Monthly Archives: February 2013

Retro Food For Modern Times – Singers and Swingers in The Kitchen – Roberta Ashley (1967): Lemon Cake, Orange Jello and Confusion

Hello and welcome to the new look Retro Food For Modern Times.  I’m still tweaking the design so feedback would be greatly appreciated!

I also know I have gone overboard on this book.  I promise this will be my last post from it.  For the moment.

Finally, if anyone has come to this page by Googling “swingers” and “jello”, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.  It’s about cake. Seriously, stop reading now.  You’ll only be disappointed.  It wasn’t even a particularly nice cake!

Lemon Orange Cake

Lemon Orange Cake

Ok, so now that the perverts are gone, lets talk cake.  Although, maybe I should have let them stay.  It worked for that “Fifty Shades of Grey” lady. Maybe I should become the E L James of smutty cooking.  I could go all breathy and talk about “Beating the eggs and whipping the cream” whilst heaving my bosom about. Or would that just make me Nigella?  (Who I absolutely adore.  Please don’t sue me.  I love you).

Anyway, back to the cake.  The recipe comes from Chad Stuart.  And before you even start to think “Who the f…” let me interrupt you right there. Chad Stuart is one half of the British folk duo Chad And Jeremy.

Same question huh? I thought so.  Click the link if you really want to find out. It doesn’t really matter but just for the hell of it, Chad Stuart is the speccy one in the photo below, not the one who looks a little bit like a young Ryan Gosling if you squint and look at the screen on the correct angle.


So, the cake.

I had never heard of a cake that used Jelly / Jello as an ingredient but was not averse to trying it. There were only a few ingredients and I have an incredible fondness for a lemon syrup cake!

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Orange-Lemon Cake Ingredients

Lemon Orange Cake Ingredients

The batter turned a bright orange and went quite bubbly. It tasted slightly chemical and overwhelmingly of oil.  The oil was my fault. The recipe states vegetable oil. I should have used a more neutral oil like canola instead of a fruity olive oil. There was still too much of it though, you can see it pooling around the edges of the bowl in the picture below.

I think the slight chemical taste probably came from the cake mix.  It could also have been some sort of weird mental effect – my mind thinking that it wasn’t “real” cake so should not taste like one. I’m someone who often likes the raw batter better than the cooked cake so the initial taste was disappointing.

Orange Lemon Cake Batter

Lemon Orange Cake Batter

The first weird thing happened when I took the cake out of the oven.  There was a white….(I want to say bloom but that reminds me a little too much of mould or algae)….froth?…on the surface of the cake, about an inch in from the border of the tin.  This was probably caused by all those bubbles in the mixture, although these had not been as prevalent when I’d spooned it into the pan.

Raw Cake Batter

Raw Cake Batter

White Froth on Cake

White Froth on Cake

The froth didn’t impact the taste but it was unsightly and as the cake wasn’t iced, it meant I had to keep looking at it.

There was also some sort of Jedi mind trick going on with the taste of the cake.  It was an orange cake in colour so in my mind, it should have also tasted of orange.  It didn’t. It tasted pretty much of nothing. I’m not sure why, maybe the excess of oil neutralised the other flavours.

Adding the syrup, if anything, made it even weirder.  Not the least of which because I have no idea what a poultry nail is.  I poked my holes with a skewer like a normal person.  What I ended up with was an orange cake that tasted of lemon.

This cake caused my brain to melt.  Seriously.  It messed with my head.  The oily batter, the weird froth, the colour not matching the flavour, it was not a pleasant experience or one that I am likely to repeat without significantly changing the recipe.

If I was going to make it again I would use a more neutral oil and cut down on the amount.  I would have the colour of the cake match the colour of the syrup – if using orange jelly/o, I would use orange syrup.  How awesome would this look with a blood orange syrup?  Alternatively, I could just make this modern version that I found on the Aeroplane Jelly site:

What I like about this modern version is the sprinkling of the jelly/o crystals on the icing.  That would be awesome! I love the crystals nearly as much as I love raw cake batter.

