Home cooking courtesy of Michel Roux Jr
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)
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)
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
— 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)
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