Saturday 30 November 2013

Plain or Gilded - a Toast to Fanny's Mama

Fanny has made me do something I haven't done for years. I'm fooling myself it's in the name of retro-ness and of course to allow me to cook what Fanny insists, but I am secretly quite excited. Maybe it's a common feeling amongst those that bake their own bread - but actually buying a loaf feels like a splendid crime. You see, Fanny wants to show us how to make toast. At first it seems like a joke, but if I have picked up anything this far, it's to trust Fanny. Reminiscing about childhood toast I am reminded of the very Scottish Plain Loaf so I venture into my local supermarket, pick one up and sneak out before anyone sees me. I should add, I did pay for it, I'm not really a criminal.

Fanny wants me to make PROPER toast, just like her Mama used to do. If you are expecting 'pop the bread in the toaster and eat' as the recipe, think again. This toast will be 'all crisp on the underneath and gloriously oozy with butter on top' which will be perfect in front of a roaring log fire in winter. Or a chilly morning in Edinburgh. Fanny insists that we NEVER use a toast rack, which her Mama described as a 'draught with wire around it' but instead recommends a velvet lined box contraption to keep unbuttered toast warm at the dining room table. I don't have one of those. However it's Fanny's Mama's trick for buttered toast that I'm going for...

The trick is essentially to make toast as normal, but instead of spreading butter on, which may tear the toast and make it soggy, Fanny melts some butter in a tray on the hob and whacks in the fresh, hot toast when it's melted. It doesn't stay there long, Fanny warns too long and it will be 'sog', before lifting out and enjoying. I am actually amazed at how good it is, it tastes SO buttery and is indeed very crisp and oozy... I may never butter toast in the usual way again! 

NOTHING infuriates Fanny more than sitting down to dinner in a glossy restaurant and being served a pretty Water Lily napkin filled with Toast Melba that is OLD and COLD. Fanny is fuming as she tells us that it simply takes seconds to make in the proper fashion, and if we don't know how to we are in luck as Peter and Fanny show us in a series of pic-strips. Peter makes the toast, and Fanny makes the lily.

Peter guides us through the process of taking off the crusts, toasting each side gently, slicing the bread along the centre and toasting again until it curls beautifully. I'm not sure if Fanny would approve of me using the wrapper from the Plain Loaf to make my lily but I certainly would like to see her face in the glossy restaurant as it was delivered. It's like making one of those paper folders at school where you choose numbers and colours to decide who you 'fancy' really, except this one is to hold the Toast Melba. Much more practical.

I'm still feeling a little bit guilty if I'm honest, but with Fannys help I have certainly gilded the lily and expanded my knowledge of something so simple. Under Fannys instruction I shall never make batches of toast, Melba or Proper, and store them in tins (who would I wonder? The glossy restaurants?) but instead whip them up in seconds perfectly fresh and crisp. So, a toast to Fanny and her formidable Mama! 

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Could it be Black Magic?

I can't resist switching up this very simple recipe from Fanny Cradock, I wonder if she'd approve? I'm not sure Fanny would want us having our own thoughts at this early stage, but here goes! Fanny continues in this partwork to 'introduce' us to the many wonders of bread, this time making a simple staple - garlic bread. As ever, it seems strange today to even consider a recipe for this as the supermarket shelves are groaning with different garlic loaves either ready prepared or ready to bake at home. It's so easy, how could Fanny make it easier? When this collectIon was published it was a different story, and to be honest even today flavour would win for me over convenience. This looks easy, and will hopefully be tastier too - win/win.

The ingredients are straightforward, with Fanny suggesting I use a standard loaf. Always keen to impress the teacher, I use a home made one. Truth is I've not bought bread for such a long time as I love baking it myself. The other ingredients are butter, garlic and parsley. My own twist is to use some Black Garlic which I found recently and have been desperate to try. Black Garlic starts out as normal garlic, but it's aged slowly in a warm environment and becomes dark, sweet and jelly-like. Sounds perfect for this loaf! Have to admit though that it doesn't look overly appealing when added to softened butter... Have I made a mistake?

