do try NOT to dump it down the side of the mixer...

Fanny Cradock Happy Birthday

As we might expect, Fanny is not finished here. No Fanny Cradock pudding would be complete with a final flourish. A splash of rum. Some Orange Flower Water. Then Rose Water. All whacked together, served on top of a little piece of sponge cake, with a little chocolate leaf or two, and just because it's her birthday, some glacé cherries. It tastes (if you care to dip a perfectly clean finger into the bowl and try it... Shhh... I won't tell Fanny) like a deluxe, boozy Turkish Delight. Simply keep it cool in ordinary domestic refrigeration until the plane lands, bringing Fanny and Johnnie home from their magical mystery tour and the real celebration can begin. Happy Birthday Fanny Cradock.

Fanny Cradock Happy Birthday

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Fancy a Banquette?

Fanny Cradock is in the mood for a spot of remodelling. In the kitchen that is, where else? And there is simply no-one that she would trust with the job apart from her good self, and Johnnie, to a lesser extent. She would especially not trust an architect or designer, who very probably cannot even fry an egg, to possibly know what is in her mind. How would they understand what she wanted from a kitchen? It's not like she could tell them or anything... Oh...

Fanny Cradock Kitchen Planning

Fanny feels that her thoughts, working patterns and culinary life are simply beyond the comprehension of mere designers. Having worked 'alongside' Fanny for all these years, I may be inclined to agree. Fanny's pet peeve are kitchens with work surfaces which face the wall. They mean that lighting is inevitably poor, and to cook is wearisome - relying on our experience and 'Housewives Braille'. Presumably housewives would be unable to read the partwork with ease as they prepare dish after dish. That will never do. And don't even think about getting Fanny started on cluttered-up cupboards...

Fanny Cradock Kitchen Planning

Fannys aim is to ensure that the kitchen is the absolute hub of the home - after all we all spend so much time in there. It should be a place that visitors realise is not simply the room from where 'the grub' comes, or indeed the room where family or friends are inevitably drawn. Fanny thinks her job, in her kitchen, is to keep people out of it, not woo them in. Of course, this may be to avoid the social embarrassment of visitors realising that there are a small army of cheery weary assistants busy preparing all the food that Fanny passes of as her own...

Fanny Cradock Kitchen Planning

Fanny knows that readers must work within the limits of their incomes, and could not possibly hope to have a kitchen just like her own. However she feels by showing you a DREAM kitchen (as hers is, without question) she can inspire readers to achieve similar things in the much 'smaller units' that they no doubt have. I mean, who needs FOUR cookers like Fanny? Fanny knows that we are all 'suckers' who would like to submit ourselves to collecting useless exhibition type gadgets. They are a menace, and should be scrapped from any kitchen if not used once in any given calendar year. The exception are items purchased directly from Fanny herself, available at a very reasonable cost to readers of the partwork, to help them in their hour of need to set up a DREAM kitchen like Fannys. Also, never (unless you are Fanny) install a seventeenth century knife grinder in your kitchen merely for decoration. A menace.

Fanny Cradock Kitchen Planning

Fanny provides drawings and plans for an ideal kitchen - in no way 'architect-like' or as if she were herself, or had consulted, a designer. No. Fanny provides inspiration through little touches and flourishes that Johnnie has made himself. Once all the work is done though, you will need an area, should you be fortunate enough to have space, to settle down and enjoy a well-deserved coffee. The must-have for a dreamy DREAM kitchen is naturally a banquette area, complete with 'copper effect' curtains and psychedelic hallucinogenic-inducing accessories. Look how pleased Fanny is with the final results. You too could be like Fanny. Just on a more moderate budget in line with your own income, naturally.

Fanny Cradock Kitchen Planning

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Curl Up and Dye

Some retro touches from the past remain exclusively in the olden days. They never get revived. There's no rhyme nor reason for it, just overlooked I suppose. Or forgotten. Perhaps the skills have left us. Perhaps the will has gone. Perhaps the tools were gifted to the local charity shop in haste. Fanny's personal favourite retro touch is of course the garnish, exclusively for presentation. It's the ultimate. So much so that she often sets 'the young ones' to learn the techniques with tables full of basic ingredients to be embellished with the very simplest of tools. If one of the tools missing from your own kitchen drawer is the humble butter curler, you'd best make a dash to that charity shop and retrieve it immediately...

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

I can't remember the last time I saw curled butter. Fortunately for me, I happen to have a butter curler to hand, from a failed attempt to recreate Fanny's gloriously green Brandy Butter 'tree' for Christmas. I clearly need additional practice. I'm sure Fanny would sit me down at the table and set me to work on an endless mountain of butter crying out to be curled and loved if she could. Fanny being Fanny doesn't settle JUST for curled butter of course. Why would you when you could have curled BUTTERCREAM to lift your cake from the ordinary to the extraordinary in a few gentle strokes?

