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Cranking up the Memories for National Vegetarian Week

Cranks Tiger's Milk

Mention the word Cranks to any of my old school mates and they will most likely heave a wistful sigh and start waxing lyrical about cheese baps, homity pie and date slices. It was the 70s and a new and trendy veggie cafe opened its doors in our very rural location and replaced the fusty dusty old fashioned teashop into which visiting parents would usher their offspring for a somewhat formal treat.

Out with the old, in with the new. Rustic furniture, brown pottery bowls, wild flowers on the tables and flares on the customers. Of course the rather more sophisticated London pupils were already familiar with Cranks, which first opened its doors in Carnaby Street back in 1961. I was not one of them. A trip to Plymouth was as sophisticated as it got. My friend Jenny remarked, when I asked her:

“hours were spent there with friends and it was so far removed from the usual fare to be found in cafes at the time.”

I wasn’t a bone fide vegetarian back then, but our school food was so awful, it pretty much put me off eating meat. I was already used to eating a wholefood diet at home so the more exciting fare on offer at Cranks played a significant part in my vegetarian journey. With limited pocket money, I could’t afford much, but cheese baps and other healthy snacks supplemented my rather poor school diet.

Cranks influenced our home life too. A Cranks cookery book was a firm favourite, although I no longer remember which one it was. I had a rifle through my mother’s cookbook collection when I was visiting last week, but sadly couldn’t find it. Homity pie used to make a regular appearance on our table and it’s still one of my favourite pies ever. I’m also pretty sure it was a Cranks recipe I used to make my own wholemeal bread when a student in London. Yes I did, finally, make it to the metropolis.

Cranks Bible

I do have my very own copy of The Cranks Bible by Nadine Abensur and have used this a lot over the years. In fact I now have a copy of the recently published paperback version too. Why? I have my very own recipe for cashew nut butter brownies included in it – you can imagine how thrilled I was and still am.

Inspired by writing this post, I had a go at making my own cheese baps for the very first time. I can’t understand why I’ve never tried before. They did, after all, receive an Evening Standard award for the best sandwich in London. I was experimenting with a new cheddar cheese when I made these and they came out a brighter yellow than I’d expected. I cut down the amount of cheese that was originally suggested – it seemed rather excessive – but followed the rest of the recipe to the letter. Almost as soon as they were baked, I excitedly split one, buttered it and stuffed it with mustard and cress, just like they were always served at Cranks. They were totally scrumptious and tasted exactly as I remember them. For conformation of their superior quality, when I asked Mimi for a Cranks memory back in the day, cheese baps were very much to the fore:

“My favourite, favourite thing were the cheese baps. So simple and delicious! The melted Cheddar on the top crust and the crispy cress inside made such a welcoming environment for a seriously whole grain bap, loaded with flavour and personality.”

Cranks Cheese Bap

When I asked Debbie for a memory, she not only reminded me of the legendary Cranks flapjack but also of our cheap food day at school, when we used to eat basic food only, so the money saved could be given to charity. We all approved of the idea of course, but as she said:

“somehow the watered-down tomato soup and single slice of limp white bread wasn’t enough to silence the call of a Cranks Cheese Bap”.

Tiger’s Milk was a rather unusual drink I remember with great fondness, but I’ve not had since leaving school. For some reason, when I hitched to Spain and tasted horchata a few years later, I was convinced it was Tiger’s milk. However, when I acquired the Cranks Recipe Book by David Canter a couple of years ago, I was surprised to find I was entirely mistaken. Originally a Gaylord Hauser recipe, it’s a concoction of orange juice, milk, Brewers yeast and molasses. I had to try it of course. I think I must have enjoyed it for the weirdness factor. Put it like this, it’s an interesting drink or as CT said “it takes some getting used to”.

Cranks Cookbooks

I may have left school, but that hasn’t stopped me visiting Cranks many many times. Now known as Cranks Kitchen. it’s moved along a little bit – quite literally. The Cider Press at Dartington has undergone quite a few changes in the years since I left school and although Cranks is in the same building, it now occupies a different spot. It has new owners too, but continues to innovate and come up with fresh tasty treats while retaining its wholefood ethos; nutritious slow food is cooked from scratch each day. Old stagers like me needn’t worry however: many of the original dishes are still on offer.  Cheese baps may have given way to paninis now, but I’m glad to see homity pie still holds a place on the menu.

