The early 1980s were when I first started cooking. Although the era had its fads, its roots were based firmly in classical training. I was in Paris at the time; three-star restaurants were still mainly to be found in France, but while London had a few grand restaurants, principally in hotels, the food was mainly simpler: well-loved classics, like the ones here.
It was a challenge for me to do these recipes, as it has been a while since I've tasted, let alone cooked them. But what's not to like about the deep golden crust of deliciously decadent chicken Kiev, oozing garlic butter as you bite into it? And what can beat sweet smoky bacon, nestled within savoury custard and sitting on the flaky, biscuit-like pastry of quiche Lorraine? Or the indulgence of trifle: sponge, custard, jelly and thickly whipped cream, all in one big bowl? I made the sponge, custard and jelly from scratch but all are widely available ready prepared, and all you need do is assemble it.
None of these dishes is particularly good for the waistline, but it was fun to cook – and eat – them again.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com
For the pastry
200g/7oz plain flour
125g/4oz unsalted butter, chilled
A pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
For the filling
8 slices of smoky bacon
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
700ml/22fl oz double cream
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Place the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse to the consistency of wet sand. Crack the whole egg through the funnel in the top, followed by the yolk. Continue to pulse and soon the pastry will turn into a ball. Stop the machine, gather the pastry dough, wrap in clingfilm, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then remove the pastry, place on a floured surface and roll it out until it is a wide circular disc an eighth of an inch thick. Using your rolling pin, scoop up the pastry and place it inside a 10-inch tart tin, pressing the pastry firmly into the sides using your thumb. Cut off any excess and prick the base all over with a fork. Return the lined tin to the fridge and chill for a further 30 minutes.
Slice the bacon into quarter-inch strips and fry in a dry frying pan until golden-brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Place the eggs and yolks into a mixing bowl, mix together, then pour over the cream and season. Stir once more and set aside while you blind-bake the pastry.
Remove the pastry from the fridge, line with greaseproof paper and weigh down with baking beans. When the oven is hot, place the case on the middle shelf and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the beans and paper. Return the shell to the oven and bake for five minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Scatter over the bacon and pour the cream mix on top. Place back in the oven for 15-20 minutes; the custard should be slightly puffed, but the centre very slightly wobbly. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1tbsp parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
4 large chicken breasts, skinned and boned
30g/11/4oz plain flour
1 egg, beaten
120g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, such as corn oil, for deep frying
The rind of one lemon, grated
Work together the butter, garlic and parsley, then season with a little salt and pepper. Place on a sheet of greaseproof paper, form into a roll and place in the fridge to chill. Remove the paper, cut into four pieces and place one on each piece of chicken; roll the chicken up, folding the ends in to enclose the butter, and secure with cocktail sticks. Now coat each piece in flour, then the beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Place in the fridge to chill. When chilled, heat the oil in a frying pan; when hot, carefully lower the breasts into the oil. Fry for 12 minutes each. Remove from the oil, drain well and serve at once while still piping hot. Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.
Serves 6 (from one big bowl/glass)
1 eight-inch sponge cake
Jam – enough to cover the sponges
150ml/5fl oz sherry
400ml/14fl oz custard
280ml/9fl oz whipped double cream
2tbsp toasted almonds, finely chopped
Cut the sponge in half and slice into 1-inch fingers. Spread them with jam and arrange in a glass dish. Pour over the sherry and leave to soak for half an hour. Pour over enough custard to form a generous layer. Continue layering until the custard and sponge fingers are finished. Spread over the whipped cream and sprinkle over the toasted almonds. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.