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' 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?"

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? 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).

Monday, 17 July 2017

Cheeseburger Pie

I thought it was about time we had a bit more brown on the blog, so I bought some mince and asked everyone for their best (worst) 70s and 80s mince based recipes. This one was the clear winner for sheer WTFery and its bold use of lurid processed cheese.

"My mum and dad ate this when staying with friends in the States at some point in the 70s and decided to introduce it to the Midlands," says my friend Nick with a shudder. They should have left it where they found it, and to be honest I wouldn't even feel safe with those 4,000 miles between me and it."

Now there's a recommendation. Lets do this.

Serves: 4 people

Preparation time: 40 minutes


250g mince
Half an onion, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
2 tomatoes
packet of processed cheese slices (DING DING DING. Classic horrible 70s ingredient alert)
60g plain flour
1 egg
220ml milk
pinch of salt
teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon sugar
gherkins, tomato ketchup and American style mustard (to serve)


1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Fry the chopped onion in a little oil until translucent, then add the mince and cook until brown. Season with Worcestershire sauce.

So far, so good. Nothing to see here.
2. Meanwhile, whisk up a batter using the flour, baking powder, milk, egg and sugar.

This looks pretty innocuous too.
3. Put the mince and onion mixture into a shallow dish. I mean, this is fine at the moment. Nothing bad has happened and we're all pretty relaxed. Top with the sliced tomatoes.

Yep, can get on board with this.
4. You know that batter you made? You're going to use it to bastardize the mince and tomatoes. Pour it over the lot whilst questioning your life choices.

Jesus, WHY?
5. Add insult to injury by plastering the lot with plastic cheese slices.

6. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes whilst perusing your collection of takeaway menus. You're probably going to need those.

7. In theory, when it comes out of the oven, the batter is supposed to have formed a sort of crust on the bottom. Or the top. Nobody's exactly sure where the crust is supposed to be, but there should be one somewhere. In my case, there were ugly crusty bits all over the shop and flecks of sludgy batter throughout the entire dish.

8. Slice and garnish with sliced gherkins, tomato ketchup and American style mustard. I chose to present mine with a side salad of iceberg lettuce and a little radish rose, because it is 1983 and carving salad into pleasing shapes is how I spend my time now.

I love it when my food looks radioactive.

I thought it tasted OK, but lets be honest; I lost sight of what tastes acceptable about 3 recipes ago plus I'm on the sort of diet that makes you so hungry that you'd consider eating your own young. My fellow taste tester said it was "quite nice" (whilst backing away looking scared). Over to you lot.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Gingernut Log

We're going for a pudding today. Sorry, a dessert. This one was your mum's go-to recipe for special occasions (such as, say, you're hosting a safari supper for the WI, or Auntie Pat's coming for lunch and she always does chicken a la king and rice with peas in it so you've got standards to live up to).

As vintage recipes dictate, it looks pretty disgusting and is made of a strange array of things that you can find at the local corner shop. This one tastes of nostalgia, cheap booze and  general delight - like Christmas in 1982. Hurrah!

Serves: Up to 8 people

Preparation time: 15 minutes to assemble, at least 1 hour to chill.


1 packet of Gingernut biscuits (give or take a few, because you will obviously have eaten some already as they are the best biscuits ever).
300ml double cream
Some sherry (About a wine glass full. Apparently there are different types of sherry. This is news to me. I went with a cream sherry because it was only £4.99 in Aldi and this is clearly how I choose my alcohol)
Flaked almonds (to decorate)

Note: Some versions of this recipe suggest that you use half sherry and half orange juice. However, I am all for cramming as much alcohol into pudding as possible, so I didn't do that. 


1. Assemble your ingredients and a plate in front of you. Pour the sherry into a dish. You want everything in easy reaching distance.

3. Dunk a gingernut into the sherry, slap a bit of cream on it, then do the same to another one and stick them together. Use a bit of cream to stick them to the plate to keep them upright. Refer to the picture below for a demonstration, ignoring the fucking CAT who is not allowed on the worktop.

Had to remove her from the table approx 20 times during this recipe, washing my hands after picking her up every time. She stank of sherry for the rest of the day.

4. Continue until all of the gingernuts are on the plate, stuck together with cream.

5. Now smother your creation with cream, smoothing it over with a knife.

6. Sprinkle the 'log' (can we all agree not to use the word 'log' in a recipe again?) with flaked almonds and put in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour. Over time, the biscuits soften and the whole thing turns into a sort of booze infused cakey roulade that you can slice and serve.

