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
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
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
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).