Anchovy Cream Stuffed Apricots

From The Better Hostess Series: Hors d’Oeuvres & Appetizers, 1978

To be honest it’s hard to even write this post as it brings back such revolting memories, so I am approaching this as really more of a community service announcement to stop other unwitting cooks from going down the same path. (You’re welcome).

The recipe we picked was stuffed apricots, and this was selected on the basis of the picture and the excuse to buy pink food colouring rather than any in-depth analysis of the ingredients.


No idea what the bowl of orange stuff in the background is, I can only assume it’s the liquefied souls of those stupid enough to be around when they made this up to photograph.

At the supermarket I had trouble with fresh apricots (what the hell, tinned will be fine) and anchovy essence.  I should have been warned off then and there, but instead after wandering around several shops, texting the NZ team for advice (thanks Alice for pointing out that anchovy is in fact already the essence of fish) and muttering, “what the f**k IS anchovy essence anyway?” under my breath several times, I decided to make some from scratch.

After mushing, cooking and straining (yes, straining with a sieve) the anchovies I had to stop for a break to escape the smell.  Here I made a  list of the top ten things there should not be an essence of:

Number 1: Anchovies

Numbers 2 – 10: Other anchovies.

The stench was horrendous, and the result was a small container full of a black, crumbly, foul smelling substance that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Year 11 drugs education class.  Don’t try this at home. No, really.

Undaunted, we took a deep breath (regretted it) and mixed the anchovy essence with cream cheese, mayonnaise and pink food colouring.  Yeah, you read that right.

The end result looked like a cross between a Dr Seuss illustration and the sort of poo you can imagine coming from a very sick poodle (if you have a very good but misdirected imagination).


Close up shot, warning you can’t un-see this.


The verdict is below.  This was the point in this project where we decided that it was ok to give zero out of five when the smell and taste was so bad it outweighed the effort points.

Alister: Geez I’d love some salmon mousse about now.  0 out of 5 paprika sprinkles.

Anthony: That’s absolutely disgusting.  There is no way that can be right?  0 out of 5 paprika sprinkles.

Bridget: I’m not eating that.  0 out of 5 paprika sprinkles.

Sarah: This is hideous.  I feel like I should try and describe it for posterity given that surely it never was made and never will be made again.  So… imagine if you got cat food, mushed it up with old cheese, blended that with a mango smoothie and then strained it through a sock Meatloaf had worn consistently without washing for a six country concert tour and you would be getting close.  0 out of 5 paprika sprinkles. And that’s only because I can’t give a negative score.

Note: Emma was away for this, thanks to Bridget for stepping in!  I think in this case Emma should be thanking us all, dodged a bullet there. 


Horse’s doovers

From The Better Hostess Series: Hors d’Oeuvres & Appetizers, 1978

Emboldened by the success of the salmon mousse (well, it looked right even if it tasted like crap) we decided to tackle a mixed appetisers plate with not one but three tasty morsels – hopefully raising the odds of finding something edible.

The plate included stuffed mushrooms, stuffed artichoke hearts and pastry carrot boats. We hit our first flaw in the plan when we realised we had no pastry, carrots or boats.  But not to worry! We found a recipe for scotch eggs which would make a handy substitute.

Here’s the book it all came from:


Making the scotch eggs was pretty easy; we  just wrapped boiled eggs in sausage meat and deep fried them. As you can see, they were as surprised as we  were to find that they tasted quite nice.


Surprised scotch eggs

If you look closely you can see the bits of slightly uncooked sausage meat near the centre, but I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the world they eat raw sausage meat so we just covered that up with mayonnaise and pretended it was supposed to be like that.

By now we were pretty confident that we had this retro food thing nailed, so moved on to the mushrooms. Here we hit our second stumbling block.  The picture of the final result showed mushrooms stuffed with a green paste, but there was no way we could work out how to combine the ingredients (cream, lumpfish caviar, lemon juice)  so that they were green.  We blended, whipped and mashed, but the best we could manage was grey wobbly stuff with black blobs.

