Seventies Calorie Desserts

When the wind turns chill and the nights come early I get an urge for warm, sticky desserts. It doesn’t bode well for my thighs, but it’s happening again. 

Usually I get the idea in my head about an hour after dinner, sticking my head in the fridge looking for something extra to eat. Then when that doesn’t work I’ll start flicking through books salivating. That then leads to a dash to the supermarket at ten minutes before closing to get the extra ingredient I’m out of, just another small part of the obsession.

I’ve been going through some of my older recipe magazines, many that were once my Mum’s, and was quite delighted to look more closely at New Ideas for Delicious Cakes and Desserts (An Australian House & Garden publication, Margaret Master, Editor ). I can’t say exactly when it was published as it doesn’t say but it cost a $1.00 and I’m guessing it’s from about 1976.

Seventies recipe magazines were almost all in black and white, which makes things cooked in syrup look somewhat unappetising. The addition of colour however, didn’t necessarily improve things, as everything seems to be yellowy-brown, from the upside down apple torte to the hazelnut coffee cake. There was a bit of a fashion for coating the outside of things with cream and crushed nuts in the 70s too, particularly iced apricot soufflés in the case of this magazine so even that looks nutty brown.

But you can easily get past this by just getting excited by the curiosity of it – all the things you don’t eat much these days. Some for good reason, if anyone ever did eat rice fritters, which appear to be fried batter-coated milk-rice sprinkled with coconut and cream; that can’t be good for you.

Last night I became fixated on golden syrup dumplings, hardly a dish likely to get a heart foundation tick. They’re quite heavy and very sweet.  Basically the dumplings are made of a stiff pudding batter simmered to puffiness in sugar syrup that reduces to a fudge. The raising ingredients give them a bit of lightness while the outside absorbs lots of golden toffee sauce. Serve them with ice-cream and you’ve got a pudding that will keep you in a deep comfy chair for some time.

They’d be better I suspect if the butter and sugar were creamed together instead of being rubbed in, to make them a bit lighter – an experiment for next time. Or I have to get better at rubbing in, and learn from master scone bakers to make the method work better.

The night before last my dessert obsession took me to Crepes with Orange sauce. This is a classic that should be brought back. Crepes are really easy, if a bit time consuming.

Margaret Fulton taught me (Margaret Fulton’s Kitchen Hardie Grant 2007) that the reason you should make the batter half an hour before is to let the starch swell. Which is odd as the crepes turn out just as well with gluten free flour.

I used the last of a quite sour orange juice in the sauce and it was delicious. And have since poured it over crumpets for breakfast too,(it’s like a rindless runny marmalade – yum!). For the true 70s effect these really should be flamed with warmed brandy but for every day eating a sprinkle of Cointreau adds all the decadence you could want.

Golden Syrup Dumplings

(based on New Ideas for Delicious Cakes and Desserts (An Australian House & Garden publication, Margaret Master, Editor)

DESCRIPTION: A heavy batter made of self-raising flour with butter rubbed in, to which you mix in an egg and a bit of milk that is cooked in spoonfuls in sugar syrup for about 10 minutes without a lid and another 7-8 minutes with the lid on. The batter is then raised and fluffed, turning golden on the outside and like a steamed pudding on the inside while the syrup reduces to a fudgy topping. Best served hot with ice-cream.

For the syrup is:

  • 2 cups of water
  • half a cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of golden syrup, but its bloody difficult to measure
  • and a knob of butter, a couple of heaped teaspoons

Dissolve the sugar and golden syrup in the water, melt in the butter then bring the syrup to the boil. Use a sauté pan or some other pan that is wide, flat and has shortish-sides and a lid, preferably. Something you might make risotto in. 

Let it come to the boil while you mix up the batter but if you’re taking awhile to get to that bit add some extra water as it will reduce a lot more as the batter cooks and might burn or become toffee if it gets over cooked.

The batter is:

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 30g butter (1 oz or near enough to a tablespoon)
  • an egg
  • and 1/3 cup milk, roughly 80mls

In a bowl, sifted or fluff the flour with a pinch of salt. Most store bought flour comes sifted and only gets lumpy when it’s been sitting around in the cupboard for six months or its really humid. Sifting aerates the flour, removes lumps and mixes the ingredients together well.

Rub the butter into the flour, which means squeezing all the large bits of butter into the flour with your fingers so that as you keep squeezing and mixing it becomes grainy and ‘bread-crumb’ like. You don’t want to melt the butter with your hands.

Make a hole in the yellow grainy flour-butter mix, crack in the egg and the milk. Stir this around so that there are no lumps or sloppy bits and it’s all mixed together smoothly but is still thick.

Drop teaspoonfuls of the batter into the syrup leaving some room for them to spread and let it bubble away for about ten minutes. The dumplings will expand a bit and the syrup will partially evaporate, thickening and becoming darker. Cover it to reduce the evaporation and make it a bit steamy and cook another seven or either minutes.

