Tag Archives: Retro Food

Retro Food For Modern Times: Angels, Devils and Cheesy Devils on Horseback

No, it’s not my review of the new Dan Brown blockbuster, it’s bacon! Lovely, crispy, salty bacon wrapped around…stuff that isn’t bacon.

Angels, Devils and Cheesy Devils on Horseback

Angels, Devils and Cheesy Devils on Horseback

I love bacon even though it was my undoing.  I was a very happy vegetarian for two years in high school.  If my mother is reading this, right about now, she will be having a little snicker to herself and muttering “Huh…The only vegetarian in the world who didn’t eat vegetables.”  And there is a grain of truth in that.  I did spend two years eating not much more than tomato and cheese sandwiches and the occasional omelette.

Until I was brought down by bacon.

(Cue dramatic music…wow, this could be turning into a Dan Brown novel).

Angels on Horseback

Angels on Horseback (picture from The Party Cookbook).

I used to have tennis lessons, very early, every Sunday morning.  The family that lived next door to the tennis courts would, without fail, have a fry up for breakfast every week.  The smell of bacon would drift out over the tennis court in a haze of mouth-watering deliciousness.  “Eat me, eat me, ” it taunted.

Over weeks of this, bacon came to represent so much more than a tasty breakfast dish, it became a symbol of a better life.  The kind of life where, on Sunday mornings, people had leisurely cooked breakfasts and listened to Mozart and spoke French whilst doing the Sunday crossword in less than twenty minutes.  It represented a glamour and sophistication utterly removed from my reality of huffing and puffing around a glorified field, still half asleep, wearing a polyester track suit that did not so much keep the cold out as keep the sweat in and having someone repeatedly yelling at me to hit a damn ball over a stupid net.  I began to yearn for bacon in the same way I yearned for Paris and champagne and pink Sobranie cigarettes in one of those long cigarette holders like Audrey Hepburn’s in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I was a weird child.

Angels on Horseback - Ingredients

Angels on Horseback – Ingredients

I have no idea whether the neighbours were the glamorous types I imagined them to be or a bunch of suburban lard-arses who are now appearing on The Biggest Loser so that their fat-clogged arteries can be given a second lease of life. I suspect the latter.  If so, can I suggest that the producers of the show make them play tennis.  At seven.  On a Sunday morning.  In winter.  I’ll be lurking somewhere near by with a portable grill and a couple of rashers.  Let’s see how they like it.

Anyway, I lasted about three months before I caved.  One cold wintry morning I came home from said lesson.  Mum asked if I would like my tomato and cheese sandwich plain or toasted.

“I want bacon” I snapped in the snotty way only a 16-year-old can.  Then I stomped upstairs to my room and listened to The Smiths until mum called me back downstairs for a plate of lovely, lovely life-affirming B & E.

History lesson over.  And that’s about all the history I can give you because the reasons oysters are linked with angels, prunes with devils and either wrapped in bacon is termed “on horseback” are lost in time.  Maybe that could be the subject of the next Dan Brown… an obscure culinary term could lead Robert Langdon on a search that reveals the long hidden conspiracy behind whether Elvis really did die on his toilet. (If you’re reading this Brown, back off now.  I know what you’re like.   The Fried-Peanut-Butter and Bacon-Sandwich Code is mine.)

Angels on Horseback

Angels on Horseback

Inspired by the Angels on Horseback recipe in The Party Cookbook I recently went on a bacon rampage and made three versions of this classic hors d’œuvre.

Angels on horseback recipe 001

If you like it spicy, adding a dash of tabasco sauce to the Angels only makes them more delicious!

For Devils on Horseback, substitute Prunes for the Oysters above and leave out the paprika.

Devils on Horseback and Cheesy Devils on Horseback - Ingredients

Devils on Horseback and Cheesy Devils on Horseback – Ingredients

For Cheesy Devils, stuff the prunes with Goat’s Cheese before wrapping in the bacon.

