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Recipes from A La Carte magazine, Christmas 1984

The recipe I posted for sticky toffee pudding back in 2008 resulted in a comments thread full of people reminiscing about A La Carte magazine. Back when I was a horrible precocious kid, my Mum used to get the magazine monthly. It was a beautiful thing, with gorgeous photography (unusual for food publications in the 80s), and some masterful typesetting, which I used to think back to fondly when I started working in magazines myself twenty years later.

The recipes were heavily influenced by the extravagant, rich French style of dinner party cooking. Lots of butter and cream, everything spiked with as much booze as you could lay your hands on, and the sort of preparation that would have your mother sweating and swearing in the kitchen for entire afternoons as she stitched ducks and chickens together for hours at a stretch.

My Mum used to lay on the most fabulous dinner parties, where she’d cook from A La Carte and from books by those 80s superstar chefs like John Tovey, Robert Carrier and Raymond Blanc. I didn’t get to come downstairs to try the food, but I could smell it wafting up through the bannisters that overlooked the dining room, and sometimes got to sample bits in the kitchen while she cooked. I also sneaked downstairs in the mornings while Mum and Dad slept the night’s partying off to work my merry way through the leftovers, including whatever wine was left at the bottom of glasses, thereby starting early on a life of dipsomania. She’s amazing, my Mum. She used to make petit fours from scratch. She made lucullan heaps of fruit glazed with lightly beaten eggwhites and dipped in caster sugar so they shimmered as if coated in powdered diamonds. The table would be laid with silverware polished until you could kill an ant with the reflections off a spoon. And we kids would be packed away to bed after handing out the chocolate-dipped physalis, devils on horseback, freshly roasted almonds or whatever other pre-dinner nibble she’d settled on, so as not to aggravate the guests. It was enough to raise an appetite that, in my case, has not yet subsided.

Although A La Carte, with its complicated and time-consuming recipes, hasn’t survived, it turns out that a lot of those who subscribed to the magazine kept their copies to cook from. Mike Ratcliffe, a reader of this blog, very kindly sent me scans of two pages from the December 1984 edition. They include a Christmas pudding recipe you’d be well-advised to make now ready for December, a boned and stuffed turkey recipe that other commenters here have been waxing lyrical over, and a yeasted sugar tart that sounds just the ticket. (I think you can probably leave the smoked salmon ice made wobblesome with gelatine safely in the 1980s, though; and the Persian recipes on the second page lack the sort of spicing we’d be used to nowadays.) Click on the images to enlarge them to a readable size. If any other readers out there have copies of the magazine with scans they’d like to share, please send them to liz@gastronomydomine.com – I’d love to hear from you, and I know there are lots of people out there who have similarly happy memories of 1980s bacchanalia they’re just as keen as I am to reproduce.

A la Carte recipes, Dec 1984

A la Carte Christmas recipes, Dec 1984. Click to embiggen.

A la Carte Christmas recipes, Dec 1984

A la Carte Christmas recipes, Dec 1984, p2. Click to embiggen.

 

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8 comments to Recipes from A La Carte magazine, Christmas 1984

  • Belinda

    Hi

    I too used to get A La Carte every month! Somewhere in the world – perhaps in an old attic somewhere! – there will be a full set as my ex-husband and I never missed an edition! I have tried in the past to google recipes but it’s never come up with anything remotely useful! I’m crossing my fingers now I might get somewhere! I’m looking for a recipe for a mushroom tart I used to make. It was gorgeous! Simple, but the quantities will be crucial in order for it not to be either too dry or too soggy! Can you help??? I hope so,

    Kind regards,

    Belinda

  • cordelia dracos

    Hi – I would love to help – have full series and the indices to go with them am just learning to use computer but if you are still interested I will endeavour to scan the index relating to mushroom and then you can tell me which recipe you need
    all the best as one foodie to another
    Ceedy

  • Maggie Cuddihy

    I have a complete set of the magazines! Here is the mushroom tart from Oct/Nov 84… 8oz shortcrust, 2 rashers bacon, chopped, 3oz unsalted butter, 2 onions, chopped, 1 lb black (ie not button, probably portabella?) mushrooms, chopped, 1/4 pt double cream, salt and pepper.Blind-bake case in 8″ tin.Fry bacon in butter, take out and keep warm. Soften onions in it, add to bacon. Add mushrooms, cream and s&p to them, into flan case, 30 mins at reg5 190C 375F. Serve warm.

