When it comes to French cooking, there is a lot to say! What started in the 5th century went through changes and evolutions, from different households to different regions, passing down through generations and modified along the way. Adding ingredients, taking away ingredients, leaving today’s French cuisine imbued with a sense of rich heritage. The definition of French cooking changes from town to town, region to region, I guess this is why people love France and its food, the lovely tradition and festival of food and flavours; when you go there you find yourself in the middle of a celebration of produce, fruits, vegetables and meat. It’s so wonderful! You can be there for a day and before you know it you’re dancing with the local folklore and imbibing great wine, too. In my books, this is what I celebrate, not the fact that I had four restaurants each awarded a Michelin star, but I celebrate the produce, the ingredients, the season, which for me are much more important, and beautiful. This is where I get my inspiration, working in those seasons, and getting that scent, and by doing so, I get half of my new recipes, as I have done with French Countryside Cooking! So what ingredients do we always have in French kitchens, which we can’t cook without?
EGGS: omelettes, boiled, scrambled! But also for quiches, a salad, or even a pain perdu (french toast!)
FLOUR: for pancakes, cakes, or to thicken a sauce
BUTTER: always there, salted or unsalted, but ready to be added to a nice dish, or spread on a fresh baguette. So nice, so simple
SUGAR: still around, but now we have cut down our use of it although some recipes do require a bit! As well as tea, or coffee, a fruit dessert, or a lovely compote
CREAM & MILK: for those lovely soups, quiches, purees, or even a great chicken recipe with mushroom and herbs!
RICE, PASTA, COUSCOUS: always there in the pantry, ready to go with a beautiful casserole, pilau rice or to go with lamb, or chicken and so much more!
TINS OF SARDINES & TUNA: very common in a French kitchen, for that salad nicoise, or on a slice of warm toasted bread with butter. Ever since I was young, I can remember having these delightful and simple finger foods. Plus, always great on a salad. Yum!
So, these are a few French store cupboard staples. Of course, there’s frozen veg which can be stocked from your own garden, just like my mother used to do, such as peas and green beans.
Most people will remember having those very popular dishes when in France, on your vacations how could you not try a wonderful coq an vin, or a cassoulet, a gratin dauphinois, quiche, a choucroute from Alsace, maybe a boeuf bourguignon, a tartiflette. A tarte tatin! This famous and beloved dessert with apple, so magnifique! Different dishes from every region of France.
So when I do write a book, I always think in the form of regions, seasons, foraging and sustainability; also focusing on line caught and grass fed, we must remain in touch with nature and support our farmers to get those great products. In French Countryside Cooking I have included a few vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian recipes which I love. But what I really pay mind to is taste, simplicity, the number of ingredients a cost. I want people to enjoy my book of course, but I want them to cook with it, use it and have fun sharing those recipes around the table with a nice glass of wine. That is what it is all about, education around the table.
ENJOY AND HAPPY COOKING