Category Archives: Retro recipes

Recipes from the 1970s

Pickles and chutney – lesson of 1972!

My school food budget of £50 is so small that I’ve asked for donations of spare fruits and vegetables for our preservation lessons. London gardens spill out their windfall apples and pears and we get plenty of beetroot and onions from the pickings of allotments. The keener students bring in blackberries and crab apples gathered in weekend forays round Epping Forest and from the derelict building sites around the area.

As the class shambles in, the tables are piled with boxes of apples in various stages of dilapidation. There is a large sack of very small onions.
They settle on their stools.
‘These lessons are about preserving things so that they will last longer. How are we going preserve these apples and onions so that they last over winter?’
Silence. They don’t care.
‘Come on, what shall we do with them?’
‘Put them on the compost heap, miss – them apples look rotten.’
Terry is good in the school garden so he should know.
He’s right – we need to remove the battered and bruised fruit but I must inspire thriftiness in this throwaway world.
‘We’re going to use the apples to make apple chutney and pickle those small onions in vinegar.’
It is clear from the grumbles and shuffling that they’d rather do scones like last week.
‘Hurry up – you have to make a choice! Apple chutney or pickled onions?’
They divide by sex. Girls choose chutney, boys the onions. This separation often happens. They are not choosing what they want to cook. The boys and girls just don’t want to work with each other.

On a school training day we were told to mix up boys and girls and make them sit next to each other and work in mixed sex pairs. That night I’d gone past the deer in the park. The female deer huddled together and the giant stags patrolled the boundaries. No one made them mix up. And when they chose to it was on their terms and only for a few seconds on special occasions.

In the classroom the girls cook in clean, organised workplaces and the boys create a messy nest of ingredients and cooking equipment which soon spills onto the floor and ends up being kicked under the tables.
Big boys preparing tiny onions make me laugh as they peel away the withered, brown skins, then top and tail the onions and put them in salted water. Gradually the tears flow.
‘What’s up Terry – does this lesson make you sad?’
Terry rubs his fists into his eyes. Now his whole face is pink and blubbery.
‘Class – don’t wipe your eyes with oniony hands – the juice gets in and makes the crying worse.’ They blink at me, their eyes reddened and bleary.


I should have warned them earlier but they never listen to instructions. And crying is such a cissie thing which would never happen to these tough guys.

‘Me nan peels her onions under water so she don’t cry.’

Bill dumps his onions in the butlers sink full of cold water. A stream of dribble runs from his nose, over his chin and plops down in the water. Pickled onions and snot – now how are we going to make that safe to eat?

Squeals come from the girls who are peeling and chopping the pile of windfall apples. Liz has chopped through a slug and its innards ooze onto the table.
‘Err miss – look at this slug – I ain’t using them apples – they’ll poison me.’
They gather in disgust to watch the slug shrivel in green slime. Liz pokes the slug with her knife and holds it up for the class to see and share their revulsion  at using this less than perfect fruit.
‘OK. Throw those apples away and clean down the work surface to remove the mess. We’re still going to use the rest.’
‘Miss, I ain’t eating food that has slugs in it.  Why do I have to do this lesson anyway?’

Liz unties her apron, slings it on the table and stomps out of the room.  This is her afternoon trick  to meet her boyfriend at the school gates. He might not find the smell of vinegar, onions and rotten apples so attractive this time. But Liz wants to make babies and thinks school, and my lessons in particular, are rubbish.

Apple chutney is a piquant compote of apples, onions and sultanas gently simmered in vinegar and brown sugar and the girls stir the spicy broth as it softens and thickens.
The boys pack their onions in hot kilner jars and pour in hot, spiced vinegar.
The fragrance of cooking wafts into the school corridors and attracts wandering staff and students who sniff the air and go Ah! like the Bisto ad.
Biff is a frequent visitor to my room. He gets sent out of most lessons to drift around the school in search of mischief and sources of entertainment.
‘Miss – this room always smells lovely – when can I do cooking with you – please let me in.’
‘One day – maybe – now get on your way. I expect the headmaster is waiting to see you.’
Steaming apple chutney is piled into jam jars, with a circle of waxed paper on top and covered with cellophane and an elastic band.
The labels on the jars are designed to impress for the highest marks.
Alice’s Amazing Apple Chutney 1973.
Paul’s Perfect Pickled Onions.
Maybe some are still maturing in a secret east end cupboard somewhere, waiting for discovery. And maybe, like Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce, they will become a mass produced delicacy found on future supermarket shelves.

