Nostalgic nosh from the 1970s
It was an interesting era for food and several enduring classics have their origins in that decade
Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
Okay, hands up all those who would claim to be a child of 1970s? There are rather a lot of us, so you might as well admit it. After all, that decade did bring a lot of good things: flares, disco music and various food classics, some of which endure today: quiche Lorraine, cheese fondues, steak Diane. There was a lot to love, dodgy haircuts aside (sorry, Delia).
It was also the decade when food began to take itself a bit more seriously, although convenience-foods, and anything to help scour away prep time, were also seen as highly desirable attributes. Like a posh girl at finishing school, it became sleeker and a lot more cosmopolitan. Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in California in 1971, sparking a revolution in the way we thought about fruit and vegetables, which finally took their rightful place at the heart of good cooking. People were travelling much more too, and thanks to the ubiquity of TV were able to share their discoveries, food included.
And while 1970s cuisine has a lot to answer for – dodgy cream cheese dips, jellied everything and a fondness for pineapple chunks – it was also the decade when some dishes went stellar. While they may have since faded a little from view, it’s only because it now seems they’ve been around forever. I mean, who can imagine life without quiche, say, or carrot cake? We’re hopefully just doing it better nowadays.
All of which brings me to this week’s recipes, which pay tribute to 1970s food, but to its best qualities, by being tasty, easy to prepare and, above all, a little bit indulgent in a nostalgic way.
The baked chicken is a great midweek treat. Chicken pieces are fried off before being baked in the oven in a cream and tomato sauce flavoured with lots of Dijon mustard. I can’t remember eating mustard and a tomato cream sauce back then, but it smacked of the 1970s and I have to say I loved the flavours. This dish needs very little on the side - maybe just some crusty bread and a light green salad to mop up all those lovely juices. But this really was a winner and no one will be intimidated by this dish.
The other recipe is for brownies. Yes, it’s probably obvious by now that I have a thing for brownies. I find it fascinating how a classic can be made in so many different ways. This version is inspired by a book celebrating staff meals across the very best restaurants, Eating with the Chefs, and in the section about Noma – the Danish restaurant where the innovative food has won two Michelin stars – I found these brownies, laden with dark chocolate and butter. Many recipes call for loads of sugar, sometimes cocoa, but not too much dark chocolate, but this recipe was full of it. You would expect them to be super dense, but they have a wonderful texture and are my new favourite brownie. That is, until the next recipe. Now if only I can make it to Noma for staff lunch ... then I can really do a comparison. The 1970s, we salute you.
Food cooked and styled by Domini Kemp and Gillian Fallon. Photographs: Aidan Crawley