To finish off the garlic butter, Fanny asks me to add some freshly milled parsley heads and some salt, but just a scant teaspoon. These are some of Fannys favourite words, so I am hoping 'milled' parsley is finely chopped and 'scant' is less than a full teaspoon? The green is making the butter look more appealing already! 

As with every recipe, there is one part that Fanny gets quite stroppy about this time it's slicing the loaf. She stresses that on NO account should I allow the knife to cut all the way through the base crust at ANY point. Not trusting myself, I use a couple of chopsticks placed either side to stop the knife going 'all the way' and get slicing! 

It worked. Now all that needs to happen is for the black garlic butter to be spread on every cut surface before the loaf is pushed back together, wrapped tightly in foil and heated in a gentle oven until it is JUST piping hot. Fanny gives no indication of timing here, but I left this loaf for 10 minutes which seemed good. The finished loaf smells beautiful, and the black garlic adds a really mellow, sweet taste, almost balsamic. Perfect accompaniment to some hearty Kale soup, another switch up from Fannys suggestions, but mmmm, it's lovely!

Friday 22 November 2013

Specially for Small Fry

Fanny was always keen to get youngsters involved in cooking, and the weekly Cradock Cookery Programme was no exception - each installment included a page 'specially for small fry'. I'm not too sure what today's Junior Masterchef and Junior Bake-off hopefuls would've made of it, but for Fanny it was important that the young generation followed in the footsteps of 'their grown ups' and embraced the 'above all garnish and presentation' mantra. Fanny and Johnnie had already published several cookbooks aimed at young people, and had even produced a special children's cookery TV programme as early as 1959, which of course had it's own range of cookbooks to match - Fanny was never one to miss a marketing opportunity.

The first few ideas for the youngsters to get their heads around involve no cooking whatsoever, just assembly. Fanny kicks off with an idea for Stuffing Ducks. Fanny suggests that the grown-ups give their usual and ordinary stuffing used for birds or meats to the children instead to fashion these cute little ducks. The construction instructions are simple, wash your hands, mould the body, head and then finish off with an almond beak. I have used my trusty Vegetarian Haggis from Macsweens here instead, how do they look?

For pudding it's slightly more complicated as we attempt Edible Clowns. The youngsters are trusted to melt chocolate very carefully and mould it around a half orange to make a cup which is then released from the orange and filled with ice-cream. This is topped with a scoop of ice-cream and some chocolate petals to form a Pierots ruffle, a few chopped pieces of glacé cherry and a cone hat... Voilà the edible clown.  

The final in this initial trio of treats for the young at heart seems decidedly risqué in appearance in this day and age, however I am hoping that Fanny designed it with innocence. I am worried that this blog will get banned as a result, but here goes. For Banana Candles, all you need is an ordinary banana, coated with strawberry jam, rolled in chopped nuts and stood up in a few pineapple rings. Oh, and topped off with a glacé cherry flame. I think bananas must have been straighter back in the 1970s, but even so how many parents would be able to keep a straight face if presented with these?

They all tasted just fine, and I am sure were a fun way to get young folk involved and interested in food. It will be interesting to see how Fanny develops the skills of these small fry as the parts progress, but for now I don't think we'll be seeing any of these creations on Junior Masterchef - which is a shame as I'd love to see those judges faces when presented with a Banana Candle...

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Resuscitate flaked, baked, left-over laminates

"You bought those expensive croissants , your guests hardly touched them and now they are as hard as rocks." Fanny clearly has had troublesome house guests before writing this section, and is venting her anger on the page. How dare the guests not touch the croissants that were so very expensive? I guess back in 1970 they would be hardly heard of and beyond the purse of many readers of Fannys weekly publication, but Fanny pretends that 'we all know' that they will not re-heat. Once the pesky guests have gone though they can be easily turned into a delicious dish - a Croissant Bake or Quiche au Fromage in Fannys favoured French.

