La Cuisinière Provençale

When we’re not completely sure about a sauce or a dish, we search for a recipe and inspiration in La Cuisinière Provençale. This comprehensive cookbook was first published in 1897 and was written by Jean-Baptiste Reboul. It includes 1119 recipes for an enormous variety of dishes and it provides background information on fish, meat and vegetables. It also gives traditional, seasonal, French suggestions for lunch and dinner for every day of the year. For instance for today, the third Monday of May, the two course lunch consists of moules farcies aux épinards et tendrons de veau bourgeoise. Or in English, mussels stuffed with spinach and veal tenderloins with carrots and onions.
You will find chapters about soups, hors d’œuvres, typical Provençal dishes, fish, sauces, mutton, veal, vegetables, eggs, jams and everything else you can think of.

This is one of the few cookbooks that uses the concept of formulas. For example: the recipe for Truite à la Meunière is very short: it simple states a few specific steps and then refers to formula 135, the one for Loup à la Meunière. We like this concept because it supports the idea that you can and should be flexible with ingredients. If for instance you can bake a pie with chard, then it’s probably a similar formula to bake a pie with wild spinach or beet leaves.

The recipes do not come with a separate list of ingredients, so you must make your own shopping list while reading the recipe. Not great, but we got used to it. The advantage is of course that the publisher could squeeze in even more recipes in the book.

Our Favourites

Daube Provençale is one of our favourites from this book. It is not too much work and you can also be fairly flexible with the recipe, as long as you use excellent, marbled beef. Well known chef Hélène Barale (La Cuisine Niçoise, Mes 106 Recettes) uses beef, veal and pork with tomatoes and dried mushrooms, Hilaire Walden (French Provincial Cooking) suggests marinating the beef in red wine and adds orange peel and olives whereas La Cuisinière Provençale suggests adding vinegar to the marinade but doesn’t use tomatoes, mushrooms or olives. We use carrots, shallot, garlic, mushrooms, black olives and red wine to make an intense, heart-warming stew.

La Cuisinière Provençale (in French only) is for sale via your local bookstore or the well known channels for 25 Euro or US dollar.

La Cuisinière Provençale
La Cuisinière Provençale

The Silver Palate

Think about the US, think about food and you’ll end up thinking about fast food, pale fries, endless portions of meat and bagels and waffles, sweetened orange juice and blueberry muffins with too much sugar. Which is such a pity, because the US cuisine is so much more and diverse. Just think about, eh, well, yes, eh…

The Shop

Which is exactly the reason why we bought The Silver Palate Cookbook, written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, with Michael McLaughlin. It’s the story of two young, motivated people, Julee and Sheila, one from marketing with a passion for cooking and the other a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Both were trying and struggling to balance work, family, hobbies and interest. One day they came up with the idea of setting up a shop where people could buy great food, to take home and ‘graciously serve as their own’, solving one of the problems in their own life. And so, mid-July 1977, they opened their gourmet food shop in New York, selling Tarragon Chicken Salad, Nutted Wild Rice, Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cheese Straws and on and on.

The Book

The shop was more than successful and in 1981 they were asked to write a cookbook. It was published in 1982 and not much later it was published in various languages. The Silver Palate Cookbook was a huge success, and still is.

The book includes a wealth of recipes, ranging from finger food, dazzlers, soups, pasta to game, stew pots, vegetables, sweets and brunch drinks. The book is very well designed, with beautiful drawings and pictures. Next to the recipes you’ll find interesting background information and tips. It’s a pleasure to read recipes for dishes such as Glazed Blueberry Chicken (with homemade blueberry vinegar and thyme, so not overly sweet at all!), Clam Chowder or Sorrel Soup.

The 25th Anniversary Edition of The Silver Palate cookbook is available via your local bookstore and the well-known channels for approximately US$ 17,00 or € 22,00.

La Cuisine Minceur 

Michel Guérard is probably one of the most influential French chefs. He is one of the founders of the Nouvelle Cuisine (basically the style of cooking with a minimum of butter, eggs and cream) and the inventor of the Cuisine Minceur: the slimming kitchen. Enjoy a three-course lunch or dinner without consuming too many calories.

