Historic Recipe: Baked Avocado Pears (1967)

Source: Swaziland’s Favourite Recipes (1967)

This recipe book came to me from the charity shops of Stockbridge via a rather nice man, and it really is a gem. There is quite a lot out there in terms of research about the impact of imported recipes and foodstuffs on the eating habits of the British public, but less about how expats (and particularly colonial expats) adapted fashionable British food of any given period to their location and local ingredients. This is a masterclass on the subject. The recipes were all submitted by expats living in Swaziland and so give us a good idea of what they were actually eating. The pages are packed with the sort of recipes that would find in any 1960s British cookbook (lots of gelatine salads) but they use ingredients including impala, avocados, mealies (corn) and groundnuts.

The aim of the book was to raise funds to set up a girls’ hostel to provide accommodation for girls attending secondary school in Thokhoza. As such it also contains a range of adverts for local businesses. Below is my absolute favourite, which raises the pertinent questions, why do I need to know your hotel is 200 feet higher than your brothers and what is a Tudor period ice machine?

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Adverts aside, I chose this recipe because it seemed a good example of a British/Swaziland hybrid – it comes courtesy of Mrs Joan Edmonds.

Recipe:
(Marinate a good vinegar overnight with a teaspoon of minced garlic). Halve the pears, serrate the flesh with a fork and half fill with strained vinegar. Leave in the refrigerator all day. Empty the vinegar from the shells and fill with creamed sauce combined with chopped crab, lobster, shrimp, tuna fish, chicken or ham. Sprinkle with grated cheese and brown under grill. Serve with thin slices of bread and butter.

Creamed Sauce: Add one teaspoon lemon juice or one tablespoon sherry or half teaspoon Worcester sauce and one teaspoon of grated onion to a white sauce made from 1 ½ tablespoons butter, 1 ½ tablespoons flour and one cup of hot cream.

I used white wine vinegar, because it was what I had, and it was widely used in the 1960s, I don’t know whether it counts as ‘good’ though, it was purchased in Lidl. I then came to make the cream sauce, plumping for sherry (a sweet-ish one for period accuracy) and tuna. It all went together as instructed, although I struggled to fit much of the cream sauce into the avocados and I may have overfilled them as it sort of glooped out of the top when I put them under the grill. They came out looking rather pallid, despite the grilled cheese (I did try to make them look appetising in the photo; I failed).

The result was very weird, a bizarre combination of sweet and sour and hot and cold, with a slightly unpleasant mushy texture. The sweetness of the sherry with the rich creamed sauce and fish was pretty grim, but the vinegar with the avocado was nice. The grill successfully heated up the sauce and cheese but the avocado was tepid underneath, and as it turns out avocado should not be eaten tepid. Basically, there was just far too much going on in a single dish.

Suggested alterations: Use lemon juice or something else more savoury/acidic instead of sherry and switch cream for milk to tone down the richness

Final verdict: Don’t bother unless creamy sweet fish is your thing. I mean apparently it was Joan’s, so each to their own, I suppose

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