‘If you re­ally want to fall in love with food, go to a French mar­ket’

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

I’m Bri­tish by birth, but a French­man at heart. I was brought up in ru­ral Kent, but re­ally it was as a French child in the English coun­try­side. This was made most ap­par­ent through food. My fa­ther, Al­bert Roux OBE, was work­ing as a pri­vate chef on the Fair­lawne Es­tate, and he was al­ways rear­ing an­i­mals for the ta­ble, like squab pi­geons and rab­bits. Later, when my fa­ther and his brother opened Le Gavroche in 1967, my mother would head off to Paris and bring back all kinds of spec­tac­u­lar in­gre­di­ents for us to eat.

At least once or twice a week, my mother would hop into her big Peu­geot es­tate to make the jour­ney from Lon­don to Paris, and she’d re­turn with it packed full of spices and in­gre­di­ents. She al­ways had to bring back our favourite but­ter – Beurre D’Isigny – for the ta­ble.

Look­ing back, I was sur­rounded by French in­gre­di­ents and cul­ture, even with­out liv­ing there. When­ever we had fam­ily come to visit, they’d de­liver us all kinds of won­der­ful in­gre­di­ents – stinky Camem­bert, “There are vari­a­tions of this great French clas­sic. Cut­tle­fish is de­li­cious and good value. In most French mar­kets it is sold as slabs of pure, white meat or whole with skin and ten­ta­cles. If you buy the lat­ter then a bit of work needs to be done. How­ever it is well worth the ef­fort.”

Heat the re­main­ing oil in the pan and gen­tly cook the onions un­til ten­der. Add the to­mato paste and cook for three or four min­utes, then add the wine, saffron, bou­quet garni, chopped toma­toes and the olives. Sim­mer for an­other five min­utes.

Add the cut­tle­fish and pour in enough wa­ter to cover. Sea­son with salt and pep­per. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a very gen­tle sim­mer, cover the pan and cook for 60 to 80 min­utes or un­til the cut­tle­fish is ten­der.

Just be­fore serv­ing fold in the aioli. Serve with red Ca­mar­gue rice. char­cu­terie, spices, all kinds of foods that weren’t read­ily avail­able in Eng­land at the time. I sup­pose that re­ally was my first taste of France – my ear­li­est food mem­o­ries of my par­ents and aun­ties, un­cles, and grand­moth­ers bring­ing these cu­ri­ous good­ies over and delv­ing in.

My child­hood hol­i­days were al­ways to France – when they were work­ing dur­ing the school hol­i­days, my par­ents would send me and my sis­ter off to visit my grand-mère Jac­que­line and grand-père Emille in Paris. My grand­mother was a re­ally fan­tas­tic cook. She used to make this dish, braised rab­bit with loads of fen­nel and pastis (an aniseed­flavoured spirit), and my, was it good. I used to love it when she made that. When we’d visit my fa­ther’s side, my grand­mother Ger­maine didn’t ac­tu­ally cook that much, but the one thing I do re­mem­ber is that every af­ter­noon she would sit down with a small tum­bler of red wine, throw in some lit­tle chunks of stale bread, and mix it all up with a spoon­ful of sugar and turn it into a paste. She would eat it like that, straight from the tum­bler, and she swore by it – she said it was the se­cret to good health and longevity.

Of­ten, we would drive out of Paris and hire a lit­tle cot­tage for the sum­mer in Sologne (in north cen­tral France) or the Loire. I re­mem­ber long, hazy days in the coun­try­side, in the lush forests and watch­ing the sun­set over the ponds.

Every day, my first job of the morn­ing would be to grind cof­fee in a hand-grinder for my grand­par­ents. Af­ter, we would go fish­ing and eat the fish we caught. For the most part, we ate at home, cook­ing with in­gre­di­ents we’d found that day, but for a lit­tle treat we would travel to the nearby vil­lages, mostly made up of those charm­ing brick-built houses that gave the area so much char­ac­ter. We’d stop in the bustling mar­kets, or in a lo­cal patis­serie to try home­made pas­tries and cakes.

There’s a town called Lamot­teBeu­vron, not too far from where we stayed, which was the birth­place of the tarte tatin and I don’t think I’ve

Guests en­joy typ­i­cal French fare at Chez Sylvie in Lyon

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