I’m off to hunt for a new book for next time.  Enjoy your week!
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Retro Food For Modern Times – Singers and Swingers – Roberta Ashley (1967): Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Spaghetti Bolognese

What do my latest kitchen rule and the American military have in common?

Hint – the answer is in the title.

Prompted by my latest foray into Roberta Ashley’s  Singers and Swingers, the events of this week have led me to adopt a strict “need to know policy” in terms of the produce issuing from said kitchen.

The recipe in question was Noel Harrison’s Spaghetti Bolognese, inspired by a recipe by none other than Elizabeth David

It obviously wasn’t all franks and beans for the celebrities of 1967, some of them were slightly more highbrow.

Noel Harrison 001

I dithered over making this recipe for about a week before deciding to go for it.  The reason?

I don’t care if the recipe is inspired by the Grand Dame of British Cookery, a Spaghetti Bolognese without garlic is not any Spaghetti Bolognese I care to make!

That’s not true, well it’s partially true but the real reason for the prevarication was the presence of chicken livers in the recipe.

Ingredients - Noel Harrison's Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients – Noel Harrison’s Spaghetti Bolognese with a sneaky garlic clove thrown in!

I have never cooked liver before, in fact I have never, outside of a paté even eaten liver before.  I am actually a bit frightened by the thought of offal. Still, one of my reasons for wanting to do this was to expand my horizons as a cook, so whilst it took a bit of internal debate there really was only one decision that made sense.

The texture of the raw liver was…ooky.  It was softer than I thought it would be, almost a little spongy and a little….stringy. It was kind of gross.  I would certainly not discount using chicken liver in a recipe again but I’m not scouring recipe books either!

Chicken Liver

Chicken Liver

Still, I persevered, (yay, me!) and the end result was a super Spaghetti Bolognese, even if I do say so myself.  It was rich and flavoursome.  There was an undercurrent of liver but the flavour certainly wasn’t overpowering.  Bravo Noel Harrison and Elizabeth David!

Simmering Bolognese Sauce

Simmering Bolognese Sauce

I made the Bolognese sauce in the afternoon as I wanted it to simmer for a few hours.  I had a gym class that evening, so just before I left I  put the spaghetti on to boil and left Mark to fend for himself.   When I got home, he had eaten his.

“Did you like it?”

“I was the best spaghetti Bolognese I have ever had…it was delicious” Proof is in the eating.  he wiped his plate clean.

Mark's Plate...

Mark’s Plate…

Wow!  That’s some praise from a notoriously picky eater!

So, I then sat down to eat mine and, he was right, it was pretty damn good!

I’m putting my next comments down to delirium caused by too much exercise.  Too much jumping around is not good for my brain!  Because the next words out of my mouth were “Yeah, I was really worried about putting the chicken livers in there but they work”.

That was it.  I continued eating, he continued watching tv.

End of discussion.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese

Or possibly not.

The next night, we were having left over Bolognese with garlic bread, also from the book.  Or I thought we were. I ‘d started to reheat  the Bolognese sauce when I heard a small voice behind me.

“I don’t think I can eat it”.


“You shouldn’t have told me about the chicken livers”

“But you eat liver, you eat calves livers when we go out and they’re huge…the chicken livers were tiny”

“I know”

“You had chicken liver paté on toast for breakfast”

“I know”

“You said it was the BEST Spaghetti Bolognese you’ve ever eaten”

“That was before I knew about the chicken livers…I’ll have the garlic bread though, that looks great”

Bolognese and Garlic Bread

Bolognese and Garlic Bread

This example of man logic  floored me.  On a scale of one to ten where one is cold hard calculated rationality and ten is utter gibberish, surely this rates a 9.5?

So, from now on….any, and all, feats of kitchen wizardry are going to be hidden behind a veil, cloaked in a cone of silence and locked in a vault. From now on, nothing coming from my kitchen is being divulged to anyone.  Ever.

