I miss old-fashioned comfort cooking, says Jay Rayner in The Observer. Take Robert Carrier, whose book Great Dishes of the World was a 1960s culinary bible. His appreciation for butter is unlike anything you’d see today, says Rayner, and we’re worse off for it. “He loved butter the way small children love puppies.” In the opening chapters of the book, Carrier states: “There is nothing that quite replaces butter in cooking.” Then he gives margarine “a fabulous eyeroll”.
A flick through Great Dishes of the World offers hundreds of long-forgotten recipes. There’s cognac-heavy onion soup and beef stroganoff – a dish so retro, “I haven’t even thought of it in years, let alone cooked it”. But best of all are the crêpes suzette: pancakes fried in butter, icing sugar, orange juice and booze. “If I were prime minister, I’d make it law that every dessert menu offers crêpes suzette.”
Eventually, Carrier crumbled under the pressure to modernise his cooking. He “was a restless soul, who moved with the times. In later years, they say, he lightened his recipes.” But for me his 1960s book remains his masterpiece – a wonderful look into a “butter-basted world”.
Robert Carrier’s crêpes suzette
Basic crêpes mixture
2oz icing sugar
1tbsp grated lemon rind
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange
Cream butter and icing sugar together; add grated lemon and orange rind, orange juice and 4tbsp Cointreau. (You can substitute either curaçao or Grand Marnier for the Cointreau.)
Heat orange-flavoured butter in a hot chafing dish (or electric frying pan) for about five minutes or until it bubbles and reduces a little. Dip each cooked crêpe into this hot mixture, then fold in quarters, using a fork and spoon, and push to one side of the pan. When all crêpes are used, sprinkle with a little sugar and add remaining Cointreau to the pan with cognac. Stand well away from the pan and light the liquid with a match. Spoon the flaming liquid over the crêpes and serve with the sauce as soon as the flames die down.
Robert Carrier’s beef stroganoff
2lb rump or fillet of beef
Freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp finely chopped onion
8oz button mushroom caps, sliced
Salt, nutmeg and mace
Half a pint of sour cream
Cut steak across the grain into slices ½in thick. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and flatten each slice with a wooden mallet.
Sauté onion in half the butter until it just begins to turn colour; add sliced beef and sauté for about five minutes, turning pieces so that all sides are browned. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Add remaining butter to pan and sauté sliced mushroom caps. Return beef to pan. Season to taste with salt, nutmeg and mace; add sour cream and heat through.