Cooking with too much seventies

My parents were the classic seventies and eighties dinner party hosts. The good dining plates were all brown. As was the cookware. After dinner mints were essential. I spent many a Friday night banned from one end of the house and often spent Saturday eating delicious leftovers. I used to joke that the reason I loved well done meat was that by the time I got it, the meat had always been cooked twice!

As part of the cooking revival over the last fifteen-twenty years I’ve cooked every fashionable style and held lots of dinner parties myself. And now as a new parent, I’ve been looking back to meals I loved as a child.

While you’ll be horrified at some of the ingredients the dishes still taste as delicious now as when I was six. Sure, Australian seventies cooking seems to always start with mayo or a packet of dry chicken noodle soup and isn’t so cool today but the below recipe began a life-long love of broccoli, of all things. Nothing beats biting into broccoli with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs and soaked in sauce.

Tastes great the next day, too.

Chicken Divan (Good for buffet, use a heavy ovenproof dish)

Key seventies ingredients: Cream of chicken soup and mayonnaise

8 chicken breasts (make ’em small, or use half of today’s enormous chicken breasts and cut them up into strips)

1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice

salt & pepper

4 knobs of butter

Large head (or a couple) of broccoli cut into medium sized pieces

1/2 cup cheddar

1/2 cup soft white breadcrumbs

teaspoon melted butter

Sauce:

2 cans of cream of chicken soup

1 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon of curry powder

Rub chicken with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat butter in the casserole dish until foaming. Roll chicken quickly in butter then cover the dish & chicken with foil. Place in hot oven 200C. Cook for ten-fifteen minutes. The chicken should feel firm, not soft and squashy.

Steam or boil brocoli until just cooked.

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl. In the casserole dish, alternate chicken breasts and broccoli. Pour sauce over everything. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. Melt butter and combine with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over top. Bake 175C for 30-40 minutes

Serve with rice or rice salad and crusty bread.

Now everyone knows that dry chicken noodle soup mix is shorthand for ‘Seventies Asian’ cooking, the same way that coriander was shorthand for ‘Thai’ in the late nineties (pumpkin soup? With coriander? Oh, it must be Thai). Now before you get too upset remember that when my parents arrived in Puckapunyal in 1970 the best restaurant was known for its excellent roast chicken. The local supermarket owner had never heard of spaghetti.

I loved this asian recipe-you’ve-never-heard-of because we got out the electric frying pan and it would be so full of cabbage I never thought it would cook. But it always did. Like all good seventies cooking, tastes fucking great the next day.

Hi Ling (Electric fry pan)

Key seventies ingredients: Dry chicken noodle soup mix

2 dessertspoons of curry powder

500g mince

1 onion

1 cup green beans

Two sticks celery

½ cabbage shredded

2 tablespoons rice, maybe a little more if you like

1 packet of chicken noodle soup

2 cups water

salt & pepper

Lightly brown onion and meat. Add other vegetables and rice. Season to taste. Give it about ten and then chuck in the cabbage, soup mix and water. Give it another ten minutes or until rice is cooked. Drown in soy sauce (thanks Kimba!) Even kids’ll eat it.

Of course, no seventies party is complete without gherkins or pickled onions. Cocktail onions. And sour cream mixed with french onion soup mix. For some reason, no one seems to like gherkins anymore. Society’s loss, I say.

Grilled chops with curried pea sauce

Key seventies ingredients: Gherkins and cream of celery soup

4 cups boiled rice

4 or more lamb chops

2 rashers bacon

Chopped gherkins

Sultanas

Can of cream of celery soup

Cup or two of frozen peas

Can full of water

salt & pepper

finely chopped onion

1 flat dessertspoon of curry powder

Fry bacon, gherkins. Add sultanas for a quick fry then chuck all into the rice and keep warm.

Fry the onions in a frypan, add the celery soup, water, curry powder, peas & salt & pepper. Simmer for ten minutes. Grill chops. Place chops on rice. Pour pea sauce over top.

Yes. It is really, really good the next day too. It’s my favourite meal of all time.

Seriously, if you don’t cook the above for dinner then go have seventies porn star sex afterwards, you’ve cooked it wrong. (By seventies porn I mean an awkward set-up involving pool cleaning followed by all the bits going in the standard places, of course).

Got a seventies favourite for me? And don’t come the hard boiled egg, celery, sultanas, cheese squares and mayo salad with me (though it is awesome).

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13 thoughts on “Cooking with too much seventies

  1. Hi ling! We always called it – oh so creatively – ‘Cabbage Mince’. We doused it with Soy Sauce. My mum still makes it to this day! We tell my veggie-averse son that the cabbage is ‘special noodles’, and he eats it right up. It’s a winner 🙂

    My 70’s favourites: Apricot Chicken. Meatloaf with pineapple chunks in it. Vol au vents with asparagus and cheese, or tuna in creamy sauce. And fondue!!!

    1. The dousing in soy sauce is so essential! The post is now updated with this key step!
      Thanks!

      Apricot chicken:
      Apricot nectar, apricot bits and french onion soup mix? Chicken and broccoli in it? Sigh. I got sex once from cooking that. So happy that Gen X girls never got taught to cook by their mothers. I’d never have the same chance these days.

  2. Love it! I love 70s cooking – anything that starts with a tin of condensed celery soup is okay by me. You can’t beat stroganoff, prawn cocktails, those pigs in blankets thingies… hmmm…I feel a dinner party coming on.

  3. Ah my faves were Apricot Chicken and Steak Diane – but Steak Diane was only when we went out. It was a tough choice between the Chicken Maryland, which came with a side of deep fried & battered pineapple and a crumbed and fried banana. Ahh the gourmet 70’s. Nothing quite like that era in food really. And you are absolutely right – every “cool” dish started with a packet or a can of continental soup. Loved reading that post and might just revisit the Hi Ling. My teenage boys would probably love it.

  4. Great post.

    Ah, french onion soup… These days we waste too much time measuring out individual spices – I hanker for the days where it all came in one little packet.

    I have a wonderful cook book from the 1980s – a ‘Women’s Weekly Country Cook Book’ where most of the photos look like someone has vomited on a plate. It made me realise how much food photography has changed.

    My favourite recipe of all is in the WW Dinner Party Cookbook for “Cappuccino”. Apparently we don’t need to waste money on expensive machines, we can make them at home with instant coffee and whipped cream on top. Huzzah!

  5. Bit late I know but one of my faves to this day is the noodle salad made to the recipe on the back of the Chang’s noodle packet. Yum! And you MUST eat it all at once otherwise the noodles go all limp in the dressing. We have it at Christmas and I get a bowl all of my own. Double yum!

  6. I love your blog.

    I’m never going to try these recipes (way too complex for my cooking style), but I you make reading recipe posts enjoyable.
    How is that even possible!

    x

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