Thursday, 17 August 2017

Push Pineapple, Shake The Tree

I'd say one of the many amazing things about Fanny Cradock is her ability to completely transform a few, very simple ingredients into something which has the unexpected 'wow' factor. She practically built her whole career on it. Partly through necessity as ingredients were scare after the war, but somewhat because, I am sure, it was fun and an appealing, eye-popping challenge for her. Add into the mix her other oft-used phrase 'and so quick to throw together when someone pops round unexpectedly' and you have her Pineapple Soufflé, or Les Zephyrs Maison. Entirely suitable for those that come and dance every night, singing with a hula melody.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Fanny being Fanny thinks strategically about the provocative presentation before she even begins. No point in planning a 'wow' that, well, has no 'wow'. She chooses a pineapple on the smaller side which has leafy green spikes a-plenty, and starts by slicing the whole thing down the middle, 'tufts' and all. Careful not to chop them off. The soufflé is baked and served IN the pineapple you see. It's all her own idea, and one which everyone that she has served it to has enjoyed immensely. No doubt she had the inspiration when she met a mistress somewhere in Waikiki, selling pineapple and playing Ukulele. Classic Fanny Cradock.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

The unembellished but soon-to-be flashy flesh of the pineapple is carefully scooped out, and kept aside. Fanny stresses the importance of NOT making any holes through the skin, reminding us that this is the home for the soufflé. The central core of the pineapple is a bit tougher than the rest, but it generally pops out easily enough with a little help from a teaspoon. You may need to push the pineapple a bit, especially to the left and the right, but no need to shake the tree, grind coffee or to jump up and down then to the knees.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Fanny whizzes up the pineapple pulp, either by emulsifying it in a liquidiser, or more strenuously shoving it all through a sieve. Thankfully I have a machine to do the work. And another to whirr up the egg whites for the soufflé. First of all just on their own, then for a very precise three and a half minutes with a small part of the caster sugar. Only after that is the rest of the sugar is carefully folded in, so as not to knock out the precious air particles out. Wiggle and gently sway as you do it, think of the lovely beach and the sky and the moon of Hawaii. Failing that, imagine you are wearing a rum calypso sarong. You may be anyway, of course. I'm sure Fanny was.

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Fanny suggests pushing the pineapple gently to the left (altogether now, once more with feeling) and sliding the purée underneath, before gently cutting it in very lightly. Pile the airy mixture into the pineapple cavity so it resembles a dome. It will look nothing like a dome. But Fanny says a dome. She also lovingly wraps the pineapple spikes in foil to protest them once they are in the hot oven. Pop the whole thing in for precisely eight and half minutes and serve, wow and enjoy. You might be compelled to sing a little song as you tuck in to this delightful pudding, if one is in your mind at all? No? Nothing?

Fanny Cradock Pineapple Soufflé

Friday, 11 August 2017

Haysi Fantasy - Johnnie's Pain Is Big Leggy

It seems I have something very particular in common with Fanny Cradock's husband, Johnnie. It's not that I am browbeaten at home, or in the kitchen. It's not that I quiver whenever my partner barks an order at me. It's not that I am shy, retiring or in any way intimidated or fearful of daring to contradict anyone where I feel it necessary. Even Fanny. It's not even that I am partial to a monocle, cravat and a sturdy glass of port to see me through the evening. No, it's something that others find strange, often won't believe at all and quite simply cannot comprehend. I, and Johnnie, hate Rice Pudding.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

For me, I still wince at the thought of the un-tearable, thick, black, leathery, tarpaulin skin that was always atop the Rice Puddings that emerged from the oven at home. I. Couldn't. Bear. To. Look. Never mind eat it. I once sat all night at the kitchen table when my Dad said I 'couldn't leave' until I'd eaten it. I won. Everyone I have ever met in life since (almost) thinks I am missing out. I always felt I was alone. There didn't appear to be a suitable support group for me to join. I just had to remain silent and get on with life. Until now. Johnnie is my saviour.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

Fanny's version of Rice Pudding, is, as expected, slightly different to all others. It's an Olde English recipe which she, naturally, found in France labelled subtly as Une Recette Familiale Anglaise. It does not looks like a Rice Pudding. Good. It does not taste like a Rice Pudding. Smashing. It is made with all the same ingredients as a Rice Pudding. Oh. The key is, it is made in a totally different way. No oven. No Black tent-of-death. No sitting at the table all night. Maybe.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

Fanny makes her Rice Pudding in a double-boiler on the stove-top. She uses Patna pudding rice, which I don't have. The only Rice I can find in my cupboard is Risotto. Which happens to have some Wild Black Rice mixed through it. Feel the Fear. Fanny adds milk, in stages, and a vanilla pod, while it heats. Stirring occasionally, cooking slowly, it seems just like a Risotto to me. Which is soothing. And it turns out that Black Rice is really Red Rice, and turns the whole mixture pink. Added bonus. Once all the milk is absorbed, Fanny adds in two egg yolks one at time, and continues to heat and beat gently before flinging in a little sugar, to taste, and some stiffly whipped cream.

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding

To tempt Johnnie (and me) even further, Fanny moulds the Rice Pudding and leaves it to cool in the fridge. It's hard to resist a bit of moulding. Fanny disguises it primarily to replace Johnnie's terrible memories. Decorated with seasonal fruit, I have cherries. Seemingly, when she visited him once during World War Two in the Royal Masonic Hospital where he was recovering from tonsillitis (which, Fanny notes is very serious in a grown man) she discovered Johnnie out of his bed, in his pyjamas (thankfully) pushing something down the wash basin that he didn't want the Matron to see. It was English Rice Pudding. Not Fanny's 'fantastic' French Rice Pudding, which he would never say no to. He would never say 'no' to Fanny full stop. Would you?

Fanny Cradock Grand Rice Pudding