I could have left it there, but when reminiscing about this, someone told me that their mum used to use a leftover gingernut to make a face to stick on the front to turn it into a caterpillar (or, more ambitiously, Dougal from The Magic Roundabout). How cute would that be? I tried it. Not very cute at all as it happens. This boss-eyed beast will see you in your nightmares.

Do not serve to Auntie Pat.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Pacific Pie

Recipe number 4 is top of the list of my friends' most hated family recipes from childhood. It provokes involuntary shudders in those that have experienced it, so I knew I was in for a special treat.

I didn't experience this particular horror; for some reason it was not in my mum's repertoire of meals, but you might have done. Everyone's recipe was slightly different, but they were all the same at heart. It also seems to have gone by a variety of names: Tuna Bake, Fish Surprise...but I went with Pacific Pie. Because it's exotic.

Brace yourself.

Serves: 4 very unlucky people

Preparation time: 2 minutes to put together, 20 minutes to cook


1 tin tuna
1 tin Campbells condensed chicken soup (at this point you're probably already thinking that things aren't looking good. Spoiler: it's not going to get any better).
1 tin green beans, drained
3 packets ready salted crisps, crushed.

Note re ingredients: some recipes call for the addition of sliced tomatoes. Some call for tinned peas instead of runner beans. Use whatever you want - this turd is never going to shine no matter how much you buff it up.


1. Dump the tuna, beans, soup and 2 of the packets of crushed crisps in a casserole dish.

2. Half fill the soup tin with milk and throw that in too. I mean, why not? Stir it all up together and try not to cry.

Yes, you will be eating this. Yes, this could count as atonement for all your past sins.

3. Cheerfully sprinkle the remaining packet of crisps on top of the bowl of pink sludge.

This looks better, as will most things that you sprinkle with crisps.

4. Bake in the oven at approx 200 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the air is rich with the scent of tuna and chemical food additives.

5. Dollop onto plates, where it will glisten like a blob of dog sick that's been rolled in crumbs. Maybe add potatoes and veg? IDK. Who's going to be that hungry when faced with this monstrosity?

"Why can't you write a blog called That Looks Amazing?" wailed everyone.

You know what though? It was surprisingly edible. If you ignore that it looks like it's already been half digested, it's quite tolerable. I hate runner beans and suspected that having these little nuggets of evil scattered throughout the dish would make for a taste treasure hunt akin to sieving through cat litter for crap, but I couldn't actually taste them at all.

And the biggest surprise of all? My 8 year old took one mouthful and started begging for me to make it again: "of all the food you've ever made, THIS IS THE BEST." (I was a chef in my youth and have died a bit inside since this comment). He shoveled it in and asked for seconds. We can only pray for his soul.

1970s mum cuisine: 1.    Lisa: 0

Can you top this beast of a retro family recipe? Let me know in the comments and I'll give yours a test run.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Cheese Twigs

At some point during the early eighties, my mum upped her birthday tea game by purchasing a book of recipes dedicated to children's party food. It was called Children's Party Cooking by Carole Handslip and was a sort of primitive exercise in Pinterest shaming as mums throughout the UK fucked up jelly rabbits and sandwiches that were supposed to look like boats. Here it is below:

My mum got about 3 pages into the book and obviously decided that she couldn't be arsed to go any further because she never made anything past that point. She did make Cheese Twigs though, and they featured at all of our birthday parties from then on. They were delicious actually, and they were the first thing I ever taught myself to make on my own. I made them A LOT. This is evidenced my all the ancient food splatters on the Cheese Twigs page of the book. Compare it to the page in which you have to create realistic swans out of choux pastry and you'll see that 80s me did at least know her limits. 

Cheese Twigs were from the Tots Party section of the book (see above - incidentally, I once attempted to make that train birthday cake one June in a kitchen hotter than the sun, valiantly attempting to create something train-like while the heat melted the butter icing. I ended up with something that looked like a twisted nightmare involving Thomas the Tank Engine and a welder's torch; the screaming of his disfigured metal face, his paintwork melting, the Fat Controller screaming "YOU HAVE CAUSED CONFUSION AND DELAY" repeatedly. That's probably a whole other blog entry).

Serves: It depends. I have been known to eat the whole lot by myself in one sitting, but I have issues. 

Preparation time: 5-10 minutes faffing, 10 minutes in the oven.


125g (4oz) plain flour
pinch of salt
50g (2oz) butter or margarine
75g (3 oz) grated cheddar cheese
1 Oxo cube
1 egg yolk
2-3 teaspoons water


1. Put your flour, salt and butter in a bowl. Rub in the butter until it resembles - as Nigella would say - "damp sand".

Here I am doing my best Nigella kitchen sex pout whilst holding my bowl of damp sand.

