I have often said, and indeed at length, that I do not subscribe to the philosophy that French food is best. In my humble opinion it stands shoulder to shoulder with the other classic cuisines of China and India. Each one offers something unique and distinct.
There is much to recommend French food, however. If one can master some typical French cooking techniques then one is able to replicate not only traditional French food but most dishes from the Western battery.
Justin North is a New Zealander who has cooked in various parts of the world. He is evidently charmed by French food and his skills have served him well. He has selected recipes on which to practise, and with which to perfect your own abilities. All the recipes are surprisingly simple but they will each introduce you to a particular cooking method or mode of preparation. Just because it’s French does not mean that one has to be born within the shadow of La Tour Eiffel to execute it well.
It’s difficult to choose just a couple of recipes to illustrate the style of French Lessons. It’s all French but Justin scans the whole spectrum of food groups – from simple salads to the more angst-inducing soufflés. Not too many lengthy lists of ingredients, either.
Pissaladier is a Southern delight. It’s reminiscent of a pizza but topped with caramelised onions, melting anchovies and black olives. It’s a dish that can make a complete meal with just a green salad. I often serve this as a starter on those days when we dust off the barbecue. It takes the pressure off the garden chef if he knows that the guests have something to stave off the hunger pangs while he tries for the third time to light the coals. It’s a must-try recipe – sweetness from the onions and an agreeable saltiness from the fish.
The aforementioned soufflés are demystified here. There is a recipe for Prune and Armagnac Soufflé that really does give a taste of France, and offers an explanation of why French food is so highly regarded. It’s a dessert found on the menus of some of the finest restaurants. It’s light and fluffy and those plums give a very adult taste. It’s dinner party fare without a doubt, but Justin gives us a method which allows much of the preparation to be done beforehand …4 days beforehand.
French Lessons – Recipes and techniques for a new generation of cooks is a manual that cuts through the hype of French cooking. It’s much easier to present a French meal than many would suppose. It’s a myth to suggest that the French housewife is some kind of virtuous kitchen slave. She has a full-time job just like you, and therefore uses recipes that reflect the best of French cooking but without tears.
This is an attractive volume of over 300 recipes, with menu-planning sections so you can entertain in true Gallic style. A real snip at only £16.99. A gentle introduction to French cuisine.
French Lessons – Recipes and techniques for a new generation of cooks
Author: Justin North
Published by Hardie Grant
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018