Prawns in a Mould

From the Better Hostess Series Hors d’Oeuvres & Appetizers

Sarah and I have now tried to ‘cook’ (I use the word loosely) a few recipes from this book, and can safely conclude that it should be thrown back into the depths of hell whence it came. I would be intrigued to meet the author, the lovely Miss Elizabeth Price (should she even exist), because there are so, so many questions I would love to ask her. Above all else: “why?”

Prawns in a Mould. Oh Dear Lord, Prawns in a Mould. Where do we start?

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Let’s take a look at the ingredients shall we:

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Simple enough – just your everyday caramel/prawn/jelly combo, nothing too offensive there – now on to the recipe…

It’s safe to say it’s probably the easiest dish you could ever attempt (although I’m not sure why you would, after reading this), and you could probably substitute the prawns for any shellfish, meat, fruit or – let’s not forget what era we are in –  anything vaguely edible you find lying around your kitchen.

We read it several times thinking that surely there should be more steps. Weren’t we meant to sauté the prawns? Season the aspic? Or perhaps add some kind of flavouring other than fish stock?

Nope. That was definitely it.

Aesthetically stunning, it had been given every chance to succeed in life. The sounds of admiration were plentiful as we presented the dish to our loved ones, but the oooohs very quickly turned to arrrrghhhs as one by one, we tasted and fell down to Prawns in a Mould.

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The verdict:

Sarah: (After she gagged, ran to the laundry and spat all contents into the bin, slowly regained some colour and possibly consciousness, could only manage) oh……

Emma: After watching Sarah’s reaction and thinking she may have been “slightly overreacting”, I could only make it as far as the sink, where I ran cold water into my mouth for at least 15 minutes, trying to wash away the unspeakably horrendous taste.  Everything was wrong with it, but the fishy jelly (both texture and smell) was too much to bear. Even now, as I write this post, I have a look of disgust on my face, and  queasiness in my belly.*

Anthony: From the Kings of the Devil.

Alister: That’s exactly what I expect cat food to taste like.

Max: Even the prawn tasted funny. I may be turned off prawns for life.

Alex: I love it! Can I have it for dinner?! (Note: Alex is 8, and is currently undergoing tests for Ageusia).

*To be fair, we did not try Lizzy’s recommendation of eating it “with thinly sliced brown bread and butter”, because after the first bite we were Googling the fastest route to the Emergency Room to get our stomachs pumped. 

Note well, note very, very well: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AT HOME!

Banana Meatloaf

Have you wanted to experiment with bananas, but perhaps felt a little too shy? Does the thought of putting a banana inside anything other than a cake make you blush?

Well stop right now, because it’s time to take control.

It’s time to Be Bold With Bananas!

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This adventurous little book was produced especially for (surprise!) Banana Importers Ltd., Wellington, and contains lots of recipes for things that shouldn’t have bananas in them, with bananas in them. Things like Banana and Fish Salad, Banana Mince Paella and one genuinely obscene “table ornament” which I will make once we’ve gotten know eachother a little better.

What drew me to the Banana Meatloaf in particular was the presentation:

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Where is the banana you ask? It’s mashed in with the mince. And yes, that is a hard-boiled egg inside the meatloaf and yes, that is a lemon and pimento-stuffed olive garnish. Looks pretty fancy, hey? Bet you don’t think I could make one that good?

Well check this out, motherf***ers

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BOOM!

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OK so the mince is a bit lumpy and I didn’t cut it quite right, but it’s pretty close to the original eh? eh?

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Spot the difference

I was so chuffed with my handiwork that I didn’t want to eat it straight away. First I instagrammed it with the “1977” filter, then texted the picture to everybody on my contacts list, then just sort of sat back and reflected on what a great housewife I could have been if only I hadn’t been born in this godforsaken era of flat-leafed parsley and equality.

And then I tried it, and I can honestly tell you it tasted…. Fine. Like sweetish meatloaf that had been in the same lunchbox as a banana, but wrapped so tightly that you might have just been imagining the flavour infiltration.

Not convinced? Well just look at these pictures of Finn eating it. He is loving it:

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Thanks to my pal Jerry  – yes, of Jerry’s Celebrity Treasure Island fame – for sharing this beautiful book with me. Without it I might still be timidly putting my bananas into cakes, on top of cereal, or even just eating them raw. In other words, without it I might never have been BOLD!

Buffet Table Eggs

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

“Eggs make very satisfying hors d’oeuvres, especially when served cold for summer buffets”

This post is mostly going to be pictures, not because there’s not much to say or because I am a bit slack, but because the pictures are AWESOME.  They say pictures speak a thousand words and these truly do (although a lot of the words would be swearing or synonyms for “absolutely revolting”).

The uninitiated among us were initially confused about the name “Buffet table eggs”, but from what we can gather this is just what eggs are called when they are served on a buffet table.

There were six different varieties available and the idea was to present them, as fancily decorated as possible, nestled in beds of alfalfa. Just like this:

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We dove in with now-familiar misguided enthusiasm, and decided to make all six, briefly faltered when we discovered we were missing shrimps, recovered and skipped one. And then there were five.

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I warned you there would be lots of pictures, so let’s skip the mixing, swearing, apprehension, piping and painstakingly cutting to show you the end result:

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I told you it was awesome.