It’s National Vegetarian Week next week, 16th to 22nd May. Hosted by The Vegetarian Society, it’s a great time to dip your toe in vegetarian waters as there will be plenty of inspiration, tips and new recipes shared during the week. I’ve already got into the spirit of things and developed these Asparagoose Tarts specifically for the week of celebrations; if you fancy a picnic, these tarts, complete with seasonal asparagus and a hidden pesto layer, are for you. 

Cranks have teamed up with The Vegetarian Society this year and are asking for your vegetarian stories and recipes. Just use the hashtag #NVW16 on social media or upload your story directly on the National Vegetarian Week website. This is my vegetarian story – or one of them anyway!

National Vegetarian Week #NVW16

I am excited to be working with Cranks who are sponsoring National Vegetarian Week this year and have commissioned this post. Opinions are, as always, my own.

34 Comments

  1. Emma Cooper

    11th May 2016 at 10:41 am

    I am intrigued by the Tiger’s Milk. How does the orange juice not curdle the milk?

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 11:40 am

      I’m not sure. Must be the addition of the other ingredients. Although, to be fair, I used kefir rather than milk.

      Reply
  2. Aimee

    11th May 2016 at 11:58 am

    How have I not heard of Cranks!? Thanks for introducing me to this and reminding me about vegetarian week!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 1:08 pm

      There are so many weeks, days and years celebrating something or other, it’s hard to keep up Aimee, but I guess National Vegetarian Week is one us veggies should take note of.

      Reply
  3. Lucy Parissi

    11th May 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I have fond memories of Cranks from my student days in London. I lived with a vegetarian flatmate so we went there a lot!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 1:06 pm

      Yeah! Cranks was very much a student sort of hang out, though for some reason I never did go to a London one.

      Reply
  4. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    11th May 2016 at 12:35 pm

    It’s funny how the stuff that was seen as cranky then is very fashionable now! I have been in their branch in Covent Garden but not sure it’s there now.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 1:05 pm

      I think it was quite fashionable in its time too Sarah, but this sort of food has become a lot more popular in recent years. Sadly, all of the cafes, expect the one at Dartington, closed down a few years ago.

      Reply
  5. Jenn

    11th May 2016 at 1:27 pm

    I didn’t know it was Vegetarian Week next week – fun! I’ve never heard of Cranks. How fun that you have a recipe in the cookbook!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Thanks Jenn. It’s National Vegetarian Week, so I think it’s probably a UK thing, but it would be great if you joined in too. I was really excited to get my recipe into the book – the only guest recipe in it.

      Reply
  6. Johanna @ Green Gourmet Giraffe

    11th May 2016 at 2:01 pm

    What a great post about Cranks – I remember them fondly from my travels to london in the mid 1990s though they were a bit old hat by then but exactly my sort of old hat – I have never forgotten the sausage rolls and still dream of finding the recipe (have tried many times – perhaps it was the pastry I loved and not the filling which might explain why it is hard to recreate my memory). I read a book where the girl drank tigers milk when I was young and remembered it well when I first bought molasses though I am not sure it is my thing but love the story of her swirling the molasses through the milk. The cheese bap sounds wonderful but reminds me of our food co op salad rolls which I loved at uni. The cheap food days remind me of our rice days when we would eat rice to know what it was like to be in a third world country !!!! Ah lots of good memories with this post and wish I could get to cranks near you (and even share a meal with you there) one day. Meanwhile I have an old cranks cookbook I treasure

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks very much Johanna. Wonderful to think you know Cranks from the other side of the world. I don’t remember sausage rolls and have just looked through my cookbooks to see if I could find a recipe, but sadly no joy. Whoever wrote that book, must have known Cranks too, what fun. I would love to meet up with you at Cranks one day – you never know, it might just happen.

      Reply
  7. Jacqueline Meldrum

    11th May 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Living in Scotland, I never really had any experience of Cranks, although of course I have heard of them. I always look forward to Veggie week each year.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Cranks have published some fab cookbooks over the years Jac, so you don’t need to feel isolated 😉 I think Veggie week this year is going to be jam packed with recipes and other stuff – hooray!

