Retro is back in food too!

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Retro is making a big comeback in films and in fashion. And as in these spheres, so in food. Sure, new ingredients and modern cooking styles are all the rage on culinary circuits, but there’s no denying that some old favourites are enjoying a return to glory.

One notices that the prawn cocktail, for instance, once a naff appetiser, is finding new favour on the menus of several restaurants. Of course, small new flourishes are being added to this simple starter of boiled prawns in thousand island dressing. I’ve tasted versions with capers in them and others with a crisp-fried prawn garnish.

Homely, hit-the-spot desserts mark a return to the past on restaurant menus as well. Think trifle pudding and pineapple upside down cake. Of course, the tinned fruit cocktail is being replaced by exotic fruit in the pudding and the cake is also made with fresh pineapple, rather than canned rings in syrup.

I’ve also been spotting Chicken a la Kiev on menus of late. Did it originate in Russia, we do not know. What we do know though is that it’s an elaborate piece of work, requiring a frozen stick of butter to be encased in a chicken breast which is then crumbed and fried. Slice your chicken kiev open to eat, and watch all that butter ooze out… yum!

But it’s a difficult dish to get right. A tear in the meat or butter that’s not cold enough could lead to a culinary disaster in your frying pan. Which is why I’m wary of making this dish at home. My take on crumb-fried chicken is inspired by the a la Kiev, but keeps things simpler. Here is how you can do it:

You will need
Two chicken breasts, trimmed and beaten to make them easy to roll
½ tbsp butter
White part only of half-a-leek, sliced
One rasher of bacon
Two tablespoon strong cheese, such as cheddar or gruyere
One egg white
Breadcrumbs to roll the chicken in

Season the flattened chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Set aside. Make the filling by warming the butter in a pan. Put in the bacon, diced, and fry till crisp. Push to a side of the pan and put in the leeks. Saute for five minutes. Allow to cool. Now, put some of the filling down the centre of the chicken breast, top with cheese and roll up carefully. Dip the whole in egg white and then in the bread crumbs, ensuring you have an even roll.

Shallow fry in a covered pan, turning from time to time, to ensure even cooking. Keep the flame moderate, for you want the chicken to be cooked through without the coating burning. It should take about 10 minutes. Serve with cauliflower cheese and a crisp salad for a hearty old-style meal.

For a variation, avoid the egg-and-crumb coating and grill the chicken rolls, after brushing them with some olive oil.

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