Retro Food For Modern Times: The Floral Foraged Feast

What we’re going to do right here is go back, way back, back into time…

Today we are leaving behind those heady patchouli scented days of the ’70’s to take a step back to some really retro food and talk about my experience as a food forager! Food foraging has been around for as long as people have been around and basically involves making lots of deliciousness out of stuff that is growing wild around you…well, that’s my definition…if you want to get more technical, try google!   When most people think about foraging, they probably imagine it being done in the country however urban foraging is becoming increasingly popular.

Part of my birthday resolutions this year was to do something new each month –  which is why a few Sundays ago, I found myself sipping a Cleavers smoothie with a group of strangers.  I was taking part in an Edible Weeds Walk run by Very Edible Gardens (www.VeryEdibleGardens.com).  The smoothie was really good and set the tone for what was a very pleasant and informative few hours.  During that time we were taught to identify a number of so-called weeds and learned how these could be used both as medicine and as food.

The setting was amazing, an urban farm, virtually under the domes of the Russian Orthodox Church in Brunswick. And  a glorious day to boot….one of the first real signs that Spring was on its way.

It was also just a short stroll away from the CERES environmental park and the Merri Creek Bike Track.

Mind, you, the setting did have some drawbacks, on my way back to my car, I was quite happily strolling along, enjoying the lovely view, the sunshine and my solitude, when I came across this sign, and suddenly the fact that I was alone in this large  parkland became a little bit frightening!

However, I made it home safely and was able to use my new-found knowledge to make this lovely floral foraged salad!  For my salad I used:

Angled Onion – stalks and flowers:

There are literally thousands of these plants growing by our local creek and whilst I had previously noticed the strong smell of onions around them, I had no idea they were edible. They have an onion flavour, much like chives.

Wild Brassica – leaves and flowers:

This too is prolific in my local area. The leaves taste like supercharged cabbage It can give you that nose tickle you get when you eat mustard.  The flowers are much milder and added some colour to the salad.

Nasturtium – leaves and flowers

These were growing in my garden but the flowers are pretty and added some colour.  The leaves have a peppery flavour.  Since then, I have seen nasturtiums growing in the wild so this wasn’t too cheaty!

Dandelion leaves. 

These are quite bitter.  Adam,  our guide on the walk, said that even if you do not like these the first time you have them, to persevere with them as the taste really does grow on you.  Also, the bitterness is very cleansing.  I didn’t mind them in my salad but I was light handed, not only due to Adam’s caution but also because the park I was foraging in had just been mown and the leaves were not that easy to come by! 

Along with these foraged ingredients, to make my salad, I added some lettuce and some avocado, some thinly sliced radish and a few cherry tomatoes.  I also made a very simple lemon and oil dressing as I really wanted to be able to taste the different leaves and flowers.  Here are the ingredients:

This was a very tasty salad which, I will definitely be making again.  I think I was right to err on the side of caution with the dandelion leaves.  I chopped these up quite finely so whilst there was a slight underlying bitterness in some bites it was certainly not unpleasant and added a depth to the salad.  How pretty and fresh does this look?  I also took advantage of one of first really warm days and ate this outside….Voila!

The foraging itself was great fun, I really enjoyed walking through the park and identifying and choosing the weeds for my salad.  There is also something incredibly gratifying about picking and eating your own produce, whether you have grown it or foraged it.  In fact, foraging is a little bit more fun because it feels like you’re doing something a little bit naughty!

But really, cooking with things I have grown (or foraged) makes me feel connected to the earth and the environment in a way that shop brought produce can never do. Who knew I was such a hippy?  And now for my inner risk manager – if this post inspires you to commence your own adventures in foraging, I would really suggest doing a group exercise like I did – not all plants are good for you and many can actually cause you harm.  Having advice from a knowledgeable person like Adam could be the difference between a totally fun and enriching experience and one that leaves you very ill indeed!

Sorry Oscar, none left for you!

Adam, who lead our walk, has also written a  fab book:

This can be purchased at the following

http://www.eatthatweed.com/edible-weeds-book/

There are a number of other books and other resources on foraging you could use as well.  Here is a link to an article from Gourmet Traveller but most libraries and book shops will have something on the topic plus there is an abundance of info on the internet.

http://gourmettraveller.com.au/how-to-forage.html

I will be experimenting with more foraged finds over the next few months. I would like to try a cooked option next.  I don’t think the ngled onions will be in season much longer so before they disappear I’m thinking a stir fry with some of the wild brassica, some  chilli, ginger and garlic may be in order.  This would be delicious as a side dish or tossed through some noodles as a lovely vegetarian main meal.