Devils and Cheesy Devils

Devils and Cheesy Devils

Some people like to serve their Devils on Horseback with Mango Chutney.  I’m not a big fan but I did have some Kashmiri Date Chutney in the fridge and this was quite nice as a dip for the Cheesy Devils.

Devils on Horseback with Chutney

Devils on Horseback with Chutney

These were all delicious and I would make them all again.  In order my preference was  Angels on Horseback, Cheesy Devils, then Devils on Horseback but I would not discount any of them.

I no longer desire the Sobranies, but Angels on Horseback with a Glass of champagne and the Sunday Cryptic crossword?  C’est parfait!

Have a great week!
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Retro Food For Modern Times Invites You To The Worst Cocktail Party Ever

I have a bone to pick with Louis Ferguson who wrote the Cocktail Party Section of the The Party Cookbook.

Let’s get one thing clear Louis.  A cocktail party is called a cocktail party for one reason, and one reason only.  And that is the presence of cocktails.  So, by rights, given that your chapter contains absolutely no recipe for, or indeed barely a reference to, these alcoholic delights, it hardly warrants the title.

Whilst I’m on the subject  – for any workplaces that happen to be reading?  Wine and beer are not cocktails.  Stop calling events where these beverages are served cocktail parties.  It’s annoying and pretentious.  Alternatively, keep the name and actually serve cocktails.

That I am even bothering to talking about Louis is because I wanted another chance to use this delight of 1970’s food photography.

Pinapple Prawn and Parsley Pot

Pineapple, Prawn and Parsley Pot

Unfortunately, Louis lets us down here too.  In addition to not having any cocktail recipes he also does not offer any details on how to construct the Zig Zag Pineapple, Prawn and Parsley Pot.

What we are given, ad nauseam are Louis’ instructions for canapés – some of which you can see in the photo.

These include:

  • Spread a slice of toast with softened cream cheese.  Cover the entire surface with drained sweet corn kernels.  Press well onto the cheese.  Cut into diamond shapes and garnish with small diamonds of red capsicum.
  • Spread a slice of toast with softened cream cheese.  Cover with finely chopped red and green capsicum.  Cut into diamonds with a wet knife.
  • Cut buttered toast into rounds with a one inch cutter.  Cut thin slices of salami the same size.  Place onto croûtes and garnish with three peas held in place by a dab of French mustard.
  • Cut buttered toast into rounds with a one inch cutter.  Cut thin slices of beetroot the same size.  Place onto croutes and garnish with halved cocktail onions

I’m sensing some trends here.. Oh, ok, here we go, something different…

  • Cut buttered bread into small crescents.  Cut crescents from slices of mortadella sausage and place them on the croûtes.  Garnish with “zig zags” of creamed butter.

Crescents and zig zags.  Just when you thought the canapé could not get any better Louis gives us crescents and zig zags.  Genius.

However this genius was short-lived.  I suspect that by the bottom of the second page of canapé suggestions, Louis was pretty much phoning it in vis a vis:

  • Spread a slice of toast with mustard butter.  Cut into rectangles and cover with several thin slices of cooked frankfurter sausage,

There’s no love in that suggestion. Cold frankfurters on cold toast is not the offering of a man passionate about his craft.  It’s the offering of a man who has lost the will to live.

Louis also suggests that once you have assembled your bread-in-a-shape + protein + garnish that you then coat the entire combination in either aspic or a mixture of gelatine and chicken stock.  He doesn’t actually explain why.  I suspect it has something to do with making his readers and their cocktail party guests as miserable and life-loathing as himself.

Apparently, no booze, cold frankfurters, peas cemented to salami with mustard and a beetroot and pickled onion combo weren’t bad enough. Chicken-flavoured gelatine also needed be added into the mix. Yecchh!

The lack of cocktails has given me a thirst, I’m off to hunt down a tipple (or two) and work on the party food for next week’s post.

