Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Christmas Breakfast Challenge



People eat some weird shit at Christmas. I'm on board with this. For me it's pretty much obligatory to neck peanuts and sausage rolls whenever I pass the kitchen from 1st December onwards. I draw the line at breakfast though: my breakfast tends to be fruit, a green smoothie or an omelette whatever the time of year, but it turns out that some people have some very special Christmas breakfast traditions.

With this in mind, I asked Facebook, various Whatsapp chat groups and confused people on the street for their favourite family Christmas Day breakfasts, immediately discounted anything nice or normal (goodbye smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, farewell croissants), leaving me with a variety of indigestible lard and sugar based options. Bravely, IO decided to try one every morning for a week. I got in training (went for a run which I cut short after 4 miles because it was cold), steel plated my stomach and ventured forth:


DAY 1:
Egg beat up in a cup

I started with the least offensive breakfast of the lot so as to warm up slowly. This, according to my friend Tammy, is an Irish/Northern Irish comfort food that comes out when you're ill, under the weather, happy, miserable, or celebrating something. It's also a Christmas breakfast classic over there.



Method: Boil an egg or two, remove the shells and beat up in a cup with salt, pepper and enough butter to turn it into an egg mayo consistency (but with butter, not mayonnaise). Eat with toast soldiers.

Verdict: This was nice, even though I could feel my arteries clogging with every swallow.

Suitable for breakfast every day? Yes

Rating: 8/10


DAY 2:
A box of cheap liqueur chocolates - the sort you can get in Poundland




This was my friend Fogg's contribution. He is, in retrospect, a dick.

Method: Open chocolates. Eat them.

Verdict: Of all the things you don't want to face shoving down your throat at 7am, these must come somewhere near the top. Three chocolates in I had heartburn and my throat was involuntarily closing to stop me from swallowing. I forced the rest down, ignoring the burning sensation in my esophagus then dropped my child at school stinking of booze.

Suitable for breakfast every day? Shudder.

Rating: 2/10


DAY 3:
Scotch Woodcock


Some bloke I got talking to at the doctors has had this every Christmas morning for the last 40 years. 

Method: It's basically scrambled egg on toast, but the toast is spread with anchovy paste, known as Gentleman's Relish. I do not want anything called Gentleman's Relish anywhere near my person frankly, but I gave it a go anyway.

Verdict: Well, that tasted like fishy eggs.

Suitable for breakfast every day? In theory, although it's a bit tricky to get past your gag reflex at half past bastard in the morning.

Rating: 4/10 


DAY 4:
Tinned hotdog sausages in a soft finger roll in front of Thomas the Tank Engine


Thanks to Mel for this one. She's @SuspiciousQuiet on Twitter if anyone wants to follow her adventures.

Method: I wasn't sure how essential Thomas the Tank Engine was to the process but I put it on anyway so as to show willing. I did find it helped to shout "COME ON MOTHERFUCKERS, COME ON" throughout a la the Biggie Smalls version. I added mustard and ketchup to the hotdog because why wouldn't you?

Verdict: Felt v rebellious eating hotdog at 7.30am. Living the thug life.

Suitable for breakfast every day? Why not? Thomas can do one though.

Rating: 6/10


DAY 5:
Trifle. Glass of orange juice "for health".




I can't even remember whose this was but may they burn in Hell.

Method: Deposit trifle into a bowl, pour orange juice, hold nose and eat.

Verdict: I think I OD'd on trifle as a child because I can't stomach it now; the spongy stuff in the strawberry jelly makes me squeamish. Trying to force it down at 6.45 in the morning followed by orange juice (which sits beautifully with all the cream in your stomach) was not enjoyable. 

Suitable for breakfast every day? Maybe if you like trifle?  I reckon I could manage this if substituted with tiramisu.

Rating: 3/10


DAY 6:
Pork pie and a glass of port (With mustard and bread in some households):

My ex housemate Rach was force fed pork pie and port every Christmas morning by her dad, which she says may go some way to explaining why she's vegetarian now. Another friend insists that the pork pie has to be eaten without the port but with mustard and bread. I combined both because nobody intervened and told me not to. I kind of wish they had.


Method: Put pork pie and optional bread on plate. Pour nice glass of port.

