Bon ap­pétit

Home cook­ing courtesy of Michel Roux Jr

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THE FOOD IN THESE pages is a cel­e­bra­tion of the great French way of life and of eat­ing, but with a dif­fer­ence. Gal­lic cui­sine has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing rich, com­plex and time-con­sum­ing, which it can be, par­tic­u­larly in restau­rants. But French home cook­ing is based on good, lo­cal, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents and sim­ple skills. This is the food that I was brought up on and that I still like to eat – the food we en­joy cook­ing as a fam­ily. It’s fresh and de­li­cious, with veg­eta­bles, pulses and fruit play­ing a large part.

In France, as in Bri­tain, peo­ple are keen to have a health­ier diet and I be­lieve we can achieve this with­out com­pro­mis­ing on taste or plea­sure. I’ve cre­ated new recipes to suit the way we eat to­day, as well as tak­ing a fresh look at some much-loved tra­di­tional dishes to bring them up to date. The food here is very achiev­able – you don’t need lots of fancy equip­ment and nearly all of the in­gre­di­ents are easy to come by. Wher­ever pos­si­ble I have re­duced the rich­ness by us­ing less cream and but­ter than in the old days, while main­tain­ing flavour. But this is not a diet book and there are some clas­sics that just can’t be im­proved on – I be­lieve it’s fine to have a more in­dul­gent treat once in a while.

Here are ideas for all times of day, from the one-pot dish of mus­sels with beer, to pud­ding, to a spe­cial French aper­i­tif. The recipes are not ex­trav­a­gant – there’s no lob­ster or foie gras.

Ul­ti­mately, one of the best things about cook­ing great food is shar­ing it with other peo­ple. Make these dishes for your fam­ily and friends, and show them how sim­ple good French food can be. The French Revo­lu­tion, by Michel Roux Jr, is pub­lished by Orion (£25). To or­der your copy for £20, call 0844-871 1514 or visit books.tele­graph.co.uk

Ar­tichauts far­cis (stuffed ar­ti­chokes) Serves 4

Globe ar­ti­chokes do take a lit­tle while to pre­pare, but they’re well worth the ef­fort. These are stuffed with ham and eggs to make a light and el­e­gant dish. — 4 large globe ar­ti­chokes — juice of 1 lemon

— 8 thin slices of Bay­onne or other air-dried ham — 4 small free-range eggs — 4 tbsp dou­ble cream Pre­pare the ar­ti­chokes. Snap the stalk off each one and pull away the outer leaves from the base. Us­ing a knife, trim off two lay­ers of leaves and cut the base flat.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil with a pinch of salt. Add the ar­ti­chokes and lemon juice, and cook for 25 min­utes or un­til a skewer eas­ily pierces the cen­tre of each ar­ti­choke. Drain, then turn them bot­tom up to dry and cool.

When the ar­ti­chokes are cold, care­fully pull out the cen­tre leaves to re­veal the fluffy choke, then re­move this from each one with a spoon. Run the ar­ti­chokes un­der a tap to rinse them clean and get rid of any re­main­ing bits of choke.

Pre­heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Line the cav­ity of an ar­ti­choke with two slices of ham, then care­fully crack in an egg and add a ta­ble­spoon of cream and a lit­tle black pep­per. Re­peat with the re­main­ing ar­ti­chokes and in­gre­di­ents.

Place the filled ar­ti­chokes in a roast­ing tin and add just-boiled water to a depth of 1cm. Bake for 20 min­utes – the egg yolks should still be runny. Serve im­me­di­ately.

Hari­cot de mou­ton (lamb with hari­cot beans)

Serves 6

This was tra­di­tion­ally made with mut­ton and it’s just as good with hogget or lamb – but not spring lamb. It’s re­ally a French ver­sion of Lan­cashire hot­pot and a good, hearty, healthy meal, all in one. — 500g dried hari­cot beans — 2 onions, peeled and diced — 1 bay leaf

— 4 gar­lic cloves, peeled and crushed

— 2 bou­quets gar­nis

— 4 tbsp veg­etable oil — 1.2kg boned lamb neck or shoul­der, cut into 4cm pieces — 2 car­rots, peeled and diced — 2 tbsp tomato paste Soak the beans in cold water overnight. Drain them, put them in a pan with half the diced onion and the bay leaf, then cover gen­er­ously with cold water. Add two of the gar­lic cloves and a bou­quet garni, and bring to the boil. Sim­mer for 45 min­utes or un­til the beans are al­most ten­der – they will be heated again later. Drain the beans, then set them and the cook­ing liq­uid aside.

Heat two ta­ble­spoons of the oil in a large flame­proof casse­role dish and sear the meat un­til golden. It’s best to do this in batches so as not to over­crowd the pan. Re­move each batch as it is browned.