It's essentially a savoury bread and butter pudding, and in fairness to Fanny does seem like a good way to use up croissants. Fanny of course makes her own croissants but does not give the recipe yet (we are still learning the basics), and having made my own before I can understand why she was so very upset that her guests didn't bother with them - they do take a long time to produce. However Fanny concedes that shop bought croissants are just fine, even if 'we all know' that they only have a 'life of a few hours' before they are inedible. I'm imagining many housewives in 1970 in an utter panic once their guests have left trying to whip up this recipe and resuscitate the croissants before it's too late. Luckily it's quick and simple.

First of all, to make a savoury custard. I'm using unsweetened Almond milk for a deeper, nuttier, savoury flavour but of course Fanny uses plain old milk. While it's 'raising to a heat, but not boiled' I whisk up three eggs and an extra yolk. When the milk is at temperature (whichever temperature that is) it's poured on top and beaten in. Fanny warns not to whisk at this stage, as this will create irritating and useless foam. Oops.

Once it's seasoned well with salt and pepper, grated Parmesan (or alternative) is added with some soft white breadcrumbs, before pouring into a well buttered oven dish. Fanny insists these are 'proper' homemade crumbs, passed through a hair sieve. Fanny gets angry at the thought of those horrid packets of yellow grit that look like the sediment from the bottom of poor old Polly's cage, and insists that these are NEVER used. Oh dear, I'm guessing she's seen my Croque Monsieur blog pits and that's why she's so angry. That, and those inconsiderate guests. Can't just be me upsetting her, can it?

Finally the croissants are 'sunk' into the mixture before being baked uncovered. I had to hold them down for a bit to soak in the custard (clearly my croissants weren't as rock hard as Fannys were) and push them down again halfway through baking. Fanny issues a warning that if I choose a dish which is too large the croissants will not be totally immersed and will come out 'black as an old boot' by the time the custard is set. Mine look well baked, but not black as old boots, so perhaps I chose well. The croissant bake is warming, comforting and tasty served with some vegetarian sausages and onion gravy... Just the thing to de-stress once those cheeky and frankly rude guests have gone. 

Friday 15 November 2013

Don't mock - Will my doughnuts turn out like Fannys?

Whether or not the urban myth is true or a well crafted piece of publicity, it's hard to mention Fanny Cradock without thinking about doughnuts and without sniggering at the famous line. Did the announcer on Nationwide really turn to camera after Fanny had finished her cookery slot and say 'May all your doughnuts turn out like Fannys' (or whatever derivation of the line you've heard)? I don't think any record of it exists, but the fame lingers. So, when I see that next up in my Cradock Cookery Programme is doughnuts I can't help but squeal. Well, they are sort of doughnuts of course, Fanny calls them Mock Doughnuts, Deceitful Doughnuts and also Spanish Torrijas. 

These doughnuts, Fanny suggests, are ideal for when you have nothing in the house for pudding and hungry folk to feed. Well, nothing expect bread, eggs, icing sugar, cinnamon and Sherry that is. Fanny boasts that she has blindfolded people on stage at the Albert Hall and fed them these little beauties, and they have insisted that they are having fresh, hot, spiced doughnuts. Naughty Fanny, one won't enquire why she had a blindfold to hand. 

So, first of all I need to mix some icing sugar with cinnamon, while I heat up some plain and ordinary oil to the required temperature. I am a little nervous about hot oil, so use a thermometer to make sure I don't overheat it. Then I cut circles out of thick slices of bread and toss them through eggs beaten with Sherry. Mmm, it really smells so good already! 

When the oil reached temperature Fanny suggests more tossing - this time the soaked bread into the oil, frying until they are puffed and golden brown. It only takes a few minutes on each side and I'm glad I made sure the temperature was right so they didn't burn.

Finally, when they are ready and still hot, simply dust them in the sugar and cinnamon mix and eat immediately. I really wasn't expecting them to taste like anything other than fried bread, but of course I should have more faith in Fanny by now - if I was blindfolded I'd swear they were fresh doughnuts, with an added and very welcome hit of Sherry! So the question is, did my doughnuts turn out like Fannys? I think so! These are Fannys...

