Minestrone soup

The retrokitchen is back, with a fancier, ad-free experience and its very own domain:


With Sydney in lockdown, I had to spend my money on something!


This is a fabulous recipe.  It’s packed full of goodness and should keep you healthy and slim (ish) during the winter months.


Let’s start with the ingredients.


1.  A few cloves of garlic:


2.  A medium brown onion:


3.  Bacon (you’ll have to visualise this one!).

4.  Crushed or diced tomatoes (I prefer diced but either is fine):

Crushed tomatoes

5.  Small or medium zucchini x 3:


6.  Red capsicum:


7.  Eggplant:


8.  Tomato paste:


9.  Four bean mix:


10.  Penne:


11.  Basil:


12.  Oregano:


13.  Beef stock:


14.  Shaved parmesan:


Now it’s time for some nifty knife work.

Step one – chop garlic:


Step two – chop onion:


Step three – cut bacon into squares / rectangles (or should that be cubes / cuboids? – forgive the imprecision – I did law because I loathed maths):


Step four – slice zucchini thickly (as with the casserole, large pieces are needed so it doesn’t turn to mush while cooking):


Step five – cut and slice capsicum roughly:


Step six – peel and cut eggplant into – you guessed it – squares / rectangles or cubes / cuboids:


Done!  Let’s get cooking!

Step one – in a deep pot, add a dash of oil, add garlic:


Step two – in quick succession, add onion:


Step three – promptly add bacon:


Step four – stir and cook bacon.  Cook until onion starts to soften (is that a verb?).  Unlike other recipes in the retrokitchen, do not allow onion to golden, let alone caramelise :


Step five – add tomatoes.  Fill tin with water and pour water into mixture:


Step six – add zucchini and stir:


Step seven – promptly add capsicum and stir:


Step eight – promptly add eggplant and stir:


Step nine – add pepper, salt, at least 500 ml of hot water (enough almost to cover mixture); then add tomato paste and stir:


Step ten – crumble beef stock in hands, add and stir:


Step eleven – add basil, oregano (and further pepper if desired):


Step twelve – cook for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step thirteen – rinse and strain four bean mix, add and stir:


Step fourteen – add more hot water, add penne and stir:


Step fifteen – cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step sixteen – grab a bowl, ladle soup (another imagined verb?) and top with the parmesan cheese.  Serve with your favourite red wine and bread rolls:





Beef casserole

Retrokitchen – after quite some delay – is upping the ante ever so slightly today.  This dish differs from the previous recipes at a number of levels.  First, it is seasonally specific, being far better enjoyed in  the colder months.  Second, it takes more time than the other recipes, ie well over an hour.  Lastly, it involves a wee bit of judgement, especially at the early stages.  Overall, then, it’s not quite the doddle that the Retrokitchen recipes have been to date.

Still, this beef casserole really isn’t that difficult.  Moreover, it is frightfully tasty.  Give it a go!

Let’s start with the ingredients.

A few cloves of garlic – not too dear, but try to buy Australian:


1 medium brown onion – again shouldn’t set you back too much:


1 kg diced chuck steak – about $20.00.  Don’t skimp and get anything else, even if you can’t find it at the supermarket and have to go to a butcher.  You need this cut of meet to survive the cooking process.  Other cuts won’t hold up.

Chuck steak.JPG

2 parsnips – a surprisingly exorbitant $4.00 – doesn’t anyone eat 1970s food anymore!

Turnip (2).JPG

3 carrots – a few shekels – sorry to be imprecise, old Mum did the walking frame work for the ingredients this week:

Carrots raw.JPG

Some celery sticks – a few more shekels, again old Mum’s shuffle for this one:

Celery raw.JPG

1 green capsicum – Mum said this cost about 1 shekel.  I know, I know  – I sound lazy.  To the extent it is a defence, I was on my feet in court:

Green capsicum.JPG

A cuppla cup mushrooms – yep, you guessed it, a few shekels:

Cup mushrooms.JPG

1 tin crushed tomatoes – I’ll guess $1.40 from the spag bol recipe.  Should still be right, give or take the odd flood or drought:

Crushed tomatoes.JPG

2 tbsp. tomato sauce – $1.50 per bottle – not even a recent act of God could affect that price:

Tomato ketchup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $3.30 per bottle – ditto on the price:

Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar – $2.20 per packet – can barely imagine a recipe without it!

