I grew up in a city and during a time when people didn’t really eat takeaway food. The word ‘takeaway’ wasn’t in anyone’s vernacular, probably because takeaway outlets were rare or non-existent. Home cooked food was all anyone knew and that was eaten every night except for that very rare occasion when you might be taken to a restaurant for a special treat and that special day probably only came about once a year.
But the exception were Fridays because Fridays were different.
You couldn’t eat meat on a Friday. I don’t know why but the Catholics had plenty to do with it; something to do with Jesus being crucified on a Friday. So as meat was off the menu, fish was served. But for some reason, many Catholic mothers thought that if they couldn’t cook meat, they may as well not cook at all. So on Friday nights the Catholics would head to the nearest ‘fish n chip’ shop where the queues for a meatless meal would run the length of the street.
I wasn’t brought up Catholic and my mother would say, ‘Anything cooked in oil is bad for you’, so we were never part of those Friday night queues. But that’s not to say I grew up without greasy, fried foods, because my parents used to travel a lot and while away I would be farmed out to stay at my friend’s house were things were different.
My friend’s family wasn’t Catholic either but they still had a weekly tradition of buying fish and chips only they went on Thursday nights so they didn’t have to queue with all the Catholics.
I used to love Thursday night’s at Judith’s house. Her father would drive home from work and as soon as we heard the car coming up the drive we’d run out and he’d drive us to the ‘fish n chip’ shop so we could order all the food that was bad for us. On the way there we would tell her father what we wanted and he would try to memorise all the orders. Fish and chips was the most requested but I would ask for chips with three potato scallops and a ‘battered sav’. (Can’t believe I used to like ‘battered savs’!) We would stand at the counter watching the process of every item on the menu taking it’s turn in the oil bath before being tossed in copious salt and if you were a chip, showered in vinegar. Every order was wrapped individually in newspaper with a tiny hole torn in the corner to release the steam.
We’d get back into the car with our newspaper packages resting on our knees and the heat searing through the paper would be enough to give you a burn.
Back at Judith’s house, ‘fish n chip’ night was also casual dining night so instead of sitting up at the dining room table we could eat on the sofas in the family room. We’d all sit there with our opened parcels on our burning legs, passing around the sauce container that was a red plastic tomato with a green top that squirted sauce. (I used to wish we had one of those plastic tomato sauce containers at our house!) And we’d munch on our chips and watch TV while the room became overpowered by the smell of warmed, moist newsprint and vinegar.
After the fish n chips there was no dessert. Desserts weren’t on offer at Judith’s house. (Her mother was certainly no cook). That was the one downside of being at Judith’s house but I have to say, the joy and rare treat of greasy food pretty much made up for it.
Back at my house desserts were always on offer and considered as important as the main ‘non-greasy’ course. A bit of chocolate was always welcome and on Boxing Day my cousin, Pippa made this amazing Rocky Road that was gobbled up with not a crumb to spare. I had some requests to share the recipe so thought that this would be the perfect occasion (if you can overlook the fact it’s hardly related) to share with you.
Apricot and Pistachio Rocky Road
Degree of Difficulty: 1/5
Cost: I used good quality chocolate and with the nuts, this is not inexpensive but definitely worth it!
- 400g dark cooking chocolate
- 390gm can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 2 tspns vanilla extract
- 150g chopped dried apricots
- 200g pistachio nuts (I had only 100gm so added 100gm slivered almonds, toasted)
Place chocolate and sweetened condensed milk into a heatproof bowl and place in microwave for 4 mins on high (or less if you have a powerful beast). Stir in icing sugar and vanilla extract. Blend in remaining ingredients.
Pour into a 20cm (8 inch) square tin lined with baking paper. Place in the fridge to harden then cut into squares and try to stop at one.