Transfer them to serving bowls with a slotted spoon and pour over some of the sauce. Eat them straight away with big blobs of cream or custard or plain ice-cream.

Crepes with Orange Sauce

Thin pancakes briefly warmed and soaked in orange syrup so they become a bit soft and absorb some of the flavour.

A basic crepe batter is:

  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • an egg 
  • and 1 cup of milk mixed with half a cup of water

Crepes are meant to be thin, so they don’t use raising agents and the batter is runny. 

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the flour and crack the egg into the hole with a little of the milk. Swirl the egg and milk gradually eroding the flour and incorporating it, adding a slops of milk as you go until all the mixture is smoothly combined. Allow to stand for half an hour or so.

Wipe a crepe pan or non-stick frypan (about 20cm across) with vegetable oil and heat over a moderate flame. Pour in approximately a third of a cup of batter and quickly swirl to evenly spread. Watch carefully, when the mixture starts to form bubbles that plop like lava, flip and cook the other side for a couple of minutes. Transfer to a plate and fold in half then in half again to make a kind of quarter circle, and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining mixture.  This should make six to eight crepes.

Orange syrup:

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup water
  • long strips of orange zest if desired
  • a few teaspoons of Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Drambuie or other liqueur to serve if desired, crushed nuts might also be nice.

The syrup is made by simmering the orange juice with the water, and zest if desired until you have one cup of syrup, what is usually referred to as reducing by half. It will take about 10 to 15 minutes. The zest adds some extra zing and texture.

Once all the crepes are cooked, return them to the pan and pour over the sauce. Allow to simmer gently until warmed through, then serve a couple of crepes per person with some of the sauce, and desired accoutrements of liqueur, cream or ice-cream. 


Today Sunrise, the Channel 7 chirpy breakfast television show posed the probing survey question, ‘do you use the wok-burner-thingy on your barbeque?’ ( ). The suggestion was that it was an unnecessary bit of over-packaging, and of course, such deep issues need discussion and analysis.

The discussion that followed suggested that it was a wifely domain, while the blokes did the important meat turning tasks, real men don’t wok apparently. Images of backyards around the country set up as catering production lines for smoking and tossing food came to mind, along with bickering and elbow knocking and tomato sauce on the toes. I didn’t get back to the show to find out the final result of the poll, maybe it will be on tomorrow. Leaving aside the gender issues, I felt more bemused by the universality implied in the question, that everyone has a barbeque with a wok-burner.

Not being the owner of a barbeque, let alone one with a wok burner thingy I felt somewhat put out by this question. I’ve long felt something of a consumer pariah for not having my own indoor/outdoor patio lifestyle area. Now I feel underprivileged for not having the barbeque either.

I confess to drooling over Barbeque Galore catalogues admiring large shiny barbeques with five burners and griddles and wok burners and thermostats on the roasting lids. They’re the Hummer of home entertaining, the lifestyle statement barbeque, and that much grunt and shine has a hefty price tag (anywhere from moderately expensive to astronomical), incorporating the levy for Acquiring Lifestyle Envy (ALE), the ‘gee what a big barbeque you’ve got’ appeal. So discussions on the marketing differentiation and add-ons that keep piling up, like wok ring size enhancements leave me holding the packed sandwiches from home in the outdoor entertaining stakes.

I’ve often looked at the wok burner and thought goodness, wouldn’t it be interesting to toss the vegetables outside, but then the thought follows but why would you? Apparently, many people who buy them have the same issue, thus the survey. Preparing the vegetables, transferring them outside, tossing them with the sauces and then serving them up seems a process that requires benches, an often under-acknowledged cooking requirement, plus the sink and easy access to the pantry and fridge. Hence, not that much fun out of doors.

The wok burner may be the barbeque equivalent of the microwave programmable casserole buttons, I know of no one who knows how to use all the functions available on their microwave or who has shown much interest in the discovery. What a job that must be, to think up functions that no one will try using? You have to ask yourself what are you going to use your barbeque for? And the answer is generally to burn sausages and steaks, especially if men with beers are left to do it.

Until this Sunrise question was posed I hadn’t even considered how many of these barbeques must spend most of their lives under the black vinyl cover on the outdoor entertaining area gathering the gritty muddy dust of the elements. Though a few seconds contemplation made this seem obvious. Loved for a summer and then left in the rain, wheeled out summers after sporadically, after the glow of new ownership has waned. Like so much stuff we don’t need, and hence don’t use it sits as statement to our excesses. Well, for some, otherwise where would the envy be?

So, while the question initially made me feel even more marginalised from 21st Century life after due consideration, maybe its okay to not have a barbeque with a wok burner in my life. Though I still think the thermostat roasting covers are cool.