Hint…it contains bacon.  Lots and lots of lovely bacon.

Have a great week!

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Retro Food for Modern Times: Everything Old Is New Again

So Retro Food is the new trend for 2013….I always knew I was ahead of the curve 😉

http://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/retro-food-comeback-ocado-artic-roll-prawn-cocktail-heston-173344802.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2260358/Chicken-Kiev-followed-Arctic-roll-glass-Soda-Stream-How-sales-1970s-food-soared-thanks-nostalgia-things-retro.html

What a perfect retro meal this would make:

Prawn Cocktail

Prawn Cocktail

Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kiev

Arctic Roll

Arctic Roll

All washed down with some delicious Sodastream:

SodaStream

You know, they can bring back as much food as they like…but those hairstyles?  They need to stayed buried in the past!

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Retro Food For Modern Times: The Knickerbocker Glory Years – Martin Lampen

“The Knickerbocker Glory Years” is Martin Lampen’s hilarious homage to all that is awful in British food.  From A – All You Can Eat £5.99 to Z – Zest, the book lays out the dark side of British cooking.

I really liked this book.  Lampen’s humour is of the very dry British style.  If you do not like my excerpts you will probably not like the rest of the book.  If you do like them, try to hunt down this book as you will thoroughly enjoy the rest of it.  Also, the same book is called “Sausage in A Basket” in some parts of the world.

Many of the entries are short.  For instance, the entry for Wood Fired Pizza  is:

“Big Fucking Deal”

The longest entry is 13 pages and documents Lampen’s first dinner party in all it’s excruciating awkwardness. This is the type of book you can dip in and dip out of as you require, it doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover.

Given that I touched on the 1970’s fondness for Ham Steak and Pineapple in the last post, Lampen’s take on Gammon is:

“The pig is slaughtered, its hind legs are removed, cured, glazed in honey and sliced into steaks.  If this isn’t indignity enough, the steaks are then topped with a single wet pineapple ring from a dented tin and a waxy maraschino cherry.

Yes, gammon steak when topped with egg or pineapple is a peculiarly British dish: a bloated pink slab of fatty meat, topped with a garish fruit hat. Rather like a ‘Nikita’-era Elton John”

On the subject of pineapple, the entry for Tropical is:

“In Britain, any food or drink – be it a concentrated juice, cordial or sugary carbonated fizz – containing lemon, lime, pineapple or mango is tagged as ‘tropical’.

It’s important to note that other items included in the taxonomy ‘tropical’ are tuberculosis, typhoid, tularemia, (and) tropical storm Arlene”

Or, this for Guacamole:

“A filthy Soylent Green-style dip, guacamole is usually served with stale Doritos,  a mountain of melted Cheddar cheese and mayonnaise on  chain-pub’s nacho platter . It’s made from dead people.”

As for the eponymous Knickerbocker Glory Lampen has this to say:

“The knickerbocker glory, a layered dessert served in a tall glass and made with ice cream, tinned peaches, chocolate or fruit sauce and strawberry puree was the first post war dessert to be made in Britain that did not contain suet.

For a young male aged between eight and fourteen in the 1980’s, the knickerbocker glory was the greatest sensual experience one could imagine.  Greater even than being interfered with by Bananarama”

For those of you who have no idea what Bananarama is, firstly it was a they and they were an immensely popular girl band of the 1980’s.

In homage to this book I made my own Knickerbocker Glory and it was about the funnest thing I have eaten all year!!!  And I know full well funnest isn’t a word, but it was so much fun I lost all thoughts about grammar.

My version of Knickerbocker Glory differs from Lampen’s in that I always thought Knickerbocker Glory should contain jelly.  My version contained the following layers:

  • Strawberry jelly (Jello)
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate cookie crumbs
  • Sliced Banana
  • Strawberry Jelly
  • Strawberry Ice-cream
  • Frangelico Fudge Sauce (Recipe follows or you could just use your preferred chocolate sauce)
  • Chopped nuts
  • Rosewater & Almond Tuile (Recipe follows or you could use a bought wafer)
  • Strawberry Garnish

For something that is largely put together from bits and pieces, this looks spectacular! And tastes even better!!!

