Saturday, 29 October 2011

Salmon & Scallops with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This is a very simple dish to prepare and surprisingly good with the lime juice infusion on top of the roasted sliced potatoes.

Serves 2. Preparation time 25 minutes.

1 large sweet potato (¾ lb), peeled and sliced
crosswise ½ inch thick
6 oz salmon fillet skinned
6 oz sea scallops
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice,
2/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 celery rib, thinly sliced crosswise
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
½ cup fresh cream or crème fraiche
½ cup coarsely chopped coriander


Place a baking sheet in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450°F. Arrange sweet potato slices in 1 layer on hot baking sheet and roast until tender and lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Divide between 2 plates and keep warm, loosely covered with foil.
While potato roasts, cut salmon and scallops into ¾-inch pieces, toss with 1 Tbsp lime juice and ¼ tsp pepper. Cook onion in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add celery and chilli and cook, stirring occasionally, until celery just begins to soften, about 2 minutes.

Add cream and bring just to the boil, then add seafood (with juice) and simmer until just cooked through and cream is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 Tbsp lime juice and ¼ tsp salt.

Place the salmon and scallops on top of the roasted potato slices. Sprinkle with coriander and serve immediately with a nice crisp glass of white wine.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Oysters, Scallops, Coet de Boeuf and Rugby

The world rugby final between France and New Zealand yesterday allowed us the unique opportunity to enjoy the game with our French friends, Fabrice , Nelly, Bruno and Philip. The exclusive and rather secret private members bar in Yffiniac was open early that day (well 10am on Sunday morning is rather early for me) and so we kicked off with a very enjoyable black coffee expresso just as the game commenced! Within minutes the All Blacks were in the lead. I assumed the French would be thrashed by New Zealand as everyone had been saying it was luck that had got them to the final (Wales should have been there instead)! I must confess to being very impressed with the way France managed to control and continually push the All Blacks right through to the end of the game. Yes the All Blacks won but it was a very close call and France came very near to running away with the tiny Webb Ellis trophy cup!

There was nothing small about the oysters we enjoyed at half time! In fact they were the largest oysters I have ever eaten! Fabrice had purchased them earlier that morning. They were Paimpol oysters from further up along the west Brittany coast. The oysters were served with bread and butter and a classic cool Muscadet wine. All absolutely delicious. What a civilised way to enjoy a game of rugby I thought!

The game may have ended but the gourmet meal was just beginning. A bbq (still possible in Brittany in October) was quickly set up as we enjoyed a tasty Jura whiskey. I learned a wonderful trick for getting the BBQ alight. No need to mess about with fire lighters or nasty chemicals. Just place some paper inside the charcoal, pour some sunflower oil over the paper and light with a match. Voila a bbq is quickly alight and hardly any smoke either. So simple I wondered why I had never thought of doing it myself!

We were called to the table where a nice bottle of Rully awaited us along with a dish which is very popular in Brittany. Coquilles St-Jacques à la nage.

I just love scallops but had never had Coquilles St-Jacques à la nage before! The scallops were served swimming in a delicious creamy soup the recipe of which is given below. It was marvellously impressive; the texture of the scallops were just right firm with a powerful bite combined with the mouth watering sea tangy taste of the soup.

The cote de boeuf was initially grilled first for a few minutes on all sides to seal in the juices and then placed upon the bbq where it sat until it was done.

We like our beef on the bleu side and it was set aside to rest for five minutes before being carved and brought to the table. The beef was served with a delicious golden potato gratin and a classic French mustard. A slight sprinkle of sea salt from Guerande was the only touch required to make this a perfect dish for a Sunday Roast Rugby World Cup Special!

Anyone who knows Fabrice will know he takes his wine very seriously. We were served a delicious Santenay 1er Cru 2000 with the Cote de boeuf followed by a rare bottle of Saint Sardos (Pech de Boisgrand) 1995 with the cheese board. We finished with a delicious light chocolate mouse accompanied with a home made apple crumble, light too with a lovely crisp edge and not too sweet.

Coffee with vintage armagnac completed our meal and with the sun still shining we decided it was time to take a stroll and walk off some of those calories - how nice to be beside the seaside and so off we went along the old railway line which is now appropriately called Promenade Harel de la Noë after the engineer who designed all the bridges along the route.