In his restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie in the southwest of France you can enjoy his slimming food. It’s a bit too expensive for our budget (the menus cost between € 275 and € 310 per person), so we were very happy to buy one of his books.

Sauce Vierge

Once upon a time, there was a simple sauce called Sauce Vierge. It wasn’t difficult to prepare, just beat butter until soft, then add lemon juice, salt and pepper and continue beating until fluffy. Serve with asparagus, leeks or other boiled vegetables. It was not the most exciting sauce ever and Sauce Vierge could easily have been forgotten.

The Nouvelle Cuisine changed the recipe by replacing the butter by olive oil. The new Sauce Vierge became a star. It was turned into a warm sauce and ingredients like garlic, tarragon, basil, parsley and chervil were added. Sauce Vierge became the ideal sauce to accompany fish.

In 1977 Michel Guérard published his recipe of Sauce Vierge, including crushed coriander seeds and diced tomatoes. His suggestion is to serve it with sea bass and a puree of watercress. We serve the sauce with fried skate.

Sauce Vierge was a star, but the name wasn’t ideal. The term Antiboise became popular, especially outside of France. Antiboise is named after the city of Antibes in the south of France.

Books

La Cuisine Minceur was published in 1976, followed by Cuisine Gourmande in 1979 and many other books, including a Best Of (2015). His books are available via your local bookstore, the well-known channels (also second hand) and his webshop.

Wine Pairing

Given the powerful flavours (capers, olives, herbs, skate) we suggest a fresh white wine with lots of fruit and easy to drink. Our choice was a Verdejo produced by Mocen (Spain).
In general you’re looking for an easy to drink, white wine with intense aromas (tropical fruit). The flavours should be fresh, dry, fruity, round and balanced.

What You Need

  • Skate (or Sea Bass)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Excellent Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Black Olives
  • Capers
  • Black Pepper
  • Butter

What You Do

Heat some olive oil and add the crushed garlic glove. Let it rest on low temperature until the oil is infused. Peel and seed the tomatoes. Chop in small cubes. Cut the olives lengthwise in 8. Cut the capers. Roughly cut all the herbs. Fry the skate in oil and/or butter until brown. Remove the garlic, add lemon juice and tomatoes; mix. Serve the skate on a plate, add the herbs, the olives, the capers and black pepper to the sauce, mix and serve the sauce on top of the fish. 

Takes 5

You can’t have enough cookbooks. Some make you think back of a holiday, others are written by chefs you admire, and some are technical or about specific ingredients. There is always room for just one extra cookbook.

Once in a while, when you’re looking for inspiration, you browse through a number of books, look at the pictures, read recipes and you think: ‘far too many ingredients, far too complicated’ for a not very inspired evening.

James Tanner

Fortunately, you remember one very special cookbook: James Tanner Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients with over 90 recipes, ranging from Roasted Red Bell Peppers with Anchovies to Scones. Short shopping lists, easy recipes and tasty results: what more can you ask for! Isn’t it great, Chocolate MousseFigs with Honey or Toad-in-the-hole

James Tanner (1976) is a British chef and author. Together with his brother Chris he runs a restaurant in Kent, The Kentish Hare. He appeared as a tv-chef on shows like Ready Steady Cook (remember The Quickie BagGreen Pepper and Red Tomato?).

Favourite

Our personal favourite is a small chicken (preferably a coquelet, a young rooster) with a paste made of red peppers, pure creamed coconut (santan), lime and cilantro. It’s easy to make and the result is very tasty. Serve it with some bok choy in oyster sauce and you have a lovely meal. He enjoys it with a cold beer, we prefer a glass of rosé, for instance Chiaretto di Bardolino DOC made by Monte del Frà from Italy. A pale, pink wine with floral and fruity aromas. Dry with medium acidity, limited tannins and delicate flavours. Excellent with the chicken and the coconut.

Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients was published in 2010 and is available (probably second hand) via the well-known channels for something like 20 US dollar or Euro.

No-Knead Bread

Two or three times per week we enjoy the taste of fresh home-made bread. The crust, the flavours, the aromas! And how about the singing of the bread when it’s just out of the oven? Baking your own bread is such a pleasure.

Our recipe is based on a recipe published by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, New York. It was published in the New York Times in 2006 and can also be found in his excellent book My Bread. The process is time consuming (it’s 24 hours from start to finish) but not labour intensive. It’s simple and straightforward with a great result. We truly love it.

The recipe is based on slow-rise fermentation. With only 1 gram of instant yeast in combination with 19+3 hours of rest the yeast will do a wonderful job. The dough will be perfect. And kneading, as you would expect, is not required.

Origin

In 1764 Elizabeth Moxon describes a no kneading bread recipe as shown in this nice instructive video.
Her recipe: To half a peck of flour, put a full jill of new yeast, and a little salt, make it with new milk (warmer than from the cow) first put the flour and barm together, then pour in the milk, make it a little stiffer than a seed-cake, dust it and your hands well with flour, pull it in little pieces, and mould it with flour very quick; put it in the dishes, and cover them with a warm cloth (if the weather requires it) and let them rise till they are half up, then set them in the oven, (not in the dishes, but turn them with tops down upon the peel;) when baked rasp them.
Interesting that she rasps the bread: she is not interested in the crust!

Jim Lahey

My Bread is such a wonderful book. The first chapters describe the background, the process and the basic recipe. In the next chapters you will find recipes for special bread, such as Fresh Corn Bread and Banana Leaf Rolls plus inspired recipes for Pizza Fungi and Focaccia.

My Bread is available via your local bookshop and the usual channels for something between 20 and 30 euro or US dollar.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Whole Grain Flour
  • 230 grams of Plain White Flour
  • 1 gram Instant Yeast
  • 25 grams Blue Poppy Seed
  • 30 grams Brown Linseed
  • 4 grams Salt (this is less than usual, most recipes for bread would say 8 gram)
  • 350 grams Water
  • Additional Flower
  • Bran

What You Do

Simplest is to buy My Bread or look at the recipe and movie as provided by the New York Times.

Mix flour, yeast, seeds and salt. Add water and create one mixture. Let rest in a covered bowl for 19 hours. Remove from bowl, fold 4 times, dust with additional flour and let rest on a towel dusted with flour and bran for 3 hours. Check that the pot (and the handles!) can be used in a really hot oven. Transfer the pot to the oven and heat your oven to 235˚ Celsius or 450˚ Fahrenheit. Put the dough, seam side up, in the pot, close it and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15 minutes or until it is nicely browned. Let cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before slicing it. Listen to your bread signing!

Chez Panisse

Alice Waters’ restaurant is called Chez Panisse, which is also the title of her Menu Cookbook, published in 1982. The book is centred around menu’s, emphasising the importance of combing dishes to create a balanced dinner or lunch.
In the introduction she describes how as a child she wanted fresh green beans and charcoal-grilled steaks every birthday dinner. And how she would sit out in the strawberry patch, happily eating fresh berries. In 1963 at the age of 19 she went to France for a year, to eat. Back in Berkeley her love for food transformed in opening her restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971.

Activist 

In the chapter What I Believe About Cooking she writes as American chef and activist. She discusses how the US as a nation is removed from any real involvement with food and how the US people (and probably many more) are alienated by frozen and hygienically sealed food. She writes: ”Food should be experienced through the senses.” And also: “… we have been indoctrinated into believing that by making food preparation easier and less time-consuming, we’re gaining valuable free time. No mention is ever made of what we lose by this whittling away at our direct contact with food or what better things we might do with the time thus gained.”
We couldn’t agree more! There is so much fun and love in buying, cooking and enjoying food. Sit down, take your time, and talk about food, wine and life.

