Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Stick a Feather in His Cap

Fanny Cradock is planning her summer holiday, and is hoping you are too. She knows that you will not be anywhere nearly as well travelled as she. She knows that you will not be as well informed on the best places to go. She knows that if going 'abroad' is comparatively unfamiliar to you, and your experience is limited Jersey, Knokke or Dieppe, she has somewhere in mind which will get you using all five of your senses in a manner to which you will very probably have been unaccustomed. So that's us put firmly in our place. I need a holiday.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

Where is this paradise for the senses that she has in mind? It's a country of strong, clear, brilliant light which gives an almost theatrical performance at sunrise and sunset. It has white, cubic houses where people wear brilliant costumes among the breathtaking architecture. They have hills. They have beaches. They have unfamiliar smells. Where else but the fair isles of Greece. It would seem that they also have Macaroni Pies.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

It's no standard Macaroni Pie of course, this is a Pallas Athene's Macaroni Pie. Fanny seems to have picked this one up on one of her jaunts. She reckons in Greece if you happen across a little Taverna, you are welcome to just trot into the kitchen as a matter of course, lift the lids on the pots, sniff the contents and either say 'thank-you' and go away, or order and go and sit down in the restaurant. I suppose it reduces the need for the gay, colourful Taverna hosts she recalls, who have roles more akin to a performance rather than to serve and receive, to have waiting staff.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

This pie is less performance and more pleasure. Simply cook the macaroni, add some dried herbs, grated cheese, blobs of cottage cheese and a good splash of single cream before baking in a moderate oven. I'm not spotting any of the glorious Greek produce that Fanny practically insists you bring back from your Greek holiday. As well as textiles and pottery, Fanny's list of priorities are Halva, Turkish Delight, Olives and Oktapodaki. That's tinned Baby Octopus. Perhaps it's best that she saves that for a more suitably tentacle-icious pie.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

Fanny does think that Greece is exciting. Fanny does think that you will need to take pains to 'tune in' to a different way of living. Fanny does think you will need to get accustomed to drinking endless amounts of Ouzo. Greek people, you see, use a lot of oil and resin in their food and wine, neither of which Fanny notes are suited to the rather conservative stomachs of British people. Or other British people, as I assume she means. This must be why she keeps this pie thoroughly suitable for British stomachs, with the absence of all whiffs of Greece. Fanny says you will return from Greece uncomprehending, a little dazed and feeling drunk. This seems to be the case with this pie. Fanny says it makes a filling and suitable adjunct to the overload of meats on offer. Vegetarians rejoice! Fanny cannot resist however mentioning that this particular dish would be greatly improved by the addition of a huge chunk of barbecued meat. So, stick that in your cap and call it Macaroni.

Fanny Cradock Greek Macaroni Pie

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

OMG BTW IT'S FC's DIY BBQ LOL

So, we *all* have a pile of old bricks, a few lengths of metal piping from the local junkyard and precisely four strong garden canes lying around at home, don't we? And, of course, simply no idea what to do with them. You know the kind of thing, a local famous ancient monument was being demolished to widen the road, and you nipped along and 'bought' a selection of Eighteenth century rose-coloured bricks just on the off-chance they'd be useful further down the line. It's always happening to me. Well, luck is in, Fanny has a solution. Build your own spit barbecue.

Fanny Cradock BBQ

Fanny is under no illusion that Britain may not be best placed for barbecue lovers, after all the climate can turn 'at the drop of a sun-hat' from 'set fair' to 'downpour'. Fanny recommends that we shouldn't cry about it. Her mantra is 'barbecue-without-tears' and indeed, without exhaustion. And while we are at it, without smoke in our eyes to spoil the enjoyment. Choosing the location for your barbecue is, therefore, key. You must have a windbreak. You do not want the fire to become so fierce a strength for cooking or so intense that it can do 'scorch damage' to a nearby fence or hedge. Let alone the cooks hands or face. How do you think Fanny got those signature eyebrows?

Fanny Cradock BBQ

Fanny assumes that everyone will want a barbecue. Naturally. For those who do not wish to invest in a professional one, used by professionals in the professional way, a homemade one can be made in just a few moments. She draws a diagram to make it even quicker. Pay particular attention to the holes. A draught is required. And please, Fanny begs, do not use any cement. If your bricks have not been reclaimed honestly from a beyond-help historic home, if they are old and faffy with knobbly leftovers of cement adhering to them, do chip these off first or the bricks will simply not stand level. Safety first, remember. Eyebrows. That's all I'm saying.

