“Don’t forget the peas!”, Fiona reminds me.
“It’s those little green suckers that give the food its retro look”, she adds.
Our Christmas Eve dinner last December nostalgically brought us back in time to the 1970s where thick cream, hippy pants and side burns were as popular as vegan and organic diets are today.
Since then, we have been looking to have another retro party to relive those moments.
Mysaucepan dug out some old crockery which have since been buried in our store room for that added effect.
My mum bought these dishes in the ’80s and dated with a little cringe factor as they may be, I just could not let them go at a St Vinnies as they hold so many memories. These crockery saw my siblings and I through high school and university in Sydney, let alone countless meals and parties at home.
As Mysaucepan sets the dinner table for our retro party tonight, I have put on a Foxtel recording of a 1970s disco classic, Saturday Night Fever.
The scene where John Travolta struts down a New York city street with his flare pants and 3-inch disco shoes is serious business and not one bit hilarious as what it now seems.
And as the first of our dinner guests arrive, we share some nostalgic memories of food, fashion and seemingly silly things that we used to get up to those days.
Fiona is her vibrant self as usual and I needed to put on my pair of aviator-style Ray Bans just to look at her colourful dress, let alone her electric blue-Pretty Woman hairstyle.
As we sample some icy cold home beer that Eva has brought from her own brewery at home, the Bee Gees are belting out Stayin’ Alive and the mood of the party begins.
What can be more retro that a 1970s setting complete with iconic attire, music and soon to be the classic dishes from that era.
I made sure that I had a bottle of the Mateus Rose in all its glory – that iconic bottle which I remember many a household used to collect as water tumblers for their fridge.
Better still, the bottle was also a popular single candle-holder where candle wax would drip and harden all over its oval-shaped body and used as a proud decorative item in many living rooms around the world.
One of my absolute favourites is oysters mornay, where a healthy dallop of cream is mixed with cheddar and parmesan spooned over fresh oysters and grilled until the cheese is golden brown.
Now why don’t more restaurants do oysters in this classic and robust style anymore?? All I ever experience these days is supposedly edgy red wine vinaigrette with shallots or some other sour concoction that would leave me rather having just a squeeze of lemon juice and Tobasco on my fresh oysters.
The 1970s is big on cheese and heavy cream, but grilled cheese croutons will never go out of fashion in my humble opinion.
A bottle of 2005 Marlborough Chardonnay is truly a beautiful drop with its buttery and oaky flavours.
I have to take my hat off to the French for its classic French onion soup. Butter, thyme, dry white wine and a dash of brandy in this soup, with its slithery soft ribbons of onions work wonders with the crispy cheese croutons.
I like my crouton half crispy and half soggy by dipping it into my soup.
Another all-time favourite is a good, creamy beef stroganoff. I am told the world is still debating as to its obvious origins from Russia as the name implies but some countries have ideas of their own.
The one thing I never do is to buy strips of beef fillets from the butcher that is ready-made for stroganoff.
I find that cooking the sauce separately and then searing beautiful pieces of rib eye or scotch fillets to medium rare on a BBQ or skillet, resting and then slicing them just before serving sets this dish apart from having chewy strips of beef that has been stewed.
By searing / grilling the beef in a hot pan or a BBQ, the meat can be served medium rare and tender as opposed to a stewed well-done version.
A 2007 Clonakilla Shiraz with its bold and oaky finish becomes a beautiful complement to the beef stroganoff.
For the white meat eaters tonight, the classic chicken Kiev holds its own with the crisp and crumbly crust while a herb butter stuffed within oozes its flavours onto the succulent meat.
I requested peach melba for dessert not that I would be crying foul if it didn’t happen.
I am pleasantly surprised by the combination of Molly’s butter pudding with Mysaucepan‘s poached peaches in cinnamon, star anise and palm sugar with some velvety vanilla ice-cream.
I was going to get Berri’s peaches in syrup this afternoon but the fresh peaches poached in the subtle cinnamon and star anise are delightful and tender.
I should have eaten those velvety skins of the peaches when Mysaucepan was peeling them after being poached.
Molly’s jasmine flowers add a beautiful scent to our desserts.
And yes, there are days when I do wish I was back in the good old days of the 1970s.