 Verdict: I don't know whether it's just because I'd spent most of the week introducing my stomach to some of the worst food in the world at the crack of dawn, but pork pie was a winner. I troughed my way through that big meaty bastard at the speed of light. Not so the port: nearly puked. Made the school run more fun though.

Suitable for breakfast every day? Pork pie is a possibility, port is not.

Verdict: 7.5/10


DAY 7:
Mince pie and brandy butter sandwich




YOU ANIMALS.

Method: Spread thick layer of brandy butter on bread. Squash a mince pie and sandwich it between two slices. Eat.

Verdict: Mince pies are evidence of the devil's existence in my opinion, but I tried anyway. Oh how I tried. I managed one mouthful before propelling it across the room in some sort of retch/spit hybrid. To the person who told me to try this: may your next turd be a hedgehog.

Suitable for breakfast every day? Piss off.

Verdict: 1/10


 
I limped to this finish line feeling like the Very Hungry Caterpillar when he'd eaten everything. Maybe a few fresh green leaves for breakfast tomorrow will make me feel better. It can't be worse than this lot anyway.






Monday, 2 October 2017

Betty Crocker's Kids Parties From Hell





Well, it's been an exciting weekend here. My cousin recently returned from visiting his parents in Canada with a big box full of vintage 1970s Betty Crocker recipe cards for me to play with. He promised me that they would be worth waiting for, and oh sweet Jesus, was he right. With delights such as Spunky Zucchini Toss and Baked Prune Whip and over 500 cards in the box, I now have a foul retro recipe for every occasion.

You will be seeing a lot of these horrors over the next few months, but to start you off, I thought I'd share some of the cards from the Children's Party section. If you're ever in the position of having to throw a party for a small child that you loathe, these will be perfect:

What could be more perfect than an LSD themed ladybird cake? Clearly tripping balls -  look at the pupils on that.








What is a backyard parade, though? Because I think there might be a euphemism lurking somewhere.


 
That would be what Satan's minion looks like then.


Some sort of woodland demon summoning ritual cake


I am 95% sure that I was at this party and it was a) amazing and b) not for children.


Fuck knows really.


I just...that's not even a thing. Stop trying to make paper bag parties happen.


I mean...why? I can't work out which of these barbaric hellions is most likely to haunt my nightmares for the rest of my days. I get the feeling it's going to be him on the left with the cold dead eyes though.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Miche (that's quiche with a meat crust. Yes.)





Well, I thought it had been a while since we'd dicked around with some mince, so here I am, rectifying that for you. Like all the other recipes on the blog, this is the questionable recipe of someone's mum. She's so traumatized that I can't even mention her name here (possibly she wants to avoid death threats). Our anonymous supplier of this recipe says: "My mum used to make this in the late 70s and early 80s. There was no reason for it to exist then, and there's certainly no reason for it to be resurrected. It is basically quiche, but with a crust made of meat."

I don't know about you, but I was shuddering already. The words 'meat' and 'crust' shouldn't appear next to each other under any circumstances. However, having thought about it a bit, I've realised that this recipe might work for those of you who are on a paleo diet because it doesn't contain any grains or complex carbohydrates (apart from some pointless breadcrumbs that you could omit). When I say it might help you, I mean that it might help you remember why toast and chips were a good idea in the first place.

Serves:  4 people

Preparation time: About an hour

Ingredients: 

A packet of mince. I don't know how much - whatever is in the packet
1 medium onion, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
3 eggs
Some cheese ("some")
Half a carton of cottage cheese
1 tomato
Some breadcrumbs maybe

Method:

1. Put the mince, half the chopped onion and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and mix with your hands.


2. Press the mixture into a flan dish, lining it as you would with pastry. Do this in a way that suggests that it's perfectly acceptable behaviour and not a crime against humanity.


3. Put this in the oven (which you have preheated to approx 220 degrees by the way. I forgot to tell you) and cook for...a bit. Until it looks like the meat is cooked through and a bit...um...crusty. 

 
This happened. If you're struggling to discern the full horror, the mince shrank away from the sides into a sort of charred disc and became surrounded with watery fat. I reckon you can tip the watery fat in the bin at this point.

4. Now you're going to mix up your filling. Whisk the eggs, the other half of the onion, some cheese and the cottage cheese together. Smile brightly and try not to think of yeast infections.


