Sunday, 6 March 2016

Retro recipe: Tonight we're going to party like it's 1959...

By: Mrs Robot

It's no secret that I love vintage - or, as I generally call it, Old Tat. Back at the start of January my lovely friends Naomi and Zoe sent me a 1959 cookbook called Fun With Food: Planned Menus For All Occasions. It struck me as a book that might help out a housewife from a relatively humble background (or one who grew up on wartime rations), whose lifestyle has gone somewhat upmarket and is suddenly faced with hubby's boss coming for dinner. What to do?! Call on this little book by Nella Whitfield.

Tonight we tried one of the menus. It was supposed to be three courses, starting with strawberry cocktail, but I forgot to buy any strawberries. As it was essentially strawberries macerated in kirsch, served in glasses tarted up with either strawberry or lettuce leaves, I considered serving neat kirsch with a lettuce-leaf garnish, but thought better of it.

So, straight onto the chicken pie. The book called it chicken pie, but it also contained ham and, unusually, hard boiled eggs. You start by boiling the skin and bones with stock veg and a bay leaf for a couple of hours to make a stock, then put sliced egg in the bottom of a pie dish, pop chopped chicken and ham on top with some seasonings (including mace and a tiny bit of  grated lemon peel), top it up with stock, whack on a puff pastry lid and bake it.
Let's rewind there. 'Top it up with stock'. The recipe states three-quarters of a cup. I had my misgivings. It said nothing about flouring the chicken a little, so a nice gravy would be made during the cooking. However, I was sticking to the recipe for this, so in the stock went.
I baked the pie and it looked lovely, but when I dished up it was as I'd feared: the stock was still basically stock. Very tasty stock, but not the sort of thing I'd be prepared to include on the plate. I left it in the pie dish. The pie (served with cabbage and sweetcorn) tasted fine but not brilliant, and I couldn't help wondering how much of the flavour had leaked out into the stock. I'd make the pie again, but I'd flour the chicken slightly and use far less stock, just enough to keep it moist.
Pudding was 'Daisy Cream'. No daisies were harmed in the making of this dish. It was a jelly (jello) based dish. The recipe called for pineapple jelly but that wasn't available, so I settled for lemon. It was mixed with evaporated milk and finely-chopped pineapple and glace cherries. It's the sort of thing people laugh at nowadays, but it was actually pretty nice and, as Mr Robot pointed out, essentially a 1950s equivalent of pannacotta. I'll definitely leave the glace cherries out if I make it in future; they didn't introduce anything much flavour-wise, and my attempt at making cherry daisies for the top was lamentable.
So, it was an interesting meal. Which isn't to say it was bad; it didn't wow us but certain flavours, such as the seasoning in the pie, were much more sophisticated than I'd expected, less than a decade after the end of rationing. For its day, this was pretty posh fare to be eating at home. I'll definitely be trying more from the book as some of the puddings look quite good.

1 comment:

  1. The pie certainly looked beautiful.
    I'd never heard of "topping up" any sort of pie with stock, odd.
    I don't think the 1950's cookery would wow anyone, really.
    Lemon zest & mace in a savory stock does sound like it would make a nice sauce.

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