And these are mine... Feel free to snigger.

Friday 8 November 2013

Famous, French and Fried - c'est le Croque Monsieur

The news this week has been full of statistics about how much food we waste here in the UK, six meals a week apparently, on average. If she were around now Fanny would be popping up on every news segment in disgust. So, Fanny's timely tips on using up leftover bread and transforming it very simply into tasty treats seems a welcome reminder. It's as if she is here! Continuing her trip around Europe, Fanny hopes that we will become acquainted with the famous Croque Monsieur and his 'twin' Croque Madame. Madame is made with ham, so not for here. Fanny makes her Madam in a French waffle iron from Miss Elizabeth David's shop too - I don't have one, but just as well as the Monsieur is plain old fried.

Ingredients are frugal again, apart from the Gruyère cheese, but no one said leftovers need to be basic did they? So, simply take a couple of slices of bread, remove the crusts and spread with some butter.

Then, spread on some 'made' mustard. I frantically search my fridge for a jar without success, when I remember that I do have some mustard powder, and it's easy to 'make' by adding equal parts of water and mixing. A layer of the gorgeous Gruyère cheese should be cut to fit, and the sandwich cut in two. Fanny reassures me that it should look like a doorstep and not a petite sandwich. 

It looks tasty enough to me as is, but Fanny tells me to turn it in beaten egg and roll it in fine breadcrumbs. I've found some very 70's orange ones, yipee!

Next it's simply to fry the coated halves in not very hot oil, giving the cheese time to become soft and gooey and the crumbs golden brown. A fried sandwich seems very unnecessary and Elvis-like, but it's actually quite light and flavoursome, and certainly feels more of a treat than just a boring old cheese sandwich. I am please to make your acquaintance Monsieur Croque. Bonjour. 

Sunday 3 November 2013

Pitt-y Panna - the Art of Using Up Leftovers

Fanny shows throughout the Cookery Programme her flair for bringing dishes from Europe (or the Common Market as Fanny referred to it then) to the British dinner table, and this self-saucing Scandinavian supper dish is a perfect example. Apparently it is enjoyed by Swedish people, particularly after the Theatre, in very grand hotels while their teenagers are also 'forking it up in their flatlets'. Really, that's what Fanny says. She is keen to teach us all that there is a very fine art to turning the simplest of leftovers into fabulous treats, and this she says turns ordinary cooks and chefs into Super-Cooks. So here goes, I want to be a Super-Cook.

This recipe comes at just the right time as I have plenty of bits of food left over after having friends round for dinner. Not out to the theatre, oh dear. Fannys recipe calls for leftover bread, potatoes, bacon and eggs - but in the spirit of actually using leftovers I am substituting the potato for some squash I have to hand. As ever, it seems fairly simple to put together, but really isn't something I would've thought of. I need to dice the squash and fry it gently first of all.

Then, the same with the bread - cut into croûtons and fry gently until they are golden. I am cooking them in rapeseed oil and butter, so they take on a fantastic colour. Fanny suggests any cooking oil (even dripping, but only if it is VERY clean) and notes that the croûtons should take up every scrap of oil as they start to brown. They do. 

I add a sprinkle of my favourite smoky substitute flavour in place of the bacon - Paprika - and mix the squash and croûtons together, with some seasoning. They need to be piping hot when served, so I heat them slowly and gently while I prepare the eggs. This simply involves separating the whites (which are not used) from the yolks and returning the yolks to one half of the cracked shells. 

To serve, Fanny says that the Swedish pop the mixture into a bowl, make an indent in the middle and place the yolk-in-shell in the centre. So, if that's what they do in Sweden, that's what I do too. At the table, each person tips the yolk into the hot contents and stirs with a fork - creating the sauce. That's it, and that's what I do. Simple as it is, it is very tasty and really comforting - just the sort of thing I'd love after the theatre, or even a simple Sunday night supper. Clearly I am beyond forking it up in my flatlet.