Shrugging it off, we moved on – baking the artichokes and whipping up cheese sauce for the stuffing.  At this point the recipe called for some serious crafts. We spent hours painstakingly cutting bits of tomato with pinking shears, making funny shaped croutons and slightly obscene little mushrooms out of boiled eggs.  We attacked this with gusto:


Perhaps going a little bit too far:


We braced ourselves, poured a Singapore Sling (well, beer) and dug in.  Here’s the verdict:

Emma: This was awful. They were all awful. 1 out of 5 Sloe Gin Fizzes.

Sarah: You could sell this as a weight loss diet because so far pretty much everything is inedible.  The mushrooms were cooked in port and you can almost taste the mushroom and the cream filling curdling in your mouth while you eat it.  The artichokes were also surprisingly revolting given that the individual ingredients were ok. 2 out of 5 Sloe Gin Fizzes (and they were both for the scotch eggs)

Alister: I think you missed the arti because they just made me choke. At least the scotch eggs finally got the taste of the mushrooms out of my mouth.  1 out of 5 Sloe Gin Fizzes.

Anthony: Civilisation as we know it would not have survived if they ate like this. 1 out of 5 Sloe Gin Fizzes (and that’s for effort)

Cucumber and Beer Soup

From Supercook’s Supersavers Cookbook, 1980

Imagine this scenario. You’ve got guests about to arrive for lunch, and suddenly you realise you forgot to go shopping. There’s nothing in your pantry except for a beer, a cucumber and a pottle of sour cream.

What do you do? Cancel the lunch?

Yes. Yes you do.  You call up your friends and tell them you’ve got the flu, because if you combine those ingredients and try to pass it off as food, your friends will think you are trying to murder them.

Beer and Cucumber Soup is a joke food. I know that now. It’s an April Fool’s day prank – like snapping gum or chicken in a can – that only a complete and utter bastard would pull.

“Ha ha, scarred for life! Joke’s on you!”

Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a practical joke as much as the next person, but I thought printing this recipe without any kind of warning was irresponsible:

Beer and Cucumber Soup recipe

Although I should have caught on when I beat the sour cream and beer together, and it looked like this:


But then it started to fizz like a school science project, and I was mesmerized. I threw the remaining ingredients in the cauldron, chilled for an hour, and served.


Here is the verdict:

Have you ever tried gazpacho? Yeah. Imagine eating gazpacho, drinking six beers and a bottle of week-old milk, letting that sit overnight and then throwing it up the next day. “Deeply disturbing” is putting it mildly. The sour milkiness mixed with beer gave me flashbacks to the first and worst hangover of my life, and the cucumber chunks certainly did not help.

When they said “revenge is a dish best served cold”, I’m pretty sure they were talking about Beer and Cucumber Soup. That said, I honestly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

– Alice

Thank you to Laura Vincent from Hungry and Frozen for giving me this recipe. I’m going to assume you hadn’t tried it first/were not trying to murder me. 

Salmon Mousse

From the AWW Dinner Party Cookbook No. 2, 1970s

Ed’s note – Welcome to Sarah and Emma, the Sydney-based members of the Bad Jelly team. This is their first post!

To say we approached our first recipe with enthusiasm is an understatement.  We approached this with such reckless and misguided enthusiasm that we would have made Labrador puppies look bored. We scoured second hand shops for dishes, props and recipes books. For the first time ever our conversation was peppered with terms like “terrine, “jelly”, “mould”, “meet you at Vinnies” and “but that looks revolting”.

Then the time came when we had to pick our recipe.  It was a toss up between a ham mousse (may make an appearance later) and a sort of celery octopus (again, on the list for later) until we saw the salmon mousse. It was glistening pink with lovingly placed gerkin slices and (of course) a gerkin tail. Apparently (according to Women’s Weekly) it makes an “excellent entrée or light lunch dish” and is also recommended as “fork food for parties”. Perfect.


We showed the boys who were less than enthusiastic, just asking “why?” with puzzled but indulgent expressions.  We showed the kids who thought it was hilarious, then came back ten minutes later to confirm in worried little voices that they wouldn’t have to eat it.