Brown sugar

1 tsp All spice – $2.59 – as you know, I try to avoid house brands as my way of saving the country, but old Mum slipped this one in:


1 tbsp cornflour – $2.70 per packet – you add water to it, mix it into a paste and add it only if necessary – I may have got away without it this time!


Half a cup of sweet sherry – $9.00 a bottle.  Try not to drink it – I found out the hard way as a teenager:


Righto, let’s get cooking!

1.  Chop garlic:


2.  Chop onion:


3.  Chop parsnips into fairly sizeable pieces – too small and they’ll turn to mush in the casserole:


4.  Chop carrots also into fairly sizeable pieces:


5.  Chop celery into – again – fairly sizeable pieces:


6.  Chop capsicum into – you guessed it – fairly sizeable pieces:


7.  Slice mushrooms – not too finely:


8.  Place cooking oil in the bottom of a casserole pan and add garlic.  Cook until lightly browned:


9.   Add onion and cook until golden:


10.  Add steak one handful at a time.  Cook until outwardly brown.


11.  Move outwardly brown steak to the side and add another handful to the middle of the pan.  Repeat the process until your purchase is exhausted.  Make sure the juices from the beef don’t start to bubble up and stew the meat – this is the hard part of the recipe.  If all this sounds too stressful, feel free to remove the meat once browned and return it to the casserole pan once all the other meat has been browned:


12.  Add crushed tomatoes:


13.  Add 1-2 cups of water, 2 tbsp tomato sauce and 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (I’m sure, dear reader, you’re clever enough to notice that the photos below were taken on a later occasion – old Dad and I dropped the ball the first time round):



14.  Add 1 tsp Allspice:


15.  Add 1 tbspn brown sugar:


16.  Add pepper and salt:

Add pepper

17.   Add parsnips:

Add turnip

18.  Add carrot (again a substituted photograph):


19.  Add celery:

Add celery

20.  Add capsicum:

Add capsicum

21.  Add mushrooms:

Add mushrooms

22.  Add half a cup of sherry:

Add sherry

23.  Cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Serve with boiled potatoes:



Chicken cacciatore

This dish is such an oldie and so delicious.  The best part about it is that people will think it involves a modicum of effort.  But there’s a cheat at the heart of this recipe (which you needn’t reveal to your diners) which makes it one of the easiest recipes in the Retrokitchen.

It’s been a while since I posted and, looking at these photographs, old Dad and I are a bit out of practice.  One or two of the photos aren’t as slick as normal.  The main problem is that old Dad, old Mum and I are sober.

That’s right we’re doing dry July.  No hope of a cask of wine in this post.  We’re consuming a non-alcoholic staple of the 1970s – cordial:


This looks a bit posh for the 1970s.  But somehow I couldn’t persuade old Mum to drink bright red Cottee’s!

Ah well at least the food will be tasty.  The ingredients are easy.

1 clove garlic- $1.20 per bunch:


As you can see, this is a recycled photo with a different table cloth and 3 cloves of garlic, but you get the idea.

1 small brown onion- around $1.00:


This is another recycled photo showing a medium brown onion.  I have an over-active imagination today!

500 g breast stir fry chicken – $10.50 per packet:


A dozen cup mushrooms – say $3.00:


and, in addition:


Apologies for the two photographs – there was a bit of tension in the Retrokitchen today. It was politic not to ask for a restaged photograph of  the mushrooms.

Now for the slightly embarrassing secret ingredient – Continental Chicken Tonight Cacciatore sauce – $2.50 per jar:


No-one will ever guess – your meal will be too tasty to have come from a jar!

Fresh basil – no price for this as I pinched it from old Mum’s herb garden:


A dozen pitted kalamata olives – say $2.00:


Your preferred pasta – this one set me back $1.95:


Parmesan cheese – this load cost $3.25:


Now let’s get cooking!