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

Fanny says to make a standard batch of her basic buttercream. Version 1. Naturally, she has several variations. Version 1 is butter whipped up all softly and creamily, with twice the amount of icing sugar blended in. Normally she adds an egg yolk too, for good measure and perhaps for a touch of colour. Normally I would add one too. Normally however I would take extra care NOT to drop the yolk, which I had just rescued from the white, down the kitchen sink... Normally it wouldn't be the last egg in my house. Normally I would worry endlessly about this, but nothing about this venture is normal anyway. As is normal with Fanny, icing and cakes, a massive burst of colour is involved anyway...

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

Fanny splits her buttercream into two and colours each a tasteful shade. Fanny has taught me to go one better in every walk of life, so three colours for me! Once tinted, the buttercream needs to be shaped into, err, well butter shapes and popped back in the fridge to harden up. This is not normal for buttercream. Fanny explains that this is an invention of a nameless Farmer's Wife from the nineteenth century. She made her own butter, and enjoyed shaping it using her butter curlers. She apparently also liked to colour it up and set it on top of her cakes. She didn't have a fridge naturally, but did have a stone slab in the dairy to keep her handiwork cool... Hmmm, I wonder if Fanny is simply just making this story fit her own fiendish plans. Either way, we must salute the anonymously curly Farmer's Wife for her buttery endeavours.

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

The Farmer's Wife uses her butter curler to scrape curls of buttercream which she then arranges on top of a freshly baked cake in an amusing pattern. Fanny did the same in her honour. I did too, although I used one of the many White Christmas Cakes I made before the festive season using Fanny's fabulous formula. The colourful insides now matches the colourful garnish. The cake has a kind of crocheted feel to it, reminiscent of a tea-cosy. I clearly need more practice with the curler. Surely, however, Fanny would be pleased? Perhaps not. One type of garnish Fanny does NOT subscribe to is that used by Italian pastry cooks. She seems to take issue with all things Italian. For Fanny, nothing is more 'potent for putting you off' your food that all the colours being too bright, especially when they are 'swirled and curled up together'. Make your mind up Fanny. Bright orange, green (luckily I would never use green for icing, always blue) and, god forbid, another colour, makes for a 'horrifying, brash appearance' which is off-putting in the extreme. I feel well and truly 'told off'. Excuse me while I slink off to the corner, curl up and hide... I'm taking a massive slice of cake with me though. Welcome to the New Year...

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Bonkers Conkers

This time of year always makes me think of conkers. I long to spend days throwing sticks up into the tall trees in the hope that a spiny capsule will come tumbling down, soon to be prised open to reveal a mahogany prize. Dried out for a while, never soaked in vinegar nor baked in the oven (cheating was not on my agenda, even as a child), nailed through the centre and strung on a long piece of twine. Ready for battle. I wasn't a violent child, or particularly competitive. However, I had to be conker champion.

Fanny Cradock Chestnut Meringue

Fanny seems to have indulged in the same pastime as myself. Skipping through her garden, collecting chestnuts in a wicker basket. Wearing gingham ribbons. Singing a happy tune. No doubt. Or, more likely, sending someone out in the howling rain to scarper round furiously shoving the fallen jewels into their pockets while she barks at them from the kitchen door. Either way, she ended up with quite a collection of chestnuts that would not be strung nor whacked to pieces in the name of a playground game.

Fanny Cradock Chestnut Meringue

Fanny's prized nuts were far too delicious to be wasted on leisure pursuits. She plunged them into slightly smoking hot oil in the deep fat fryer, causing the oil to seethe up madly. Just as she herself did when the garden haul was less than bountiful. Fanny's chestnuts split not with heavy strikes, but with the heat and tension. Once things have cooled down a little, they are shelled and skinned, boiled and drained, wiped and rubbed, through a sieve. Perhaps Fanny would be seething at me, as I bought some ready cooked and vacuum packed. And a food processor.

Fanny Cradock Chestnut Meringue

Fanny has a grand plan for these little wonders. Mont Blanc, or Chestnut and Meringue Cream. She whips up an Italian Meringue, whipping egg whites with hot sugar syrup to cook them. She blows the syrup through  slotted spoon until bubbles appear to know that it is hot enough. I've never been to Mont Blanc (although I have seen it from the skies as we flew over) so have no real concept of what it looks like but Fanny suggests colouring the meringue before piping it, so who am I to disagree? Ignoring the name as the major clue, I wade in with a delightful shade of teal. She builds a meringue case with elaborate pipes and borders. It feels perhaps more like '70s Toilet-Roll Holder Lady' than 'Highest Peak in the Alps', but I'd never tell her.