Then time came to make it, and I think that in the back of our minds we both thought that while it looked horrible,  we would be pleasantly surprised by the taste.

We were ruthless in sticking to the recipe – when it called for “chilli sauce” we found the most basic sauce we could (none of your fancy organic sun dried chilli needed here thanks) – and to be honest the recipe was pretty basic.  You combined everything, poured it in to the oiled mould and put it in the fridge until it was set.  We followed it to the letter and the only moment of anxiety was trying to get the mousse out of the mould.  Finally, with the aid of judiciously placed hot water and then (when that didn’t work) just whacking on it a lot, it slid out and on to the board.

There it sat, wobbling slightly, in all its pink salmony glory.  We whipped up the cucumber sauce recommended as an accompaniment (cream, mayonnaise, cucumber and sugar), dutifully sliced gerkins and served it up.


Here’s the verdict:

Alister: It’s sort of edible but not really in a good way. 1 out of 5 maraschino cherries.

Anthony: I almost like it a little bit but I don’t think I will have any more (later he confessed to feeling a bit sick but that might have been all the wine required to “get the taste out of my mouth”). 1 out of 5 maraschino cherries.

Sarah: All I can say is that I am glad we served it in the privacy of my own home and not to friends as “fork food for a party” or I think I would have very quickly had a lot less of them. The pleasant anticipation turned to apprehension after smelling it and then to slight gagging after the first mouthful. 1 out of 5 maraschino cherries.

Emma: Just horrible. I still can’t eat salmon.  1 out of 5 maraschino cherries.

Lime Lamb Salad Soufflé

From the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 1971

Hello and welcome to Bad Jelly! Take a Harvey Wallbanger and put your keys in the bowl. Help yourself to the devilled eggs.

For our first Bad Jelly recipe, Olivia and I wanted to make something that would never, ever appear on a table nowadays. Something that would take hours to make, and years of therapy to forget. It had to exhibit the reckless abandon with which retro cooks mixed savoury and sweet; it had to contain both fruit and meat; and most importantly, it had to wobble.

It had to be Jelly Salad:

jello salad[4]

For the uninitiated, Jelly Salads were essentially regular salads (meat, olives, bananas, whathaveyou), set in glistening moulds of fruit-flavoured gelatine. We can bet the jelly companies themselves were responsible for dreaming these up – “Who says jelly can’t be dinner? Just look!” –  but how they ever made it into real cookbooks is a mystery. 

We found our version in that goldmine of retro oddities, The New Zealand Women’s Weekly Cookbook.


As you can see, the ingredients look like they were picked by some plonker contestant on Ready Steady Cook. Lamb, onion, peas…. Fine. But for the love of God, what is that lime jelly doing there!?

We felt comfortable with what we were doing until we added vinegar to the jelly, which was the second step. After that we were just like “Whatever Women’s Weekly, you’re f***ing crazy but we’ll humour you.”

Unfortunately there was nothing humourous about the finished product:


OK so maybe there was.


Now, honestly, Olivia and I were pretty open-minded about this. We were hoping it would be one of those crazy-sounding dishes that actually turns out to be amazing – like bacon strips dipped in chocolate sauce (don’t judge me) – but sadly it wasn’t to be. Here are the verdicts:

Olivia: Every mouthful (I had two) made me gag. It was truly the most horrible thing I’ve ever tasted. The texture was disgusting – slimy, creamy, jelly, cold chunks of meat and mushy peas. I really wanted to like this but it was just sick. One out of five stuffed olives.

Alice: Very confusing. The texture is like chocolate yoghurt, but then it’s chunky and chewy with bits of overcooked meat. You can taste every distinct flavour – mayo, vinegar, weird fake lime – but they don’t mesh well. They’re together but they’re not speaking. Two out of five stuffed olives.

Unsurprisingly, my human waste disposal of a boyfriend (I say that with love) thought it was pretty good. So good that he wouldn’t let me throw it out and ate the leftovers the next day. I can see it will be hard to find a retro recipe that’s so bad it fails The Finn Test, but dammit if we’re not going to try.