Celery à la Grecque

Two weeks on and the memory still haunts me.IMG_1165

I’ll be in the kitchen chopping celery for a risotto, and suddenly get a  flashback to that nightmarish taste:  sour and mushy, intensely fishy, and just creamy enough to make you gag.

I think I may have been scarred for life.

Don’t get me wrong; I never expected that I could boil the shit out of celery in water, lemon juice and oil; then coat it in vinegary mayonnaise, anchovies and olives and actually enjoy the final product – I mean I’m not a miracle worker – but this was in a recipe book. It had a French name for christ’s sake. It should have at least been edible!

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Everybody thoroughly despised Celery à la Grecque, albeit for different reasons. Alister hated the anchovies, Sarah loathed the celery, for me it was just layers upon layers of sour, fishy misery. (Oh god, oh god I’m getting another flashback). I don’t think any of us managed to chew it more than twice before running to the sink.

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The words “this is the worst thing I’ve ever eaten” get thrown around a lot on this blog (funny that), but this time I really mean it.

Now can anyone recommend a good therapist?

Banana Candle

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I tried to make something else.

In all honesty, I flipped through all my other books – past whipped spam and curried ham and dishes with alarm-bell words like “surprise” in the title – looking for something that was not so… R rated.

But like a moth to a glacé cherry flame, I could not resist the pull of the mighty Banana Candle.

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Of all the recipes in Be Bold with Bananas, I would suggest that this one is the boldest. It’s hard to put my finger on why exactly, but there’s just something about the way the mayonnaise drips down from the shiny cherry head that shocks me to the core. I mean it really looks a lot like a candle.

The version that sister Rosie and I put together did not look quite as much like a candle as the one in the book, sadly. I thought a lot about why this was, and decided what we should have done was squirt the mayo on to the tip, then let that melt, over time, down the sides of the banana to give it a life-like glisten.

Nevertheless, the effect was not completely lost:

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Everything we’ve blogged so far has been of questionable edibility, but Banana Candles stand alone (or rather with the help of two pineapple rings) in that they were never intended to be eaten. They were destined to be table centerpieces and, I imagine, surefire conversation-starters at dinner parties:

“Say, is that a banana candle I see on the table?”
“Sure is, Granny Ethel – bet it’s a while since you’ve seen one like that!”

Although the BC is not technically classed as a food, this is a food blog (just), and so a taste test was going to be necessary. There was no way in hell Rosie or I were getting anywhere near that thing, but after much coercing and bribery and eventually threats regarding the future of his own banana candle, Finn took a bite.

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Afterward he looked slightly ashamed, then confused, before eventually declaring that it tasted “a bit salty.”

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!

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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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:

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

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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.

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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. 

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:

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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.

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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:

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OK so maybe there was.

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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.