Step 1 – chop garlic:


Step 2 – chop onion:


Step 3 – remove chicken strips from packet and slice each strip in half:


Step 4 – slice mushrooms:


Step 5 – slice olives:


Step 6 – pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into pan and heat:

Pouring oil

Step 7 – once oil is heated, place garlic in pan and cook until light brown:

Adding garlic

Step 8 – place onion in pan, stir and cook until golden:

Adding onion

Step 9 – place chicken in pan, stir and cook until light brown:


Step 10 – place mushrooms in pan, stir and cook until softened:


Step 11 – reduce heat, place secret sauce in pan and stir:


Step 12 – place basil in pan and stir:


Step 13 – place olives in pan:


Step 14 – cook pasta (you might actually start this before the chicken):


Step 15 – serve with parmesan in easy reach:


Step 16 – top with parmesan and wash down with cordial!


I’ll be back next week.  Old Dad, old Mum and I are going to have a celebration of the mid point of dry July – with cask wine and beef casserole.  It is truly delectable so be sure to check in to the Retrokitchen!













Apricot chicken

This dish is such a classic and shamefully easy.  It oozes 1970s appeal.  It’s as if not only 1970s interiors were orange – so was the food!  I wouldn’t call apricot chicken devastatingly handsome.  But it’s straightforward and surprisingly tasty.  The brats will gobble it down.

By now, I trust you know which ingredient I’ll be starting with:


Ah that’s better.  On to the rest of the ingredients.

3 large potatoes – $2.00

raw potatoes

100 g frozen peas – $2.00 for 500 g

peas packet

6 chicken thighs – $8.72


100 g dried apricots – $5.00 for a 200 g packet


1 tin apricot nectar – $2.00


1 sachet of French onion simmer soup – 95 cents


Now let’s get cooking!

Step 1 – preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.

Step 2 – Place chicken thighs in Pyrex dish side by side:


Step 3 – place apricots next to / in between thighs:


Step 4 – shake apricot nectar, open tin and pour into saucepan:


Step 5 – add soup mix to apricot nectar:


Step 6 – on high heat, bring mixture to boil while stirring.  Remove from heat just as mixture begins to thicken:


Step 7 – pour mixture over chicken and apricots.  Make sure the sauce covers the apricots, otherwise they will burn:


Step 8 – season with pepper:


Step 9 – and salt:


Step 10 – place in oven:


Step 11 – cook for 40 minutes.  At 20 minutes, briefly remove chicken from oven, stir sauce and turn over each chicken thigh.  At 10 minutes, again remove chicken from oven, stir sauce and re-turn over each chicken thigh to its original position.  Finally remove from oven:


Step 12 – while chicken is cooking, cook potatoes and peas:

boil peas and potatoes

Step 13 – mash potatoes, adding milk, butter, salt and pepper.  Then it’s time to eat, …..


Step 14 – …… drink and be merry:









Chilli con carne

I start to crave this recipe if I haven’t had it in a while.  It’s one of the cheapest and easiest in the Retro Kitchen but such a crowd pleaser.  People will think you can actually cook!  Kids gobble it down – although you may want to use less chilli when serving the little darlings.

Old Dad took the photos once again – the poor fellow was in a rush to catch a plane.  So he made me recycle a few of the photos from the spag bol recipe (admittedly there are some common steps).   Let’s hope he’s back safe and well for our next recipe – apricot chicken!

Anyhoo, to the task at hand.  We’ll start with the lifeblood of the Retro Kitchen:

Pour wine 1

And on to the ingredients:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil – as in the spag bol recipe, there’s no price.  Once again, I pinched it from old Mum

2-3 large cloves of garlic – $1.18 per bunch:


1 large brown onion – $1.59 each:


500 g extra lean beef mince – $8.00 per pack:


1.5 green capsicum – around $4 for 2:


140g tub tomato paste – $2.20 for 2 tubs:

Tomato paste

400 g tin red kidney beans – $1.96 per tin:

Red Kidney beans

420 g tin corn kernels – $1.95 per tin:

Corn kernels

0.5 tspn oregano – $2.30 per jar:


0.5 tspn chilli powder – $3.19 per jar:

Chilli Powder

4 bay leaves – $1.50 per packet:

Bay leaves

You’ll also need rice.  For some reason I forgot to get a photo of this – Old Dad was halfway to the airport by the time I remembered.  You’ll have to use your imagination for a while!

