Introduction to French Cuisine

French cooking ranges from rustic, regional dishes to elaborate, haute cuisine – and everything in between. At one end of the spectrum is rural France: grape pressing, salt harvesting and slow cooked stews. At the other end of the scale is Paris’ tradition of high dining: rich confits, morel mushrooms, thick roux and gold-brushed croquembouche.

Julia Child observed that “in France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport”. Nowhere does this apply more than the French pâtisserie or chocolatier’s studio: Pierre Hermé’s macarons and Jean-Paul Hévin’s mendiants. Chantilly crème, crystallised flowers, mille-feuille, éclairs and chouquettes. Celebrity pâtissiers' sculpted window displays are more like art installations than shop fronts, and dessert – served after cheese – is anything but an afterthought.

In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport

Beside visual delight, there is a strong emphasis on flavour and seasoning throughout France’s cuisine. Burnt red Espelette pepper is grown in the Pyrenees, and fleur de sel flakes coat the Bay of Biscay’s salt marshes. Further south, vineyards produce some of the world’s best wine – and vinegar. And even further toward the Mediterranean coast are Provence’s lavender fields and olive groves.

Despite being the most Michelin-starred chef in the world, Joël Robuchon’s book, The Complete Robuchon, is aimed at home cooks, providing a great background to classic French food. For more ambitious dishes, try Alain Ducasse’s Grand Livre de Cuisine or Auguste Escoffier’s Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery.

Click here for a range of French cookbooks, cookware and ingredients


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