      Reply
  8. Susan

    11th May 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Homity Pie ! I am such a fan of pies and tarts that a vegetarian pie holds great cachet for me! I’ve never heard of Crank’s (being a Yank), but here in the States, there is a place called The Moosewood in Ithaca, NY that is a bastion of vegetarian cuisine … so I guess we can help you celebrate this week! Actually the story of the Moosewood collective might be interesting to you … you can google it. I’m sure there are extensive articles about how it got started and the different chefs and food advocates that came out of that group. Happy National Vegetarian Week!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Thanks very much Susan. The Mousewood cookbooks are all very familiar to us vegetarians over here in the UK, most of us have at least one on our shelves. National Vegetarian Week, is actually next week, I’m sort of trying to get people warmed up to the idea 😉

      Reply
  9. Mimi

    11th May 2016 at 3:29 pm

    That pic! The cheese bap! I have a serious craving for one right now!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th May 2016 at 4:29 pm

      They were fab Mimi and took me back to our teenage years immediately. Now I’ve made one lot, I shall very soon be making another. CT was rather taken with them.

      Reply
  10. Dom

    12th May 2016 at 3:19 pm

    such a lovely post! We used to go to Cranks in London back in the late 80’s Loved it!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      12th May 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks Dom. Maybe you’ll get down this neck of the woods one day and you can get reacquainted with it again.

      Reply
  11. Janice

    13th May 2016 at 8:07 pm

    What brilliant memories of your school days and Cranks. Nothing that exciting in Glasgow, although an occasional foray to Edinburgh meant that Henderson’s was the cool place to eat. They did a dried fruit and soured cream dessert that was a firm favourite. Although I’m not a vegetarian, I do love the creativity of veggie foods. The Cheese baps look delicious.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      14th May 2016 at 1:33 pm

      I’m surprised Glasgow didn’t have some interesting venues – I bet it does now. Not sure dried fruit sounds the most exciting of desserts, but I trust your judgement. Is Henderson’s still there? I’m going to make the cheese gaps again very soon – stuffing them with mustard & cress is a must though 😉

      Reply
      • Janice Pattie

        16th May 2016 at 8:24 pm

        Oh yes, lots of great places now. Glasgow was still very much an industrial city in decline in the 70s and we were super excited when the first cafe/wine bar opened on a Sunday for coffee and croissants in about 1980! Henderson’s is still there, I looked it up, but sadly the reviews are not great with lots of disappointed people as they don’t seem to have moved with the times. The dried fruit was cut small and probably soaked in tea or orange juice then mixed with soured cream, I love that sort of thing so it was right up my street!

        Reply
        • Choclette

          17th May 2016 at 8:52 am

          I’m fascinated by this dried fruit and cream thing. How about a visit to Henderson’s next time you’re in Glasgow to assess it for yourself?

          Reply
  12. Karen Burns-Booth

    14th May 2016 at 1:45 pm

    My mum still has the original Cranks book and still makes those cheese baps too, with the cress filling, as she is vegetarian, which is very unusual for her generation! LOVELY post Choclette, Karen

    Reply
    • Choclette

      14th May 2016 at 7:31 pm

      Ooh how nice to hear your mum makes cheese baps Karen. You must have told me before that she’s vegetarian, but I’d forgotten.

      Reply
  13. Nayna Kanabar

    17th May 2016 at 10:50 pm

    I have never seen these books but would love a set. Lovely post.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      18th May 2016 at 8:19 am

      I’d love the complete set too Nayna, although I’m not actually sure how many Cranks books there actually are.

      Reply
  14. Laura @ KneadWhine

    18th May 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I have had a look through the Crank’s books a few times and always see things I like – I really ought to get one!

    What a great detailed story – I ought to think of one of mine!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      18th May 2016 at 9:13 pm

      Definitely worth getting a Cranks book or two and it would be fab to hear a vegetarian story from you. You can even upload them this week on the National Vegetarian Week website.

      Reply
    • sandra

      27th June 2016 at 4:58 pm

      I workedin jaeger regent street when cranks opened. At out and chillee there many times. Berwick streeg market wa an adventure too.

      Cranks carrot cake is delicious.

      Reply
      • Choclette

        1st July 2016 at 8:06 am

        Lovely to hear that Sandra. I never went to any of the London branches, but I’ve heard from quite a few people who have very fond memories of them. I’m not sure I’ve ever tried their carrot cake either. Sounds like a good excuse to make one 🙂

        Reply
  15. sandra

    27th June 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Sorry predictive text…..ate out and chilled there. Berwick street market was an adventure too.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      1st July 2016 at 8:08 am

      Oh, so annoying. I get caught out by it far too often.

      Reply

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