Except for you dear readers…just don’t tell anyone!

hear no evil

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Retro Food For Modern Times – Singers and Swingers – Roberta Ashley (1967): Ladies Night

Last week I mentioned how much I loved the tv show Get Smart.  Thinking back, the main attraction probably wasn’t the humour, the wacky contraptions, the escapades or the resolution where good always triumphed over evil.  The main reason I loved this show was Agent 99, played by Barbara Feldon

She was my first inspirational role model.  She was smart, sassy, and gorgeous; she wore great clothes and had fabulous hair.  More importantly, not only was she  a woman forging a career  in a male dominated arena, but she would often get the better of the boys (and look glamorous as she did so).  Plus, she was a secret agent!  What a woman!  I so wanted to be her!

Who am I kidding – I still want to be her!

But, having been very disappointed in the recipe offerings from Don Adams, the worst of which is mentioned in the last post, I was a little wary about looking at the recipe from Barbara Feldon. 

Barbara Feldon's California Triumph Salad 001

No fear needed, this is a super salad recipe.  I have never understood why cauliflower isn’t used raw more often.  I think it has a lovely, nutty flavour.  I also love radishes and cucumber and the other ingredients in this salad.  I happened to have some celery and some cherry tomatoes in the fridge so I threw them into my mix but this would be delightful as is!  I also did not let the ingredients sit in the dressing for half an hour as suggested but dressed the salad and ate it immediately.  The addition of the egg is a nice touch and makes this more of a “meal” than a “side”.

California Triumph Salad Ingredients

California Triumph Salad Ingredients

If you are looking for a salad dressing to have with this, Sybil Burton Christopher’s Salad Dressing  from Singers and Swingers perfectly fits the bill.

She was also quite the female role model. Ms Ashley has this to say:

“When Richard Burton took up with Elizabeth Taylor, everyone felt sorry for Sybil.  But not for long.  She packed up and moved from England to Manhattan, where she was instantly one of the most popular girls in town.  She opened Arthur, a fabulously successful discotheque, and married the lead singer of group she booked into the club”

 Talk about living well being the best revenge!

I made a minor change to this recipe, as I am not a fan of raw garlic in a salad, so I smashed up a clove of garlic and let it sit in the other ingredients for about an hour so the flavour would infuse the mixture but I fished it out before I dressed the salad.

Sybil Burton Christopher's Salad Dressing 001

Sybil's Salad Dressing

Sybil’s Salad Dressing

Salad + Dessing  = Delicious!

Salad + Dessing = Delicious!

Finally, after feeling very virtuous about eating the salad, you can splurge on dessert by making Barbra Streisand’s Instant Coffee Ice Cream.  A word of warning though, the mix tastes overly sweet before freezing.  This is lessened, once it is frozen but you might want to reduce the marshmallow content from the original recipe depending on your sensitivity to sweetness. 

Barbra Streisand's Coffee Ice Cream 001

The pretzels work really well, adding some crunch, some toastiness and some saltiness which further reduces the impact of the sugar.  Given the current predilection for salted everything, Babs may have been displaying some  culinary prescience in this combination!
Not only is she a singer, actor, film producer and director, she’s got some cooking nous as well!!! If I didn’t admire her so much, she’d be kind of irritating!

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand's Instant Coffee Ice Cream

Barbra Streisand’s Instant Coffee Ice Cream

So let’s hear it for this trio of  fabulous women of 1967, not only for their fabulous food offerings but for acting as role models to generations of young women who have been inspired to forge their own careers as hard-working, independent, successful and glamorous women!

I’ll leave you today with a little gem I found on the youttubes of Barbara Feldon singing a song called “99”.  I have been listening to it obsessively all week.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an original video – everything I found was stills or clips from the show.  This does have a good selection of great hair and clothes and also some goofy dancing from my favourite ever Get Smart Episode, the Groovy Guru.


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