Recipe pour Coquilles St-Jacques à la nage:

2,5 kg de coquilles Saint-Jacques entières (soit 600 g sans les coquilles)
2 citrons
1 orange
1 branche d'estragon
bouquet garni
1 tête d'ail
300 g de blancs de poireau coupés en petits tronçons
250 g de carottes coupées en fines rondelles
1,5 litre d'eau
sel et poivre en grains
poivre de cayenne

Résumé :
Une part de cette recette apporte : 167 kcal, 25 g de protéines, 1 g de lipides, 13.5 g de glucides, 2.5 mg de fer.
pour Coquilles St-Jacques à la nage

Ouvrir les coquilles, détachez la chair et lavez les noix à l'eau courante. Séparez les blancs et les coraux des barbes qui les entourent.

Préparez un bouillon de légumes :

Mettez les barbes dans une casserole avec 1 litre d'eau et le jus d'1 demi citron. Faites bouillir 10 min et filtrez le jus.

Remettez-le dans une casserole et ajoutez les morceaux de poireaux, de carottes, 2 à 3 rondelles de citron, 2 à 3 rondelles d'orange, les grains de poivre, le poivre de Cayenne, le sel, l'estragon, le bouquet garni et la tête d'ail entière. Laissez frémir à couvert pendant 25 min.

Faites pocher dans ce bouillon les noix de St-Jacques, 10 min avant de servir. Otez du bouillon la branche d'estragon, le bouquet garni et la tête d'ail. Servez les coquilles très chaudes, dans la nage avec les légumes.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Chasing Hares and Medieval Ovens

Brittany is full of little secrets just waiting to be explored. It is easy to drive through these tiny villages and miss the historical gems right there on your doorstep. I know the beautiful 8th century church (of St Gall) at Langast (my brother got married there and my dad played the organ). It is the third oldest church in France and well worth a visit. Go in the morning and enjoy a very reasonable priced lunch in the adjacent restaurant belonging to Yann (how can he do a three course lunch for 11 euros?!). Then continue your journey along the pleasant route of the D76 in the direction of Plouguenast (incidentially the first town in France to be lit by electricity!), you will pass the little village of Le Vieux Bourg. By all means enjoy the unusual and revamped 12th century church right in the centre of the village but don't forget to seek out the medieval stone oven just opposite.

If you are lucky like we were yesterday, you will see this oven in use and I can verify the bread is absolutely as real bread should be - with just the right texture, the taste, the smell is just wonderful. You can eat this bread alone nothing else is required! The flour is milled by millstone and is so different to the touch. To find the watermill which is still in use today, simply follow the route of the hares! You will need some knowledge of the local dialect, Gallo, which is still spoken around here to ascertain which road to take off the D76. So drive slowly as you leave Le Vieux Bourg and watch out for the signs to Goutte es Lievre literally meaning "hare sighting place" and follow the lovely road down to the river and the 13th century moulin which still has a working watermill.

What is more you can in this place at the right time actually take part in original communal bread making exercises! Yes large troughs of flour and water are kneaded into dough by numerous busy hands some tiny and some not so little but all relishing these ancient practices and singing the traditional songs which go along so well with such life enforcing embraces.

So thank you Jean Paul and Theo for some lovely loaves and a wonderful insight into bread making in ancient Brittany. If you would like to get involved in making your own bread in the traditional manner you can find more info from Jean Paul on Tel 0671619655 or email

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Beef Wellington

One of the last cooking classes this year saw us cook a Beef Wellington dish otherwise known here in France as Boeuf en Croute. It is rare to see this 1960's dish served in restaurants today which is surprising given how delicious it is. It was a nice main dish to complete a full week of cooking and all our students thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the process. People assume Beef Wellington is an English dish but apparently it has more to do with New Zealand than the UK having been developed there in 1966!

Here is the recipe:

1 Kg of beef tenderloin
1/2 Kg of puff pastry
1/2 Kg of mushrooms
Mustard- in France Dijon in Uk English Mustard
12 slices of Prosciutto
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
2 Eggs

Your beef tenderloin should be of the same thickness as your dish; season it with salt and pepper and seal it on a hot pan in olive oil. Brush it with mustard and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Blend the mushroom in a food processor and then season and fry on a hot pan to remove water content.
Take cling film and open out on table. Line the base of the cling film with slices of parma ham and add the
mushrooms on top. Add the beef in the middle and roll all up and place in fridge for 20 minutes.
Prepare the puff pastry by rolling it out on floured surface and brush with two eggs whisked previously.
Take your beef from the fridge and remove cling film. Place beef on top of puff pastry and roll up and seal it
with the egg mix. Brush again with remaining egg and bake in oven at 220 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with port wine sauce and seasonal vegetables.