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Filed under Boys cooking, Home Economics in 1970, Jenny Ridgwell, Retro recipes

Toad in the hole

Now we’ve made pancakes it’s onto Toad in the hole, a thrifty dish made from cheap pork sausages and pancake batter.  The batter  bakes to a crisp, golden crust encasing sizzling sausages. If you get the recipe wrong, the pudding becomes a gloopy, glutinous glob of indigestible dough that should be scraped into the bin, but is often served by people in the south with their roast dinners.

Growing up in the Midlands, Yorkshire pudding is a staple food. My mother served our family with Yorkshire pudding as a first course when we returned home from school. At sixteen I was sick of the sight of it.

‘Why do we have to have Yorkshire with salad? Please no more Yorkshire!’

Deeply offended, she stopped for a few days during the hot summer, but soon resumed her old habits. Yorkshire pudding was a cheap way to fill us up before our main meal. Our household didn’t do snacks so we were hungry when we sat down to eat. Yorkshire was served with gravy made from meat and vegetable juices and thickened with flour. Never Bisto for gravy. She’d been told it was coloured with caramel and didn’t want to encourage us to eat sugar. The meal was followed by stew or lamb chops in winter or ham salad in summer.

‘It’s very nutritious. I’ve used four eggs to make it.’

My mother knew about nutrition but she never enjoyed cooking. My father would take a huge slice of cold, left over Yorkshire for his lunch. He sat and ate it on a park bench below my posh Northampton school. One day I saw him as I walked  to a tennis lesson.

‘Look at that old tramp on the bench’ muttered my friend, Anna.

Wearing his old shabby raincoat, my father was eating his lunch from a battered metal sandwich tin. Beside him was a flask of tea. I did not wave as I passed in the distance, but quietly appreciated his thriftiness so I could benefit from this elite educational opportunity.

How to make a Yorkshire pudding is the great cook’s debate. My grandmother believed in the outside method and she would take her mixing bowl, eggs, flour, milk and salt and sit outside and beat them together with a large wooden spoon till the batter plopped. Grandma sat outside in sunshine, rain and freezing weather.

‘It’s the fresh air that makes it rise, you know.’

It was other things too. She had the best Be-ro flour , the finest Saxa salt, the freshest eggs and the creamiest Jersey milk. And a  large lump of tasty dripping which was melting in the roasting tin in the hot oven.

She poured the batter into the sizzling fat and closed the oven door. The Yorkshire puffed from the creamy batter to golden crispness and the oven door could not be opened until it was ready. We cut the Yorkshire into quarters and ate it hot from the oven with meaty gravy. A taste of childhood deliciousness.

My class is eager to get cooking.

‘Light the ovens, put a knob of lard in your roasting tin and pop it in the oven to heat up. It’s best to use dripping but the butcher didn’t have any.’

The boys exchange grins. They’ve already smirked about making Turd in the hole, but so far I’ve heard no mutterings about knobs and dripping.

I use my grandmother’s method of making Yorkshire pudding but we stay indoors. Wandering students beating their bowls of batter outside my room might raise alarms in the headmaster’s office.

Irene Finch, a progressive home economist with a passion for science, has been trying to introduce some science and comparative cooking into our teaching.

Which flour should we use? Plain, strong or self raising?

Which fat – dripping, lard or vegetable oil?

We don’t care about saturated fats. It’s the quality of the end result that matters. But the greatest debate is whether to make and bake the batter or leave it to stand. In London they seem to like the soggy dough, but I’m not teaching it this way.

For me it’s beat, bake and eat.

‘Sieve the flour and salt in the bowl and make a well in the middle then crack in the egg, add a little milk and beat with a WOODEN SPOON.’

I march round and check as the batter flip flops in the bowls.

‘Use an oven glove to take the roasting pan out. One mark lost if you don’t.’

