A couple of years back Mum sent me a Hudson and Halls cookbook, and then this year at the library book sale I picked up another of theirs - a plastic-wrapped cookbook called Favourite Recipes from Hudson and Halls. Published in 1985, its black, dustjacketed cover has H & H in tuxedoes gazing solemnly at the reader, positioned in front of various items on a bookshelf and dresser - a clock, a lamp, a trumpet, 'A Woman of Substance'. Inside, their forward foreword breaks formalities with its "we have cooked together for nigh on twenty years, some of it good...some of it not so good!" Inside I found a recipe for Chicken Salad Lorraine with Peanut Cream Sauce which they named for 1983's Miss World, New Zealand's Lorraine Downes. I love a recipe with a decent backstory like that and I also really love peanut sauce...win win.
An often quoted line of theirs is "are we gay? Well we're certainly merry". With hindsight there's sadness in that while the studio audience of their TV show would drink their wine and laugh at their comic timing, some kind of societal necessity prevented any actual openness at how this was a TV show fronted by two men in love with each other. At the time of the cookbook itself being published, the problematically worded, but comparatively progressive Homosexual Law Reforms were only just coming into effect in New Zealand. We don't exactly live in a liberal wonderland right now, and I'm no expert on the history of NZ's gay rights, but certainly leaps and bounds have been made since. As I'm privileged to have the world I live in and the media I consume largely reflect my own life, I can only guess at what it would have been like for H&H back then. I do know they wouldn't have been the only ones in their position.
I'm not sure if it's a mid-eighties thing or what, but H&H specified melons (oh my!) in the salad and much as I'm fairly adventurous, I wasn't quite ready for it covered in peanut sauce...I figured the easier-found cucumber was within the same gene pool and along with some capsicum, would provide colour and juicy crunch. As I switched the required egg noodles for a lighter-textured pile of slippery, soft rice noodles, there's nothing stopping you swapping the chicken for slices of fresh, firm tofu. And the more I think about it, the more it feels like peanut sauce on melons would have worked just fine...if you try it yourself, let me know!
There is on youtube an opportunity to see H&H in action which, apart from their merry chemistry, is a joy in itself as a slice of New Zealand television at the time - the giant electric frypan, the grey animated opening titles, the pinkly lit background of the studio kitchen. They snap and banter with each other, and burst into laughter. As Hudson spoons ingredients into a pan, listing them aloud, Halls interrupts offscreen with "Garlic?" to which Hudson responds "I haven't got there yet, could you just mind your own business?" But then Hudson throws out the aside of "very good for the wrist action" while grinding pepper, which, while not as camp as Halls' crying "Isn't he wonderful!" while throwing his hands joyfully in the air, is still the sort of thing that continues to raise eyebrows when Nigella says it over 20 years later. I could go on and recreate an entire transcript but you might as well watch it - it's wonderful stuff.
Chicken Salad Lorraine with Peanut Cream Sauce
With thanks to Hudson and Halls
300g good, free-range chicken thighs
1 stick of carrot, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, coriander seeds and sprig of thyme if you have it
1/2 a lemon
1/2 a cucumber
1 yellow (or red or orange) capsicum
Peanut or sesame oil
Spring onions (optional)
3 heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup stock (from poaching the chicken)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
small piece of ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice from the other 1/2 a lemon
Tobasco or other hot sauce
About 1/2 cup of cream or thick Greek yoghurt or sour cream.
Egg or rice noodles to serve.
Place chicken thighs in a pan and just cover with water. Add the carrot stick, bay leaf, peppercorns, seeds and thyme (I didn't have any thyme but it still tasted all good) and turn on the heat, allowing the water to simmer and bubble away gently till the chicken is no longer pink and seems tender - around 15-20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a chopping board and get rid of the spices and things. Bring the remaining liquid to the boil and let it reduce somewhat. Shred the chicken or slice into bite-size chunks. Poached chicken thighs aren't the sexiest to look at, but there'll be plenty of distracting colour later on.
Set aside 1/4 cup of the stock for the peanut sauce, and top up the remaining stock in the pan with water, bring to the boil and cook your noodles in it according to packet instructions. Drain the noodles, toss with the peanut or sesame oil, and divide between two plates.
Slice the capsicum and the cucumber into sticks, and arrange on top of the noodles along with the chicken. Finally, whisk together the dressing ingredients (or you could blast them in a food processor) till very smooth. Drizzle the sauce over the two plates of salad, scatter with spring onions or coriander if using.
Note: I didn't have a lemon or cream, but I did have some amazingly thick, tangy Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt which I figured would cover off both needs. It did, and how. Sour Cream would probably be great as well, or you could just leave out the dairy altogether and replace the stock with water (or vegetable stock).
Lorraine Downes' name was not taken in vain here - this salad is stunning. Though, it was easier for me to arrange it between two plates rather than put it all in a bowl, so I'm not quite sure if it really even is a salad still. Oh well - the poached chicken is amazingly tender, the peanut sauce is thick but light, blanketing the crunchy vegetables and soft, deliciously bland noodles. I just love peanut sauce but even so, the mix of textures and tastes is wonderful and it's a great dinner on one of those evenings that is hot, but not so hot that you only want to eat an ice cube for dinner.
There's plenty to love in this book, especially the descriptions before each dish - some of it practical, some hilarious ("once met someone who was on a diet and was drinking rum essence in diet cola...it tasted abysmal.") When you turn to the back cover, they're on a farm, Hudson is wearing a bucket hat and sunglasses and leaning on a spade, while Halls wears tiny shorts and has a rifle casually swung over his shoulder while lunging against a fence - two large black dogs sit beside them. Hudson died of cancer in 1992 and Halls left pretty soon after him. Their books aren't so easy to track down - while they might be due for a reprint sometime soon, it's worth hunting next time you're in an op shop or at a book fair. They're a lesser known chapter of New Zealand history, not to mention there aren't many other places these days you'll find a salad named after a 1983 beauty queen.
Tim and I were at Wellington's opening night of Rocky Horror Show at the St James tonight - it was an absolutely incredible show, I seriously recommend you go along if you're even halfway curious. The staging, the quality of the acting and singing, and the sheer energy is all turned up to eleven and besides, watching an audience so joyfully receive music - it's a beautiful thing. Obviously it was exciting to see the strangely ageless Richard O'Brien who created the show, star as narrator (the round of applause on his entrance brought the performance to a halt) and you gotta hand it to Kristian Lavercombe playing O'Brien's original role of Riff Raff with such wicked aplomb. Special mention must go to Juan Jackson who played Frank'n'Furter; he barely needed acting ability with his charismatic muscle structure, but luckily he could emote realistically, sing like the great-grandchild of Paul Robeson, and skip carelessly in platform heels. Being a rock opera it maintains a cracking pace - it's easy to forget just how many incredible songs are crammed into this one wonderful show.
I've been trying to avoid Christmas songs but seeing as it's December 1st (eeeeek!) I've indulged myself with the sublimely ridiculous Turkey Lurkey Time from Promises Promises. Seriously, just watch it.
As well as the seasonal stuff I've been listening to a fair few John Peel compilations lately - which means Buzzcocks, What Do I Get/Lion Rock by Culture etc etc...
Next time: For some reason this blog post took me forever to get done, and I guess things are only going to get busier from here on in...but hopefully I'll get another blog post in before the end of the week, it'll either be something vegetable-based (woo!) or this amazing cake recipe I found which has mayonnaise (what!) in it.