Enjoy!

Recipes:

Frangelico Fudge Sauce

This makes 6 cups, you can obviously adjust quantities down if you do not want this much. This is so easy to make and absolutely delicious!

1 litre cream

250g dark chocolate

200g marshmallows

Frangelico to taste

  1. Heat the cream, chocolate and marshmallows slowly until melted and well combined.
  2. Stir in Frangelico to taste.

Almond and Rosewater Tuiles

These are a little troublesome to make but are worth it in the end!

50g caster sugar

30g unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

1 egg-white

1/4 tsp rosewater

Finely grated rind of 1/2 an orange

35g plain flower

30g flaked almonds

pinch of salt

  1. Make a template by drawing a triangle, circle or any shape you want on a plastic lid or a sheet of firm plastic, then cut the shape out.  The shape should be no larger than 5cm in diameter.  Set the template aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with an electric beater until pale and creamy. Add eggwhite and beat on lowest speed until incorporated.
  3. Add rosewater, orange rind, flour and a pinch of salt.  Mix lightly until combined, then refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.  (The batter will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 180°.  Place template on a baking paper lined tray, add a teaspoon of the batter into the template and spread the mixture with an offset palette knife so that it fills the template in a thin even layer.
  5. Repeat until the baking tray is full.  Scatter almond flakes over each until tuiles are golden brown on the edges (8-10) minutes. While still warm you can shape around a rolling-pin if desired or cool on tray and carefully remove.
  6. Repeat with remaining batter.
  7. Tuiles will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Pineapple Soufflé

All eras have their food fads – remember when everything was daubed in pesto? And/ or sun-dried tomatoes?  What about Tandoori chicken served ad nauseam outside of its natural habitat of an Indian restaurant? Tandoori Chicken Caesar Salad, Tandoori Chicken Pizza, Tandoori Chicken Pie, Tandoori Chicken Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pesto…for the love of God, stop.  Just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it has to be used in every known recipe in the world.

Back in the 1970’s pineapple was the weapon of choice.  It was everywhere!  It was stabbed on toothpicks with a cube of generic cheese  and possibly a brightly coloured cocktail onion to form the signature hors d’oeuvre of the decade, it was grilled with ham steaks to provide the first course of the generation and, combined with the glacé cherry, formed the classic upside down cake.

It was also:

Made into Salads:

Used as a receptable for prawns:

In increasingly odd ways (also note the ubiquitous curly parsley):

For main course, there was the exotic appeal of a sweet and sour:

Or a  pineapple and pork casserole:

For dessert, apart from the classic upside down cake, pineapple was also a favourite topping for cheesecakes:

Or, as in the case of this post, made into a  pineapple soufflé. The recipe for pineapple soufflé appears in a number of cookbooks of this vintage so must have been a popular dish of the time.  Also, just to be really confusing,  this is not a soufflé as in the French baked dessert but is more a mousse type concoction.  I have no idea why this is also called a soufflé.  Maybe in the ’70’s “foreign” terms were interchangeable. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky it’s not called Pineapple Bourguignon…

This recipe is so easy to cook and goes a mad, almost flourescent yellow when you first mix the jelly and cream together:

The end result is lovely.  The tanginess of the lemon and the pineapple cut through the heaviness of the cream so you don’t get that horrible creamy coating on your tongue.  It is a lovely light and refreshing dessert.  I’ll definitely be making this again and am already thinking about how I could use the same techniques with different fruit and jelly combinations – strawberries with strawberry jelly?  Maybe my favourite rhubarb with raspberry and rosewater jelly…  In the meantime though, just enjoy this as is!