Our oven gloves are thick woven cotton cloth with pockets for each hand. Years of use have worn away the edges and it’s easy to burn your fingers through the holes.

We put four bright pink sausages in the roasting tin, pour over the batter then it’s back in the oven with the doors tightly closed. There is always a scramble to be first and get your cooking on the top shelf as this means you can finish first too. Hot air rises and the top shelf cooks fast.

‘Don’t open the doors till I tell you!’

I crouch and peer through the glass oven doors to check on the baking and hold onto the back of my nylon overall so the tops of my tights don’t show. A passing member of staff might think the cooking teacher has left the room and been replaced by a moving pink hump.

Now we are ready. Out come pans of golden, crusty Toads waiting for their marks. Not a pale, solid, leaden, doughy southern pudding in sight. Grandma is right. Beat it, bake it and eat it. We sit down and share our lunch with some caramel coloured Bisto gravy.

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Filed under Cookery exams in the 1970s, Home Economics in 1970, Retro recipes

Apple crumble

Apple crumble

Serves 4

500 g Bramley cooking apples

50 g sugar for the apples

150 g granulated sugar for the crumble

300 g plain flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

150 g butter or margarine


  1. Heat the oven to 180°C / Gas mark 4.
  2. Cut the apples into quarters, take out the core and peel off the skin. Cut into smaller sections and place in an ovenproof dish with 50 g sugar.
  3. Place the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and cut in small chunks of butter or margarine.
  4. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then spoon the crumble over the apples.
  5. Bake in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes until the crumble is golden brown.
  6. Serve with custard or cream.

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Filed under Recipes, Retro recipes, Uncategorized

Stuffed eggs

This is the seventies recipe but you can liven it up with chilli sauce or curry powder which we didn’t use.

Makes 8 halves of stuffed eggs


4 eggs

Salad cream

Paprika pepper

Parsley sprigs

  1. Put the eggs in hot water in a saucepan , bring the water to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the eggs and put into very cold water to stop the yolks from turning black.
  3. When cool cut the eggs in half, lengthways and scoop out the yolk
  4. Mash the yolk with some salad cream and then with spoon or pipe back into the whites.
  5. To serve, sprinkle with a pinch of paprika and decorate with a sprig of parsley.

You can serve the eggs with silly fussy salad – tomato lilies, tassels of spring onions, radish roses and leaves of limp lettuce and of course, a jug of salad cream.

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Filed under Foods of the 1970s, Retro recipes

Angel Delight Tart

This is a real packet mix dessert which looks and tastes of the 1970s.


1 readymade pastry tart

1 packet Angel Delight – Butterscotch or Strawberry flavour

Milk to mix

Hundreds and thousands.


Prepare the Angel Delight according to packet instructions.

Spoon the mixture into the ready made pastry tart case which is on a frilly d’oyley.

When set, sprinkle with Hundreds and Thousands.

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Filed under Foods of the 1970s, Retro recipes, Uncategorized

Bread and butter pudding

For a modern pudding, melt the butter in the microwave.

Serves 4-6


4 large slices white bread with crusts removed (140g)

75 g butter or margarine

50 g caster sugar

60 g sultanas

3 eggs

450 ml full cream milk

freshly grated nutmeg


Set the oven to 190ºC / Gas 5.

Grease an ovenproof dish with the butter paper (or use a little oil) so that the pudding does not stick.

Spread the bread with the butter and cut each slice into four equal strips. Keep one and a half slices for the top of the pudding.

Save one teaspoon of sugar for the topping.  Place a layer of bread in the dish and sprinkle with caster sugar and sultanas. Add more bread and the remaining sugar and sultanas.

Arrange the remaining slices of bread neatly on top of the pudding with the butter side up.

Beat the eggs with the milk and pour into the dish.  Sprinkle the top with nutmeg and teaspoon of sugar.  If possible, leave to stand so that the bread absorbs the milk.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pudding is golden and the egg has set to a firm custard. You can test this by shaking the dish gently.

Serve warm or cold.

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Vegetarian cooking 1972

The 1970’s school cookery textbooks make strange, outrageous claims about vegetarian cooking, which I have to teach to get my classes to pass the exam.  At a time when large areas of the developing world eat a vegetarian diet, the books have odd things to say.

