The Glory of a Knickerbocker Glory
During the deliriously happy days of childhood here in the land of Jelly, Blancmange and Enid Blyton, the tinkling of distant ice cream vans and childish contrivance of threepence for a lolly, rather than sweeties, was kicked into oblivion by the mere prospect of syrupy tinned fruit cocktail, vanilla ice cream, strawberry or chocolate sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles. Dad and I always gave our wafers to my Mother as she loved them so much, but in truth, they just slowed you down from getting into the good gear.
Childhood whimsies, the boot of your Gresham flyer (a tricycle with a boot) filled with treasures (mine included a salvaged, one-eyed Spanish doll). Idles of childhood and the mere prospect of a (nearly as tall as you) glass filled with unctuous goodies. Burl Ives Big Rock Candy Mountains buzzy bees crooning in the back ground.
Once or twice a year there would be a trip to Fortnum and Mason which was ‘spit spot’ formal and ‘nice young ladies’ would sit back in their seats and would act with compete decorum as expected from a sweet little convent girl (even if she wasn’t a Catholic, was usually covered in mud and spent half her tomboy life up a tree at home). “Are you listening to me young Lady?” Bestest jangly buckled shoes, neat little white socks, ankles to waist covered by a starchily laundered white napkin which is remembered to be the size of a king size duvet. I can’t remember what we ate and drank. Ones focus was entirely upon the diva glass which, at eye level, looked like an incredible edible stained glass window. Was it the place? Was it the Theatre? Was it simply the giddy, heady delight gifted by wanten anticipation?
Nostalgia not what it’s cracked up to be, you say? Well, au contraire mes amis ….. plodge on
The Tea boy and I metaphorically took you with us to the Port Eliot (Creative) festival in Cornwall for a day trip and jolly jape. It’s less than an hour away ( that’s if I drive). Our chums from Fortnums had set up a ‘pop up’ style restaurant in the Orangery (well, quite obviously dharlings, where else)? The Hemsley girls were there flogging their book, the lovely guy from Polpo doing his thing, the walruss moustached masterchef finalist Strawbridge was the purveyor of a deliciously odious Smoked Haddock Kedgeree. There were many demo’ing Chefs, Poets, Luvvies and Earth Mothers united over gin, retro, vintage and viticulture. Melvin Bragg looked like a Koala with white hair puffs above his ears. Damien Hurst talking to the Chef Mark Hix, gifted the Tea Boy yet another chance to excursus his vacuous 1990s joke: Damian Hurst Pickled Cow, Hymie Goldberg Pickled Herring.
Interested parties will be keen to note that I ordered Oeufs Drumkilbo? Not a prawn cocktail as it may appear, but as the Chef assured me during our languorous chit-chat about KG’s (the ‘in’ abbreviation for a Knickerbocker Glory) it was a dish especially designed for the late Queen Mother. Using Lobster, a little egg and lightly spiced mayonnaise lightened with foamed egg white. Just as the levity of conversation was on the verge of a parlour game someone mentioned a book about now to knit your own royal family, I corpsed into tears of laughter (mascara’d panda eyes and all) my dire imagination envisaged life-size Majesties, all in knit 2 purl 2, complete with woolie crowns, sashes, tiaras and ermine train .
The great and the good of glitter-literati seemingly gather there, so I hoicked my camera along knowing-full-well what was on my menu even if not on theres! A little butterfly tummy shiggle brought on by a default memory? The Glory of the Knickerbocker.
The exemplary purists of English eccentricity in their multifarious contradictions just flowed with the warp and weft of comedy, music, and the down right quirky. Seeing a child sleeping on a sheepskin rug, in a wheel barrow, beneath a brolly and standard lamp, by a hearth-rug, in the middle of a field seemed de rigueur. Both the Tea Boy and I felt temporarily transported back to an era that we recall with affection. There were the actors, writers and 1960s hippies now in their 60‘s that had ‘done good’ yet remained true to themselves. It was like a breath of fresh air and a nod to a pleasant past that we thought had just frittered away, though not so our respective memories of bounteous Knickerbocker Glory.
We found areas specifically ear-marked for Sipsmith and our other dear old Hendricks Gin. For the many who just went Ooh and Ahh these happy snaps are just for you). The Rose Garden, recipe shown, is sumptuous. Gin in the funky cups again, poured from a one their tea pots quite obviously. All served by the edge of the river, on an upturned, bashed up, old trunk as a table, Only once you have lasso’d a unicorn (see the carnival of knowledge sign) …. Deliciously barking eh?
Back to the plot: The Knickerbocker Glory. “First presented to the public in 1955 and a Fortnum’s favorite ever since”. States their website, where they portray a version with ‘squirty’ cream, and a sprinkle of hundreds and thousands, two biscuits like bunny ears and a raspberry, yes a whole one! Yadda yadda…
After checking my tomes of Pellaprat, Escoffier, Larousse, the obligatory wobble and waddle around the net notwithstanding, there seems to be an entente cordiale with our pals across the pond. I like that we are apt to share KG’s but not unlike Christmas everyone has their version based on their respective sense of belonging? Albeit a doff of ‘light as air’ Chantilly cream precariously balanced on the top of groovy glasses. Slick long silver spoons, candy coloured paper umbrellas, crushed nuts (oops sorry fellas) on ditsy doilies just so crass yet remarkably lush.
The most recent Fortnums version, as shown, emblazoned with burnished meringue ‘did it for me’! Who knew you could improve on perfection?
It remained for me to make one?
I had considered all the usual suspects. Sauce, fruit, ice cream, sauce, ice cream. Yet a slightly more grown up version unfolded thusly. Some no cook vanilla ice cream to which was added some finely chopped local fudge and a couple of table spoons of left over caramel and then returned to the freezer. The zest of an orange, together with the juice, became a toffee made with a few tables spoons of white caster sugar, melted over a medium heat with the juice and zest of the now segmented orange. A very adequate orangey toffee indeed. The segments once coated in the toffee gifted the remainder to be poured over some pistachios. Yum. Once cooled the juicy orange segments had thinned the coating which was made worse or better, depending on your point of view, by the addition of a hefty slug of Cointreau.
Layer of orange and boozy toffee’d rarefaction. Ice cream with fudgy bits, a sprinkle of the now blitzed the toffee dust (since there, it seemed wholly appropriate). Layer of orange segments, flower petals, it was as amorphous as it was delicious.
A neo-naff modern version but to quote Rhet Butler. “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”.