Retro Food for Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Curried Chicken Salad Revamp

Who doesn’t love a chicken salad?  Shut up vegans and vegetarians.  I heard you.  Ok…what normal person doesn’t love a chicken salad?

Busy women of the 1970’s loved a chicken salad.  They also loved curly parsley.  I have never seen so much curly parsley in my life as in these old cookbooks.  They also loved scales.  Scales feature heavily in vintage cookbooks.  I have no idea why.  Some sneaky physics lesson maybe.  Which weighs more – parsley or a lead weight?  Garlic or clams?  Maybe these pictures were the precursor to the BrainTraining games of today where you are shown a kitten and an elephant sitting on some scales and you have to say which one weighs the most (it’s usually the kitten).

The Busy Woman’s Curried Chicken Salad  is a  a pretty good  recipe, all it needs is a few little tweaks to adapt it to modern taste.  I suggest the following:

  • Toast your curry powder before adding to the dressing. It smooths the flavour out.
  • Use fresh mushrooms – I kept mine raw
  • Use fresh asparagus – I steamed mine.
  • I didn’t  put red pepper in my version  because I don’t like it.  I added some tomato for colour and celery for crunch.  Other things you could add into ths would be carrots, avocado, steamed green beans, nuts….pretty much whatever you have or you like!

Enjoy!

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Fish and Spinach Challenge

Most of the time, I can make a snap judgement as to how awful something will be just by reading the recipe.  Take, for instance, the Oyster Soup mentioned in the previous post.  I don’t actually have to taste it to know it will be repulsive.  I can mock a lot of things without having to hand over cash for the privilege.  Sometimes though, the line between good and evil is not so easily drawn.  So it was with the Busy Woman’s Cookbook recipe for Fish Fingers in Sauce Verte.

I have a soft spot for fish fingers.  They were a staple of my childhood and even now, particularly if I come home a bit boozy, fish fingers are a guilty pleasure of mine.  So, I wasn’t entirely averse to giving this recipe a try.

The result:

I had a dilemma with  how exactly to eat this though.  The recipe is not particularly helpful.  Serve sauce with fish fingers it says.  How?  I’d made two fish fingers so I tried it two ways.

Of the two, the dip was preferable as the slather made the crispy crumb coating on the fish fingers go soggy.  In all honesty though, selecting one of these as being better than the other  was a little bit like choosing between being punched or kicked in the face.  Given the choice, you may prefer one over the other but neither would always be a better option.

As mentioned, I was unsure about how the Fish Finger dish might turn out.  And the idea of the  challenge was born – put a  borderline  recipe up against one with similar ingredients that sounds ok.  Compare the two.

A search of my cookbooks lead me to a different fish with spinach sauce recipe  – Fish with Spinach Hollandaise –  from another AWW cookbook – The Best Seafood Recipes.

Incidentally, the Fish Finger with Sauce Verte recipe  did not make it into The Best Seafood Recipes.  Quelle surprise.  Also, I used salmon in my version of the Fish with Spinach Hollandaise sauce recipe,  because I had some in my freezer.

The result:

 I compared the two recipes  on 5 parameters: Taste, Ease of Cooking, Overall Look, Cost and Nutrition.

Taste

The retro food did not compare well.  The fault was in the Sauce Verte.  The next sentence is something I have never actually uttered before. Here goes.

It would have been better without the wine.

Wow.  I’m still here.  I thought for sure a bolt from the blue would have struck me down for so flagrantly defying my prevailing ethos.  The combination of wine and lemon made the sauce too sour,  a little bit bitter and combined with the spinach made my  teeth go a little furry.  It was not pleasant.  The wine would have been much better just being drunk, preferably in copious amounts prior to eating the Fish Fingers in Sauce Verte.

The other surprise was that the sugar in the Fish with Spinach Hollandaise really worked!  It somehow brightened the sauce up and I think also worked well with the toasted macadamias.  The nuts were great and added some crunchy texture into the modern dish.

Fish with Spinach Hollandaise won this round easily!