The Battersea College of Technology book of Cookery Recipes is one of our recipe books and sold for 3/6 – they haven’t accepted decimalisation yet.  Copies can ‘be obtained only from the secretary, Battersea College of Technology.’
Vegetarian recipes are suitable for ‘V.E.M.s – Vegetarians who include in their diet Eggs, Milk and milk products.’
This odd mnemonic is supposed to help us remember that vegetarians don’t eat meat.
It offers this advice for vegans:

  • ‘Replace milk with water in which vegetables have been cooked.’
  • ‘Replace cream with nut fat and butter with Nutter or Trex.’
  • Cheese must be replaced with Marmite and eggs left out altogether.

So there. That’s clear. When in doubt, leave it out.
Nut cutlets are my vegan recipe demonstration, made from chopped nuts and breadcrumbs, shaped into cutlets and deep fat fried.

If vegetarians don’t  eat meat, why have nuts shaped like an animal part? The fried, nutty bits are so unappetising that  even Bill, my food dustbin student, declines to taste.

O Level Cookery doesn’t help much on vegetarians either.

‘A vegetarian diet has limited choice and can be monotonous, bulky and unattractive.’
Well, to some people a bag of chips washed down with a can of cola unattractive too.
‘It is most difficult to supply protein as the protein in beans is of lower biological value so more must be eaten. This means the stomach is very full after each meal’.
Well good, isn’t that the point? Fill us up so we are not hungry?
‘This may lead to enlargements.’
Oh no! – enlargements of what?
And lastly
‘This vegetarian diet may be expensive.’
How so! Compared with rump steak or roast lamb? How much do they think a can of baked beans costs?
This textbook is written in 1971 and taught in cookery rooms throughout Britain, so how many children in our burgeoning multi ethnic society have to put up with this nonsense?

Cookery for Schools

Is Cookery for Schools more helpful on the textbook front? No.

  • ‘Meat and fish have distinctive flavours which stimulate the digestive juices and increase the appetite. In a vegetarian diet these flavours are sadly missing.’

Well, isn’t that the point! A vegetarian doesn’t want to eat meat of fish so they would hate these ‘distinctive meaty, fishy flavours’.

  • ‘Larger portions of vegetables should be served to vegetarians than to those eating a normal diet.’

So there we have it. Vegetarians aren’t normal, they must eat platefuls of vegetables which will fill them up and lead to enlargements. How am I going to teach that frippery?

At the end of the lesson, the class reads and answers the set questions in their exercise books.

Unfortunately the questions are as mad as the text – here’s the choice.

  1. Why are meatless dishes often unpopular?
  2. How can this be avoided?
  3. What are the difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian?

Here’s some answers that Cookery for Schools might expect from my kids:

  1. Meatless dishes are often unpopular because they don’t have any meat in them and me dad says he always has to have meat and two veg for his supper.
  2. Meatless dishes can be avoided by not eating them.
  3. The difficulties in arranging and preparing meals for a vegetarian are that you need lots and lots of beans and vegetables because they have to eat so many to get their protein and this can be expensive. And then they get really full and enlarged.

My class love to torment me with silly answers to my questions.
When I ask a test question ‘What are oats?’ Mick replies

‘Depends if you mean getting your oats, having your oats or porridge oats.’ I am careful with wording after that.

Changes in vegetarian cuisine are on the way. By the mid seventies, the financial downturn in the UK means thrifty cooking kicks in.  One day something big arrives on my desk. A bag of brown, dried bits that the sender suggests I use to make new, cheap high protein meals.  TVP has jumped into our food chain and the  company wants me to persuade the nation’s children that it is a delicious, cheap substitute for meat, which we can no longer afford.

