Monday December 17th 2007, 5:27 pm

a la carte magazine cover circa 1985

Rummaging around in my shed I came across a copy of ‘A La Carte’ magazine from Christmas 1985. In the 80s this title and ‘Taste’ magazine were the big foodie mags and I used to buy them in London to send to my Dad in Lancashire. My Dad loved cooking and had discovered this hobby relatively late in life. He was a cookery book cook and if what he made didn’t look exactly like the picture in the book he considered his efforts a failure. Thankfully food has become a bit more relaxed since then both in preparation and presentation.
Travelling back up north for the festivities, by the time I reached home he would often have saved a job for me to do that for some miguided reason he thought I would relish, usually on the display front. I remember one year he had made a salmon mouse in the shape of a leaping fish which he asked me to complete by surrounding it with dyed aspic. Unfortunately he had been a bit too heavy handed with the blue dye so it looked to be leaping in a municipal swimming pool. Another time he had saved me the job of tying smoked salmon and cream cheese parcels using chives as if they were ribbons – what I learnt from the experience; chives don’t behave like ribbon and do not like to be tied into bows.
Christmas cooking was always accompanied by much huffing, puffing and sighing, swearing under your breath and saying ‘never again’ (until the next time). How ever stressful and seemingly unpleasant those occasions were at the time they are the things I now remember most fondly especially as he’s not here any more to plan these mad meals.
This copy of ‘A La Carte’ was particularly special to us. A feature called ‘Surprise Christmas, it’s all wrapped up!’ was at the time inspired. I now see that Nigel Slater produced the feature (yes I know, that’s what I was thinking, I didn’t know he’d been around that long either!).

Nigel we love you

All the recipes made food that was gift wrapped. The filo pastry crackers, fabulously innovative at the time, were then copied by other magazines for the next 15 years at least. Me and Dad made them and found a box lined with tissue paper to serve them in.
But my absolute favourite recipe was for chocolate and praline boxes. The chocolate squares you needed to make the boxes weren’t easy to find even then. We had some old family friends over from Australia dining with us and when these little chocolate boxes were served they insisted on being photographed with them.

exquisite chocolate boxes you’ll remember always

Here is the recipe. I hope nobody complains about the copyright – it’s Christmas after all and this is in the form of a homage.
Oh and by the way, I managed to buy the chocolate squares last week from an online sweet shop here. I’m going to make the chocolate and praline boxes again as a tribute to my Dad.

Monday December 17th 2007, 3:28 pm

Welcoming you in from the cold

I have come to the conclusion that foodie gifts are always welcome. Apart from gifts for children of course who generally prefer a Play Station to a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. This week I’ve got big plans for making gifts I know I’d love to be given.


Monday December 10th 2007, 1:03 pm

Vintage Kenwood Christmas

When it comes to food mixers there seem to be two main camps; do you choose Kenwood or Kitchenaid? The other day I realised that I was longing for a new Kitchenaid Artisan mixer (perhaps in tangerine) but my reasons were based on having seen them used on TV food programmes (always in red). As I consider myself intelligent enough to see through this blatant product placement I decided to question my desires. Both makes have been around for a very long time, Kenwood since the 50’s and Kitchenaid since before that and it seems that both have built up strong brand loyalty. I haven’t inherited a preference myself, growing up it was only the ‘Blackpool landlady’ faction of my family who aspired to the Kenwood Chef with all the attachments.
After some research I am drawn more towards Kenwood, originally and for most of its existence a British company. The design of the Chef stayed relatively unchanged from the early 60’s and has a great retro look, a bit more edgey than the US 50’s-diner style Kitchenaid. The fact that the Chef was considered to be ‘over engineered’ contributed to its robust and reliable reputation. So instead of rushing off to John Lewis to buy new I have saved a deserving vintage Chef from landfill. Christmas has come early at The Laundry and my life has just taken a turn for the better.
And not only that ….. it is TANGERINE.

Vintage Kenwood in tangerine

Friday December 07th 2007, 3:26 pm

Clemetines by the crate load.

Shopping at Lidls can be an interesting challenge, finding little gems amongst the shelf loads of run-of-the-mill cheap produce with hardly a recognisable brand in sight to help you get your bearings. You definitely need glasses handy to check the multi-lingual lists of ingredients.
But sometimes special things are right under your nose. They are currently selling these dinky little shopkeeper’s crates of clementines which are sweet enough to use as part of your Christmas decorations. If you have any fruits left, Nigella does a squidgy clementine cake here which is worth a go and I have heard glowing reports about it.