Ease of Cooking

One of the problems with cooking fish is that it can be hard to get it just right – ie not overcooked.  For that reason alone, the Fish Finger dish won this challenge.

They were both very quick, with the sauce being able to made whilst the fish was cooking.  One note though – the Fish Finger with Sauce Verte recipe states to cook the fish fingers for 20 minutes.  I cooked mine for under ten  and they were fine.

Look

Let’s start with the sauce.  Only one of these can really be called a sauce Verte.  The other is more of a Sauce Not So Verte.

Aesthetically, the Fish with Spinach Hollandaise was  far more pleasing to my eye.  I loved the combination of the bright green sauce and the pink salmon.  I thought this was a really pretty looking dish and it won this round hands down.

Cost

Fish Fingers and frozen spinach are cheap.  Salmon and macadamias are not.  Lets move on.

Nutritional Value

I’m not a nutritionist but I’m probably not wrong in suggesting that fresh salmon and spinach are better for you than frozen spinach and fish fingers.  I’d also hazard a guess that macadamias are more healthy than whatever the hell they crumb fish fingers with.   Even with the butter and sugar I think the modern version wins out.

The Busy Woman’s Fish Finger recipe did not fare as badly as I thought it would.  Personally  if I had to rank the parameters, I would probably place taste and nutritional value towards the top of the list but I also recognise that sometimes cheap and cheerful is exactly what you need.  Even under these circumstances I would not make the Sauce Verte again.  It was not good.   The remainder of the box of fish fingers is in my freezer and when the time is right will be eaten with this busy woman’s preferred combination of mayonnaise and tabasco!

The Busy Woman’s Cookbook – Australian Woman’s Weekly (1972)

Strange things happened in the ‘70’s.  And for my next revelation…water is wet.  Yes, I know.  My acuity today is on fire.  I have a horrible headache.  It came on whilst reading this book.  Possibly due to the number of times I beat myself about the head with it exclaiming “WTF?  For the love of God, why?”

However, I digress.  One of the things that happened in the 1970’s was a glut of cookbooks aimed at the  growing number of women entering the full-time workforce.  They all touted their ability to save women time in the kitchen through the use of processed foods.  The result, in many cases, was a book which sacrificed taste and nutrition for what was often a false expediency.  The current wave of people wanting to do everything from scratch – bake their own bread, make their own preserves and pickles, cure their own olives etc,  may well be a backlash from the children of these busy women of the ’70’s!

Before I continue, I would just like to take a moment to say how much I love the Australian Women’s Weekly.  There is rarely a bad recipe in the modern-day magazine.   Their test kitchen is amazing and, just in case you’re reading AWW, the kind of place I would really like to work one day.  Disclaimer and hints for future employment over, sadly, this book mostly provides examples of the worst faults of this type of cooking.  Before we launch into the horror though, lets start with a positive.

This book has an awesome cover.

Just look at it.  The busy woman has a fabulous dress and great hair and makeup.  She has some amazing ceramic casserole dishes in a glorious 1970’s pattern on the dresser in the background.  Don’t look for too long though, or you may start to ask yourself some disturbing questions.  Like what EXACTLY is the busy woman doing?  Because it looks like she has made a tower of fruit and is now topping that tower with some flowers.

The message intended by the AWW in selecting this cover may have been something like :

“No longer a slave to the stove, the modern-day busy woman can spend time on creating a  delightful ambience for her guests”

The messages I took away after reading the book were:

“If you have time to faff about making flower towers you have time to cook something decent”

And

“I would prefer to eat those flowers than some of the meals contained in here”

And

“Good thing that candle’s not lit.  Material in the 1970’s was not known for its resistance to fire”

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The Busy Woman’s Cookbook repeatedly commits three crimes against food.

