Nancy in Aspic

One of my friends asked me if there were any recipes in Nancy’s book that used aspic.  In fact, she said: ‘Please let there be hidjus things in aspic!’

I agree that it is a book that screams out for recipes of things in aspic.

I did a little more research within its hallowed pages, and came up with some very satisfactory results, which have allowed me to indulge myself further in more Nancy based posts.  Julia, I salute you.

Trapping food in aspic was all the rage in the Sixties I believe, possibly before that. I distinctly remember reading a cookery book from the Thirties where there were lots of things in aspic.  I am not sure why it was so popular.

I am absolutely sure why it is now out of favour. Firstly it is because everything that has been encased in aspic tends to look hideous and slightly medicinal.  Secondly it is because lots of people have trouble with food that wobbles, unless it is jelly and ice cream. Thirdly, the thought of savoury jelly flies in the face of jelly as the joyous party food of childhood, and causes outbreaks of weeping amongst middle aged people everywhere.  Fourthly, things in aspic resemble too closely insects trapped in amber, which is all a bit too Jurassic park for comfort.

I am praying that aspic never makes a resurgence.

Judging from the recipes Nancy suggests I think we will be safe for some considerable time to come.

This is the classic, ‘cutlets in aspic’.  I am only sorry that this picture is in black and white, because I imagine the highly drenched colour photography in the rest of the book would show up the browns and pinks of this particular dish at their truly repellant best.

Another dish that hasn’t had a resurgence in popularity is on the facing page: ‘Trotters in cider.’  I am, as you can imagine, terribly sad about this.  And about the fact that the picture was too rubbish to include here. It just looked like blobs covered in parsley.

This on the other hand is magnificent:

Prawns in aspic.  Everyone’s favourite food.  Note that it is in a ring mould.  Nancy is a huge fan of the ring mould method of serving things, and has done all kinds of innovatory work in this area, really pushing forward the boundaries of food science, particularly with her ‘minced beef ring’ which looks rather like an Anglo Saxon fort with potatoes on top.

As well as aspic there are lots of dishes that involve gelatine, which is basically the same thing. i.e. with constant application you get a lot of wobbly food that goes boing when you poke it with a fork:

This is egg mousse. It combines two of Nancy’s failsafe ideas, add plenty of eggs to everything, and pour jelly on top.  I am only disappointed that this has not been rendered in the shape of a ring.  Instead it looks like small sandcastles made of egg jelly.  Yummy.

I digress from the wobbly food to show you some of the splendid egg dishes available to the discerning chef:

This is French Egg Casserole, which is lots and lots of hard boiled eggs in a white sauce with a slug of white wine. I think it is the wine that makes it French.  I am not sure any Frenchman would own up to this dish, mind you.

And this is curried eggs, which are more boiled eggs with curry paste mixed with redcurrant jelly and dessicated coconut.

Splendid, I think you will agree.

Back to jellied things.

This is jellied gazpacho soup.  For which I have no words…

This however, is the piece de resistance of the jelly world.  This is a special dish, for parties.  Contrary to expectation it is a salad.

Yes, a rectangular, wobbly, jellied salad called ‘Emerald and Ruby Fruit Salad’.

The top layer is lime jelly with strawberries in, which is not too bad all things considering, particularly given that this is a woman who is more than happy to give us delightful dishes like:

Singapore Prawns, which is basically prawns and deep fried bananas in goo.

You think you’re doing fine withe your Emerald and Ruby Salad until you get to the Emerald layer.

The emerald layer is out there on the edges of Hestonville.  It consists of lemon jelly, mayonnaise, the mashed up flesh of an avocado, and a tin of grapefruit segments.

Mmmmmm.

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10 responses to “Nancy in Aspic

  1. For money (and/or cake), I would cook AND EAT 3 of these aspic delights.

  2. For a biscuit, the bananas and prawns

  3. I can’t even imagine the experience of sitting down to a table with these offerings and having to be a good guest and eat them. It would be like some kind of torture, Emily Post style. Strangely, the gazpacho soup is one of the most terrifying specimens yet probably the least difficult to choke down. That honor would probably go to the cutlets in aspic.

    Does this book also include really horrible vermouth based cocktails by any chance?

    • Sarah
      Sadly she didn’t provide a section on drink other than the wholesale endorsement of non-vintage champagne, which is a shame, but I bet there would have been some vermouth in there somewhere had she gone that far.

  4. Superb! That salad is just, well, beyond words :)

  5. not going to dash for those dishes at any soiree in the future! the prawns and banana might beinteresting, I could try that one perhaps.

  6. Ruth2Day
    I’m just not sure about cooked banana. It doesn’t sit well with me.

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