Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Steam in a Teacup

Fanny is always encouraging us to get 'one up' on the neighbours by serving up something a little out of the ordinary. She clearly thinks that the neighbours are all beavering away baking - and I guess with the ever rising popularity of the Great British Bake Offf she is probably more right now than ever. Fanny is on a mission however, and that is to establish with us that there are nearly as many steamed cakes as baked ones that we could be showing off with. Not only that, but of course if you have a good sponge mixture you can easily make a variety of sensational offerings from it. Fanny says that she whips a large batch each time to make not only a large, traditional steamed pudding but several smaller ones. One thing that irks her however are those people who dedicate their lives to crocheting little bags with handles in string in order to use them as pudding holders. Why burn your fingers (the string handles are just as hot as the pudding) when you can use a strap of tin foil underneath the during bowl? Let's hope there is not a new TV show in development, the Great British Crochet Off would NOT please Fanny.

The Fanny Cradock basic sponge mix is flour, eggs, sugar and a little butter. She suggests a technique I haven't used before though, involving two bowls and boiling water. I'm intrigued. It seems a bit like making a Genoise Sponge to me. I'm here to learn, so here goes. Eggs and sugar in a small bowl, and then pop that into a larger bowl which is a third filled with boiling water. Whisk together until the mixture becomes thick and foamy. It's lovely to watch the science happening infront of your eyes, as the mix changes colour, consistency and character. Foamy it is.

The flour then needs to be folded in very gently, and Fanny says this MUST be done with a rubber spatula. Of course she doesn't explain why, but does put in bold letters DO NOT BEAT, so I don't. Fanny suggests adding lemon zest here, but I haven't any so add some Vanilla Paste instead. There's always one thing! The next stage confuses me a little, again just because of the lack of explanation. Fanny says I should add 'softened' butter which is not oil. Her explanation of what that means says that I should 'soften the butter without oiling it'. My brain hurts and all I can think to do is melt it, almost. So decision made that's what I do, and fold it in gently again as instructed.

At this stage, Fanny says I can turn it into a pudding bowl, or for more fun spoon it into individual tea cups for steaming. I always find it hard to pass up the extra fun option, so teacups it is! Butter them as you would a bowl, and half fill. The mixture is glossy now with the butter and tastes good - cooks privilege of course of licking that spatula.

The large pudding would need 2 1/2 hours of steaming, but these teacups only need 50 minutes. They are covered in oiled paper and foil as usual. I'm safe in the knowledge that as they are small I can use my tea-towel to pick them up when done, no burnt fingers or nasty crochet required. Fanny shows a photo of her humorous presentation which is basically the sponges removed from the teacups and 'filled' with jam and given an angelica handle. Fanny recommends Apricot Jam, but I'm using Three Berry Preserve from Mackays. I actually found them quite hard to get out of the teacups (despite being well buttered) and probably would've just left them in it. Clearly I am not as much fun as Fanny hoped. The puds themselves are springy and soft, and tasty too. I wonder why angelica isn't as popular as it once was, it's so versatile as a decoration - I'm sure those neighbours who are crocheting furiously would be totally convinced I was about to tuck into an actual teacup... Wouldn't they?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Steamed Syrupy Suet

I've been trying to readjust to British food and cookery this week after a welcome 'vacation' in the States, so was keen to reconnect with the Fanny Cradock recipes of old. And what could be more fitting than a twist on a Victorian recipe for Steamed Suet Pudding? Even better to help me with the transition, it contains Maple Syrup which of course is a favourite breakfast addition Stateside. I may have had the odd waffle, pancake and/or French Toast while away... Fanny herself isn't always keen on suet puddings, despite her love of steaming. She says there are three types - they can be like the ones we all had at school (apparently) with dates in, which were weighty enough to break a limb if dropped upon it! Or they can be 'dreary beyond belief' because they are filled meanly and slathered in custard to compensate. Or of course, they can be like the ones Fanny makes. Apparently W. Somerset Maugham was so in love with the steamed Chocolate Pudding made by Fanny that he had thirds at a luncheon in London. The recipe Fanny shares here isn't that one - although Fanny teases that it will be shared much later in the partwork - but instead this is Johnnies all time favourite, Steamed Coconut and Maple Syrup Pudding. Johnnie too can easily manage thirds, but only if it's sodden with syrup...

Fanny Cradock Steamed Coconut and Maple Syrup Pudding

The basic suet crust is easily made. I am of course using a good quality Vegetarian Suet here, which I have always found to work well. I've no idea how it compares to the usual variety, but I imagine there isn't a great deal of difference. The crust is a dough made by mixing the suet with flour and binding with cold water. Just a few tablespoons of water is enough, added gradually until it all binds.

It comes together really easily and soon forms a ball which can then be rolled out. You can still see the suet bits in the dough, but the paste is stretchy and pliable, rolls out well and generally doesn't stick to the surface if a little flour is added. 

Fanny makes one large pudding, presumably so that Johnnie can get stuck in, but I'm opting for smaller individual sized ones. After two weeks in America I'm keen to return to smaller portions wherever I can! So I line circles of crust in buttered Dariole moulds and half fill them with a paste made from mixing desiccated coconut and maple syrup. This is topped with a circle of crust before another layer of mix and a final disc of suet to seal.