Now let’s get cooking!

Step 1 – crush garlic thoroughly:

Garlic crushed

Step 2 – chop onion finely:

Onion chopped

Step 3 – chop capsicum.  Again, I forgot to get a photo of this.  There’s a bit to the task as you want to avoid certain parts of the capsicum (eg the middle part with all the seeds for example).  I’ll have to get back to you when Old Dad comes home!

Step 4 – pour 3 tbsp oil in deep frying pan and put on medium-high heat.  You may recall from the spag bol my admonition that you’ll regret using any more:

Pouring oil

Step 5 – place garlic in oil:

Adding garlic

Step 6 – spread garlic out and cook until light brown (watch out – it happens quickly!):

Browning garlic

Step 7 – place onion in oil:

Adding onion

Step 8 – spread onion out and stir until it becomes soft and golden – perhaps a little more so than the photo below:

Browning onion

Step 9 – add mince:


Step 10 – the following is verbatim from the spag bol recipe – I just couldn’t seem to improve the words.

Once the mince is flat in the pan, start breaking it down into smaller pieces using your wooden spoon.  You want to avoid large lumps.  That said, you don’t want to pound it so fine that the meat won’t hold the flavours to come:


Step 11 – cook mince until brown:

Mince brown

Step 12: add capsicum and cook for a few minutes until it softens:

Add capsicum

Clever dicks will notice that this is a fresh shot not recycled from the spag bol post.

There are two main changes (apart from my clothes):

  • I’ve had my watch repaired (I got it for my 16th birthday – it’s ageing better than I am); and
  • I’ve gained weight – it’s from all this cooking.   The recipes aren’t fattening but cooking each three times for this blog may well be!

Step 13 – reduce heat.  Add tomato paste and stir:

Add tomato paste 2

Step 14 – add 2 cups of water and stir – again I missed a shot of this so I hope you can visualise it for yourselves.

Step 15 – add pepper and stir:

Add pepper

Step 16 – add salt and stir:

Add salt

Step 17 – rinse corn kernels with a strainer and add to pan:

Add corn

This shot is at a funny angle.  Maybe Old Dad got to the Yalumba when my back was turned.

Step 18 – rinse red kidney beans with a strainer and add to pan:

Add kidney beans

Isn’t it starting to look yummy!

Step 19 – add 0.5 tspn oregano and stir.  You may want to add a little more water if it’s starting to look too dry:

Add oregano

Step 20 – add 0.5 tspn chilli powder and stir:

Add chilli powder

Step 21 – add bay leaves, stir and simmer for a few minutes:

Add bay leaves

Step 22 – grub’s up, kids!

Ready to eat

Step 23 – return to a true bundle of joy:

Pour wine 3




Chicken in pastry with honey red sauce

I love this recipe.  It’s so darn easy and tastes great.  Also there’s something a bit magic about creating pies.  It’s the crisp, golden structure which makes people think you’re a genuinely talented cook.  Little do they know….

Let’s start with that long-standing drug – alcohol, in prime 1970s form:

old mum drinks 2

They’re not my hands, incidentally.  Old Mum got there before I did.  But don’t worry – I’ll get my own back.  She’ll be mashing the potatoes later.

And now to the ingredients – a bit more pricey than spag bol but still quite a steal!

3 sheets of puff pastry – $5.50 for 6 sheets:

pastry packet 2

Don’t be intimidated by the “serving suggestion” – your pies will look much better than that!

Chicken breasts – $12.14 for 867 grams:

chicken packet

I don’t know why I had to posh up with the chicken.  I prefer to do this recipe with 3 breasts totalling 800 grams, ie half a breast per pie.  For some reason, only the free range brigade offer a packet of this kind.  Fear not – the recipe is just as good with 600 grams of cut price, battery raised joy!

