Category Archives: Nigella

They Don’t Make Dinner Parties Like They Used To

OK so we’ve enjoyed the relaxation of a bright and breezy picnic, but aprons at the ready again girls (and guys) because today we are going to indulge in some serious hard graft, cooking up a culinary homage to the 70s housewife. In essence those elaborate dinner parties that our parents enjoyed whilst we sat coyly at the top of the stairs listening in and wishing somebody would offer us pesky kids a piece of the oh so grown up action.

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So descend centre stage the unassuming boudoir biscuit (savoiardi, boudoir, sponge fingers whatever you like to call them) the unsung hero of many a pudding, bow down before the Beef Tournedos and roll out the red carpet for all things roulade. Robert Carrier eat your heart-out. Don’t tell me – I guess if you are under the age of 40 you are saying Robert who? Well I am still the right side of 30 me-self (just) and its my mum that I have to thank for making this forgotten master a cherished part of my childhood.

She wisely collected all of the Robert Carrier recipes in weekly instalments – I dread to think of what life would be like without him as the backdrop against which my culinary memory is painted (er OK its debatable whether I have a culinary memory but it sounds so Nigella) – we certainly ate a lot of casseroles & my mum’s carbonnade is just the best!

However – never fear…a quick search on Ebay brought up a heart breaking number of sellers wanting to get rid of their long saved collections and books – I feel like emailing them all immediately to tell them what an utterly huge mistake they are making but at the end of the day who am I to stand in the way of us benefiting instead?

Today in the decade of the celebrity chef cooking has seemingly been re-branded as a joyful art but I’m sure its really Robert Carrier that we have to thank.  He may have put the a into aspic but he opened a whole treasure trove of delights to us Brits at the same time and oh those fabulous dinner parties – he really was the first celebrity chef; a groundbreaking gourmet in his time.

So a relaxed Friday night dinner plucked from Jamie or Nigella?– HELL NO! next time you’ve got company bring on the 70s sophistication. Your friends will love it. Not that you need any convincing I’m sure if you’re still reading and haven’t gone off to burn your bra or run to the nearest race course.

So back to your very own Carrier Fest – bring on the formality – send invitations, make them dress up – everyone’s sick of being casual and relaxed in their jeans and t shirts, this is the serious business of eating and drinking together with friends at home – come on put some welly into it – OK maybe life is too short to spend stuffing mushrooms – but just once in a while – try it! Oh but make sure they are old friends as they might be waiting a long time.

Now, uncover your Le Creusets (they have such a gorgeous range of colours now don’t they?) and brandish your recipe cards to take a journey through Carriers Kitchen…

  • Yes a good many (by no means all) of the recipes are ridiculously involved, but hey if you have the luxury of a day at home in the kitchen what better way to guarantee a smile on your face than food that reminds you of home and the good ol’days?
  • Yes, you will wonder how your mother ever managed it so serenely and all with a smile too!

  • Yes, you will be a sweaty mess by the time your guests arrive and don’t even think about making time to freshen up let alone apply make up- 70s dinner party cuisine is like childbirth if you will, the end result is worth it.  Besides, you’re all old friends and they will probably still be in their jeans and baseball boots anyway.

  • And Yes, you will probably need a week off work to prepare but even if some of the recipes like eggs in aspic don’t appeal, by god –the act of recreating them will give you endless respect for the 70s housewife!

For our carrier fest my fellow HouseGirl Stephanie even had to make the aspic from scratch!

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I have to say the result was amazing to behold – I could have gazed upon it all evening – although a startling number of plates came back rather full, untouched even – I’m sure they just didn’t want to ruin the works of art or were just holding out for the main course though. Hmmm.

The Charlotte Russe was much better received and I cannot believe I had never made one before . . utterly delicious- and those sponge fingers truly get to hog the spotlight!

Remember – Perseverance pays.

HouseGirl’s 70s Menu

Stuffed tomatoes – surprisingly delicious

Eggs & Ham in Aspic – pretty to look at

Swedish Beef Casserole – good hearty fare – easy to prepare

Charlotte Russe –  Highly recommended! And do-aheadable

Black Forest Gateaux – another do-ahead classic

 

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