Serve with a nice full bodied red wine.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Modern European Cuisine

One is often asked what the definition of modern european cusine is. This is not surprising with the pace of change in the gastronomic world and the move from formal to informal dining and local sourcing of food products. The fundamental essence of Modern European cooking is really more about themes and associations than with hard and fast rules.
Europe forms one of the greatest culinary canvases in the world, so Modern European cuisine is one that experiments with techniques and ideas from many different countries. Unsurprisingly it is therefore very tempting.
Whilst traditionally chefs would be affiliated with one particular style of cooking and stick to it, Modern European food has seen a marked shift towards a more relaxed and less specific attitude to ingredient selection and preparation.
The adoption of Mediterranean style cooking, involving lots of grilling, roasting, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs is probably the most obvious characteristic of Modern European food. However, any attempt to define it further will always be met with exceptions such is the fluidity of Modern European cuisine.
Classic examples of Modern European food include bread and butter pudding made from panettone, gravadlax and potato roast, chicken liver mousse with red onion marmalade and wild mushroom tempura.
These dishes illustrate that by experimenting and mixing different styles of cooking from different countries a new and worthy cuisine is created.

Grilled Venison with Figs and Pears

As the evenings draw in and the temperature drops there is a natural tendency to look at those dishes which warm the hearth of the kitchen as well as the cockles of the heart. Here is a dish which does both and with pears and figs in season there is no better time to do so!

To serve 6 you will need:

900g venison from the leg or 6 venison fillets 150g each
3 onions chopped
a little olive oil
6 fresh or dried figs (diced and peeled)
3 large pears, (peeled,seeded and finely diced)
1 dl balsamic vinegar
3 dl red wine
salt & pepper
For the sauce:
1 dl balsamic vinegar
1.5dl Crème de Mure (Blackberry)

Sauté the onions in oil for 3 minutes then adding figs and pears for 3 minutes more. Add the vinegar and reduce completely. Add red wine and reduce again completely. Season with salt and pepper.
For the sauce simply boil balsamic vinegar and crème de mure to a syrup. Keep warm.
Turn the venison in a little olive oil and season. Fry briefly on a very hot frying pan. Arrange on hot plates with the onion and fruit serving the warm sauce on top.

A good strong red wine goes well with this dish particularly my favourite Brunello di Montalcino.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Paris pour la weekend?

One of the nice things about living in France is Paris! I think it has to be the most beautiful city in Europe (outside Scandanavia - I love Copenhagen and Stockholm too!). However it can be diffcult in Paris to find that unique place to stay or that special restaurant so thank you Alison Culliford (Time Out Paris) for the following recommendations:

Hôtel de Nesle, 6th

The Nesle isn't new but it is one of the best-kept secrets in Paris; near the Louvre, it is surprisingly affordable. Expect it to be wacky, from the Aladdin's cave-style reception to the 20 fresco-decorated rooms.
Details Singles from E41, doubles E56 (0033 1 43 54 62 41, Métro Odeon

Oops! Hostal, 7th
Yes, it's a hostel but it looks more like a smart design hotel. There is free internet inside and a Vélib bicycle station next door.
Details From E45 including breakfast (0033 1 47 07 47 00, Métro Gobelins

Source Hôtel, 17th
Within spitting distance of Montmartre, Sacré Coeur and the flea market, the decor is contemporary and functional without being cheerless.
Details Doubles from E75 (0033 1 46 27 73 67, Métro Porte de Saint-Ouen

Saint-Jacques, 5th
This little gem in the Latin Quarter is like staying in a gorgeous 19th-century boudoir. The rooms are sumptuous, and there's also an elegant lounge and bar area. It has great deals if you book for two nights or longer.
Details Doubles from E93 if you stay three nights (0033 1 44 07 45 45, Métro Maubert-Mutualité


The "village" of Butte-aux-Cailles is home to many foodies and L'Avant-Goût remains top of their lists, with the convivial atmosphere that goes with its rustic food. Try the pot au feu de cochon aux épices - suckling pig hotpot - served with a separate glass of cooking juices.