2. Crumble in the Oxo cube and stir this and the cheese into the mixture.

3. Add the egg yolk and water and mix to form a firm dough.

4. Roll to about 5mm thick and cut into strips about 5mm wide. Place on a baking sheet on a baking tray.

As you can see, boredom set in and I shoved any old shape on the tray after a bit.

5. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 8-10 minutes, then leave to cool. Put in your fanciest party dish and serve,

How horrible is this glass apple dish? SO horrible, right? I love it.

You'd think I'd leave it there wouldn't you? But as I am giving this whole 70s and 80s cooking business a thorough testing, I decided to go one step further and recreate the sandwich house decorated with cheese twigs from the book (see book photos above). My mum never did this and I always felt cheated. I suspect that she knew that any parent who presented sandwiches that resembled a realistic thatched cottage at their kid's birthday party was a smug dickhead. I, however, never pass up the opportunity to be a dickhead so I went boldly forth.

I had to downsize the cottage as I was only making sandwiches for myself, and I didn't have any celery or parsley, so had to make do with cucumber and broccoli, but I think I did OK. I even followed the suggestion of using a blob of cream cheese on the carrot stick chimney to resemble smoke jizz.


I thank you.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Chocolate Crackle Flan

 Recipe number 2 is a personal one; one that my mum made regularly throughout my childhood. In fact, she made this so often that I didn't realise that it wasn't really a thing until fairly recently. She first made it in Domestic Science class at school, and apparently it was off the back of a Cornflake packet or something.

Straight from my mother's recipe book.

Chocolate Crackle Flan basically consists of a giant Cornflake crispy cake construction stuffed full of fake cream and underwhelming fruit. Kids love it, possibly because it's so sweet that it could rot your teeth just by being in the same room as you. My mum was under the impression that it was a brilliant way to get fruit into reluctant children back in the day. Read the recipe and you'll see that the whole thing - which serves 6 - only contains 1 apple and 1 banana, so I won't laud her as a health guru just yet. She also used to make it when we were ill because she knew we'd eat it even if we didn't fancy anything else. It is reasons like this that I am a bit fat.

On to the recipe:

Serves: About 6 people. Or a family of 4 with seconds.

Preparation time: about half an hour but you've got to add about 15 minutes for it to cool in the fridge as well.


2oz butter or margarine
2 level tablespoons golden syrup
2oz chocolate
1oz sugar
3oz crushed Cornflakes (or cheapo substitute)
1 banana
1 apple
quarter of a pint of milk
1 sachet of Dream Topping (or cream - see note)

Note: If you're being posh you can sub the milk and Dream Topping powder for a quarter of a pint of double cream with a bit of vanilla extract and sugar in it, but if you're going peak 70s you're going to want to use the Dream Topping.

Also note: The original recipe also called for raisins, but seeing as they are the devil's droppings, I will not be using them and my mum didn't either.


1. Stir the butter, golden syrup, sugar and chocolate in a pan until it is melted and combined.

2. Add the crushed cornflakes and mix well.

3. You're now going to grease a 7" (or so) cake tin and squish the mixture into it to form a sort of flan case, so the mixture will need to be pressed up the side of the tin as well as onto the bottom. Pay attention to my mum's top tip, or it can be a bitch to remove from the tin later: "You have to grease the pan then cut two wide long strips of grease proof paper and line the tin with them in a cross shape, then grease the paper too. This helps you to lever the flan out when it's ready." Judging from the amount of swearing and shrieking that used to come from the kitchen whenever she tried to get this out of the pan and the state it used to look when it came to the table sometimes, I'd say that there's at least a 50% chance of it all going tits up anyway, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.

note spectacular grease proof paper cross formation.

4. Put the base in the fridge to chill for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whip up your cream or Dream Topping and thinly slice the fruit.

5. Spread a small amount of cream onto the base and layer on the fruit.

6. Pile the cream/Dream Topping on top, and spread until the fruit is covered. Stick it back into the fridge until you're ready to serve it.

7. Use the superbly constructed greaseproof paper cross formation to coax the flan out of the tin. It's more authentic if you call it a stubborn little bitch at this point. Ease it onto a plate and apply 1 metric fuck-tonne of hundreds and thousands. Because in the 70s and 80s, it just wasn't pudding unless it had a coating of multi-coloured grit.

8. Cut into slices and serve. 

"I need to have a serious think about this one," says my chief tester. "It's confused me. It's like two different puddings have merged. It's all too much."


* Grated chocolate is another acceptable decorative touch for this recipe, as are glace cherries.

** You could replace the apple and banana with more exciting fruits such as raspberries and pomegranate seeds, but to be honest you just need to get over yourself.

Got a bizarre old family recipe for me to try out? Let me know in the comments...