I have an unhealthy fascination with the menus of our past, and when I say unhealthy, I don’t mean hardening-of-the-arteries unhealthy. ...

I have an unhealthy fascination with the menus of our past, and when I say unhealthy, I don’t mean hardening-of-the-arteries unhealthy.

www.katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com.au || winner winner chicken dinner from Australian Womens Weekly Busy Womans Cookbook

I mean a why-would-you-attempt-these-archaic-food-fads unhealthy. Let’s face it, some recipes are meant to stay in our dark, aspic-riddled past. But sometimes, the recipes of the past, with a few modern modifications can throw up a gem of a meal.

Now, before I embark on this, cast your mind (for those able) back to 1972: the year Australian Women’s Weekly released its The Busy Woman’s Cookbook. I was born in ’74, so even I struggle with this one and what I do recall of my early culinary experiences is enough to tell me this was a troubled time in the home kitchen. Women were working and not home to put on the evening, or even lunchtime roast. To ensure dinner-time harmony, supermarkets offered up meal-time hacks. My mother was a fan of the Rice-A-Riso: a concoction requiring browned mince, a packet mix and water.

Through the ‘80s and ‘90s jarred simmer sauces made an appearance, along with “just-add-water” pasta dishes. Both had a weird ability to congeal, resembling the texture (and taste) of Clag glue if not eaten immediately.

However, despite the delights of simmer sauces, in 1972, the best dinner hacks documented by the The Busy Woman's Cookbook seem to rest on two ingredients: store bought mayonnaise and curry powder.

www.katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com.au || mayonnaise curry chicken from Australian Womens Weekly Busy Womans Cookbook

Curry Mayonnaise Chicken

6 chicken legs 
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used Panko breadcrumbs, but regular packaged bread crumbs for coating will work just as well)

Oh my this is easy, and surprisingly tasty. 
Set your oven to 180C.
Stir the curry powder into the mayonnaise, dip the chicken into it and then into the crumb. Place on a greased or lined baking dish and bake for 45mins, turning the chicken once through the cooking. I will admit that though the recipe says 45mins, chicken legs are bigger than they were in 1972 (scarily so) and mine took an hour to cook. Next time I make this, I'll use a boneless thigh or chicken breast strips and adjust the cooking time to suit.

www.katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com.au || mayonnaise curry potato salad from Australian Womens Weekly Busy Womans Cookbook

Curry Mayonnaise Potato Salad

1/4 cup mayonnaise
Tablespoon french dressing (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2kg potatoes (I used small salad potatoes cut in half)
2 green shallots sliced (all of the white and a little of the green for colour)
2 sticks celery

The recipe calls for your average spud, peeled and cut into segments. I used salad or chat potatoes, skin on and halved. Boil them in salted water until tender.
Blend the mayonnaise, french dressing, sugar and curry powder. 
To the prepared and drained potatoes, add the shallots and celery and toss in the mayonnaise dressing. 

www.katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com.au || best ever green bean salad adapted from Australian Womens Weekly Busy Womans Cookbook

Best ever green bean salad

Two or three good handfuls of green beans, topped and tailed and cut in half or in thirds
A handful of green pitted olives, cut in half
A clove of garlic, chopped
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
French dressing (see recipe below)

In The Busy Woman's Cookbook, this is actually a recipe for a haricot bean salad. I adjusted it to add a little green vegetable to my plate. I figured there was already a fair amount of starch with the potatoes.
Prepare the beans and blanch for a minute or two in boiling water, running under cold water when done to stop them cooking.
Add the olives, garlic and parsley and toss in a drizzle of the french dressing. A drizzle is enough to bring this together, but if you love a salad that's swimming in dressing, adjust the amount of dressing to your taste.

www.katiecrackernuts.blogspot.com.au || french dressing recipe from Australian Womens Weekly Busy Womans Cookbook

French dressing

Olive oil
Vinegar (I used coconut vinegar, and it was delicious, but you could use white vinegar or experiment with a red wine or white wine vinegar)
Mustard (I only had Dijon Mustard in the fridge - pantry fail - but a seeded mustard would be much better)
Paprika (the sweet one, not the smoky one, though you could try it with that too)

This french dressing is the base ingredient for all the salads in The Busy Woman's Cookbook. It's three parts oil to one part vinegar, adding all the other ingredients to taste. I used tablespoons to test it, so three tablespoons oil, one tablespoon vinegar, and to that I put in two teaspoons mustard and one of paprika, cracking salt and pepper in to taste.

You Might Also Like


  1. These look yummy, I might try the salads tonight.

  2. Love these and the styling Kate! Love that tea towel...I was born in 77 and my childhood was full of recipes like these. Lots of tinned bean salads in the summer topped with parsley for something fresh I presume.