Food & wine

A taste of history: 1974-2024

Steve Farrow and Amy Matthews, self-confessed culinary obsessives, look back over the past 50 years in food, 1974-2024. They select three recipes showcasing ingredients and dishes that have emerged as modern classics, with Sarah Knowles MW picking wines to match.

Steve Farrow 

As I get older, memories of food trigger nostalgia more and more. I grew up very well fed; my mum’s traditional repertoire kept us so satisfied that fashionable stuff like vol-au-vents and nouvelle cuisine slipped incognito past our kitchen door for a long time.  

Adventurousness for us took the form of spag bol, chilli con carne, Chicken Kyivs (I loved them), and the unutterable loveliness of lemon meringue pie. I remember, too, eating a kiwi fruit for the first time with enormous curiosity.  

I recall the arrival of a Chinese takeaway in our hometown and the ‘Indian’ that eventually saved me from Vesta curries. Such delights were supplemented by TV-advertised ‘treats’ like Heinz Toast Toppers and Findus French Bread Pizzas, both served hotter than magma – but not Smash ‘mash’, Mum drew the line there. And beefburgers morphed into hamburgers beneath the famous golden arches, succeeding the Wimpy bar in my childish affections. 

Later, in mid-1980s’ London, you could sense the stirrings of an artisanal food movement (Neal’s Yard Dairy opened its doors and our eyes to new and long-neglected British and Irish cheeses) while nouvelle cuisine and its emphasis on the freshest top-quality ingredients faded in and out, and TV cheffery seemed to expand and the BBC launched Food & Drink with Chris Kelly, the first non-recipe-led food programme. A new culinary landscape was on the horizon. 

Amy Matthews 

Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson taught me to cook. Not in person, of course, but from the pages of their books. Taking over from where Elizabeth David and Julia Child left off, this era of food writers captured our culinary imaginations. By the time I was getting keen in the kitchen, Delia Smith and Mary Berry were bringing simple and tasty home cooking to millions, Fergus Henderson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall were encouraging us to embrace the nose-to-tail approach to eating animals, and Yotam  Ottolenghi was introducing the likes of za’atar and pomegranate molasses to the average kitchen cupboard. 

Outside the home, the past 50 years in UK restaurants has been an equally exciting ride. The nouvelle cuisine of the ‘80s passed me by but, growing up in the Balti Triangle of Birmingham, I followed the UK explosion of world flavours eagerly, falling fast for Szechuan, Iranian and Keralan dishes at local restaurants when I moved down to London. I saw the technical wizardry of Heston Blumenthal and Nuno Mendes emerge alongside a resurgence of old-fashioned comfort food – fish pie at J Sheekey and mince on toast at Dean Street Townhouse. We happily queued for Russell Norman’s trend-setting establishments with no reservations and small plates, and dined heartily at gastropubs, now with a typical menu of slow-cooked lamb shanks and gourmet burgers rather than a lonely packet of crisps. 

Now with a young family, I’m no longer eating out at the hot new restaurants, but my cookbook shelves are fuller than ever, ready to pass on the love of food to the next generation. 


Mango and avocado salad 

Serves 4 as a starter

Avocado and mango salad

Who would have thought a small, dark-green, gnarly-skinned fruit masquerading as a vegetable would be one of the most talked-about foods of this entire 50-year period? It’s gone from retro dinner-party starter of the 1970s to the 21st century’s most ubiquitous ‘hipster’ ingredient, and a stalwart of the new normalisation of vegan diets. This recipe is an homage to the late Bill Granger, who brought Australian sunshine to the UK with his fresh, zesty style of food through his books and restaurants. - Amy 

Salad ingredients 
1 mango 
1 avocado 
½ large cucumber

Dressing ingredients 
1 spring onion  
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped finely 
1 fresh red chilli, chopped finely 
2 tsp caster sugar 
2 tbsp fresh lime juice 
1 tbsp sesame oil


  1. Peel, stone and chop the mango and avocado into rough 2cm chunks, and chop the cucumber into 2cm chunks. 
  2. Split the spring onion down the centre and chop finely, discarding the upper green leaves. Mix together with all the dressing ingredients, and leave to sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Combine the salad with the dressing and serve. This makes a great starter, or the perfect side to barbecued meats or fish.