Crime Number One: Gilding A turd

I tried for a long time to think of a more delicate phrase for this.  I failed.  For those of you not familiar with this delightful expression, urban dictionary defines it as

“Wasting your time trying to  turn something completely worthless into something that looks (or tastes) good”

This is exemplified by the recipe for :

Culprit:  Gourmet Chicken Soup, page 4

To make gourmet chicken soup, you add tarragon vinegar, cream and a stock cube to a can of cream of chicken soup. So, not only is this recipe guilty of the crime of gilding, it is also guilty of the misdemeanor of redundancy.  Using soup to make soup is…stupid.  It’s even more stupid if you are time strapped.  You already have soup.  Why bother?  Ah, I hear you cry but we want this to be gourmet chicken soup.  Let me give you a clue.  Adding vinegar, cream and a stock cube will not make your canned cream of chicken soup gourmet.  It will make your canned cream of chicken soup taste like a more creamy (again with the redundancy), more vinegary and more salty canned cream of chicken soup.

There is not a single thing you can do to make canned soup taste like home-made.  So, if you must have canned soup,  ditch the accoutrements and revel in the tackiness of it.  Whilst your soup is heating, practice your best death stare in the nearest reflective surface.  If your guests are rude enough to comment on the cannedness of your soup, fix them with this death stare and say very coldly.  “Yes, it is canned soup.  You can eat it or wear it.”  Alternatively, you could just not serve canned chicken soup to guests.

I’m not a complete food snob.  There is a time and a place for canned soup.   It is when you are sick and are too ill to make something decent. Canned soup should be only eaten when you are wearing pyjamas and have a runny nose / sore throat/ cough / headache / hangover etc.

See also: Creamy Tomato Soup (made with tomato soup), p5, Orange Sorbet (made with orange squash), p40

Crime Number Two:  Hiding Your Love Away

Otherwise known as the anti-gilding a turd.  This is when you have some great ingredients and do your best to fuck them up.

Culprit: Oyster Soup, also page 4

Ok, so  here’s a little test for you.  You have a dozen oysters.  You have some bacon.  You are a busy woman and your guests are sitting in the dining room waiting for their first course.  What are your options?

1 The  Romantic: Put the bacon in the fridge and have it for breakfast tomorrow.  Serve the oysters as naked as God intended, maybe with a squeeze of lemon to tantalise the taste buds.

2 Spicy Salty Goodness: Whip up a quick Kilpatrick – chop the bacon, add a drop or two of Worcestershire sauce to the oysters (personally, I also like a drop of Tabasco) add the bacon, grill.

3.  The WTF.  Alternatively titled the  AWW Option.  Incidentally, in a book for the supposedly busy woman, the this  option takes longer to cook than the either of the ones I’ve suggested. And is disgusting to boot.

Oysters and bacon are good.  Don’t add them to instant mashed potato.  Don’t add anything to instant mashed potato.  It’s an abomination sprung from the deepest recesses of hell. And, if you weren’t already feeling ill, try imagining how this would look in a bowl – beige, lumpy and gluggy….ewwwwww.

See also: Cheese Wine Dip p6 – made by mixing wine with a jar of cheese spread.  Wine is a delightful substance and has given me many hours of happiness.  It should never be subjected to such horrendous treatment.

Crime Number Three:  Sometimes A Rose isn’t a Rose

This is the crime of taking a perfectly decent concept and ruining it.

Culprit: Asparagus Mornay, page 7.

I’m not sure why I find the idea of  heating the canned asparagus in its own liquid the most repulsive part of this dish.  It’s not as if I wasn’t spoiled for choice.

See also: Easy Chocolate Mousse , p36; Pears Belle Helene, p41

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Despite its many faults,  this book  is not  a complete waste of time.   The salad section is perfectly fine, there are also some good standard beef and chicken dishes, including one of my favourite childhood meals – Apricot Chicken made with a packet of french onion soup and a can of apricot nectar.  Delicious.  This was the first meal I ever made for my family.  I must have been about seven and found the recipe in one of my mum’s magazines – quite possibly a Women’s Weekly – and then badgered her to buy the ingredients so I could cook it.   After this original outing it became a family favourite.  We made a posher version than the one in this book where  we sprinkled flaked almonds over the top.  Now, that’s gourmet living!  The only reason I am not making it as part of this experiment is that if it turned out to be  horrible, I would feel like a my childhood had been stolen from me.   And a fairy would die.

