Fanny Cradock wasn't really known for her love of other people, let's be honest. She was rarely portrayed as a supporter of other cooks, other broadcasters, other writers or for that matter other women. There are of course many exceptions, she did have some friends (honest) and some professionals that she raved about, but they were few and far between. She saved all her very special wrath for one particular female cookbook author however. She was a marketing genius, expert at self-promotion, and remains famous to this day. Sound familiar? Fanny 's blood boiled for a perfect four minutes at the very thought of Mrs Beeton.
Fanny was proud of the amount of research that she did to dis-credit this 'no-cook cookery writer' who 'could not even fry an egg.' The recipes that she published were not her own, but rather other people's ancestors recipes, sent in as part of a competition and published by Beeton - who Fanny recognised was at least 'a clever journalist'. Mrs Beeton died aged 29, and Fanny calculated that if she had tested every recipe in the Book of Household Management, even if she had cooked for 32 hours a day, she wouldn't have been able to cook them all even once. Fanny, by comparison, never poached other people's recipes (ahem) and always tested them over and over and over again before publication. Or at least her petrified assistants did. Fanny was too busy doing the research.
One area of severe criticism that is often scrambled Mrs Beeton's way was her recipes which began 'take 16 eggs...' People thought them excessive and out of reach for most household budgets. Fanny, rather surprisingly, defends her arch rival, stating that the criticism is simply NOT valid. Eggs are cheap and nutritious, and quite frankly, according to Fanny, Mrs Beeton certainly knew her eggs.
To showcase these wonderful orbs, Fanny chooses a very filling dish which makes the humble egg go a very long way indeed. There are three main components. The first is an onion sauce, which Fanny makes very simply from simmering chopped onions in milk until they are soft, draining and straining them through a sieve. Meanwhile the saved milk is further heated until it reduces, before the sieved onions are returned to it. It smells amazing. The next essential part is of course perfectly soft-boiled eggs. Four minutes, remember? Run them under cold water immediately and shell them. No need for 16 by the way.
Finally, Fanny takes an old cottage loaf, trims all the crusts off, cuts a large cavity in the top and deep fries it. This seems a step too far for me, and with premonitions of the fire brigade beating down my door (although...) I decide against this. I do cut a deep cavity though, which is filled with the onion sauce. Then the eggs. Fanny completes this treat by pouring a little of the onion sauce over the eggs, and decorating them with dill frongs. And of course a frill of dill around the edge of the cavity. Mrs Beeton would never have time for any of this marvellous detail.