In the meantime if you make something lovely out of  foraged foods, please let me know and….enjoy!

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Knickerbocker Glory Years – Martin Lampen

“The Knickerbocker Glory Years” is Martin Lampen’s hilarious homage to all that is awful in British food.  From A – All You Can Eat £5.99 to Z – Zest, the book lays out the dark side of British cooking.

I really liked this book.  Lampen’s humour is of the very dry British style.  If you do not like my excerpts you will probably not like the rest of the book.  If you do like them, try to hunt down this book as you will thoroughly enjoy the rest of it.  Also, the same book is called “Sausage in A Basket” in some parts of the world.

Many of the entries are short.  For instance, the entry for Wood Fired Pizza  is:

“Big Fucking Deal”

The longest entry is 13 pages and documents Lampen’s first dinner party in all it’s excruciating awkwardness. This is the type of book you can dip in and dip out of as you require, it doesn’t have to be read from cover to cover.

Given that I touched on the 1970’s fondness for Ham Steak and Pineapple in the last post, Lampen’s take on Gammon is:

“The pig is slaughtered, its hind legs are removed, cured, glazed in honey and sliced into steaks.  If this isn’t indignity enough, the steaks are then topped with a single wet pineapple ring from a dented tin and a waxy maraschino cherry.

Yes, gammon steak when topped with egg or pineapple is a peculiarly British dish: a bloated pink slab of fatty meat, topped with a garish fruit hat. Rather like a ‘Nikita’-era Elton John”

On the subject of pineapple, the entry for Tropical is:

“In Britain, any food or drink – be it a concentrated juice, cordial or sugary carbonated fizz – containing lemon, lime, pineapple or mango is tagged as ‘tropical’.

It’s important to note that other items included in the taxonomy ‘tropical’ are tuberculosis, typhoid, tularemia, (and) tropical storm Arlene”

Or, this for Guacamole:

“A filthy Soylent Green-style dip, guacamole is usually served with stale Doritos,  a mountain of melted Cheddar cheese and mayonnaise on  chain-pub’s nacho platter . It’s made from dead people.”

As for the eponymous Knickerbocker Glory Lampen has this to say:

“The knickerbocker glory, a layered dessert served in a tall glass and made with ice cream, tinned peaches, chocolate or fruit sauce and strawberry puree was the first post war dessert to be made in Britain that did not contain suet.

For a young male aged between eight and fourteen in the 1980’s, the knickerbocker glory was the greatest sensual experience one could imagine.  Greater even than being interfered with by Bananarama”

For those of you who have no idea what Bananarama is, firstly it was a they and they were an immensely popular girl band of the 1980’s.

In homage to this book I made my own Knickerbocker Glory and it was about the funnest thing I have eaten all year!!!  And I know full well funnest isn’t a word, but it was so much fun I lost all thoughts about grammar.

My version of Knickerbocker Glory differs from Lampen’s in that I always thought Knickerbocker Glory should contain jelly.  My version contained the following layers:

  • Strawberry jelly (Jello)
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate cookie crumbs
  • Sliced Banana
  • Strawberry Jelly
  • Strawberry Ice-cream
  • Frangelico Fudge Sauce (Recipe follows or you could just use your preferred chocolate sauce)
  • Chopped nuts
  • Rosewater & Almond Tuile (Recipe follows or you could use a bought wafer)
  • Strawberry Garnish

For something that is largely put together from bits and pieces, this looks spectacular! And tastes even better!!!

Enjoy!

Recipes:

Frangelico Fudge Sauce

This makes 6 cups, you can obviously adjust quantities down if you do not want this much. This is so easy to make and absolutely delicious!

1 litre cream

250g dark chocolate

200g marshmallows

Frangelico to taste

  1. Heat the cream, chocolate and marshmallows slowly until melted and well combined.
  2. Stir in Frangelico to taste.

Almond and Rosewater Tuiles

These are a little troublesome to make but are worth it in the end!

