“Wine…the intellectual part of the meal.”
Some lesser known facts about French food:
1. France has a different cheese for almost every day of the year.
2. There are two new cookbooks published every day in France.
3. 72% of the French population finds it difficult to understand French wine labels.
French food is extremely diverse, and includes a wide variety of regional cuisines. Provencal specialties include ratatouille, bouillabaisse, and pisaladiere, while in Rhone Alpes you can overindulge in fondue and raclette and in Burgundy you’re apt to find boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin at every neighbourhood bistrot. Other typical french recipes include pochouse (fish stewed in red wine), gratin dauphinoise, duck confit and croque monsieur.
Almost all of these dishes rely heavily on cheese, butter, booze or some awesome combination of the three. Yet, mysteriously, very few French people are fat.
I went on exchange to France when I was in high school – being from Quebec, I think my parents thought it would help me speak French better. I remember that on the first night I arrived in Arles, my host family had prepared a hog roast. Confronted with the notion that their new houseguest didn’t eat meat, I spent the next several weeks eating salads for lunch every day, most of which consisted of a single vegetable, often either shredded carrot, green beans or corn, covered in salad cream. Accompanied by a large baguette and an even larger block of cheese. Not the worst scenario in the world.
I didn’t think it would be very interesting for you to read a blog post about me eating a baguette with cheese. Nor was fine French dining in my budget – although choices are aplenty in London, from Galvin at Windows and Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester in Mayfair to Chez Bruce in Tooting, Mon Plaisir on Monmouth Street and Bistrot Bruno Loubet in Clerkenwell.
Once you’re done dinner, you’re going to want dessert – and this is where I come in. Sweet French recipes include macaroons, madeleines, chocolate souffle, tarte tatin, and creme caramel. And, drumroll please, the mighty profiterole – recipe courtesy of my friend Harriet’s mum.
2 oz butter
1/4 pint water
3 oz plain flour
1 egg – beaten well
1/4 pint double cream
100 g dark chocolate
1. The first step really should be to open nice bottle of French wine. Unfortunately, I was training for a charity run last week (girl’s gotta do something if she’s going to write a food blog and not get fat) so I was off the sauce.
1a. Preheat oven to gas mark 6/200 C, preparing to make your choux pastry – this is easier than it looks/sounds.
i. Cut up butter and heat in a saucepan with the water until melted. When it starts to boil, remove from heat and immediately tip in flour all at once.
ii. Beat until the mixture is smooth and comes away from the pan. This will be your arm exercise for the day. Cool slightly/pour more wine.
iii. Beat in the egg a little at a time to make a smooth, thick, glossy paste.
iv. Drop teaspoons of pastry onto a prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
v. After ten minutes, turn the oven up to gas mark 7/ 220 C. Bake for a further 15-20 minutes until puffy and golden brown.
2. Make your filling – this involves whipping the double cream with an electric mixer.
3. Put a slit in each profiterole and using a teaspoon, fill each one with cream – don’t be stingy.
4. Make your chocolate sauce – either use your favourite method or, if you don’t have one, melt the chocolate in some milk with a little sugar and butter et voila.
To serve – pour warm chocolate sauce over profiteroles, and enjoy. How easy was that?