The food styling in “The Busy Woman’s Cookbook is also delightfully odd.  How do you make your spaghetti and meatballs look authentically Italian?  Serve it with a backdrop of a Renaissance painting!

So, how to present your Kidneys Bordelaise?

Bordelaise means from Bordeaux (I had to Google that)so  maybe some a painting of some wine?  Grapes?  Rolling hills of French vineyards?  No?  What about a  random backdrop of a river scene?  I”m not saying it’s not Bordeaux.   Just not obviously so.

We’ll end with my favourite photo from the book, a photo that, unlike the Kidneys Bordelaise above, is for a perfectly edible dish too.   Over the next few weeks I”ll be trying out  a few more of these.   But for now, enjoy the psychedelic 1970’s delight of these funky mushroom glasses as the backdrop for a spinach and mushroom salad.

 

 

The Italian Cuisine I Love – Moccha Mousse

There is something delightfully retro about  chocolate mousse.  And this recipe is right up there with the best of them  Gooey, luscious chocolate kept from being too sweet by a shot  of coffee and a hefty dose of alcohol.  The recipe called for Strega and rum.  I didn’t have either of these  so I used kahlua and amaretto.  You could really use anything you have on hand!

This looked so cute served in a  demi- tasse cup!

180g dark chocolate
1 tbsp sugar
4 eggs (free range please)
1/4 cup strong espresso
2 tbsp strega cordial
2 tbsp rum
1 cup whipped cream

Separate eggs.
Beat whites until stiff.
Beat egg yolks with sugar until light and creamy.
Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler over simmering water.
When melted, remove from heat, blend in egg yolks, coffee, strega and rum.
Fold in egg whites and whipped cream.
Put in serving bowl, small individual bowls or demi-tasse cups.
Chill well, preferably overnight.

The Italian Cuisine I Love – Cavolo Nero with Chickpeas and Bacon

The original recipe for this used escarole.  I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely sure what that is.  Cook’s Thesaurus said that spinach or rocket could be substituted, so of course I used something completely different.  Cavolo Nero, or Tuscan Black Cabbage is an ingredient I love.  It is at the peak of its season at the moment so I substituted it for the green in this.  As the leaves are a lot tougher than spinach or rocket (or possibly escarole)  I adjusted the cooking times accordingly.

The other change I made to the original recipe, with full apologies to Jules J, was that it originally was a soup.  I wanted it as a side dish so I decreased the amount of stock I  added back in my version.  If you want it as a soup, you will need to add 2-4 cups of stock where I have placed the asterisk in the recipe below.

This was, awesome.  I have a very fussy easter for  a husband, and it is not often he asks for second helpings of sides, particularly ones that are vegetable heavy.  Maybe it was the bacon in this but he not only had seconds, he took the last little bit into work for his lunch the next day!

500 grams eacarole / cavolo nero / greens of your choice

2 cups chicken stock

1 medium onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

1/3 cup lean bacon, diced

1  can chickpeas

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

1/2 tsp basil

2 tbsp grated parmesan

Trim cavolo nero.  Discard tough ends.  Chop into slices about 1 cm thick.

Put chicken stock in a saucepan.  Heat  to boiling.  Add cavolo nero.   If there is not enough stock, top up with water until leaves are just covered.

Cover and cook until crisp/tender.

Drain and reserve cooking liquid.

Saute bacon in a heavy saucepan, add onion, garlic, spring onions, and saute until soft but not browned.  Add the chickpeas and cavolo nero and a few spoonfuls* of the cooking liquid.

Warm through.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

Delicious!