50g caster sugar

30g unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

1 egg-white

1/4 tsp rosewater

Finely grated rind of 1/2 an orange

35g plain flower

30g flaked almonds

pinch of salt

  1. Make a template by drawing a triangle, circle or any shape you want on a plastic lid or a sheet of firm plastic, then cut the shape out.  The shape should be no larger than 5cm in diameter.  Set the template aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with an electric beater until pale and creamy. Add eggwhite and beat on lowest speed until incorporated.
  3. Add rosewater, orange rind, flour and a pinch of salt.  Mix lightly until combined, then refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.  (The batter will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  4. Preheat oven to 180°.  Place template on a baking paper lined tray, add a teaspoon of the batter into the template and spread the mixture with an offset palette knife so that it fills the template in a thin even layer.
  5. Repeat until the baking tray is full.  Scatter almond flakes over each until tuiles are golden brown on the edges (8-10) minutes. While still warm you can shape around a rolling-pin if desired or cool on tray and carefully remove.
  6. Repeat with remaining batter.
  7. Tuiles will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Pineapple Soufflé

All eras have their food fads – remember when everything was daubed in pesto? And/ or sun-dried tomatoes?  What about Tandoori chicken served ad nauseam outside of its natural habitat of an Indian restaurant? Tandoori Chicken Caesar Salad, Tandoori Chicken Pizza, Tandoori Chicken Pie, Tandoori Chicken Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pesto…for the love of God, stop.  Just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it has to be used in every known recipe in the world.

Back in the 1970’s pineapple was the weapon of choice.  It was everywhere!  It was stabbed on toothpicks with a cube of generic cheese  and possibly a brightly coloured cocktail onion to form the signature hors d’oeuvre of the decade, it was grilled with ham steaks to provide the first course of the generation and, combined with the glacé cherry, formed the classic upside down cake.

It was also:

Made into Salads:

Used as a receptable for prawns:

In increasingly odd ways (also note the ubiquitous curly parsley):

For main course, there was the exotic appeal of a sweet and sour:

Or a  pineapple and pork casserole:

For dessert, apart from the classic upside down cake, pineapple was also a favourite topping for cheesecakes:

Or, as in the case of this post, made into a  pineapple soufflé. The recipe for pineapple soufflé appears in a number of cookbooks of this vintage so must have been a popular dish of the time.  Also, just to be really confusing,  this is not a soufflé as in the French baked dessert but is more a mousse type concoction.  I have no idea why this is also called a soufflé.  Maybe in the ’70’s “foreign” terms were interchangeable. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky it’s not called Pineapple Bourguignon…

This recipe is so easy to cook and goes a mad, almost flourescent yellow when you first mix the jelly and cream together:

The end result is lovely.  The tanginess of the lemon and the pineapple cut through the heaviness of the cream so you don’t get that horrible creamy coating on your tongue.  It is a lovely light and refreshing dessert.  I’ll definitely be making this again and am already thinking about how I could use the same techniques with different fruit and jelly combinations – strawberries with strawberry jelly?  Maybe my favourite rhubarb with raspberry and rosewater jelly…  In the meantime though, just enjoy this as is!

Retro Food for Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Curried Chicken Salad Revamp

Who doesn’t love a chicken salad?  Shut up vegans and vegetarians.  I heard you.  Ok…what normal person doesn’t love a chicken salad?

Busy women of the 1970’s loved a chicken salad.  They also loved curly parsley.  I have never seen so much curly parsley in my life as in these old cookbooks.  They also loved scales.  Scales feature heavily in vintage cookbooks.  I have no idea why.  Some sneaky physics lesson maybe.  Which weighs more – parsley or a lead weight?  Garlic or clams?  Maybe these pictures were the precursor to the BrainTraining games of today where you are shown a kitten and an elephant sitting on some scales and you have to say which one weighs the most (it’s usually the kitten).

The Busy Woman’s Curried Chicken Salad  is a  a pretty good  recipe, all it needs is a few little tweaks to adapt it to modern taste.  I suggest the following:

  • Toast your curry powder before adding to the dressing. It smooths the flavour out.
  • Use fresh mushrooms – I kept mine raw
  • Use fresh asparagus – I steamed mine.
  • I didn’t  put red pepper in my version  because I don’t like it.  I added some tomato for colour and celery for crunch.  Other things you could add into ths would be carrots, avocado, steamed green beans, nuts….pretty much whatever you have or you like!

Enjoy!

