How to cook Mrs Thatcher’s mystery starter
Having a scientific background and an ordered mind, Margaret Thatcher, who liked to cook for herself and her husband Dennis as regularly as she could, was keen on following a recipe and, most especially, a method.
In the case of a recent find, discovered among her archives, in a file with an official stamp, the method is very simple indeed, but the result seems to have been one of her favourite dinner party offerings, which goes by the intriguing name of “mystery starter”. Dated 1976, the dish flies in the face of the grand pieces one might have found at a 70s dinner party: vegetables of all shapes and colours in aspic, fish mousse topped with pineapple and caviar – and all those dishes influenced by the likes of Fanny Cradock and her love of a starred piping nozzle and a drop of cochineal. It is simply tinned consommé – a classic of the gentleman’s club – mixed with cream cheese and curry powder.
Having knocked it up myself, the biggest mystery I could find was: why would one concoct such a dish?
It makes for a very uninspiring cream-coloured mousse, a dish with a tiny bit of spice as an end note. Soft and unchallenging, it would no doubt appeal to lovers of boarding-school food. On the plus side, it is the kind of thing Lady T could have knocked up in her nightie at 5am if she knew she had people round for dinner that evening, since it takes five minutes to make but several hours to set.
The only opportunity for flair seems to be in the decoration. Suggested in the recipe is a black olive and some set consommé – but to really hit the 70s vibe, a shell-on prawn rampant would add a bit of je ne sais quoi.
Mrs Thatcher’s mystery starter
1 x 400ml/12oz tin beef consommé. Campbell’s, Baxters and Crosse & Blackwell were all purveyors of a beef tea-style soup in the 70s
2 packets cream cheese. Kraft was the market leader in those days
1 level tsp curry powder. Foxes was the classic 70s spice brand
Pour 100ml of the consommé into a flat dish and set it in the fridge for several hours, until solid. Liquidise the rest of the soup with the cream cheese and curry powder – pour into individual serving dishes and set for up to 12 hours.
Garnish with some chopped consommé and a black olive or whatever other delicacy takes your fancy.
Personally, I would want to eat this on some toast to give it a bit of texture, but I wonder if, in its heyday, it was eaten with a teaspoon and a small glass of sherry. Even so, I won’t be adding it to my dinner party starter repertoire, mystery or not.
and the in her kitchen up that make ingredients
(below right) her starter