The French Kitchen

Background

Many of my earliest memories are about food, I remember making pancakes with Mémée, my great-grandmother, in her house in Vitré when I was three years old. I remember long childhood holidays on the island of Noirmoutier, going round the markets in the early morning or cooking sardines on a charcoal brazier on the sand. So many memories are associated with the tastes and smells of cooking; so many places, so many people can be brought to life using nothing more than a handful of herbs or an old recipe.

Having sworn I would never write a cookbook, this is my French cookbook. It contains most of the recipes that people keep asking me for and which I have mentioned in Chocolat, Blackberry Wine and Five Quarters of the Orange, They are mostly family recipes from France and I have co-written the book with Fran Warde the author of several excellent cookbooks, who helped me make sense of all the ingredients and quantities. It was terrific fun to write, although I don’t think I will be writing another one (although anything is possible!) and I am donating all my share of the proceeds to Médecins Sans Frontières.

A collaboration between a writer who loves food and a former chef who loves writing about food, The French Kitchen gathers together simple yet stylish recipes from the heart of a French family.

Fran Warde trained as a chef, she worked at the Café Royale, on an Australian prawn trawler, ran her own cookery school and then moved into food styling and food writing. She is the food editor of Red Magazine and the author of Food for Friends, Eat, Drink, Live and Thirty Minute Italian. She lives in West London with her husband and two children.

Special Notice

Unfortunately in some editions there are a couple of misprints. The temperature to cook the croissants at should read 225°C not 225°F and the ingredients for Anouchka’s Chocolate Cake should read 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter.

Sample Recipes

Salmon in Parchment Paper (Serves 6)

This is an excellent way to cook fish so that it stays tender and moist, with a light, delicate flavour. Its French name is Saumon en Papillote.

  • 5 celery stalks, sliced 4 shallots, sliced bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped sea salt, to taste, freshly ground black pepper, to taste 6 (5- to 6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Heat the oven to 400°F. Cut six 10-inch rounds out of baking parchment.

Put the celery and shallots in a bowl, add the parsley, salt, and pepper and mix well.

Arrange the paper rounds on the work surface. Place equal amounts of the vegetable mixture in the centre of each paper and top with a salmon fillet and a wedge of lemon. Close up each parcel, securing the contents by twisting the paper above the fish like an old-fashioned purse. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Serve in the paper parcels, but take care when opening, as hot steam may rush out.

Vianne’s Spiced Hot Chocolate (Serves 2)

Chile may have lost favour as an ingredient in chocolate dishes in Europe, but for me this sweet, spiced version of hot chocolate is the best morning drink: rich, dark, and invigorating enough to keep me going until lunchtime.

  • 1 2/3 cups milk 1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise 1/2 cinnamon stick 1 hot red chile, halved and seeded 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet (70 percent) chocolate Brown sugar to taste (optional)
  • Whipped cream, chocolate curls, cognac, or Amaretto, to serve

Place the milk in a saucepan, add the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, and chile, and gently bring it to a shivering simmer for 1 minute. Grate the chocolate and whisk it in until it melts. If you must, then add brown sugar, but do try without it. Take off the heat and allow it to infuse for 10 minutes, then remove the vanilla, cinnamon, and chile. Return to the heat and bring gently back to a simmer. Serve in mugs topped with whipped cream, chocolate curls, or a dash of cognac or Amaretto.