I'm going to ask you to close your eyes in a moment. Just warning you. However you'll need to read on just for a little bit to find out why on earth I would ask you to do so. Don't worry, I'm not going to flash up a photo of yet another crazy creation from Fanny Cradock, well not just yet. No, I want you to shut your peepers and think of your childhood salad. Oh dear, I should've said that once you've thought of it you need to open them again and continue reading. I do hope you've worked that bit out all for yourselves...
What did you see? I'd hazard a guess if you saw a boiled egg on your plate that you, like me, are a child of the seventies, or before. No salad was complete in our house without one. A little bit of lettuce, maybe some cucumber for special occasions, some pickled beetroot from a jar (which I never touched), perhaps a spring onion but always a hard boiled egg. Fanny too thinks that eggs are ideal for a summertime salad. She lived in a time before 'salad' meant pre-packed pillows of Frisee, Radicchio and Wild Rocket.
Fanny, years before dearly beloved Delia, first of all ensures that we know how to boil an egg. She brings a small pan of very ordinary domestic tap water to a fairly fast boil. Eggs should then be lowered in on a tablespoon to avoid cracking and cooked for eggsactly (sorry) seven minutes. Drain down the sink (just incase you had other ideas). Fanny then turns on the cold tap and runs it over the boiled eggs still in the pan until they themselves are cold. Tap the eggs very gently all around against the side of the sink to peel away the shells in seconds without 'unsightly fingernail marks.' Quite.
This technique from Fanny also means that the yolk will not be black against the white inside, which, Fanny says, frequently results from not chilling the egg instantly. Check it for yourself, slice the eggs in half lengthways and arrange them in the centre of the plate to begin the salad. No black. Fanny first surrounds the eggs with a 'ring of carrots' which can be either cut by hand laboriously or with ease and speed with a mandoline. Fanny always gives unbiased choices. Fingers must be kept out the way when using the mandoline. I have a guard on mine. Fanny had assistants.
Fanny shreds some white cabbage for an additional ring and skins tomatoes to make petal shapes for added decoration. For maximum appeal, Fanny flavours some mayonnaise with the juice of an orange and pipes it into rosettes in-between. Fanny does say that this is only when she is feeling grand and leisurely, otherwise she'd just plonk the mayonnaise down in a bowl separately. It's essentially a deconstructed coleslaw with a boiled egg, but Fanny makes it seem much grander, in a leisurely way. Using the mandolin keeps the carrots crisp and crunchy, and the whole salad is quite lovely. Did you have hard boiled eggs in your salad? Oh I do hope you've opened your eyes again ready to enjoy the full effect.