3/4 cup of stuffing mix – $2.45 per packet:

stuff mix packet

Fresh rosemary – 3 sprigs – can’t price this one I’m afraid.  I stole it from Old Mum’s herb garden:


4 dried apricots – $7.50 per packet:

apricots packet

1 x med brown onion – approx $0.50:

onion whole

2 tbsp honey – $4.00 per bottle:

honey jar

3 tbsp tomato ketchup – $1.50 per bottle:

Tomato ketchup

3 unwashed potatoes – approx $1.50:

raw potatoes

2 cups of frozen peas – $2.00 per packet:

peas packet

Now let’s get cooking!

I’ll be frank with you.  When you do this recipe for the first few times, it’s better to make the sauce initially and then proceed to the pies, peas and potatoes.  This is because the sauce involves a wee bit of timing and judgement.  Once you have it all down to a fine art, you’ll be able to do the sauce while the pies cook in the oven.

So, the sauce.

Step 1 – chop onion finely:

onion choppd

Step 2 – pour a small amount of olive oil into saucepan.  Put on high heat.  Place onion on top.  Cook onion, stirring regularly, until it softens:

place onion 2

Step 3 – add honey and stir:

spoon honey

The eagle eyed reader will notice I’m using a different jar from the twist and squeeze model shown above.  Old Mum wouldn’t let me use the new honey until the open jar was finished.  I guess it’s a wartime rationing thing.

Step 4 – add tomato sauce and stir:

spoon tom sauce

Step 5 – maintain on high heat, stirring near constantly as mixture comes to boil.  If it’s boiling over, reduce heat slightly.  Cook for at least 10 minutes until mixture becomes a fairly thick syrup:

reduce sauce 2

Step 6 – pour sauce into strainer, holding strainer over measuring jug.  Press onion down against the bottom of the strainer so that onion juices flow into jug:

strain onion

Step 7 – You’ll only be able to strain some of the onion at any one time.  So once you have squeezed out some of the onion, shift it aside.  Manoeuvre more onion into place at the bottom of the strainer and repeat. It takes a bit of initiative and dexterity (not my strong suits I’m afraid):

strain onion 2

Now, onto the pies!

Step 8 – chop rosemary finely:

rosemary chopped

Step 9 – chop apricots finely:

bowl apricots

Step 10 – place stuffing mix in bowl.  Add rosemary and apricots.  Add water and stir into a paste:

sutffing mix bowl

Put to one side.

Step 11 – Preheat oven to 180 degrees and thaw pastry.  Arrange three sheets side by side.  Cut each sheet in half:

cutting pastry

Step 12 – cut chicken into 6 portions (approx half a breast each).  Place each portion on its half sheet of pastry, close to the front, but leaving a 2 cm border on the nearest sides:

placing breast

Step 13 – place 1 spoon of mix on top of each portion of chicken.  Press down lightly:

pressing mix 8

Step 14 – add pepper to taste:

adding pepper

Step 15 – add salt to taste:

adding salt

Step 16 – fold pastry back over each portion of chicken / stuffing:

folding pastry

Step 17 – indent (or, if you prefer the term, corrugate) front and sides of each pie with a fork:

indent pastry

Step 18 – cut away a small amount of pastry (ie no more than 0.5 cm) from front and sides of each pie:

cut edges

Step 19 – use knife to cut front corners of each pie, leaving curved edges:

curved edges

Step 20 – pierce top of each pie 4 times with a fork:

perforate pie

Step 21 – spray an oven tray with olive oil:

spray pan

Step 22 – arrange pies on tray.  Place in oven for 40 minutes:

arrange pies 3

Step 23 – wash potatoes:

wash potatoes 3

Step 24 – peel potatoes:

peel potatoes 2.JPG

Step 25 – chop potatoes coarsely (ie into relatively large pieces – although feel free to swear while doing so):

chopped potatoes

Step 26 – boil potatoes and, a little later, boil peas:

boil peas and potatoes

Step 27 – Strain peas.  Strain potatoes, return to saucepan and mash.  Old Mum did this.  She adds milk, butter, salt and pepper.  It’s quite yummy.  If you go down that path, you add the extras after you mash and then stir.  It helps, while doing so, to return the mash to heat – otherwise the extras might make it cold.  I’ve condensed this to one photograph – I’m feeling hungry!

