Cheese and pineapple on sticks and prawn cocktail: the seventies are back
- Credit: Archant
Unlikely as it may seem, the 1970s in all their psychedelic glory are having a moment in the world of cooking
Researching the cooking of the past has always been important for me; from giving a talk on the food of 17th century England at the Historical Society in Connecticut, validating the origins of traditional British recipes for an upmarket high street food retailer or writing a column on Elizabethan food to celebrate a royal jubilee.
And now, unlikely as it may seem, the 1970s in all their psychedelic glory are having a moment.
And not just the food, but furnishings and colour schemes. This I find hard to believe. I promised myself that as soon as the swirly orange and brown polyester sheets of our first home began to show signs of wear, I would replace them.
But of course they were never going to wear out; I disposed of them and ever since have only used white bed linen, whatever colours have been in fashion.
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So what were we putting on the table in the 1970s that is causing so much nostalgia now?
All I need to do is consult my kitchen diaries, which I have kept since 1974, long before I became a food writer.
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The quiche, the prawn cocktail, chicken liver pâté, “spaghetti Bolognese” – we had not yet learnt to call the sauce ragú – the Arctic roll and the Black Forest gateau, of course.
It was the era of the dinner party; did they really begin with sticks of cheese and pineapple being handed round with drinks?
I used to make crisp miniature puff pastry parcels of snails and garlic butter, introduced to them by a friend who was devoted to Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookbook, one of the few authentic treasures from the 1970s, as innovative now as it was then.
The drinks making a comeback are anything with Campari, cue the Negroni and the Americano, and the G and T with every artisan gin you can think of.
I would not be beyond reviving the piña colada, for which we developed a fondness following our first visit to Miami many years ago.
But let us be thankful that Blue Nun, Mateus rosé and Spanish burgundy are but a fading memory.
So, in a little wander down memory lane for some, and an archaeological discovery for others, here are some ideas from that distant time.
It should be noted that ingredients have, in many cases improved on the original; chocolate is a case in point.
This means of course, that our recreations will generally taste much better than they did then, and will probably not evoke the same nostalgia.
Black Forest Gateau recipe - serves 8 to 10
100 g bar of 70% chocolate
2 tablespoons milk
100 ml Kirschwasser or cherry liqueur
100 g unsalted butter, softened
225 g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
4 eggs, separated
200 g self-raising flour sifted with
25 g cocoa, 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice and
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 ml plain yoghurt
300 g black cherry jam
400 ml double cream
100 g bar 70% chocolate
Bottled cherries – see recipe
Grease and flour two 18 to 20 cm sponge tins, or line with Bakewell paper.
Put the broken up chocolate in a bowl over hot water, and add the milk. Leave until the chocolate has melted, and stir. Put the rest of the ingredients, except the egg whites, in the food processor and process for 25 seconds, stopping and scraping down the sides with a spatula halfway through. Add the chocolate mixture, and process for a couple of seconds more.
Whisk the egg whites until firm and snowy, and fold lightly into the cake mixture with a metal spoon, having first removed the bowl from the processor and taken out the blade. Spoon the mixture equally into the two prepared tins, smooth the surface, and bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 180 C, gas mark 4 for about 25 minutes.
Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack. When cool, slice the cakes horizontally and spread alternate layers with black cherry jam and whipped cream, leaving about 150 ml cream for the topping. Melt the chocolate in this cream and stir it until cool and well-thickened. Spread or pipe this over the cake, top and sides, and decorate with cherries. You can also pipe on rosettes of extra whipped cream. Shavings of chocolate can also be added, and a dusting of cocoa powder before serving. It is impossible to make a Black Forest gateau too gaudy or kitsch.
Piña colada recipe - serves 8 to 10
1 litre pineapple juice
1 x 400 g can coconut cream or coconut milk
300-400 ml white rum
Sugar syrup, to taste
To garnish: triangles of fresh pineapple – optional
Put all the ingredients in a jug, and whisk, or use a hand blender, until thoroughly mixed and chilled. Serve in tall glasses with a straw and small wedge of pineapple on each glass, if you wish.
Bartender’s note: for a modern and refreshing version of this classic drink – but without the rich sumptuousness of the original, use coconut water instead.