5. Now you're going to tip the cottage cheese mixture into the mince crust. This isn't going to work properly because it's come away from the sides of the dish but fuck it. Top with sliced tomato, breadcrumbs and more cheese.


6. Place back in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the eggs are cooked through and the weird meaty quiche is set.


7. Cut into slices and serve. Behold the layer of meaty misery. I served it with a bistro salad out of a packet from Aldi, but you may want to add some nice browny green marrowfat peas and floury boiled potatoes a la 70s cuisine.


So, my taste testers were obviously overjoyed when they returned home to find my grinning like a maniac and shouting "GUESS WHAT'S FOR TEA??" They're now fairly resigned to finding me in the kitchen dishing up brown vomity substances like her off Butterflies.


The child didn't even deign to try it. 

The other one?

"Well, it's fine. It's just fine. It's just...some crusty mince with some sort of...scrambled egg stuff on it isn't it? I mean, nothing surprises me any more. I'm managing to get it down."

Then I told him about the cottage cheese aspect and he stopped being able to get it down. Nobody is really talking to me any more.
















Saturday, 9 September 2017

Classic 70s and 80s desserts taste test: THE RETURN



You know how we enjoyed testing out some classic no-make puddings from childhood recently? Well, I thought it was time to do it again. There were so many classics that I'd neglected so it was really only fair that we gave them a go. Here are this week's contenders:

Clockwise from top left: Tinned peaches and evaporated milk, Vienetta, jelly mousse, and ice cream with Ice Magic sauce

1. Tinned peaches in evaporated milk. What even is evaporated milk though? Google tells me that it's milk with the water evaporated out of it. But it's still wet so I don't get it. Condensed milk is, incidentally, the same thing but with lots of added sugar. I'm ok with condensed milk - it has a purpose (making caramely things). Evaporated milk's purpose appears to be to be served with tinned peaches (and bread and butter if you believe my friend. What sort of horror childhood she encountered I don't know).

2. Vienetta. Needs no introduction really. Basically the classiest dessert that the 80s had to offer. You were a) probably rich and b) lucky beyond your wildest dreams if this got served in your household.

3. Jelly mousse. This is the wildcard because it didn't come pre-made. You had to make it yourself (method: Make up a jelly with only half a pint of water, leave it until it's nearly set then make up a packet of Dream Topping and whisk it into the jelly. Leave in the fridge to set for a couple of hours). Big favourite of mums who wanted to impress at birthday parties. Best with lemon jelly but I went for raspberry because that was all we had in the cupboard. Felt like I should decorate it with fresh raspberries but nobody ever had them in the 80s so I spunked a load of hundreds and thousands all over it as tradition dictates.

4. Vanilla ice cream with Ice Magic. I had to cheat because Ice Magic no longer exists. I know, I am sad about this too. I had to use an imposter called 'Crackin' made by Askeys.


My brave volunteers couldn't wait this time (remember, these oddballs actually enjoyed fruit cocktail out of a tin last time and spurned butterscotch Angel Delight, so I should really find myself some new testers TBH).

1. Tinned peaches in evaporated milk:


Man: "This is another classic from my Nanny's house."
Boy: "I love tinned peaches, we get them at school."
Man: "Wait..."
Boy: "I'm just..."
*everyone turns green and runs for the bin to spit their mouthful out*
Me: "Do you want some bread with that?"

Verdict: No.

***there had to be a short break here while everyone fought back their nausea and composed themselves***


2. Vienetta


Boy: "I'm going to need the biggest bit of that."
Man: "Always a classic. Satisfying crack to the chocolate as you bite through it...creamy ice cream..."
Boy: "This is delicious."
Man: "This was the poshest ice cream ever in 1985."
Me: "Doesn't really taste of much if I'm honest, but I am feeling so fancy right now."

Verdict: Apparently like crack to children but doesn't actually taste of anything. Needs to be eaten with those little dessert forks for full effect.


3. Jelly mousse



Boy: "You know I don't like mousse..."
Me: "This is special 80s mousse. Try it."
Man: "Oh my God, that's sweet;
Me: "You live on sugar."
Man: "But this is even too sweet for me."
Boy: *is stuffing it in his face as if he hasn't already eaten 2 puddings*

Verdict: Very very very sweet. Children still impressed. Tastes like birthday parties to me. Makes you feel like a real mum when you make it.