mash potatoes

Step 28 – remove pies from oven.  Aren’t they magnificent:

remove pies 3

Step 29 – serve each pie with mash and peas.  After reheating honey red sauce, pour over each pie.  Don’t drown the entire plate in the stuff, RSL gravy style:

ready 3

Step 30 – return to wine.  Unlike the spag bol, these pies won’t freeze well.  So enjoy for dinner the next night too.  There may even be some wine left!

old mum drinks 2

Spaghetti bolognese

I love this recipe.  I’ve had spag bol everywhere from takeaway joints to seemingly swish ristorantes.  I don’t recall anything as tasty as this.  Of course, it’s about as Italian as Domino’s, but a whole lot nicer.  I daresay it’s an English recipe from when old Mum was there in the 1960s.  Well, put it this way, I don’t think Worcestershire is on the Amalfi Coast.

To get you salivating, I recommend you enjoy this recipe with the following icon of 1970s wine culture:

Pour cask wine

But labour before gratification (on this occasion at least).  Here are the ingredients with an approximate price.  It looks more expensive than it really is.  Most of the list is reusable.  If you take out the stuff you can use again, you’ll feed a family for about $10!  And if, unlike me, you don’t try to defend the nation by avoiding house brands, it could be even cheaper!

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil – sorry, no price for this – I pinched it from old Mum.

2-3 large cloves of garlic – $1.18 per bunch:


1 large brown onion – $0.59 each:


500g beef mince – $6.96 per packet:

Mince beef

2 tbsp tomato ketchup – $1.50 per bottle:

Tomato ketchup

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $3.30 per bottle:

Worcestershire sauce

1 tin crushed tomatoes – $1.40 each (I guess it’s worth it for the smiles):

Crushed tomatoes

140g tub tomato paste – $2.20 for 2 tubs:

Tomato paste

1 heaped tbsp brown sugar – $2.20 per packet:

Brown sugar

0.5 tspn dried basil – $2.40 per jar:


0.5 tspn dried oregano – $2.30 per jar:


0.5 tspn dried cinnamon – $2.65 per jar:


0.5 tspn dried nutmeg – $3.15 per jar:


4 bay leaves – $1.50 per packet:

Bay leaves

And, lastly, your favourite pasta – around $1.70 per packet:


Now let’s get cooking!

Step 1 – crush garlic thoroughly:

Garlic crushed

Step 2 – chop onion finely:

Onion chopped

Step 3 – pour oil in deep frying pan and put on medium-high heat.  Avoid the temptation to use more than 3 tbsp – trust me – that’s plenty and you’ll regret any more:

Pouring oil

Step 4 – place garlic in oil:

Adding garlic

Step 5 – spread garlic out and cook until light brown (this can happen rather quickly so keep your eyes open):

Browning garlic

Step 6 – place onion in oil:

Adding onion

Step 7 – spread onion out and stir until it becomes soft and golden.  Old Mum says I haven’t yet mastered this step so by all means go further than I have below.  Even if you go way overboard and the onion starts to caramelise, it isn’t the end of the world:

Browning onion

Step 8 – add mince meat.  Some people find handling raw meat disgusting.  It always gives me a shudder of carnivorous pleasure like I’m one of the big cats about to enjoy my prize.  Whatever your emotional state, just get it into the pan:


Step 9 – once the mince is flat in the pan, start breaking it down into smaller pieces using your wooden spoon.  You want to avoid large lumps.  That said, you don’t want to pound it so fine that the meat won’t hold the flavours to come:


Step 10 – cook mince, using wooden spoon, until brown:

Mince brown

Step 11 – add crushed tomatoes.  Use a little bit of water to rinse out the tin, shake the tin (preferably covering the end with your hand) and pour that mixture in as well.  Stir:

Pour crushed tomatoes

Step 12 – add tomato paste.  As with the crushed tomatoes tin, rinse out the tub with a little bit of water and add that too:

Pour tomato paste

Step 13 – just when you were finding the technicolour red perturbing, lower the heat and add 2 tbsp tomato sauce.  Stir:

Pour ketchup

Step 14 – break into song with Land of Hope and Glory and add 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce.  Stir:

