Belfast Telegraph

Smash hit foods of the past are back for second helpings

Local celebs tell Kerry McKittrick about the retro grub that takes them back to their childhoods

It's not just vintage fashion that's going through a revival at the moment; our food favourites from bygone decades are finally coming back into style. Old classics from the Seventies and Eighties, such as prawn cocktail, meatloaf and Chicken Maryland are reappearing on restaurant menus, food blogs and supermarket aisles after years of absence.

Earlier this year, Marks & Spencer launched its Tastes of the British Isles range, including corned beef and pickle sandwiches, fidget pie and Swiss rolls.

One London restaurant, Retro Feasts, has jumped on board the old classics bandwagon, offering diners a modern twist to dishes like Eton Mess, while the Gilbert Scott restaurant in London's St Pancras has launched a cookery book with chef Marcus Wareing, reinventing firm favourites, such as Mrs Beeton's barbecue chicken.

Many of us have fond memories of what we ate in our childhood years, from Beef Wellington to Baked Alaska. And while celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal might create new, deconstructed versions of old classics, sometimes you just can't compete with the original.

We talk to six local celebrities about their foodie favourites from yesteryear - and those they found hard to stomach.

Paula McIntyre (48) is a broadcaster and food writer and lives in Portstewart. She says:

The worst thing I can remember were the big heavy sauces that used to cover everything in the Eighties. Going to a restaurant when I was younger and ordering fish meant you would be served something like Cod Mornay, that would have been baked under a very rich cheese sauce. Therefore, it masked any kind of flavour from the fish.

Looking back, the food in the Seventies and Eighties was so boring. I remember egg mayonnaise on the menu and that was just half an egg with a dollop of mayonnaise.

Then you had freshly squeezed orange juice for a starter, a fan of melon or half a grapefruit with a glace cherry on top.

Another aspect of dining out, was that few eateries made fresh soup - it would have been something out of a packet or a tin.

The mindset then was that instant food showed you had money and could afford these modern conveniences.

We had gone from an essentially vegetarian, post-war diet to one where the emphasis was on ready-to-eat foods; I think it was the novelty of being able to create something quickly. I can still remember trifle that came in a box - all the ingredients were powdered, from the custard to the cream.

One of my favourites when I was young was Chicken Maryland; chicken, a slice of gammon, a banana fritter and sweetcorn, all battered. I'm sure you could get it now, but it would be a modern, healthy take on a classic.

My favourite dessert was Arctic Roll - ice cream rolled in cake. It was delicious and I would like to see that come back."

Julian Simmons (63) is a UTV presenter and lives in Belfast. He says:

When I was younger my mother was always going to coffee mornings in Anderson & McAuley or Robinson & Cleaver, and when she came home she would always bring me something called a Five Boys bar. It was milk chocolate and had a boy's face etched into each section of the bar. I used to go for lunch on a Friday to Anderson & McAuley's restaurant and I can remember their tomato soup was beautiful; it was the best I ever had, apart from my mother's. It was the kind of restaurant that had a cash box - a cage where the cashier would sit.

I remember Smash and Spam, but I didn't like either of them at all.

I preferred ham or turkey in a sandwich. I'm not really one for processed foods, so I never liked anything that came out of a packet.

I do remember being off school because I was ill and I was given a "bird's nest" - it was creamed mashed potato with a poached egg in the middle. It was covered in cheese and grilled so the whole thing melted together. It was pure ecstasy."

Tracey Rodgers (48) is the director of the Style Academy model agency. She lives in Belfast with her husband Stefan. She says:

My dad was captain of the local golf club, so we were always dining out there. There was always a fan of melon with a glace cherry on top or one on half a grapefruit slice. For main course we had Chicken Maryland - everything seemed to be dipped in batter. It was never very eventful.

We didn't have Smash at home - I only tasted it once and hated it. I remember my mum making a surprise supper for me and my sister every now and then, and that always included Creamola Foam. We had a Soda Stream, too.

For dessert, we would often had Instant Whip - it was like Angel Delight, you just added milk to powder, to create a kind of mousse.

We had dessert every night, either cake and custard or Instant Whip, which I blame for my sweet tooth.

Everything was so unhealthy back then - I really watch what I eat now, so I wouldn't eat any of that stuff again.

I'd drink Creamola Foam, though, that would bring me straight back to being about 11 or 12."

Noel Thompson (59), a broadcaster, lives in Belfast with his wife Sharon. They've two sons. He says:

At about 16, I remember taking my now wife out for dinner to a hotel on the Upper Newtownards Road. We had prawn cocktail and Chicken Maryland and we thought we were so sophisticated.

I remember the days of Spam and Smash. My mum was a very good and traditional cook, but when I was about 10, Vesta Curry came out.

These were powdered things that you added water to, and mum used to serve it with dried coconut and sliced banana. That was high-living in those days, but I can't remember actually liking it.

I would like to try Chicken Maryland again, but the pineapple would need to be fresh, not tinned, preferably cooked in a lovely light Japanese Tempura batter.

However, if I was going to bring something back then it would be Creamola Foam. The thing to do when we were at school was to get a jar and lick the inside of the lid. We then shook the jar and licked off the raw powder that stuck to the lid - that gave us a real sugar rush."

Marcus Hunter-Neill (32) is a radio presenter and drag artist and lives in Bangor. He says:

I have very fond memories of Findus Crispy Pancakes - they were filled savoury pancakes covered in breadcrumbs that you popped in the oven.

We used to go to the Bryansburn Inn in Bangor most Sundays, where there was a carvery. They served a diced slice of melon - which I always had. I do remember pinching the egg mayonnaise from the buffet table and the profiteroles for dessert.

I wasn't allowed Angel Delight or sweets. I was allergic to E numbers - my brother and sister had plenty, but when I came along they were banned as they made me hyper.

I remember my mum buying me Alphabetti Spaghetti - I'm dyslexic and she was trying to help me spell, bless her. It didn't work, I just ate them.

I remember using a Soda Stream in a friend's house and it exploded all over the kitchen, but my all-time favourite was Creamola Foam. It was a treat I got when I went to visit my granny and, of course, it made me hyper, so I was running all around her house."

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