Retro Food For Modern Times: The Busy Woman’s Fish and Spinach Challenge

Most of the time, I can make a snap judgement as to how awful something will be just by reading the recipe.  Take, for instance, the Oyster Soup mentioned in the previous post.  I don’t actually have to taste it to know it will be repulsive.  I can mock a lot of things without having to hand over cash for the privilege.  Sometimes though, the line between good and evil is not so easily drawn.  So it was with the Busy Woman’s Cookbook recipe for Fish Fingers in Sauce Verte.

I have a soft spot for fish fingers.  They were a staple of my childhood and even now, particularly if I come home a bit boozy, fish fingers are a guilty pleasure of mine.  So, I wasn’t entirely averse to giving this recipe a try.

The result:

I had a dilemma with  how exactly to eat this though.  The recipe is not particularly helpful.  Serve sauce with fish fingers it says.  How?  I’d made two fish fingers so I tried it two ways.

Of the two, the dip was preferable as the slather made the crispy crumb coating on the fish fingers go soggy.  In all honesty though, selecting one of these as being better than the other  was a little bit like choosing between being punched or kicked in the face.  Given the choice, you may prefer one over the other but neither would always be a better option.

As mentioned, I was unsure about how the Fish Finger dish might turn out.  And the idea of the  challenge was born – put a  borderline  recipe up against one with similar ingredients that sounds ok.  Compare the two.

A search of my cookbooks lead me to a different fish with spinach sauce recipe  – Fish with Spinach Hollandaise –  from another AWW cookbook – The Best Seafood Recipes.

Incidentally, the Fish Finger with Sauce Verte recipe  did not make it into The Best Seafood Recipes.  Quelle surprise.  Also, I used salmon in my version of the Fish with Spinach Hollandaise sauce recipe,  because I had some in my freezer.

The result:

 I compared the two recipes  on 5 parameters: Taste, Ease of Cooking, Overall Look, Cost and Nutrition.

Taste

The retro food did not compare well.  The fault was in the Sauce Verte.  The next sentence is something I have never actually uttered before. Here goes.

It would have been better without the wine.

Wow.  I’m still here.  I thought for sure a bolt from the blue would have struck me down for so flagrantly defying my prevailing ethos.  The combination of wine and lemon made the sauce too sour,  a little bit bitter and combined with the spinach made my  teeth go a little furry.  It was not pleasant.  The wine would have been much better just being drunk, preferably in copious amounts prior to eating the Fish Fingers in Sauce Verte.

The other surprise was that the sugar in the Fish with Spinach Hollandaise really worked!  It somehow brightened the sauce up and I think also worked well with the toasted macadamias.  The nuts were great and added some crunchy texture into the modern dish.

Fish with Spinach Hollandaise won this round easily!

Ease of Cooking

One of the problems with cooking fish is that it can be hard to get it just right – ie not overcooked.  For that reason alone, the Fish Finger dish won this challenge.

They were both very quick, with the sauce being able to made whilst the fish was cooking.  One note though – the Fish Finger with Sauce Verte recipe states to cook the fish fingers for 20 minutes.  I cooked mine for under ten  and they were fine.

Look

Let’s start with the sauce.  Only one of these can really be called a sauce Verte.  The other is more of a Sauce Not So Verte.

Aesthetically, the Fish with Spinach Hollandaise was  far more pleasing to my eye.  I loved the combination of the bright green sauce and the pink salmon.  I thought this was a really pretty looking dish and it won this round hands down.

Cost

Fish Fingers and frozen spinach are cheap.  Salmon and macadamias are not.  Lets move on.

Nutritional Value

I’m not a nutritionist but I’m probably not wrong in suggesting that fresh salmon and spinach are better for you than frozen spinach and fish fingers.  I’d also hazard a guess that macadamias are more healthy than whatever the hell they crumb fish fingers with.   Even with the butter and sugar I think the modern version wins out.

The Busy Woman’s Fish Finger recipe did not fare as badly as I thought it would.  Personally  if I had to rank the parameters, I would probably place taste and nutritional value towards the top of the list but I also recognise that sometimes cheap and cheerful is exactly what you need.  Even under these circumstances I would not make the Sauce Verte again.  It was not good.   The remainder of the box of fish fingers is in my freezer and when the time is right will be eaten with this busy woman’s preferred combination of mayonnaise and tabasco!

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