Pour Worcestershire sauce

Step 15 – add salt and pepper to taste – the following photograph shows pepper for illustrative purposes only. Old Mum advised me to shake the salt shaker and twist the pepper grinder for best results:

Add pepper

Step 16 – add 1 heaped tbsp brown sugar.  It’s weird, I know, but it’ll be worthwhile.  Add a bit of water and stir:

add brown sugar

Step 17 – arrange herbs and spices on dish (this avoids the risky business of holding an open jar over a pan).  That’s 0.5 tspn each of basil, oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg:

Herbs and spices

Step 18 – add herbs / spices, stirring and adding a little bit of water after each. Don’t overdo the water:

Insert herbs and spices

Step 19 – place 4 bay leaves and simmer for a good few minutes.  Keep an eye on moisture levels.  Add a bit more water if it looks like it’s beginning to stew:

Insert bay leaves.JPG

Step 20 – prepare pasta.  Locate pricey and sophisticated parmesan cheese:


That jar cost me $4.28.

Step 21 – serve to grateful and delighted family or guests (I’m told such people exist):

Ready to eat

Step 22 – revisit cask of wine ($12.99 for two litres):

Pour cask wine











Mum’s 40 recipes from the 1970s

  1.  Spaghetti bolognaise
  2. Chicken in pastry with honey red sauce
  3. Chilli con carne
  4. Apricot chicken
  5. Chicken cacciatore
  6. Beef stroganoff
  7. Cornish pasties
  8. Crepes
  9. Chicken ‘n’ cheese sauce
  10. Beef casserole
  11. Veal Marsala
  12. Veal paprika
  13. Carpet bag steak
  14. Beef Wellington
  15. Minestrone soup
  16. Sweet and sour pork
  17. Sultana curry
  18. Chicken curry with turmeric rice
  19. Chicken with curried apricot sauce
  20. Chicken schnitzel with stuffing mix
  21. Fish cakes with instant mashed potato
  22. Ham steaks
  23. Asparagus mornay on toast
  24. Lentil burgers
  25. Trifle with sherry
  26. Poached pears
  27. Spiced fruit
  28. Pineapple upside down cake
  29. Cherry chestnut puree cake
  30. Apple crumble
  31. Numbered birthday cake
  32. Honey joys
  33. Apple tarts
  34. Cucumber prawn nibblies
  35. Chicken balls
  36. Swedish meatballs
  37. Carrot mousse
  38. Spinach pie
  39. Chicken with pine nuts
  40. Asparagus with hollandaise sauce

Introducing Retro Kitchen

Ah the 1970s.  Do you miss those days?  Your Dad’s car had an AM radio and pungent vinyl seats.  He serviced the car himself in a huge back garden with a rag and a dipstick.  The engine was less complicated than a Dyson air purifier.

You went overseas twice in your childhood – once to Europe and once to Asia.  If you were dead posh, your car had a cassette player and you took a third trip – to Disneyland (which was in one place – the States).

All other holidays were domestic affairs – coastal caravans and regional road trips.  There was Austinmer, Terrigal and Warrnambool via Coonabarabran.  Then there was Barrington Tops, the Warrambungles and some sleepy joint called Brisbane run by two revered knights – Sir Joh and Sir Terence.

No wonder I sneer when kids of today complain they’ve only been to Koh Samui once this year.  Or that they have to go to the dated (ie post 1985) Port Douglas where, if they did but know it, they are more likely to run into Elvis than a crooked cop.  Sympathy only creeps in when I think of the traffic these kids (or, more precisely, their parents) have to deal with.

In the 1970s, peak hour lasted from 8.45 am to 9.00 am and from 4.55 to 5.15 pm.  Outside those times, your Mum let you play cricket in the street.  A fallen Knight, Sir John, was Governor-General and your parents maintained the rage every Friday over half a cask of Yalumba and a Tooheys or two.

People smoked EVERYWHERE  – including on rickety Leyland buses, where a conductor issued your ticket while the driver heave-hoed you from cheap and undesirable suburbs like Willoughby and Naremburn into town.  VIA CROW’S NEST.  That’s right.  Another shining knight, Sir Bob, was still wondering if New South Wales really needed the Warringah Freeway.