    There was also a Tarte aux Cepes in April/May 86. Allegedly a “classic Aquitane recipe”. Short pastry with 8oz flour and 4oz butter. 8oz cepes chopped coarsely,fry with 1 clove garlic crushed, in 2-3 tabspns sunflower oil. Take out before they brown, and allow to cool. Mix 4 yolks into 8 floz double cream, then add 1 1/2 oz flour and then the cooled cepes and 8floz milk. Line 4 x 3″ tartlet tins with the pastry, fill with the seasoned mixture, bake Reg 6 200C 400F for 25 mins. Serve w salad of radicchio and endive. Note I have double-checked and it DOES say these quantities of both milk and cream – seems a hell of a lot to me.

    I suspect the success of either will depend on the salt levels, and these days would there be herbs too?. Enjoy!

  • Ian Lennox

    I have just dug out the full run (I believe) of A La Carte magazine (bound) from my loft. It runs from the Oct/Nov 1984 issue to the June 1988 issue which is when I believe it disappeared from the shelves.

    My wife is the cook and loved reading through the recipes (and cooking many of them!) in the past – they did contain lots of magnificent recipes.

    However, the cookbook bookshelves got massively over loaded (the wife cannot resist a new cookbook – probably still a couple of hundred or more on the shelves)and the A La Cartes were consigned to the loft (along with the full run of the 1970′s partwork ‘The Complete Cook’ and a series of 20 Time-Life books). The Supercook partwork was saved from the loft despite falling to pieces from over use – and it is still referred to regularly!

    The A La Carte magazines are just about to go up on eBay and if they don’t sell they will unfortunately be going to the tip – as one gets older then minimalising must be done!

  • Ness Mill

    I remember a superb pudding – Marbled chocolate and chestnut steamed puddy, if anyone can let me see the recipe it would be great as I now have a herd of non traditional christmas pudding eaters descending on us this year.

    Reading this piece has me all nostalgic for this brill magazine, what a shame i lost my copies long ago.

  • Caroline R

    I was a keen fan of a la Carte magazine during the 1980s and would cut out and keep recipes I liked from it. One such recipe, which I have used regularly at Christmas time, was ‘Rum Butter Tarts’ by the late Michael Smith – this recipe was in an article he had written for the magazine which also included, he claimed, was the Royal Family’s’ favourite Christmas Pudding recipe. I can still see the photograph that accompanied the article – it was a small snowman with a tartan scarf and smartie buttons! These little tarts were based on a rum butter mixture with apricots and make a great alternative to mince pies. Sadly this year my folder of recipes has been lost due to an over-enthusiastic clear out of loft! I wonder whether Mike Ratcliffe would be able to provide me and all your other readers with this recipe again or can anyone else help me please? I recently found 3 copies of A la Carte magazine in a local charity shop and they transported me back to another time – another era!

  • The best Savory Walnut Roulade was the most amazing supper/firstcourse dish that I have ever made.

    This came from A la carte magazine, October 1985!!!!!!!

    Unfortunately my copy seems to have been lost in moving!!

    Is there anybody out there, who would have held on to their magazines as I do, and would have this recipe?

    I would be so delighted if you have.

  • I found this site after searching for weeks online for old a la carte magazine recipes! I hope this site is still up and running. does anyone remember the Tarte au Poire recipe, the photo of it was on the front cover, sorry I don’t remember the date, just the divine flavour of this dessert. Also the Vodka Lemon Meringue Cake? There were so many fantastic recipes in these magazines, salt bloom potatoes, Sunshine Soup which was a heady mix of carrots oranges, cream and sherry. Unfortunately I do not have my magazines any more, but they were part of halcyon days when we didn’t worry about too much butter or cream!!

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