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