The first cab off the rank was the cleverly named “Variation 2”. This involved taking a hard-boiled egg, cutting the top off, scooping out the inside and mixing that with pate, cream and brandy, then stuffing it back in again.  The end result was perched jauntily on top of a cut orange, with mayonnaise piped in around the edges and a little spiky hat on top, like so:

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We followed that up in quick succession with…

Stuffed eggs on top of a little tail made out of gerkins:

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A boiled tomato stuffed with (you guessed it) eggs, mixed with cream cheese and cream:

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Egg on puff pastry with a pretty necklace of peas*:

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Split eggs piped with parmesan, mustard, cream and egg filling:

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I honestly think we could have continued on all night with various combinations of egg, piping, pinking shears and mayonnaise, and probably would have done if we hadn’t run out of eggs.

Finally, we proudly stepped back from our masterpiece and it was time to taste it.

Bridget – tastes like crap. They all taste the same, some are more offensive than others.

Alister – the parsley is pretty good. I still don’t understand why that egg is in an orange.

Anthony – tastes weirdly like a dessert.

Sarah – the worst was the pate filled egg and unfortunately that was the one we all tasted first.  Each ingredient individually was probably nice but then mixed together (and upside down in an orange) they tasted like sick. Well, sick in an orange. The others were sort of ok but the pate one had unfortunately put me off eggs.

* I personally hate peas more than anything in the world, even racist taxi drivers, so for me this was by far the worst, and it represented a personal achievement that I allowed the peas in my house.

Jellied Gazpacho

From Australian Women’s Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook No 2, 1970’s

“Take a new look at entertaining and delight your friends with your new found cookery skills”

The Better Hostess Series: Hors d’Oeuvres & Appetisers

Enough said! The time was ripe to delight my friends with some gazpacho. And not just any old gazpacho… One that was strong but flexible, stable but giving, manly but just a little bit wobbly… That’s right, I’m talking about jellied gazpacho! And better still, I was going to take that sucker, turn it upside down and serve it in an avocado.

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So far I’ve  found it surprisingly hard to find the bog standard stuff that retro recipes call for.  Take tomatoes for example.  At Woolworths they had vine ripened tomatoes, truss tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes and lots of little tomato varieties, but there were none just labelled “plain”.  Eventually I settled for the optimistically-named “gourmet tomatoes”.

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10 maraschino cherries and a decoratively sliced gerkin to anyone who can explain why these are gourmet.

While making the gazpacho I couldn’t help but recall The Castle.

“Whatya call this love?”
“Gazpacho.”
“Yeah but it’s what you’ve done with it”
“Scooped it into an avocado.”

Ta da!

Looks like everybody’s kicked a goal!

Sadly, there were no Dale Kerrigans at the table. Here are the verdicts:

Bridget – not that bad, kind of like salsa. 2 and a half out of 5 radish flowers.

Al – yeah, like bad salsa. 1 out of 5 radish flowers.

Anthony – is it supposed to have that weird aftertaste? 1 out of 5 radish flowers.

Sarah – like cold jellied watery tomato soup. 2 out of 5 radish flowers.

Note: The weird thing  is that although no-one else went back for a second spoonful, the kids ate the rest of it. Clearly their standards have been lowered by all this retro food-testing.

Rainbow Seafood Casserole

Have you ever thought of setting noodles in a ring mould? Turning chicken into mousse? Putting potato chips atop a fish casserole?

No, nor have I. But some adventurous women did, and we have them to thank for the national treasure that is The New Zealand Radio and Television Cookbook, 1974.

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This delightful cookbook contains family favourites, sent in to Dame Alison Holst  by “farmers wives and city women” from all over the country.  It’s an eclectic collection to say the least. The Asian and Polynesian section is quite ahead of it’s time (think soy and pineapple-based dishes with names like “Ming Ling”), and then there’s lots of practical, child-friendly stuff like this:

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It’s a clever guise, see? Trick the kids into eating tinned fish swimming in powdered chicken soup layered with corn, peas and tomatoes by hiding it all under potato chips. It’s genius! We had to make it!

I don’t need to really describe the cooking process (layered, baked), so instead let’s talk about food styling in this book. It is amazing. I especially like the photographs at the beginning of each section, which illustrate very clearly what lies ahead:

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Dead fish = Seafood

I refrained from posting the “Poultry” photo on here, which is just hunks of raw chicken on a chopping board.

With the recipes pictures they really went to town, often creating themed still lifes with candles, velvet backdrops and again, the raw ingredients. Me and Olivia were short on casserole-related props, but we did our best to emulate the style:

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I’ll be honest and admit I was quite looking forward to eating this. It was dinnertime, I was hungry, and potato chips scattered in melted cheese is my idea of a good time. Besides, none of the ingredients were overly offensive by themselves… How bad could they be combined?

Pretty bad, it turned out. Here are the verdicts:

Alice: Wow. Much, much worse than I was anticipating. The fish is so fishy, like cat food, and instead of the creamy white sauce that this needs, there’s just this limp chicken soup liquid that does nothing except make the chips soggy. I was expecting a poor man’s fish pie, but it was more like a very depressed  man’s fish pie. Only someone who wears trackpants outside the house and has completely given up on life would enjoy this. That said, it’s better than the cucumber soup.

Olivia: *gagging noises* I can’t. I can’t eat this. *spits*

Even Finn,who once ate an entire bag of chrysalises, could not have more than a mouthful. “There’s no point”, he said. “There’s just nothing of value in there.”

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