Details 26 Rue Bobillot (0033 1 53 80 24 00, Lunch menu E11, dinner E24


A band of five "mothers' boys" has created a restaurant evoking their mama’s home cooking - even the mums get into the kitchen once a month to turn out blanquette de veau, chicken cordon bleu and Nutella-flavoured puddings.
Details 7 Bis Rue Geoffroy-Marie (0033 1 48 24 59 39, Lunch menu E13, à la carte E26
The undisputed HQ of Paris's modern-day bohemians, this was the inspiration for a Thirties cult film long before it was a restaurant. The food is a long time coming, but worth the wait: try the salade croquante Chinoise, far tastier than it sounds.
Details 102 Quai de Jemmapes (0033 1 40 40 78 78, Lunch menu E11, à la carte E26 - E34.

If gastro-tourists are flocking to L'Agrume for its fame in the blogosphere, Latin Quarter locals who can't get a table consistently recommend Le Jardin des Pâtes. Five different pastas are home-made from organic ingredients - wheat, rye, rice, buckwheat and chestnut - and accompanied by sauces more Gallic than Italian, such as chicken liver with prunes.
Details 4 Rue LacépÈde (0033 1 43 31 50 71). Main courses E8-E11

A world away from the tourist traps of Sacré-Coeur, this little bistro-à-vins "behind the Butte" has not changed for decades - since the photographer Robert Doisneau used to come here. The menu features dishes that have disappeared from many Parisian menus, such as tête de veau gribiche (braised calf's head) and petit salé aux lentilles (salted pork with lentils).
Details 27 Rue Lambert (0033 1 46 06 15 11). Main courses E8-E11
In the expensive Odéon quartier, shop assistants, students and medical faculty workers cram into this tiny Austrian café. You will probably have to share a table, but that's all part of the fun, as are the marvellous sweet treats such as poppyseed cake, cheesecake or sachertorte.
Details 8 Rue de l'École de Médicine (0033 1 43 26 60 48). Main courses E5-E8. Cakes E2.50


Unlike some of its neighbours, Le Select has not sold its soul but rejoices in a cast of habitués that are as much a fixture as the Art-Deco lights. The brasserie food is predictable, but honest: steak Béarnaise, sole meuniÈre, and croque-monsieurs at any time of day.

Details 99 Boulevard du Montparnesse (0033 1 45 48 38 24). Lunch menu E11; dinner from E21.50


This one is recommended not only for the beauty of its zinc bar and La Victoria espresso machine that steams above the chatter of local designers, photographers and film-makers, but also for the warm welcome and wonderful food.
Details 1 Rue Antoine-Vollon (0033 1 43 43 06 00, square-trousseau. com). À la carte E30


Marilyn Monroe and fake leopard skin are the overwhelming theme of the décor, with the Corsican family that runs it also dressed to match. But the point of coming here is the succulent steaks - the pavé de boeuf (beef fillet) with onion confit is one of the best in Paris.

Details 87 Rue de Turbigo (0033 1 42 72 30 76). Lunch menu E11, à la carte E26-E30

"Troquet" means a small neighbourhood café, and the owners have succeeded in creating just that ambiance, with high-quality bistro fare where the emphasis is on hand-picked ingredients such as Mauléon lamb, Ibaïona ham, asparagus and truffles from the Vaucluse.

Details 21 Rue François-Bonvin (0033 1 45 66 89 00). Lunch menu E21, dinner E31

Always ring/email to confirm hotel prices before booking accommodation.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Apple Chutney

Chutneys are a wonderful way of using up autumn fruits. The principle ingredient can be apples, beetroot or tomatoes but we also make walnut chutney too which is great with cheese. Brittany, the UK and Ireland have just had a wonderful apple harvest so this is a good time to start making apple chutney. You can't make too much chutney as it keeps well and makes great gifts for Christmas!! For a typical simple apple chutney you will need

1 kilo of apples
500g of brown sugar
500ml of water
750ml of vinegar.
3 onions
3 sprigs of cloves
1 whole ginger peeled and finely cut
50g raisons
peel from 1 organic orange and lemon
salt & pepper

To start, peel, core and chop the apples and put them in a large saucepan with the water. Add chopped onions, raisins, ginger, cloves, orange/lemon peel and sugar and simmer until soft. Add seasoning and vinegar and simmer slowly, uncovered, until thick. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from burning. Pour into warmed jars and cover at once.

Keep in a dark cool place until ready to use.

Pesto Pasta with Spinach and Peas

This is a quick dinner dish (for that lazy day) which is relatively easy to make, will be a hit with the whole family and combines all those essential nutrients needed for good health.