And now to the food!  Takeaway was fish and chips.  Maccas had recently opened with a Big Mac for 49 cents with a menu which explicitly clarified for us knockabout Aussies that French fries were “ie chips”.

Restaurant meals were a lavish affair.  There were three options, each of which would be exercised once a year.  The first was the local lawn bowls club.  The second was dining in at Pizza Hut, which was fully licensed.  The third was going to a Lebanese restaurant with a belly dancer in Surry Hills after which your parents would drive you through the Cross to look at the prostitutes (trust me – a LOT of people did this).

You didn’t care that you never ate out.  That was because your Mum had taken maternity leave when you were born in the form of TEN YEARS off work.    If you were a little bit posh, she would later go back to work after pulling you out of your local primary school due to overcrowding (ie classes of 15 plus)  to go to some elite institution charging a few thousand …. ANNUALLY.

During her ten plus years as a housewife, your Mum would serve fabulous meals on a nightly basis.  The ingredients were mostly out of cans, with meat from the local butcher.  They were bound together with a shower of jarred spices, Worcestershire sauce and Heinz Big Red.  You’d wash it down with a few pints of milk delivered in glass bottles that morning.

My Mum was a sensational cook.  She would sometimes host glamorous dinner parties, with true culinary achievements like fish soufflé, Dobosh Torte and paschka.   It was all amazing and took about a week to prepare.

I don’t remember that stuff well – the guests would get the posh nosh.  What I remember vividly is how DELICIOUS my Mum’s everyday meals were.  She was a vibrant mid-30s siren who made it all look so darn easy.  She simultaneously managed the school tuck shop and clothing pool while making innumerable cakes and crafts for the school fete.

Sadly, no girl I’ve dated has matched my Mum’s recipes.  Especially the girl who served up vegan kale cordon bleu (WTF?).  That’s okay – every time I’ve been dumped for a suspected Oedipus complex, Mum’s taken me in and served up all my old favourites.

But Mum’s not the person she once was.  These days I assist her to her feet and she uses her walking stick to get to the kitchen.  I then feed her meals on wheels.  At this point, Mum undergoes the most amazing transformation.  I stand her in front of the stove and muscle memory sets in.  For the next half hour, with her poor sight and arthritic fingers, she’ll whip up one of her delicious meals for me and my mates.  In that moment, Mum’s a divine 35 year old all over again.

Still, I’ve started to realise I’m being a bit selfish.  Mum might forget her recipes some day soon.  What will my mates do, if and when?  How will I cope if I realise too late I just had my last apricot chicken or carpet bag steak?  And shouldn’t the world know how FUCKING SENSATIONAL 1970s home cooking could be?

There’s only one answer.  I have to write a blog and deliver Mum’s recipes free of charge to the world (until the million dollar book and TV deal).  Even so, there are a few difficulties.  Mum has no written recipes and does everything by memory, intuition and judgement.  Also, I’m a very pedestrian cook and want the recipes to be open to someone similarly useless.

Lastly, each meal needs to serve at least 4, cost about $20, and be able to be frozen so you can enjoy them again on those nights you can’t be arsed.  Otherwise, you will head off to Maccas for a small cheeseburger meal (for a limited time, $3!!!).

The solution to these difficulties is preparation and presentation.  I’ll get Mum to cook each of her wonderful recipes.  I’ll take notes and then cook the dishes myself, perfecting quantities and method.

Then I’ll be ready for the gala performance.  I’ll cook the dish a third time, presenting the steps of the recipe as a photo essay.  Old Dad will take the photos.  He’s on a similar trajectory to old Mum.  But just like Mum in front of the stove, he’s reborn when you thrust a camera into his hands.  And, anyways, I’ll be the star!  I can hardly take my own photos now, can I?

I’m going to upload recipes every four weeks – pretty reasonable if you remember every one requires three separate sessions of cooking.  Each recipe will list ingredients and price.  Each step will be accompanied by photos any primate could apply.  And before too long – even if you may never get back to the ’70s – you can relive them every night at the dinner table.

Now crack open a cold one and drool on my next post – a list of Mum’s recipes from start to finish.  After that, we’ll be onto our first recipe – spaghetti bolognaise like Italy has never tasted it before!