Channel your childhood with these comforting blast from the past dishes.

The 1980s are frequently labelled the decade that taste forgot (at least when they’re not being revived, ironically or otherwise). But those of us who grew up through the years of double denim, mullets and mohawks, and lavish applications of blue eyeshadow know that, in one respect at least, it was a tasty time to be alive.

There is a fine line between cliché and classic, and while there are culinary relics of that decade that certainly should be relegated to the never-again dustbin of history – pineapple on pizza, anyone? – there are also many that have stayed with us all these years. And if they haven’t, well, now is the time to dust them off again. Here are just a few nostalgic comfort dishes that send us meandering straight down memory lane (‘scuse us while we serve up dinner with a side helping of old family holiday albums).

MAIN IMAGE: Great British Chefs

Chicken Kiev

Jamie Oliver

This breaded chicken number, which oozes garlicky butter, was a revelation in the early eighties – and like all great fashions, it is now frequently revisited and given new twists, particularly by the fancier chefs at the fancier restaurants. And it’s hardly a surprise. Have you eaten one recently? If not, we command that you try your hand at this Jamie rendition, which will transport you back deliciously to the days of shoulder pads and big hair in an instant.

Vol Au Vents

Great British Chefs

If you ever went to a smart party in the 1980s, you will doubtless have washed your champagne down with one of two things: cheese and pineapple on a cocktail stick and/or vol au vents (which translates literally as ‘waft of air’). Since no one needs instruction on how to place the former two ingredients on a stick, we’ll go with the latter. Considered one of the classiest canapés of the day, they typically contained creamy mushroom. We love this revival from Great British Chefs, which instead fills the puff pastry with mussels, spinach and Roquefort.

Crab Mac ‘N’ Cheese


Remember the winter nights when you learned that Mac ‘N’ Cheese (or just plain old macaroni cheese as we knew it back then) was for supper? Those were good nights. The ultimate creamy, cheesy treat, Nigella takes the classic recipe and gives it an update, first via the inclusion of crab and secondly thanks to her (some would argue heretical) substitution of macaroni for pasta shells. She says, ‘Smoked paprika and crab (a 50/50 mixture of both white and brown meat) give an almost honeyed depth to the velvety cheese sauce, which is made with nutty and sweet gruyere. The combination is just sumptuous, like a cross between a mac’n’cheese and a bisque. I stray further from tradition in that I use pasta shells rather than macaroni, and I don’t scatter more cheese on top and brown it in the oven, and indeed advise sternly against it. I find a freckling of Aleppo pepper (though you could use paprika) more than makes up for the familiar heat-scorched finish.’

Quick Pepperoni Pizza

BBC Food

Remember when pizza felt like a real treat? That was back in the days that Pizza Express was still excellent (it was founded in 1965 on Wardour Street, but by the 1980s had rolled out countrywide and was a staple when it came to celebratory indulgence). As a child, the pizzas were always unfinishable, eye-poppingly enormous and apt to be shared, but oh-so-tasty and evocative of Italian holidays. For us, it was always either Pepperoni (or, ‘an American’, as we knew it then) or the classic Margherita. We haven’t looked back since. This is a good, easy recipe from BBC Food.

Garlic Bread

Delicious Magazine

Garlic bread occupies classic status these days. It was not always thus; using garlic plentifully was a relatively new phenomenon in early- to mid-eighties. It is little wonder that it crossed over to the mainstream: crusty bread plus garlic and butter. How could anyone not love it?


Olive Magazine

Tiramisu – which translates as ‘pick-me-up’ – is thought to have been invented in the 1960s or 70s in Italy. Some claim it originated in the Veneto region. Others suggest it was created much earlier – in the 17th-century, in fact – in Siena. Whichever way, by the 1980s, British restaurants were awash with the marsala-soaked, cocoa-topped creamy sponge fingers. This espresso martini take on the classic – which is always made with savoiardi sponge fingers – is a showstopper.

White Forest Trifle

Olive Magazine

If Black Forest Gateau was a staple of the 1970s, then the amped up trifle became a signature of the decade that followed. Although it had been around for some while, more readily available exotic tinned fruits boosted its popularity no end. We love this White Forest Trifle, featuring black cherries and white chocolate, which takes just half an hour to put together.

Battenberg Cake

The Great British Bake Off

We won’t lie; the only Battenberg cakes we ever knew in the 1980s – when they became popular with the masses – came out of a packet. Said to have been created to mark the marriage of Princess Victoria (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria) to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884, it took one hundred years for this cake to become a beloved household teatime essential. And who couldn’t love the classic checkerboard cake? Try your hand at making your own, courtesy of this Great British Chefs recipe.

By Nancy Alsop
February 2021

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Nancy Alsop


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