500g Fresh spinach

5 tbsp pesto

Juice of one lemon

2 tbsps mayonnaise

Approximately 50ml olive oil

Salt and pepper

500g dried wholewheat pasta

250g peas

Handful pine nuts

Wash the spinach and drain well in a colander. Squeeze out excess moisture. Mix it in a food processor along with the pesto, lemon juice, mayonnaise and a splash of olive oil. You can also add some raw garlic. Set the sauce aside until the pasta is ready.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water for the time recommended on the pack and then drain it. Give it a very brief rinse with some cold water, but don’t let it get too chilly. Put it back in the hot saucepan, add the olive oil and peas and the residual heat will thaw them enough to cook them. Season well. Mix in the pesto sauce and adjust the seasoning.

Lightly toast the pine nuts in an oven at about 160 degrees until they take on a rich golden colour and sprinkle them on top for extra crunch. Serve.

Monday, 3 October 2011

A Good Read - The Kitchen Library

Here are a number of good cookbooks which were recommended recently in the press:

Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers
Produced by the team behind one of New York's most renowned vegetarian restaurants, this useful tome boasts "no enticing pictures, just 175 easy recipes that taste so good, meat eaters might well be converted", says Keith Aris. Don't be put off by the use of American-style "cup" measurements, he adds. "Just enjoy the proven reliability of these recipes."
Clarkson Potter - £19.99

Flavours of Morocco by Ghillie Basan
According to Keith, Basan's compendium of North African dishes is "a beautiful book from an experienced writer who, as with her Middle Eastern books, creates flavoursome recipes set in their social context". From excellent, spicy tagines to inventive variations on couscous and much, much more, this is sure to "provoke holiday memories," he adds.
Ryland, Peters & Small - £19.99

My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell
The latest book from the head chef at Petersham Nurseries Café in Richmond. This one puts individual ingredients as the star players, wrapping a collection of sure-to-impress recipes (from blood oranges with warm honey and rosemary to grilled partridge with chilli, marjoram and ricotta) around groups of seasonal produce. Gorgeous photography by Jason Lowe and a clear layout make it easy to use, too.
Quadrille - £25

Chocolate by Trish Deseine

Alice Hart turns to this book whenever she needs "a killer recipe for a dinner with friends". From classic brownies, mousses and cakes to more adventurous truffles, Easter eggs and cocktails, it's all here. There's even a section on "chocotherapy", whatever that is. "There are some great tips on working with chocolate scattered throughout the book and the chocolate granola is a dream," promises Alice.
Hachette - £12.99

Essence: Recipes from le Champignon Sauvage by David Everitt-Matthias
Double Michelin-starred chefs might be forgiven for writing books beyond the average home cook, but Everitt-Matthias falls into no such trap, says Keith. "Offering exquisite variations on classical recipes - such as roasted rib eye of black Angus beef with braised lettuce and winkles - all are clearly described with helpful advice for both the amateur cook and professional chef. David makes it all seem so simple. You know it isn't, but this very reasonably priced book generates confidence."
Absolute Press - £25

Riverford Farm Cookbook by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter
This brand-new book promises "a sensible look at simple meals using British vegetables, in tasty seasonal recipes - many with international influences", advises Keith. "Beetroot and blackcurrant relish may not be an obvious combination, but it is superb with duck and game. Celeriac and cabbage will never be mundane again!" Fourth Estate - £16.99

The New Art of Japanese Cooking by Masaharu Morimoto
The latest venture from Masaharu Morimoto, the former Japanese baseball-player turned- chef. This book is "sheer gastro porn" according to Keith. "Fantastic photography highlights innovative healthy recipes and, while luxurious pouches of Caviar tempura may stretch some pockets, everyone can stun their guests with "frozen lettuce" - an original take on a Caesar salad." Dorling Kindersley - £25

Great French Chefs (and their recipes) by Jean Louis Andre
This book promises "pure photographic decadence and a great insight into the traditions - and recipes - of 14 of the best French chefs", says Tom Lewis. One to get your creativity flowing, it offers a whistle stop tour through French cuisine, with advice from renowned culinary masters as well as up-and-coming names, and an insight into the varied gastronomic character of each region of the country. out of print - from £12.49 online

The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr

Not just a book of nutritious, family-friendly meals, what puts this book above its competitors is the way it's been designed to be used by the whole family to make cooking fun. So, while there are plenty of recipes for spaghetti carbonara and homemade burgers, there are also food "projects" such as making your own butter, growing potatoes or tossing pancakes.
Hodder & Stoughton - £20

