Sunday 18 August 2019

Nothing like a slice of nostalgia

As sales of 70s favourite Angel Delight soar once again, Aoife Carrigy looks back on the forgotten foods due to make a welcome comeback

Black beauty: When done right, Black Forest gateau is hard to beat
Black beauty: When done right, Black Forest gateau is hard to beat

Aoife Carrigy

There are few memories as intoxicating as an early love affair, especially when the object of your adoration could perform small miracles to leave you basking in the appreciation of your nearest and dearest. I'm talking of course of the irresistible charms of Angel Delight, those magical packets of powder that could - in the unskilled hands of a bowl-haired child and with the simple addition of cold milk, a brief whisk and a mere five minutes' rest - transform into the instant mousse of our collective happy family dreams.

Angel Delight was gifted to the modern world by Bird's back in 1967, heralding the bright future the convenience foods of the 70s and 80s were to promise, if not quite deliver. No more toiling over hot stoves, the idea went, just fling a pair of awfully versatile waffles in the toaster or a mini pizza in the microwave and keep on moving with your fast-paced life. Never mind that powdered potato resembles wallpaper glue or that crispy pancakes somehow taste technicoloured. At the time, their curious flavours were judged the price of progress.

Fast forward 50 years and Angel Delight is making a comeback - in a form designed with 21st-century consumers in mind: ready to eat 'on the go' (our modern euphemism for 'at your desk' or 'in front of the telly') and made from fresh milk with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Traditionalists can still buy the powdered format and whip it up at home, while revisionists can now opt for no-added-sugar sachets.

Premier Foods launched the new format last March - by September, the brand had experienced a 30pc boost in sales. The success of the new and improved 'AD' makes sense: in a time of uncertainty, nostalgic experiences have huge appeal, especially if you can tweak the original format to remove any troubling additives that we've since become wise to.

But why stop at Angel Delight when there are so many childhood favourites worth re-embracing? Here are 10 we could start with, but these are surely just the tip of the iceberg(er).

1. Viennetta

Did anything ever say sophistication like a Viennetta? (Apart from Ferrero Rocher perhaps, until it started to feel like they were trying too hard with their high-society connections.) The Viennetta, however, always had the element of surprise - at just how crunchy those layers of chocolate were, just how creamy those waves of ice-cream tasted and just how darn classy the whole thing made us feel.

Angel Delight
Angel Delight

2. Fruit fritters

There's a strong argument to be made for bringing back the classic banana fritter with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream, but that would be to overlook the joys of rings of tinned pineapples that have been battered and deep-fried to a crisp sweet perfection. And then there's the wholesome tang of a good apple fritter. Let's just have 'em all.

3. Deep-fried brie with cranberry sauce

And while we have the fryer going, it's been far too long since this gloriously retro pairing has been a regular on restaurant menus. Sure, it's hardly a low-calorie option but there's still room for the odd indulgence, right? And just think of the way that melting cheese oozes once cracked open, and how the tart sauce cuts the creaminess and keeps us going back for more...

4. The crisp sandwich

A recent episode of the popular Kids React US web series proved what we Irish already know: that few can resist the charms of a simple crisp sandwich (even if the producers clearly didn't know their Tayto from their King). For a few weeks during the summer, we were reminded of our love for the crisp sandwich when Deliveroo added it to a limited edition menu, but surely it's time to share this classic combination with the wider world.

5. Bottles of milk with the cream on top

The cream that once crowned every bottle of milk delivered daily to our front doors was nature's true elixir, capable of transforming whatever it adorned into the most special of meals, from a bowl of porridge to your favourite Angel Delight flavour (butterscotch, of course). Today, most milk is homogenised to prevent the cream from separating, but unhomogenised milk is still available for those who want to seek out a little bit of old-school special.

Viennetta
Viennetta

6. French onion soup

You'd swear 'bone broth' was a millennial invention but Delia Smith fans have long known what to do with a good beef stock base, which is to simmer it in a pan of sticky caramelised onions, lace it with Cognac, top it with Gruyere-coated croutons and blast the whole thing under a hot grill. In my house, this was the holy grail of home-cooked lunches and what pulling sickies from school was all about.

7. Sherry trifle

Sherry has become chi-chi amongst certain circles in recent years - and for good reason - but the humble sherry trifle deserves a revival in its own right. It's all about getting the proportions right and not being too po-faced with the pour. Also, we definitely don't have enough jelly or custard in our lives these days, and you can mix up the fruit for seasonal variations.

8. Black Forest gateau

Forget the cheap and cloying abominations that gave this 1970s beauty a bad name. When done right, and with quality ingredients, the Black Forest gateau is worth every rich, indulgent mouthful. We're talking proper sour morello cherries (this is no place for glacé sugar bombs), vanilla-scented chantilly cream, bitter chocolate and just enough kirsch to keep things lively.

9. Bird's Ice Magic

As low maintenance kitchen wizardry goes, Bird's Ice Magic had it going on: a squidgy bottle of liquid chocolate topping that instantly hardened into a crisp shell when smothered over ice cream. Today you'll have to go Stateside to stock up, where it's sold as Magic Shell, but SeriousEats.com have a recipe to make your own at home, using coconut oil emulsified with your choice of chocolate.

Crisp sandwich
Crisp sandwich

10. Neapolitan ice-cream wafer sandwiches

Need I say more? Other than sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best.

Sherry trifle
Sherry trifle

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