4. Vanilla ice cream with (fake) Ice Magic


*everyone gathers around to watch the magical setting chocolate sauce*

Me: "Is it actually doing anything?"
Man: "Hmmmm."
Boy: "It's got a sort of skin on it."
Me: "It's definitely set a bit."
*time passes*
Me: "OK, I think that's it."
Man: "Didn't ice magic used to set completely hard like a shell?"
Me: "I think it did."
Man: "This is like...rubbery stuff. That tastes of lard."
Me (checking label): "That's the main ingredient."
Boy: "I'll eat it."

Verdict: Do not buy the crappy, knock-off Ice Magic. It doesn't set - probably because use of liquid nitrogen in food got banned in the 90s or something. It also tastes like slightly chocolatey fat. The child still ate it though.


Got any other retro delights you'd like us to test? Let me know and I'll make it happen.








Thursday, 24 August 2017

Cornflake Tart - a school dinner special





Apologies for the short break - summer holidays and everything. But I'm back and I'm easing us in gently with a nostalgic yet not too horrid recipe that should be familiar to everyone who suffered through school dinners in the 70s and 80s. This could be a lot worse, so be thankful that we're only recreating CORNFLAKE TART. Cue the recipe:


Serves: The five thousand. It's so sweet that you'll barely get through two spoonfuls.

Preparation time: About half an hour.

Ingredients:

250g plain flour
125g butter
(or just cheat and use Jusroll pastry)
120g sugar
120g butter
120g golden syrup
200g crushed Cornflakes
Jam (optional)

Method:

1. Make pastry from the butter and flour and a little bit of water if needed. I am not going to explain how to make pastry to you. If you don't know how just buy a packet of Jusroll. This blog contains such delights as a casserole topped with Marmite sandwiches and something made entirely from a tin of tuna and a can of soup: nobody is judging your shit cooking here.

2. Line a flan dish with the pastry and prick it a few times. Put it in the oven for about 15 minutes.


3. Meanwhile, crack on with the Cornflake nonsense. You're going to melt the butter, golden syrup and sugar together until you've got the sweetest, stickiest substance known to man.


4. Whack the crushed Cornflakes into it and mix until they're covered in what is basically liquid diabetes.


5a. (optional step) For authenticity, you might want to spread a layer of jam onto the pastry now. Controversially, I chose not to do this (because jam is the devil's jizz) but go right ahead by all means.
5b. Squish the Cornflake mixture into the baked tart case and return it to the oven for 10 minutes.


6. Remove from oven, slice and serve with cream, ice cream or custard. This is best dished out by someone in a nylon dinner lady overall in a sweaty room that smells of boiled cabbage and feet.



Guys...I couldn't eat this. That's right, I've boldly ploughed my way through such delights as Pacific Pie and Cheese bread and butter pudding, but I managed 2 mouthfuls of this and had to stop. Just too damn sweet, and I say that as someone who can quite happily devour a Mars Bar for breakfast. I kind of feel like I've failed you all. But don't worry; tomorrow I'm doing a second classic puddings of the 70s and 80s taste test and it's going to feature tinned peaches in evaporated milk, so I'm doing my penance...







.




Monday, 7 August 2017

Cheesy Bread Pudding





So students, today in 70s Mum Cuisine School we're going to do something really disrespectful to a bread and butter pudding recipe. We're basically going to chuck a bitchload of cheese into it and hope for the best. Does this sound like fun? Yes. Does it sound edible? Not terribly. Lets go:

Serves: 4 people who await their fate with a miserable air of resignation

Preparation time: 15 minutes + 30 minutes in the oven

Ingredients: 

6 slices of bread and butter (or 7 if, like me, you suddenly remember how nice bread and butter tastes mid recipe and eat some)
1 chopped spring onion (bog standard onion also fine)
A lot of cheese. Lets not discuss how much I used.
A few slices of ham. The more processed the better for that authentic 1980s feel.
200ml milk
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to around 220 degrees.

2. Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with a layer of bread and butter.

3. Sprinkle on cheese and spring onions, season, then add another layer of bread.

4. Sprinkle on more cheese, onions and some ham.

5. Keep adding layers of bread and sprinkling ingredients between the layers until you run out of bread.


6. Whisk the egg and milk together and pour over the content of the casserole dish. Squash everything down with a potato masher and allow the mixture to sink in a bit. Now add grated cheese to the top.