French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David
"Nearly 50 years after it was first written this classic, which introduced us to 'la cuisine terroir' - what grows together goes together - is still the first book many consult for French classic dishes," says Keith. "Even if you aren?t tempted to cook any of the dishes described in it, the book is so well written that you cannot fail to be impressed by the variety in French regional cuisine," he adds. Penguin - £8.99

The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas
"Bacon is a standard choice for many a simple supper, but there is nothing standard aboutVillas's book," states Keith. "The irresistible smell of bacon oozes from the pages, as Villas shows the versatility of bacon, even bacon desserts - for example, bacon and peanut butter chocolate truffles. Vegetarians beware; these dishes could prove too tempting."
John Wiley & Sons - £18.99

Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible
"Jaffrey's recipes celebrate the Indian diaspora and its rich culinary heritage. Dishes are as diverse as they are delicious and include western interpretations on Indian food, fish curries from Thailand, fiery Trinadadian flash fries and curried Burmese soup," says Roopa Gulati. "It was here that I first learnt the ropes of cookingSouth African masalas for my Durbanborn husband. Even his mum approves of Jaffrey's boldly spiced biryani, crammed with meaty morsels, veggies, and perky chillies." Ebury - £25

Decadence By Philip Johnson
In spite of the title, this book has a good range of desserts from the simple weekday pud to the exotic entertaining masterpiece, according to Keith. "Philip Johnson may be one of Australia?s most acclaimed chefs, but the peach and white chocolate bread and butter pudding takes this British classic to another level," he says. Murdoch Books - £14.99

The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys by Marguerite Patten
Written by one of TV's first celebrity chefs, if you're not sure what to do with a glut of tomatoes or blackcurrants, this no-nonsense guide to jams and pickles will point the way. "Forget those over-sweet, mass-produced jams and chutneys," says Keith. "For over a decade amateur cooks have been benefiting from this very usable tome. Most recipes have variations on the mother recipe and Ms Patten's basic apple jelly easily becomes elderberry, elderflower, geranium or even cranberry." rub Street - £7.99

The Ultimate Recipe Book by Angela Nilsen
"Meticulous in her research, Nilsen takes 50 much-loved dishes and dedicates herself to honing each recipe to foolproof perfection," sums upRoopa. "From summer pudding to Thai green chicken curry, scrambled eggs to chocolate cake, no stone is left unturned in her quest to discover ultimate recipes and the result is a creative collection of trustworthy recipes, which also makes for an entertaining and informative read."
BBC Books - £16.99

Home Cook by Alastair Hendy
"Hendy's recipes are a nostalgic tribute to our past - the succulent roasts, proper puds, and Anglo-Italian pasta dishes a throwback to the 1970s," says Roopa. "Tastefully updated with stir-fries and noodles, this is a book that seamlessly combines homespun British flavours with street food from South East Asia. I love it for its comfort factor, and his marvellous meals don't call for a degree in butchery or ace filleting skills." Headline - £25

Maze: the Cookbook by Jason Atherton
"I love this book to distraction," says Roopa. "Everything about it stands out - Atherton's precisely written recipes, openness to share kitchen secrets and flair for playing with global flavours all impress. Then there's Ditte Isager's cutting-edge food photography. Once every few Saturdays, I'll put everything on hold and cook for the pleasure of selfish indulgence. I'm a kitchen anorak and will sieve the mashed potatoes three times over, use crab shells for making stock and whip up pistachio sabayon." Quadrille - £25

Terrine by Stephane Reynaud
Reynaud "conjures up tasty new twists on old classics in the first good terrine book for some time", acknowledges Keith. "The recipes remind us how easy this technique can be. Most people don't automatically think of terrines as desserts but a chocolate and raspberry terrine can be spectacular." Kate Colquhoun also recommends Pork &Sons by the same author (Phaidon, £24.95). "Pork is sadly underrated and this book gorges on it. Reynaud's stuffed cabbage embodies Gallic sophistication." Phaidon - £16.95

Fresh by Mitchell Tonks
“Mitch Tonks loves to keep dishes simple and his straightforward approach to cooking is a world away from the arty flourishes of haute cuisine," says Roopa. "Sometimes I'll pick up a selection of shellfish after work and follow his genius recipe for cooking everything with a bundle of bucatini and herby tomato sauce. The whole caboodle is baked in foil and, when opened at the table, it unleashes a deliciously fragrant puff of steam, the closest I've come to Mediterranean sunshine food this year." Michael Joseph - £20

