Yes, it’s true dear reader, that this reviewer does love cookbooks. How often have I urged you to scurry off and purchase a particular title? You might be shocked to hear that I am asking you not to buy a single copy of this book. I can hear the gasp from the author and the thud as the publisher’s body hits the ground. No, I am suggesting that you buy two copies. This is such a stunner that you’ll want a volume for the kitchen (likely to become smudged with sauce and flavourful jus) and one for the coffee table to muse over. It would be worth buying a coffee table just for that very exercise.
The author, Pascal Aussignac, is the celebrated head chef of Club Gascon in London. He has been harvesting accolades and awards since its inception in 1998. Club Gascon Group founder and Director Vincent Labeyrie enticed him away from his successful career in France, to cross the Channel. With missionary zeal they have expanded the enterprise to several venues with different emphases and now there is a Food Hall and Bistro. You can visit the Club Gascon site at http://www.clubgascon.com/cc_intro.php.
Pascal has trained under the best chefs in France. He determined at the age of nine to become a chef and he started work at thirteen. His first weeks were spent dropping bottles on floors and food on guests but that was evidently due to youthful nerves. He settled down to become well respected by his peers. He has imported his love of fresh seasonal produce as well as his famed originality to both his restaurant and this book.
Well, what’s so appealing? Is this the first French cookbook to cross my desk (kitchen work surface on trestles)? Well, hardly. It’s just that Cuisinier Gascon – Meals from a Gascon Chef is so charming in every detail. I love the typeface, the page design, and the outstanding photography. Jean Cazals is responsible for the pictures and will be in good measure responsible for the inevitable success of this gorgeous book.
It’s a cookbook. The clue is in the name. It’s a book to cook from. The collection of recipes reflects the culinary heritage of the south-west of France. It’s a region I know quite well and it’s good to see so many traditional recipes that I have enjoyed whilst there. Pot au Feu is a classic but here it’s given a bit of a twist The author uses beef cheeks and marrow bones to create a rich dish that will provide you with two courses and a stock for another day. Serve the usual condiments of gherkins or cornichons, crushed salt and mustard to add more flavour notes. Don’t forget the baguette.
Cassoulet is a dish that stirs passions. There are any number of recipes for this hearty dish of meat and beans but Pascal has offered his mother’s favourite version. The recipe for Gasconade is included and it is a mouth-watering roast delight. The combination of a leg of lamb, anchovies and garlic might sound a little bizarre to the uninitiated but it’s a classic marriage and made in heaven. The anchovies melt and add an agreeable hint of salt rather than a taste of kippers.
There are many must-try’s here, well, probably all of them. Nougat is a speciality at Club Gascon and you’ll find the recipe in this book. Not many ingredients and not expensive to make. Gateau Basque is a custard-filled pie and would be ideal for either afternoon tea or to finish a Sunday lunch. A dash of dark rum and a soupçon of Pernod add a very French air. Delicious.
Cuisinier Gascon – Meals from a Gascon Chef is striking in both style and substance. It’s a veritable treasure house of classic and almost-classic recipes. A page-turner for any lover of fine food and a book to be coveted by serious French food enthusiasts. I adored the book and I am sure I’ll enjoy the restaurant.
Cookbook review: Cuisinier Gascon – Meals from a Gascon chef
Author: Pascal Aussignac
Published by: Absolute Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018