My TVP lesson goes  like this.
‘This is called TVP – it stands for Textured Vegetable protein.’
I hold out a handful of dried, beige lumps which smell of damp cardboard. Next I pass a pudding bowl with larger, softer lumps.
‘I’ve soaked these chunks in water and now we are ready to make a meatless stew.’
Bill mutters first.
‘Looks like dried dog turds, miss’
‘Or bits of  old dishcloth.’ Len likes plain food that he can recognize. TVP is not plain.
‘Len this lesson is learning about vegetarians and we are going to cook something modern for them.’
They mumble and grumble and shuffle off to cook up some carrots and onions in a thick Bisto gravy.
‘Now we stir in the lumps of TVP.’
They pass round the bowl and spoon a pile of the soaked chunks into their saucepans.
I chivvy them along.
‘It’s very clever, this stuff. The soya  is extruded, texturised, then cut and dried into chunks. Come on class, what shall we call this new stew?’
‘Muck’ says Bill.
‘Brown muck’ adds Len.
They don’t want to eat it or take it home, and shamble out of the room clutching their out of date textbooks with the task of answering the impossible questions for homework.
That’s vegetarian cooking done for 1972.

History note

Vegetarian society

The Vegetarian Society was founded in 1847 and the first vegetarian hospital was opened in Ramsgate in 1846. It is amazing how little impact the society had on the things that were taught in school cookery lessons in the 1970s. The Vegetarian Society now has its own logo that goes on food labels and its extensive website ‘provides imaginative, creative and delicious vegetarian food.’

The Vegan Society

In 1944 a group of ‘non-dairy vegetarians’ formed a new society with a name to describe themselves – vegan derived from VEGetariAN. The Society wanted to show that ‘the use of animal products (such as meat, dairy, eggs, leather and wool) will be viewed as an inhumane and unsustainable practice from a much less enlightened age.’

Haldane Foods is one of the country’s oldest producers of meat and dairy-free produce. Some of their products are available under brands such as Realeat, Direct Foods and Granose which was established over 100 years ago, and some of its products were invented by a Dr John Harvey Kellogg.

Linda McCartney popularised a meat-free diet in Britain, published a guide to vegetarian cookery, ‘Linda McCartney’s Home Cooking’ in 1989, and launched her own range of ready-made vegetarian meals in 1991.


In the 1960s, there were fears that the world would run out of animal protein. In response to this, scientists set out to find an alternative protein source. The new protein was part of the fungi family and was called Mycoprotein after ‘myco’, the Greek for fungi.

TVP® – Textured Vegetable Protein – is a byproduct from soya beans, made after the production of soya oil. After World War 11 there was a huge demand for food, and sales of soya foods and soybean meal increased massively. In the 1930s the soybean meal had been used for animal feed, but by the 1940s it was ‘food grade’ and ready to use in soya products.

In the 1971 TVP was approved for the USA school lunch programme, and the product became an ingredient in many prepared foods, to reduce costs.

In 1973, in the UK, Cadbury’s launched Soya Choice which they claimed was ‘a roaring success’ because it was nutritious and half the price of meat. The UK economy was in a downturn, the price of meat had soared, so shoppers were looking at ways to reduce their food costs.

How is TVP made? When the oil has been removed from the soya beans, the remaining dough is cooked under pressure with steam and extruded. The extrusion technology changes the structure of the soy protein, resulting in a fibrous spongy matrix that is similar in texture to meat which is made into textured, dried granules, flakes and chunks. Add water and it swells up and is used as a meat replacer to extend dishes such as minced beef for pies and bolognaise.  It is low in cost, low in fat and relatively high in fibre as it is a plant food.

Today food producers around the world manufacture and sell extruded textured soy protein under a range of trade names, including soya meat. The modern versions come in many flavours including bacon, chicken, sausage, beef, ham and taco. One company website says that TVP can create some gas after eating, so maybe my early textbooks were true – a vegetarian diet can cause enlargements.

Today teaching about vegetarianism is a big topic in schools. Along with food allergies, e numbers and food labels, we have plenty of information and lots of delicious things to cook.

It is estimated that over 3 million people eat a vegetarian diet in the UK.

Brigid McKevith, Senior Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation

‘Some large studies have shown that vegetarians have a lower overall mortality rate than the general population. A high intake of plant foods is associated with a reduced risk of some cancers and several studies have found an increased risk of colorectal cancer amongst those with the highest intakes of meat and the lowest intakes of fibre. However, there is no evidence that being vegetarian confers a protective effect.’

Vegetarian society

Vegan society


Filed under Boys cooking, Jenny Ridgwell, Retro recipes, Vegetarian cookery