Modern Mezze by Anissa Helou
"Fresh and aromatic, with clear, precise and completely delicious recipes", this collection of 100 dishes from Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Morocco and Iran "makes you feel healthy just by reading it", says Kate. From delicious dips and herby salads to crisp pastries, piquant pulse and grain dishes, fragrant vegetables and tender meat, if you like Middle Eastern food but don't know where to start, this is an excellent place.
Quadrille - £12.99

Sauces: Sweet and Savoury Classic and New by Michel Roux
"A good sauce can make or break any dish, so this book is an essential in any cookery book collection," advises Keith. "Classic oils, coulis, vinaigrettes and sauces are all explained clearly," he adds. Better still, preparation times for the books recipes are often about five minutes so you can ditch those "packets of chemical- laden sauces and recreate these tasty healthy sauces - they always impress." Quadrille - £9.99

Larousse Gastronomique
This cookery encyclopaedia "is the ultimate chef's bible" promises Tom. Organised alphabetically, it guides you through everything from ingredients and cooking styles to wineproducing regions and even gives a handy rundown on using appliances. Though it does contain recipes, Larousse is perhaps most useful as a reference manual for when you're using another book and get stumped half way though a recipe. Look up whatever's holding you back in here and you should be on your way again. Hamlyn - £60

Formulas For Flavour by John Campbell
"When I returned to Britain in 2001, after living abroad for almost two decades, this book was one of the first to inspire and bring me up to date with new-wave cooking styles," says Roopa. "Even today, every time I open his book I come across an idea that makes me want to throw on my pinny. From parsnip ices to courgette flowers filled with fennel cream and perfectly proportioned savoury mousses and stuffings, these recipes are challenging, but, if you've got the time, immensely rewarding." Conran Octopus - £20

The River Cottage Fish Book by Nick Fisher
With the aptly named Nick Fisher as co author, you'd expect this book to know its stuff and it doesn't disappoint. According to Tom, this is "a great big book with lots of simple fish recipes", many of which are designed around more unusual British species rather than just sticking to the usual suspects. "It's packed with information and it reminds you that cooking is fun."
Bloomsbury - £30

A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

This updated version of Claudia Roden's classic book is "the culinary Bible for middle eastern food", states Kate. "Aromatic cookery with a strong sense of purpose, and of belonging", the recipes are easy to follow, the writing characterful and the results - both with everyday meals and special occasion spreads - completely winning. Penguin - £18.99

Grand Livre de Cuisine: Desserts and Pastries by Alain Ducasse
"This is the Rolls-Royce of dessert books," says Keith. Written by the triple-Michele in-starred chef, "many of these desserts are spectacular in their depth of flavour and simplicity of presentation. This is not a book for everyday use, or the amateur cook, but a book to own, if you can". Roopa agrees, adding that "this weighty doorstopper panders to my love of all things sweet and is an investment that feeds my weekend hobby. Ducasse is a master and this book puts his artistry centre stage." Alain Ducasse - £110

The Essentials of Classic Italian cooking by Marcella Hazan

"This has yet to be bettered," promises Kate of this no-frills foodie favourite (don't expect glossy photos). "My copy is splattered with gnocchi, tomato sauce, gravy and oil, but I wouldn't replace it for the world. It does what it says on the tin, and more." out of print - from £16.25 online

Cook Simple by Diana Henry
Almost every recipe in this book slightly realigns the expected and cries out to be made, according to Kate.It takes basic store-cupboard ingredients and turns them into such delights as hot and sweet roast Mediterranean vegetables with Tahini dressing or baked lime and passion-fruit pudding. "It also looks wonderful," she adds. Alice blames Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by the same author for fuelling her love of Middle-Eastern cuisine. Mitchell Beazley - £20

Exploring Taste and Flavour by Tom Kime
This collection of 150 recipes is based on the principles of the south-east Asian taste theory, combining the four main tastes of hot, sour, salty and sweet. It’s also seriously underrated, according to Alice. "The flavour combinations are fabulous and vegetables are given the platform they deserve. I particularly love the northern Indian smoky spiced aubergine and the geng gari curry". Kyle Cathie - £14.99

Gordon Ramsay's Just Desserts
"As far as desserts go, this is one of my much loved books," says Roopa. "You can tell it's my favourite because most pages are smudged with a memento - a buttery fingerprint here, a streak of raspberry sauce there. Our popular family choices include whirls of crisp meringue piled with passion fruit cream, bread and butter pudding laced with Baileys cream liqueur and a deliciously wobbly orange panna cotta. Surprisingly simple to put together, these recipes taste much like they might in a restaurant." Kelkoo £17.84