Fanny Cradock Chestnut Meringue

Fanny adds a splash of sherry, some vanilla, icing sugar and whipped double cream to the whizzed up chestnuts to make a very Christmassy (too early?) tasting paste. Fanny then pipes it using a 'writing pipe' nozzle into a mound of squiggles over and up on the inside of the meringue case. Squiggles. Squiggles? This must be what the Great White Mountain looks like up close. Only one thing left to do. Just like my younger days. Decide on tactics. Take aim. Smash the chestnut mound swiftly, cracking the meringue and, in a departure from the playground pranks, shovel into your mouth as quickly as possible. Conker Champion once again.

Fanny Cradock Chestnut Meringue

Friday, 5 October 2018

Fanny Takes The Biscuit

Fanny Cradock just loves tiddling things up. She can't leave anything alone. Nothing is safe from her nimble fingers, cunning plans and decorating box of tricks. Plain old things bore her to tears. The nasty neighbours would talk about you over the fence if you served them something basic, or even if they spied it on your plate... Why on earth would you have something 'ordinary' when you could transform it into 'extraordinary' in a flash? 'Stripped down' and 'modest' were not in Fanny's vocabulary.

Fanny Cradock Biscuits

Even the simplest of biscuits could be tiddled up from basic to fancy. Shortbread is often thought of as a simple biscuit, but in Fanny's world this needn't be the case. Fanny is not suggesting that we all spend hours and hours in the kitchen creating ridiculous showstoppers (ahem, biscuit Chandelier anyone?), however with a little bit of imagination and some store cupboard essentials, the nasty neighbours may just be, reluctantly, voting you as Star Baker when the pop round for afternoon tea.

Fanny Cradock Biscuits

Fanny's shortbread is made from a mix of ordinary flour and Rice flour (for a crunch), butter and caster sugar. The butter is beaten with the sugar, and then the mix of flours gently added in to combine. The mixture resembles breadcrumbs really, but should clump together between your hands if you give it a good squeeze. Think of this nasty neighbours and cackle loudly as you do it.

Fanny Cradock Biscuits

Fanny then rolls out the crumbly mix and begins the transformation from unvarnished to embellished. A third of the dough is cut cleverly into leaf shapes. Fanny does this freehand, so do I. I don't have any leaf cutter, but you may do. A third are cut into simple rounds with a very ordinary cutter. The final third are also cut into rounds, with the centre of half of those cut with a piping nozzle to make rings. All from the same austere mixture. The simple rounds are to be glazed with egg white and scattered with almond flakes. Leave the rest bare and bake for around eight or nine minutes. Just time to lean over the fence and gloat to those neighbours.

Fanny Cradock Biscuits

Let the tiddling begin! The almond rounds are already tiddled, so set them on a rack to cook. Carefully, they will be soft until they do. The rounds with holes become like Jammie Dodgers, filled with jam. I have used Rhubarb and Gin jam for mine. Gin helps everything. This is not enough tiddling for Fanny however. Slice a coloured glacé cherry in half, plonk it in the centre and add a sprig of cut Angelica. There is no explanation of why, but tiddle away and ask no questions. The leaves are tiddled with melted chocolate chips, covering only half the leaf. Tiddling done, the nasty neighbours will think you've been at it for hours...

Fanny Cradock Biscuits

Monday, 6 August 2018

World's Quorn Fakin' Mad

I've eaten everything from the Fanny Cradock Cookery Programme I have made. So far. I've tucked into an array of sweet omelettes, despite my better judgement. I've wolfed down green mashed piped potatoes, although my eyes have said 'no'. I've willingly deep-throated bananas smeared with jam and nuts. I've gladly gobbled eggs transformed into a variety of disguises without complaint. I've swiftly swallowed all kinds of things Fanny has made to go further than my purse, or my mind, was able to stretch. Until today. I. Just. Can't.

Fanny Cradock Quorn Ham Soufflé

Of course, as I've made Fanny's fascinations minus the meat, at least I've this far been safe in the knowledge that her creations may taste okay. I like vegetables. I've steered clear of using processed meat substitutes, mostly, simply because I rarely eat them myself. However, on a recent trip to the supermarket I was 'amazed' to see so many 'fake' meat products. Perhaps bemused. Perhaps perplexed. Perhaps baffled. Who was buying these things made to look, taste and feel like meat? Before I knew it I was hearing the self-service checkout beep in shame as I loaded up my bag. With. Sliced. Ham. Vegetarian Sliced Ham. What was I thinking?

