How to Make Vegetables Deliciously Unhealthy: Fanny’s Assorted Vegetable Fritters

Courgette FritterWorryingly, I’ve become slightly obsessed by Fanny Cradock.

A catering company recently asked me to write about and compare two of the first TV chefs, Marguerite Patten and Fanny Cradock. Both fascinating women in their very different ways, it was enlightening to research their lives.

The formidable Fanny

Although I’d heard of Fanny Cradock, my vague memories of her are mainly formed from parodies of her on old comedy shows. Once I began my research and watched some old footage, I realised the parodies don’t come close to the bizarreness of the reality.

As someone said of her: “Terrifying, strange and rather grand – and that was just her cookery."

Even though some of the dishes she cooked on her TV shows looked less than appetising, I decided to try my hand at a few of her recipes. I never need much encouragement to have a rummage around a second-hand bookshop, and now I had the perfect excuse. I soon found a couple of rather dated cookbooks by Fanny and her husband, Johnnie. (Fanny and Johnnie never actually married until 1977, though television viewers always assumed they were husband and wife.)

Keep Calm and Fanny On

When I tweeted about my plan to try some retro cooking, Fanny-style, I received a reply from @KeepCalmFannyOn encouraging me to give it a go as it was great fun.

To my delight, I discovered the blog: Keep Calm and Fanny On. If you too are fascinated by the formidable Fanny and fancy trying out some of her recipes, this is the place to start. It’s a hilarious blog and the food’s good too.

Encouraged by Keep Calm and Fanny On, I attempted Fanny’s recipe for Beignets des Lègumes Assortis (assorted vegetable fritters to you and me).

I’m not sure why I chose this, as previous attempts at frying have been far from successful as per my disastrous Courgette Cakes and slightly better Deep-fried Aubergines.

But as usual at this time of year, I have a glut of courgettes and the round tricolour ones that I grow are perfect for frying.

Beignets des Lègumes Assortis

Slice the courgette and aubergine into discs. Sprinkle the slices of aubergine with salt and place on sheets of kitchen roll for about 30 minutes to absorb some of the moisture.

To make the batter, I slowly added water to a few heaped tablespoons of flour, stirring it into a thick paste. I then whisked up an egg white and mixed it into the batter.

I heated plenty of lard in a wok and started to dunk my slices of aubergine and courgette into the batter.

According to Fanny, the trick is to toss your sliced vegetables into slightly smoking hot oil and then turn off the heat and allow them to brown and cook as the pan cools. Simply turn up the heat again for the next batch.

Once cooked, remove the fritters and place on sheets of kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Then serve sprinkled with a little paprika.

Fanny's fabulous fritters

Aubergine FrittersI undercooked the large slices of round courgette, which went into the pan first while I slightly overcooked the slices of aubergine. I suppose the oil must have been much hotter by the time I got to the aubergine slices.

Despite this, both the courgette and aubergine were tasty and overall this was a much better effort than my earlier attempts at frying vegetables. The aubergine was best, with a lovely creamy consistency in the centre while crisp on the outside.

However, I don’t really enjoy frying – not only did it splatter my hob with grease I also scalded my mouth by tucking in too soon. I love making vegetables deliciously unhealthy, but I think I prefer doing it with the addition of ingredients like bacon, pancetta, cheese and cream, rather than frying in lard.

But as for my first attempt at a Fanny Cradock recipe, I think it was a success. I’m certainly enjoying the lively prose of her cookbooks. Fanny was famous for popularising the prawn cocktail and perusing the pages of Ten Classic Dishes, my eyes are drawn to her recipe for Shrimp Cocktail… watch this space.

If you enjoy making vegetables deliciously unhealthy, try these recipes:

Mushroom Stroganoff
Braised Greens with Bacon
Courgette Cakes
Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Cauliflower Cheese
Deep-fried aubergines