The Silver Spoon
"The definitive guide to Italian cookery for the past 50 years, this is packed with over 2,000 recipes and is brutal in its simplicity and honesty," says Tom. Originally published in Italy in 1950, this classic wedding-present fodder - updated for contemporary audiences and translated into English - sets out the skills of various experts in a form designed to be easily digested by a wider audience. Phaidon - £24.99

The French Laundry Cook Book by Thomas Keller
"This was a revolutionary book when it came out and is still a real kitchen favourite at my hotel," says Tom. "Everyone is always trying to borrow it!" And no wonder. Thomas Keller is the chef-owner of the French Laundry restaurant in California, perenially rated the best in the world by Restaurant magazine, and according to Tom, "one of the most influential chefs of our time". Workman - £40

Made in Italy: Food and Stories by Giorgio Locatelli
This book enjoys a permanent position on Alice's bedside table "but occasionally gets dragged downstairs when the pasta machine gets dusted off", she admits. Packed with explanations and descriptions about ingredients and styles as well as recipes (which often include several variations on a theme), Locatelli's laid-back style means the recipes aren't too intimidating for amateurs to follow. Fourth Estate - £19.99

Crust: Bread to Get Your Teeth Into by Richard Bertinet

"We bought a bakery a year ago and this is one of the books I bought to find out more about baking artisan-style breads," says Tom. Full of clear, practical advice and packed with photographs, whether you want to tackle a basic sourdough, try your hand at producing bread made with spelt or experiment with bagels, pretzels and brioche, this is "accessible and easy to follow for amateur bakers". Kyle Cathie - £19.99

Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver

"Predictable to include a Jamie book, I know, but the recipes are consistently delicious," says Alice. "This is the food I want to eat with family and friends," she adds, of the book's no-messing style and rich flavours. Inspired by the vegetables growing in Jamie's garden each season, it gives some basic planting information alongside recipes for such delights as "cheeky chilli-pepper chutney". Michael Joseph - £25

Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook

Kate's favourite cookbook of 2007, this rallying call for the field-to-plate philosophy "deserves to become a classic", she says. "Beautiful to look at and encyclopaedic in its range, it reaffirms the ancient connection between the garden and the kitchen," she adds. Bloomsbury - £30

Amuse-Bouche by Rick Tramonto

If you're looking for ideas for original and exciting starters and accompaniments, go no further than this book, suggests Tom. Subtitled Little Bites of Delight Before the Meal Begins, it focuses on seriously sophisticated dishes (anyone for a lobster club sandwich with vanilla aioli, or figs with mascarpone foam and prosciutto di Parma?), but serves them up in bite-sized portions. Random House - £18

Nico by Nico Ladenis

"Nico Ladenis is one of the chefs who first inspired me to start cooking, after I heard him interviewed on Desert Island Discs," remembers Tom. His book condenses the author's experience into a series of straightforward recipes, offering an insight into Ladenis's culinary philosophy. It's often said, for example, that the controversial chef refused to cook steak medium or well done, whatever the customer's preference. - from £35 online

Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater

Alice recommends anything by Nigel Slater "to soothe and comfort". And, while not the most recent of Slater's books, Real Fast Food is a classic, packed with quick, no-nonsense recipes for satisfying food. With its evocative prose and enthusiastic style, this will help you transform store cupboard ingredients into something sublime with the minimum of effort. Just beware of its brazen use of oil, butter and cream. Penguin - £8.99

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Carbon Footprint

Every organisation and indeed every home dweller should be thinking of how they can reduce their carbon footprint and French Dining School is no exception. This is now so important if we are to save our world from the horror of global warming.

It will be the millions of small consumers and producers who will make the difference to whether our world will be a safe place for future generations.
We are just passing through but as we pass we each have a responsibility to ensure we try to make this beautiful precious world of ours a better place for our childrens' children to live in.

What practical things can we do?

*Buy your food products locally.
*Grow as much as you can in your own garden.
*Share projects with neighbours and work co-operatively
*Recycle water
*Recycle your organic rubbish
*Reduce consumption on petrol (save on mileage by getting a nano smart fluid -Nanoland Global)
*Share transport with neighbours and plan journeys to economise on fuel
*Recycle your recipes and cookbooks
*Buy only what you need and endeavour to use all foodstuffs with a variety of dishes on the menu.
*Optimise your oven use by baking double portions.