- 1 – 2 dozen fresh Pacific oysters
- Half cup thickened or lite cream
- Half cup cheddar, shredded
- Quarter cup parmesan, finely shredded
1. Mix the cream and cheddar and spoon over the raw oysters.
2. Sprinkle each oyster with the finely grated or shaved parmesan.
3. Charbroil or grill (radiant heat from top) in 200 degrees until cheese is golden brown and serve immediately.
Tip:Use Pacific oysters because they are more plump and have more volume when grilled compared to Sydney Rock oysters.
Be sure to enjoy these oysters with a glass of chilled chardonnay or some icy cold beer.
French onion soup
- 10 – 12 medium sized brown or white onions
- 5 – 6 sprigs thyme
- 3 – 4 litres chicken or vegetable stock
- Half to a cup of dry white wine
- 2 – 3 tablespoon brandy (optional)
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 bunches continental parsley, thinly diced to garnish
- Quarter cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 – 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 freshly baked baguette
- 1 cup grated cheddar
- Half cup finely grated parmesan
1. Heat EVOO and butter in large stock pot until melted and slightly smoking then add the finely diced onions and a couple of teaspoons of salt.
2. Sautee onions until slightly soft then add thyme, white wine and black pepper. Then add chicken or vegetable stock and let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
3. Stir in brandy as the stock is simmering and turn down heat.
1. Slice baguette diagonally into 1 cm thickness.
2. Heat grill or oven to 200 degrees Celcius and toast the baguette sliced until slightly brown and crispy.
2. Remove baguette slices from oven and generously sprinkle cheddar and parmesan cheese until the top surface area is covered.
3. Return baguette slices to the oven and bake until cheese is golden brown.
Serve soup with crispy baguette immediately.
This is a wonderful soup to cook during the cooler months. It is also a beautiful soup to mop up left-over toasted bread.
- 3 – 4 pieces rib-eye or scotch fillet steaks
- 2 large brown onion, thinly sliced
- 8 – 10 white button mushroom, thinly sliced
- 1 red or green capsicum (bell pepper), sliced lengthwise
- 1 cup green pea2
- 2 – 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 – 3 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
- One tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)
- Half to one tablespoon smoked paprika
- 3 – 4 cups of long grain white rice, boiled and cooled slightly
- 1 – 2 cups of lite cream
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Half cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Heat some EVOO in a BBQ or skillet until smoking then sear / BBQ the meat until it is charred outside but still raw or gently cooked inside. Set side to rest, then slice into thin long slices.
2. Sautee onions in large stock pot with the EVOO until it is gently soft, then add capsicum a pinch of salt and the paprika. Then stir in white wine, peas, salt and black pepper to taste.
3. Turn down heat and gently stir in cream and Worchestershire sauce (and Dijon mustard) until it is blended with the vegetables.
4. Cup warm rice onto dinner plate, top with a small knob of butter and serve with beef stroganoff.
This is a beautiful dish especially in winter months.
- 8 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped thyme
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup fine bread crumbs
- 1 cup Canola oil
1. To make the herb butter, mix softened butter, herbs, garlic and lemon juice together in a small mixing bowl until combined. Spoon the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap and roll tightly into a log and refrigerate until hard.
2. Flatten the chicken breasts by wrapping them in plastic wrap and pounding them with a meat mallet until they are about 1/3 inch thick. Remove the hardened filling from the refrigerator and slice into eight equal portions (each piece should be a little less long than the breast is wide).
3. Place a piece of butter towards one end of each breast and then roll the meat up tightly round the filling. Tuck in the edges and any stray bits as you roll. Press firmly together.
4. Coat each roll thoroughly in flour, then egg, and finally in bread crumbs, ensuring everything is well coated. Place the rolls on a plate and refrigerate for 1/2 hour before frying.
5. In a pan, add oil and heat the oil to simmering. Carefully add the rolls one at a time and fry for about 15 minutesa turning as to completely brown the rolls on all sides and cook throughout.
6. Drain rolls on absorbent paper and serve immediately.
7. Serve with steamed French beans.
Chicken Kiev is a great dish for non-red meat diets and it can also be accompanied by the stroganoff sauce.
- 6 peaches
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 tablespoons of caster sugar
- 2 cups of water
- Amaretto biscuits, crushed with a rolling pin
- Vanilla ice cream
1. In a pot, add water, sugar and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Cut peaches in half, remove seeds and add to the boiling water. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes till the peaches soften.
2. Remove with a slotted spoon and peel off the peach skins when cooled and refrigerate. Turn the heat back on and reduce the sugar syrup for another 15 minutes till thick and syrupy.
3. To serve, place peach, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle syrup and sprinkle with amaretto biscuits.