Baguettes made with white French type 55 flour, cold fermented overnight. The best thing for me about holidays in France is going to a boulangerie to get fresh baguettes, coming back proudly brandishing the crusty sticks, pretending I’m a proper French person.
I thought I’d make blanquette de veau with some diced English rose veal from my butcher’s. How haute cuisine and poncey that sounds, eh? Two things have transpired this morning however: one – when I opened my veal vacuumed pack...
Yule log, or buche de Noel made with chocolate sponge and chocolate whipped cream filling. This is DEFINITELY the best dessert on Christmas day. It rides onto the table when everyone is in deep gluttonous stupor after third helpings of turkey and just one more last spoonful of stuffing, and suddenly they perk up mumbling ‘this is a bit of all right’ and ‘I might have room for the thinnest slice more’.
Baked Camembert parcel in cornmeal shortcrust with Cheddar and thyme. It is so tasty, pastry made from scratch and all, that if you don’t try it once in your life, you won’t know you’ve lived. T
Caraway and parmesan pain de mie - soft crusted sandwich loaf with fantastic flavour. Pain de mie means a soft crust loaf, ideal for sandwiches, and it’s traditionally baked in a loaf tin closed with a lid.
Cassoulet - the ultimate comfort dish, with duck and pork. Pork belly provided the fat, a little bacon a little smokiness; and I sprinkled breadcrumbs over the casserole as well as the serving bowls.
The best cheese fondue, smooth as velvet and comforting as a blanket. This tastes absolutely fantastic. And so it should – it’s Heston’s recipe from the book ‘Heston Blumenthal at home’.
Wholemeal cider bread with chunks of apples. They allegedly came up with this bread in Normandy but I think anyone could do it: just have a drop of cider (or calvados) and decide you’ll chuck all those apples into the bread do, for a prank.
Côte de bœuf seasoned with dry mustard, seared in a pan and roasted in the oven. Côte de bœuf is basically an enormous rib-eye steak with the bone in.
Croissants made with overnight proving dough laminated with butter. If you’re lucky enough to be living in France you get them from your boulangerie, but actually there's nothing like the homemade thing in terms of flavour. Is it difficult?
Croquants aux amandes, French almond cookies. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if these cookies should be crunchy or gooey. ‘Croquant’ suggests the former, meaning precisely that, but I found the ones baked a bit less nicer.
Fondant carrots cooked in a butter and water emulsion, with caraway and cinnamon. This method of cooking carrots is similar to carrots Vichy, but there you start off with carrots in water, brought to the boil and butter added later.
Celeriac fondant is a lovely way of cooking one of the more boring vegetables. Fondant - most often potatoes - are cooked in both butter and liquid. They should be cut in a very fancy way, in a shape of little barrels, then placed in a pan into foaming butter.
Fougasse au Roquefort - flat bread with blue cheese, quite like focaccia. Fougasse can be salé or sucré,with lardons, olives, both, Roquefort – or covered with a thick layer of crisp, almost caramelised sugar. All strictly Provençal.
Pain the campagne, sourdough bread made with wheat starter. Sourdough starter I find fickle – I know it can live for ever, only refreshed every now and then, but my best results have been with fresh, four days old leaven so that’s the approach I suggest here. Veteran sourdough makers though – please use whatever wheat starter you have on the go.
Galette des rois, an elegant treat for the night of Epiphany, or any other time during the twelve days of Christmas. There are some lovely traditions associated with the galette: a ‘fève’ is hidden inside the cake - a tiny china figurine or an almond - and the lucky person to find it (and not choke on it) is crowned a king or queen for the carnival.
Galettes made with buckwheat flour (gluten-free), with a classic topping of ham, cheese and a few spinach leaves. Galettes are pancakes – only better. The hardcore version has them fried only on one side, toppings put on top (as you would with toppings), and the sides only nonchalantly folded over.
Gâteau Basque, the traditional butter pastry from the Basque region. The pastry is awfully rich, buttery and heavy, like a posh relative to shortcrust. Easy to put together, especially that, unlike shortcrust, it doesn’t need chilling in the fridge
Grilled skinned Dover sole with caper lemon butter. If turbot is the king of fish, Dover sole surely must be the queen. It’s actually easier to cook than turbot, which is big beast and there’s a quandary how to cook it. With sole there’s no problem – simple grilled is the best...
Classic French madeleines, buttery and melting. The cookie is lovely – and don’t listen to the evil people who tell you it’s all right to make madeleines with whole eggs.
Crusty and chewy French dimple rolls with whole grains and malted wheat flakes. A recently refreshed sourdough starter, malted flakes or powder, some whole grains and a dimple.
Mini gateaux bretons, individual breton butter cakes with jam filling. Breton butter cake, or gateau breton is one of the best things to come out of northern France.
Moules marinières with cream, fairly standard, but this recipe has a tiny twist. The usual spiel is to cook mussels with wine, take them out and then add cream – what a waste of time. I added the cream beforehand, turned up the heat full whack and threw the shells in...
French onion soup with toasted bread slices loaded with cheese. The best thing to eat on a cold winter’s day is soup. Something so comforting about a good bowl of soup – better than a stew, much better than a salad and it even beats cheese on toast – sometimes. Not that much beats cheese on toast in my view.
Pain de mie, French sandwich loaf baked in a Pullman tin with a lid. This is fantastic bread by the way, tasty, even more so by replacing all-white with a little wholemeal flour in the mix and using, of course, fresh yeast which does make a difference to the rise and the taste.
Pissaladiere Provençal, a simple savoury tart on pizza dough with onion, anchovy and olive topping. And that is one of the best snack/street food/ starter/nibble in the world.
Poilâne-style loaf, whole grain sourdough rustic bread. Pain Poilâne is all about stoneground flour, natural fermentation and wood-fired oven. Lacking the last element, I can’t very well say I’ve made pain Poilâne
Potatoes boulangeres, potato slices baked with stock, onions and a little butter. A simple side of potatoes boulangeres is traditional with beef bourgignon.
A classic pound cake also known as quatre-quarts or madeira. You don’t need to frost or layer it, there are no raisins thrown into the mix, no chocolate goes near it and the only adornment should be a discreet dusting of icing sugar - or a lick of good jam.
Simple and easy ratatouille. Purists of French cooking – look away now. I know, I know – cook each kind of vegetable separately, then put all together in a baking dish and stick in the oven. So yes, I agree that this is a completely unorthodox version.
Remoulade, or celeriac salad. My version has a little twist – I add carrots and a bit of apple, and a few raisins for the sweetness. Ah well, as if you need a justification for adding raisins to anything! I also julienne the vegetables instead of grating them.
Roast chicken rôtisserie style, with potatoes cooking beneath, the best outside a French village market. The ultimate salivating lunchtime temptation. Such a match made in heaven: chickens browning and crisping evenly and the spuds underneath, basting in the glorious fat, shaken about every now and then.
Sourdough baguettes on wheat starter, fermenting over 36 hours. I’ve made these baguettes three times now - completely successful, and just look at those air bubbles…
Tartiflette, the best potato and cheese dish ever invented; with bacon lardons and Reblochon cheese. Tartiflette is the definitive comfort food. Potatoes, bacon and cheese – you can’t go wrong with that. It’s a simple dish and like any recipe coming from the highlands of any country, it looks in the pantry, finds stale bits and bobs and puts them together for dinner both nutritious and satisfying.
Savoury tarte Tatin with confit tomatoes. Tomatoes are generally rubbish through three quarters of the year in the non-Mediterranean part of Europe. Tasteless and watery, with thick skins and not much flavour.
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