Saturday, 27 July 2013

Swedish Dinner Party - Cocktails and Cake Cradock style

Fanny included two complete menus (or 'Bill of Fare' as she referred to them) in each weekly part of her cookery programme, for those wishing to invite guests to a dinner party with an array of splendid offerings. One menu was always hearty, and one lighter, but both were of course 'balanced'. I was expecting Fanny to encourage me further by building on the basic skills I have been learning at her side so far, but as ever the menus really bear no relation to what has gone before. Patience. But still who could resist impressing dinner guests in such a way? And what could be more impressive than a starter of a selection of Vegetable Health Cocktails (or in French as Fanny is want to do, Jus de Legumes Frais)? Oh. 

Vegetable juices probably don't seem too odd to us today, but I was keen to have a taste of 1970 'health' and see how they compared. The ingredients seem healthy - carrots with fresh orange juice, celery with lemon and orange juice, tomatoes with lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and a bunch of watercress with orange juice. Following Fanny's instructions I made all four (presumably to provide a choice to my imaginary dinner guests) and served them up 'over ice' with the suggested appropriate accompaniments - salt, freshly milled pepper and celery salt. The orange and lemon juice certainly made them pleasant, but for me the addition of both salt and celery salt was way too much, and not a way I'd like to start a dinner party - gasping for a drink. Now, maybe if Fanny had suggested chucking in a vodka or two I'd have been okay with that...

I skipped the main course - Skewered Mussels with Savoury Rice (Moules en Brochettes) and went straight to dessert. This too strikes me as modern and 'on trend' although I suppose it just goes to show that all good things come around eventually. Or is it more evidence that Fanny was ahead of the crowd? Anyway for pudding, Fanny is keen for me to make a Swedish Apple Cake (Applekak) served with a luxurious Swedish Vanilla Sauce (med Vaniljaas - Fanny continues to educate in a multilingual way, if I had any dinner guests I would of course impress them with the native names).

Fanny teaches me a new technique here to ensure that I get my apples puréed to a VERY thick and stiff paste - seemingly if I don't follow her guide my finished cake will collapse and I will be very cross with her. This of course is a veiled threat which really means that I will be very cross with myself for not following Fanny's expert guidance. So, I peel, core and slice 2lb of cooking apples and pop them in my heavy lidded pot with just enough water to stop them floating. I guess. Fanny suggests I use a stone jar, but frankly I don't have one of those. I cover them and cook in a moderate oven 'until they collapse'. Oh dear I am being trusted with some judgement here again. It takes about 40 minutes for them to collapse, then I sieve them, add some brown sugar and heat them again until they 'bubble and blow' getting rid of any surplus moisture. Meanwhile I whizz up an old stale madeira cake (I handily have some of my cherry cake left over, so take out the cherries) and add melted butter to the crumbs. Fanny tells me to push half the mixture into a shallow cake tin (prepared in the 'normal way' - I am being tested again, but fear not I have my grease proof paper in hand!), spread the thick apple mixture on top, and follow with the other half of the buttery crumbs. It's a bit like a cheesecake base, but on top too.

Once pressed down safely and smoothed off, I bake for 20 minutes. It looks like it might be quite heavy, and I've no idea if it will come out like a brick or not... And of course there is the added worry that perhaps I haven't stiffened my pile purée enough and the whole thing will collapse anyway. Eek. Stress. Swedish Stress. However, it comes out looking pretty much as it did going in. Once cool I have to transfer it to a serving plate, dust it with 'stripes of icing sugar' and serve it 'handed' (I hope this means in a jug on the side) with the Swedish Vanilla Sauce (can I say it's just custard?). Will the crumbs crumple catastrophically? Actually it looks not bad! And it is very light and tasty...

I don't know if this is a real traditional Swedish delicacy, but it seems like a great way to use up leftover cake and transform it into something to dazzle the dinner guests. I probably wouldn't tell the guests it was a stale old cake I'd made earlier in the week - of course, it's all clear now I would dazzle them with my perfect Swedish to cover this up. I see a small footnote (too late) by Fanny suggesting as an OPTION I could've added 'very sparingly' some Rum to the Vanilla Sauce... I'd say no cake and cocktail combo would be complete without a little alcohol - cheers Fanny!

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