Chicken Kyiv

Serves 4 

Chicken Kyiv

When Marks and Spencer launched pre-prepared Chicken Kyiv (then spelt Kiev) in 1979, I was in heaven. Gorgeously golden and crunchy outside, succulent within, and full of a mysterious pale-gold liquid that was something called garlic butter, Kyivs were (and remain) a perfect parcel of 70s’ delight. Warm and comforting in winter with creamy mash, they’re equally at home with boiled new potatoes and a green salad in the summer months. - Steve 


75g unsalted butter, slightly softened 
6 tbsp parsley, finely chopped (tarragon is a delicious, if inauthentic, alternative) 
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
4 skinless free-range chicken breasts 
80g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper 
2 large free-range eggs, beaten 
85g dried or panko breadcrumbs (I like panko for the lovely crunch they offer) 
Vegetable oil for frying (it works better than olive oil, but use a light version of the latter if you prefer) 


  1. Heat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan/gas mark 5). Mix the butter, parsley (or tarragon) and garlic with a little salt and ground black pepper until well combined. Spoon the herb butter onto a sheet of cling film or baking paper and roll up to make a fat sausage shape. Refrigerate overnight or freeze for 20 minutes. 
  2. Lay a sheet of clingfilm big enough for all the fillets on a board or flat surface. Using a rolling pin, or something similarly heavy, beat the chicken breasts as thin as you can without tearing them – between 5mm and 1cm is ideal. 
  3. Cut the roll of butter into thin discs and divide these between the flattened chicken, in the middle of each breast. Fold the long sides of the breast over to enclose the butter, then fold the shorter ends over the first folds, making a parcel with none of the butter showing. 
  4. Gently flip the parcels and place them onto a tray, cover them with clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge for an hour to firm up. 
  5. Take three bowls or dishes big enough to accommodate the chicken breasts. Put the seasoned flour into the first, the two beaten eggs into the second, and the breadcrumbs into the third. 
  6. Remove the chicken parcels from the fridge. Coat each one well in the flour, making sure to (gently) shake off any excess. Then bathe the parcel in the beaten egg and roll them in the breadcrumbs. Make sure the parcels are well covered in crumbs but don’t be afraid to repeat the egg and breadcrumb process to cover any gaps. 
  7. Pour the oil in a heavy frying pan to a depth of about 2cm and put on the hob over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, lay the Kyivs carefully into the pan with the folds underneath. Fry for four or five minutes (you might need to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan), carefully turning the parcels to get them an even, golden brown. 
  8. Lift the Kyivs on to a baking sheet and place in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. If they look like they’re turning too dark too quickly, cover them loosely with a sheet of tin foil. Remove from the oven and serve after a brief rest.

Banoffee pie 

Serves 8-10, depending on size of slice 

Bannoffee pie

When I was a child, I was allowed to choose a meal for my birthday that my mum would cook – Banoffee pie made the cut for pudding nearly every year. The dish originated in a Sussex restaurant in the 1970s but this is the recipe my mum uses. Just don’t follow her example of accidentally leaving a tin of condensed milk in a casserole of water in the oven overnight and coming downstairs in the morning to find the can had exploded, smashed the pan, blown the oven door open – and covered the entire kitchen with a layer of oozing, sticky caramel. - Amy 


225g digestive biscuits 
100g butter, melted 
1x 397g tin of ready-made caramel, or 1x 397g tin of condensed milk 
3 bananas, sliced ½ cm thick 
½ tsp instant coffee 
300ml double cream  
1 tbsp caster sugar 
Dark chocolate – optional 


  1. Place the biscuits in a sandwich bag or wrap in a clean tea towel, and bash with a rolling pin until they’re sandy crumbs. You can also blitz in a food processor.
  2. Stir the melted butter into the biscuits, and press the mixture onto the base and up the walls of a 20cm diameter flan tin. Chill in the fridge or freezer until the base is solid.
  3. Use a tin of ready-made caramel or boil a tin of condensed milk for two hours (make sure it’s covered by at least two inches of water at all times) then let it cool. Spread the caramel into the biscuit base, and cover with the sliced bananas.
  4. Mix the instant coffee with a teaspoon of warm water and let it cool. Whip the cream, caster sugar and cooled coffee until it forms soft peaks, then spread on top of the pie. Finish with a scattering of grated chocolate.
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