Fanny Cradock BBQ

The next most important thing for a successful barbecue is the position of a table near to it. Where on earth will you put the essential accoutrements for grilling without one? Fanny lists these as bread, butter, salt, pepper, a cheese selection and a massive basket of fruit. And before you ask, the butter must be protected in a suitable tub which is then set into another larger tub with ice cubes packed around it. The only other essential is paper towels, there must be a generous supply of those for guests to wipe their greasy hands on. Fanny insists that plastic plates are used for COLD items only. The beastly plastic, ammonia flavour which they impart to hot food is unfortunate for all. We *may* fall back upon cardboard plates if absolutely unavoidable, but we will need the addition of a basket under the table for *immediate* discarding. No-one must see a used cardboard plate. The shame!

Fanny Cradock BBQ

Now that we have the set-up clarified, we can consider the food. Sally is shown brushing oil onto her kebabs with obvious joy, at the 'spit bar' as Fanny calls it. She has Spit Roast Duck, Spare Ribs, Mackerel, Hamburgers and Jacket Potatoes too. Fanny knows that some people eat hot dogs. She does not claim to be an expert on them, as she has been unable to find anyone who will indeed eat them. She simply knows that they exist, and are sometimes sold in tins. She is an expert on Gammon Steaks however. Thankfully. They must be scissor-snipped at intervals around the rind so that the flesh does not 'hump up' during cooking. They inevitably will if you don't. Be warned. No humping at the barbecue.

Fanny Cradock BBQ

So, we are all set to do our first spit-roast just when Fanny throws an almighty spanner straight into the hot coals... She has a flaming alternative if, after all this, you really would rather do things the professional way. Not as much room for the cardboard plates under this one though.

Fanny Cradock Barbecue

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Bijou Sprew with a Hue

When Fanny Cradock starts a recipe 'First, dear Members, do not use Asparagus for this Asparagus soup' I no longer bat an eyelid. With Fanny, you really do learn to expect the never-in-your-life unexpected. Normally she delivers, and then some. Things that look like something else entirely, things that taste like nothing you'd ever thought of and things might've been better if less thought had been put into them. However, no asparagus in your asparagus soup? Fanny, what are you thinking?

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

Well, it seems that she's not quite as barmy as I first assume. Fanny feels that asparagus is to expensive to be used in soup, too good to be blended up and too wasteful to consign to a bowl. Instead, she wants to use 'sprew'. I haven't a clue what are sprew, do you? Fanny comes to the rescue - they are, according to her, young, thin shoots of asparagus. Google corrects my attempts to search further - did I mean sprue? No I meant sprew. It seems that Fanny's spelling is at odds with Google, but I am sure she would still argue that she was correct and a mere search engine was mistaken.

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

So, the sprew are the thin, green, first growths of the crop, normally taken out to encourage the proper stuff to grow stronger and should be available early, should be far, far cheaper and should be bulging with flavour. Well, after all the kerfuffle I couldn't find any. Thanks to the 'wonders' of globalisation however the supermarkets are full of asparagus out of season specially flown in from Mexico. Oh dear. Would Fanny say 'First, dear Members, do not use Mexican imported Asparagus for this Asparagus soup?'

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

Fanny's soups are always made in long-forgotten ways, and I love rediscovering them. Fanny firstly simmers the asparagus in water which just covers them meanly, with only a pinch of salt for company. I try and be as mean as I can possibly muster. When they are tender she removes them from the 'sprew liquor' (try Googling that), scrapes the flesh off on a wooden board and simmers down the liquor to a reduction. I just whizz them up in the processor to a paste. The soup starts with melted butter and flour, making a roux for the sprew - adding the liquor back in gradually, followed by some white wine, then some milk and finally some cream, all the while stirring over a gentle heat. It's like a béchamel sauce at this stage.

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup

It doesn't sound attractive when Fanny describes it, but she adds in the 'sprew pulp' next and gives it a good beating. The 'soup' turns a lovely shade of pale green. Fanny adjusts the consistency with more milk if needed, a little much needed seasoning and a teeny-tiny grating of hard cheese. It's a rich tasting soup, the wine is fairly prominent but goes well with the asparagus. Fanny prefers this soup to served iced, en Glacée, so chill out for a while as the soup chills in the fridge. Fanny also prefers the rather pallid colour to be amplified somewhat with a little tint of harmless vegetable colouring. Asparagus soup without Asparagus I can almost go with, but maybe I'd say 'First, dear members, do not use food colouring in your soup'...

Fanny Cradock Asparagus Soup