7. Put the dish into the oven before you van overthink what you've just done and leave it to cook for about 30 minutes.

How nice does this look? 
8. Cut into slices, to be served with Branston pickle and peas. We only had broccoli and two thirds of the testers refuse to eat pickle (weirdos), so I apologize for the inauthentic serving suggestion below:



Verdict: I thought the flavour was good, but the soggy eggy bready stuff in the middle did require me to do the gastronomic equivalent of lying back and thinking of England to swallow it. It was much improved with Branston, so that is definitely a good call. Tester 1 ate the crispy bit and left the rest. Tester 2 wouldn't even entertain putting any in his mouth. He is obviously not experienced in the thinking of England technique.

Who's brave enough to try this one? 










Sunday, 30 July 2017

Classic 70s and 80s Desserts Taste Test




I gave myself a break from knocking up 1970s culinary horrors this week, but as I'm still dedicated to the cause I have a special treat for you: I conducted a 2017 taste test of three classic 1970s and 1980s puddings. These are weekday puddings - the sort that required no skill to assemble and no cooking whatsoever. This was what was trotted out after your cod in parsley sauce (speaking of which, watch this space...) or your Findus Crispy Pancakes on a school night. They were acceptable in the 80s...but are they now? Lets meet the contenders:

For your delectation we have (clockwise from left): 

1. Tinned fruit cocktail in syrup - guys, I actually thought this was what fruit salad was until I was about 11. It consisted of small lumps of mainly unidentifiable fruits, some of which was definitely tinned peaches (heave). The best bit was the neon red cherries, but even they were crap. Usually served with vanilla ice cream cut from a slab and whacked in the bowl like a lurid yellow brick.

2. Arctic Roll - a sickly confection of vanilla ice cream, sponge and some sort of jam. This was a regular for dessert at my grandparents guesthouse in Eastbourne (powdery asparagus soup from a packet to start, rock hard gammon with peas, lumpy mash and a pineapple ring for mains).

3. Angel Delight - butterscotch flavour obviously. The chocolate flavour held so much promise but didn't deliver. Banana and strawberry were acceptable. Empty the packet into half a pint of milk, whisk it up and bit and you've got the food of the gods right there. Sprinkle with grated cooking chocolate if feeling posh.


I offered these for testing to three brave volunteers: a 41 year old male, a 39 year old woman and an 8 year old boy. (Guess which one was me). Findings and comments below:

1. Fruit cocktail and vanilla ice cream



Boy: "Well this looks lovely."
Male: "Reminds me of tea at my Nanny's house when I was little."
Female: "Can you identify any of the fruit?"
Male: "Well, there's...er...grapes. Um...melon? Oh, a cherry, um, some white stuff and some orange stuff. Satsuma or something?" (Note: actual fruits are: peaches, cherries, grapes, pineapple and pear, not that any of them even slightly resemble what those should taste like).
Boy: "This is SO NICE. I'm giving it a 10."
Male: "7 from me. Can we finish it  off?"
Female: "DO NEITHER OF YOU HAVE TASTE BUDS?"

2. Arctic Roll


Boy: "Oh yum, we have this for school dinners."
Male: "We used to have this at Nanny's house too."
Female: "It's pretty flavourless apart from the slight hint of jam that just tips it over the edge into rank territory."
Male: "It's got less texture and flavour than the fruit cocktail."
Boy: "This is the good stuff. It gets a 9."
Male: "6".
Female: "WTF? 3."

3. Butterscotch Angel Delight


Male: "Pretty sure I saw something in the cat's litter tray that looked like this last week." 
Child: "What even is it? It's like a squashed emoji poo."
Female: "It's a bit like mousse. Try it." 
*tentative tasting*
Child: "NO."
Male: "WRONG."
Female: "WHAT? This is the best 80s pudding ever. It tastes ever so slightly of bicarb and soap but mainly of happiness."
Male: "It's got a horrible texture and tastes of..."
Child: "Bums."
Male: "0"
Child: "0"
Female: "Can't hear you. Very busy eating."


Seriously internet, what is wrong with them? So...do you agree with our results? And have you got any more questionable convenience desserts from childhood that you'd like me to test? (tinned peaches and evaporated milk coming next time so I need two more to add to the list).