Fanny Cradock Quorn Ham Soufflé

I hadn't gone completely loopy. I was curious, and of course Fanny was guiding me to make a Cold Ham Soufflé with her, so part of me didn't want to miss out. Would this ham-hoax cut the mustard? Fanny starts by mincing up her ham. Mine minces fabulously, just like a seventies game show host. Fanny makes a velouté sauce, essentially a white sauce made with stock instead of milk, as the backbone of her dish. Mine whips up like the best bad-ass dominatrix. Or so I've heard anyway. Fanny sets her soufflé with Aspic. I need to adapt the recipe a little, adding Agar Agar to the stock, boiling and then making the velouté like a cutie. That's just how I rock. Nearly.

Fanny Cradock Quorn Ham Soufflé

I can barely bring myself to touch the phoney-ham. Thankfully I am able to distract myself by whipping up egg whites and double cream. Separately of course. Fanny staples. All good here. I. Can. Cope. Except I can't. The pseudo-ham is mocking me. The whole sorry lot needs to be folded together and plopped into a wetted soufflé mould, so that it will come out smoothly. Fanny has taught me that. She hasn't trained me to cope with the horror of this. It's time to chill. The soufflé. And. Me. Too.

Fanny Cradock Quorn Ham Soufflé

However, the shudders continue as Fanny suggests a stomach-churning staging. Apparently what this bogus Cold Ham Soufflé needs is to be topped with a further glaze of Aspic-y Agar Agar before being surrounded by more rolls of fabricated ham. It looks convincingly like the one Fanny made. I am sure it will feel faithfully like it too. Oh. The. Smell.  I have absolutely no doubt that this sham-ham would also taste just like the one Fanny made. I. Am. Not. Trying. It. Sorry. Not. Sorry. Does anyone want it?

Fanny Cradock Quorn Ham Soufflé

Monday, 16 July 2018

What's The Name of The Game?

The thought of Fanny Cradock with a shotgun in her hand terrifies me beyond belief. I think we should all be terrified. She's out and about looking for the 'crowning glory' of English cookery. Game birds. On top of t all, she's not happy. She has become 'astigmatised' looking for a poulterer to cater to her needs, but alas her beloved birds have dwindled from her failing sight. Any remaining ptarmigan, capercailzie (as she calls them), woodcock or snipe should be especially terrified. Those are her favourites. You can almost hear the blood dripping and smell the smoke from the cartridge shot as she proclaims that they 'make wonderful eating'. Terrifying.

Fanny Cradock Cooking with Game

The thought of Fanny Cradock with a dead carcass in her kitchen terrifies me beyond belief. As Fanny licks her lips, she wonders if Scottish folks might still be able to get their hands round a neck of a capercailzie, but she doubts it. Fanny reminisces about the 'snipe of her childhood' which she has scarcely seen since. They are the hardest birds of all to shoot on the wing as they have a curious zig-zag flight. You believe she is talking from experience. You believe that the barrel of the shotgun is still warm. Well before the Spice Girls, you believe she did her own zig-a-zig-ah and blew the blighters out of mid-air anyway. They eat terrifyingly beautifully.

Fanny Cradock Cooking with Game

The thought of Fanny Cradock inventing the 'overhead' instagram-ready flat-lay shot terrifies me beyond belief. Fanny has her perfect meal-based social media snaps all planned out. It may be a Moroccan Couscous eaten in a tent in the Sahara Desert at 110°F, of course sitting in the shade. It may be a Provençal Octopus Stew. Fanny has fished the baby octopus herself from the 'wavelets on the sands' on a moonlight night. Her terrifying hands gripped tightly on the poor little babies. It may be a roast partridge, with trimmings, followed by English Stilton, brandy and a cigar. Yes, Fanny smokes cigars. Johnnie approves very much. He is no doubt too terrified to say otherwise.

Fanny Cradock Cooking with Game

The thought of Fanny Cradock with the garden secateurs in her hands terrifies me beyond belief. They are well sterilised, of course, and always close to hand. But still. Terrifying. Fanny does not like the shape of modern game scissors. She also does not like the modern service of woodcock. Her preference is to travel to Denmark, perhaps with her secateurs still close to hand, for service in the classic manner. The Danes have the decency to leave the heads on, you see. The Danes then split the skull open to expose the brain. The Danes then pick the brains out. The Danes think the brains are a delicacy. The Danes are just as terrifying as Fanny.

Fanny Cradock Cooking with Game

The thought of Fanny Cradock with a pigeon in her hand terrifies me beyond belief. They can be eaten all year round, and require no hanging. Strangely, they are rarely seen flying anywhere near Fanny's house. Served best with their breasts ripped from the body and covered in puff pastry. We all love a puffed up breast. Fanny suggests, with one final terrifyingly loud cackle, that if you really want to show off, serve them resplendent with feathered wings. If you weren't terrified before, you will be now.

Fanny Cradock Cooking with Game