Dis­card any fat in the pan. Add the rest of the oil and cook the re­main­ing onion and gar­lic with the car­rots over a medium heat un­til lightly coloured.

Add the tomato paste and the re­main­ing bou­quet garni, then stir, scrap­ing the bot­tom of the pan well. Place the meat back in, plus enough of the bean cook­ing liq­uid to cover. Sea­son, cover the pan and sim­mer gen­tly for 45 min­utes. Add the beans with more water if needed and sim­mer for a fur­ther 30 min­utes. Serve in wide bowls.

Moules à la bière (mus­sels with beer)

Serves 4

Mus­sels are cheap, good to eat and make a great one-pot dish. I like to cook them in beer, which gives a fuller flavour and is less acidic than wine. If you pre­fer a lit­tle sharp­ness, add a squeeze of lemon at the end. Serve with thick slices of grilled sour­dough baguette, maybe rubbed with gar­lic. If you are feel­ing up to it, pick all the mus­sels from the shells and gen­tly re­heat them in the sauce. Oth­er­wise, I’m happy with the rus­tic, in­for­mal ver­sion – as they say in French, ‘A la bonne fran­quette.’ — 1.6kg mus­sels

— 340ml beer (light lager,

or wheat or fruit beer)

— 2 shal­lots, peeled and

finely chopped

— 2 gar­lic cloves, peeled

and finely chopped

— 2 tsp cracked black pep­per

— 4 tbsp crème fraîche Wash the mus­sels and scrape off the beards and any bar­na­cles. Dis­card any that don’t close when they are tapped.

Heat a large pan un­til very hot, then add the beer, shal­lots, gar­lic and cracked black pep­per, fol­lowed by the mus­sels. Cover the pan with a tight-fit­ting lid and leave to cook, giv­ing the mus­sels a stir af­ter two min­utes.

The shell­fish should be ready in 6-7 min­utes. Drain, re­serv­ing the liq­uid. Dis­card any mus­sels that don’t open.

Tip the cook­ing liquor back into the pan and bring it to the boil, then add the crème fraîche and sim­mer for a fur­ther five min­utes. Re­turn the mus­sels to the pan, and serve.

Vin d’or­ange (or­ange-flavoured wine)

Makes about 3.5 litres Serve this de­li­ciously fra­grant drink on the rocks as an aper­i­tif or use it as a base for cock­tails in­stead of ver­mouth. It’s best to use Seville or­anges, as their bit­ter­ness is just right for this, but if you can’t get them I sug­gest you dou­ble up on the lemons. It’s worth do­ing quite a large quan­tity – a bot­tle of this makes a lovely gift. — 3 x 75cl bot­tles of dry white wine — 750ml clear eau de vie or vodka

— 360g caster sugar — 6 Seville or­anges — 1 sweet or­ange — 2 lemons

— 4 fresh bay leaves Pour the wine and eau de vie or vodka into a large non-re­ac­tive con­tainer – a plas­tic brew­ing-kit bucket is ideal. Add the sugar and stir un­til it dis­solves.

Wash the fruit well, then cut it up into small bite-sized pieces, col­lect­ing any juice that runs. Add the fruit and bay leaves to the bucket and mix well.

Cover tightly and leave to mac­er­ate for at least 90 days, stir­ring ev­ery now and then.

Pass the mix­ture through a fine sieve, press­ing gen­tly, then line the sieve with a cheese­cloth or muslin and pass it through again. Pour into ster­ilised bot­tles, seal and store for at least an­other month be­fore drink­ing.

Tarte tatin aux figues (fig tarte tatin)

Serves 4

The clas­sic recipe is with ap­ple, but tarte tatin can be made with all sorts of fruits and I think this fig ver­sion is par­tic­u­larly good. — 35g but­ter

— 70g golden caster sugar — pinch of sea salt

— 12 fresh figs, cut in half length­ways

— 250g puff pas­try Melt the but­ter, sugar and salt in a fry­ing pan. Once it is all bub­bling, add the figs and cook them for five min­utes on a high heat, turn­ing them over af­ter two and a half min­utes.

Trans­fer the figs and juices to a tarte-tatin pan or an oven­proof dish that’s about 20cm wide. Leave to cool.

Pre­heat the oven to 210C/190C fan/gas mark 6½.

Roll out the pas­try to a cir­cle about 3cm wider than your pan. Place this on top of the figs, tuck­ing in the ex­cess pas­try around them.

Cut eight lit­tle holes in the pas­try with the point of a knife.

Bake in the oven for 35 min­utes, then re­move and leave to cool slightly.

To turn the tarte out, take a plate of about the same size as the pan and place it over the top. Quickly turn the pan over to trans­fer the tarte to the plate. Serve straight away.

Above left Roux pre­pares the globe ar­ti­chokes

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