As Ina Garten herself might say, how easy is that? The moulds need to be covered in oiled greaseproof paper and foil and then steamed for around an hour. I always add a pleat in the paper to allow for any expansion. Fanny doesn't tell me to, but equally she doesn't give any instructions so it's assumed we know. I'm using my bamboo steamer this time, I love the smell it creates in the kitchen! Fanny recommends if you are making a mahoosive Johnnie-sized pudding that it should be steamed for two and a half hours. The individual ones look great, and turn out well. The coconut filling is deep and flavoursome, with a good kick of sweetness from the Maple Syrup. The suet crust is light and certainly wouldn't break any limbs if dropped on them. I can easily see why Johnnie would have thirds, so make a couple extra than you need just incase you have a Johnnie in your midst.

Fanny Cradock Steamed Coconut and Maple Syrup Suet Pudding

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Woman's Touch - Fanny and Johnnie Cradock at Home

It's hard to imagine now, but in 1970, years before Hello! magazine had a parade of celebrities showing off their lifestyles, Woman magazine featured a splash with Fanny and Johnnie showing readers around their new home. Fanny and Johnnie had moved into their dream home less than a year before Edith Blair and Rith Morgan called round, and were presumably very keen to show off their place. Of course it provided Fanny an opportunity to now only introduce some recipes to share, but pass on her hints and tips for interior decoration and kitchen planning too. Johnnie just seemed to be there.

Fanny Cradock

Fanny and Johnnie take Edith and Ruth on a tour room by room, but start with the outside and the history of the home. Despite only just moving in, Fanny and Johnnie explain that they have given the garden a lived in look by faking it - or 'gardening up' as Fanny calls it. This seems to involve planting thousands of bulbs over all the seasons. It was apparently Fannys dream to hear running water from her kitchen window, and at last that dream is fulfilled - Fanny adds to the perfect illusion by saying they catch crayfish and trout in the surrounding waters. It may just be me, but I don't see the photos of Fanny in waders... And Johnnies apricot outfit just wouldn't do.

Fanny gives readers a peek into the Cradock bedroom, and delights in sharing her secret for creating a restful space - using Peacock as a colour. It's depth of colour is warm and luxurious. It's a little disturbing to see the Cradock bed. The guest bedrooms look out over the stream and have an olive green carpet. Presumably this is restful too. The lounge has a TV which is draped I a. Green cloth when not in use, but apparently Fanny and Johnnie watch it a lot. I can't help but wonder if Edith and Ruth mention that Fanny has a whole make-up room that is lined with wardrobes as a tongue in cheek note, although Fanny would claim it essential I am sure. 

Fanny has set up the dining room for a splendid diner party full of very special treasured items. After all, what better event to show off at that a dinner party. Fanny keeps a menu book which lists all that was served on any particular evening with a list of who attended - this way she can be sure never to repeat dishes when guests return. What a super tip Fanny. Fanny poses in a relaxed fashion in her dream kitchen, proudly showing off her units and islands - she was sick of staring at the walls when cooking so designed cookers at the perfect height so she did not strain, in the centre. These are also handy for the steady stream of poor assistants I imagine, regardless of their height.

Every inch of the kitchen has been designed with labour saving in mind, and also motion saving - everything is in easy reach and can also be cleaned easily without a scrubbing brush. Fanny gives the illusion that the kitchen magically cleans itself. Again, no mention of the poor assistants who are no doubt never invited to the ball. So, once Fanny has inspired readers to have aspirations of a dream home lie, she has achieved, it's time to prepare some elaborate Petits Fours for dinner using the Fanny easy know how. The theme seems to be that it's easy if you are Fanny and even easier if you live in a dream home that you have expertly designed and created yourself. Aspirational as ever, and Fanny assures you are left knowing that you will never quite achieve this for yourself, but you are very lucky to at least see how Fanny and Johnnie live. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Fannys Fish Cake

If, like me, you've forgotten to sort out a birthday cake for a special someone, Fanny has a solution. Of course. Even better of that special someone doesn't really like birthdays, or cake, but would of course be 'put out' if one didn't appear. Fanny recommends setting your little ones to work with this one, but I don't have any running around, so it's all up to me. Thankfully to make this spectacular centrepiece I just need a few things that are lying around that I can recycle. One of them being an old stale cake. Cake doesn't really last long enough round here to become stale, but I do have some of one of my Christmas cakes lurking about in a tin. Oh and a vintage copper fish mould that I recently snapped up at the local charity shop. Fanny would be proud of me. She paid a pretty penny for hers, but does note that there are many 'less expensive' ones that are avialable. I found one.

Fanny Cradock

First job is to oil the mould very carefully with olive oil, but Fanny notes that it's VERY expensive so reminds me not to make a 'pond' just a thin skin brushed on very vigorously. Times have changed and I have a spray oil which I reckon will do the job perfectly.

Fanny tells me to use my 'very clean fingers' to crumble up the cake, add a few drops of fruit juice and squeeze it all up to a very firm paste. Oops, I think I added a little too much of the leftover Raspberry Coulis I found in the fridge - it is a recycled cake after all. My paste is quite squidgy as I try to press it into the oiled mould. 

Fanny says I should be able to simply turn it out now onto a flat dish, but the overload of Coulis means it looks stuck. I am deviating from Fannys technique here, and decide to bake the cake for a while, just to firm it up. I think I might've just been quicker whipping up a cake from scratch.

After just 15 minutes in the oven it looks ready to turn out and decorate. My deviation worked. Half a green glacĂ© cherry becomes the eye, with Fanny noting that the other eye is underneath. Thanks for that Fanny. The scales are flaked almonds stuck into the naked cake. Mine are a bit haphazard, a bit childlike, but that seems appropriate. Fanny knows what you are thinking - what about the buttercream icing? Surely no cake is complete without it? Always ready with an alternative, Fanny insists that I make 'waves of a cold green sea' of icing surrounding the fish, naturally. So, ta-dah, Happy recycled Birthday!