Favourite

One of our favourites from Chez Panisse is her eggplant soup with dots of red bell pepper. Not difficult to prepare and a joy to eat and serve. The taste is rich yet light, fresh and uplifting. The combination of egg plant, garlic and red onions plus bell pepper works very well, probably because both are charred. Use vegetable stock and you will have a great vegetarian starter. 

Other titles by Alice Waters include We Are What We Eat (A Slow Food Manifesto) published in 2021, The Art Of Simple Food (I and II) and My Pantry (2015). (Audio) Books are available via your local bookstore, the well known channels and Chez Panisse.

More mushrooms!

Mushroom is one of the first books by Johnny Acton, Nick Sadler and Jonathan Lovekin (photographs), published in 2001. The book offers some 70 recipes plus very interesting background information on the history of mushrooms and their hallucinating, psychedelic and culinary aspects. The book comes with many beautiful drawings and photographs. It has specific sections on cèpes, morels, chanterelles and truffles. It is very well written, fun to read and the recipes are accurate.

They have also written books on Soup, Preserves and one called The Complete Guide to Making, Cooking & Eating Sausages.

Recipes

One of the benefits of the book is that the recipes range from relatively easy to make (pasta with cèpes or clear soup with enoki for instance) to exotic and mouth-watering dishes (lobster and cauliflower fungus ravioli with saffron butter). The book is a great addition to more classic books on mushrooms such as The Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin, The Mushroom Feast by Jane Grigson or Antonio Carluccio’s Complete Mushroom Book.

In most cases it’s not too difficult to buy the required mushroom. Shopping at your local Asian toko will also help, for instance if you need shiitake, enoki or wood ear (they offer a recipe for a very nice Chinese chicken soup with ginger, pak choi and dried wood ear).

Our favourite? Perhaps their salad with shiitake, watercress and tofu. A modern, light dish with lots of flavours (cilantro, ginger, sesame oil, lemon).

Mushroom is available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for between 10 and 25 euro.

Mushroom

The Quiet Hunt

Antonio Carluccio’s The Complete Mushroom book is more than a cookbook. The first part of the book discusses foraging and collecting mushrooms, with clear descriptions of each mushroom and poisonous look-alikes. It’s a pleasure to read, but we’re not brave enough to start our own quiet hunt.

Fortunately, mushrooms are becoming more popular and greengrocers and supermarkets have started selling chestnut mushrooms, button mushrooms and shiitake. Asian supermarkets in most cases sell (king) oyster mushrooms, shiitake, enoki and shimeji.
Don’t be tempted to buy dried mushrooms: expensive, no aroma, nasty taste and not even close to a fresh mushroom.

Recipes

The second part of the book includes some 150 mushroom recipes, ranging from classic Italian dishes to culinary treats. Carluccio’s recipes are well written and informative. You’ll get the feeling that he lets you in on some of his secrets. And given he started foraging mushrooms as a young child, there are a lot of secrets to share!

One of our favourites is a salad made with maitake, fresh scallops, crab and shrimps. It’s an amazing result, with lots of pleasant flavours, also thanks to the cilantro, dill and parsley. Part of the fun is that the scallops are not seared but prepared like ceviche. Maitake is also available as a cultivated mushroom.

Caponata

More favourites? Of course! How about Mushroom Caponata or Tagliolini with black truffle? The caponata is a combination of mushrooms, egg plant and various herbs, so if you can buy button mushrooms and for instance shiitake, you’re ready to go.

Our all-time favourite from this book is the combination of fresh oysters with white truffle (bianchetti). A starter we prepare once or twice a year, depending on the availability of the truffle. Always a pleasure…

The Mushroom Book – the Quiet Hunt was published in 2001. It’s available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for prices between 25 and 50 euro.

One of the very best books on mushrooms, written by a true expert.

Earthly Delights

The Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin and Dorothy Reinhardt (Illustrator) is a lovely, small book with some 35 recipes and 60 very delightful full-colour wood-cut illustrations. Just look at the cover! It’s the kind of book that we bought because it looks good. A book you simply want to have.

Only later did we find out that it discusses the history and other interesting back ground information of various mushrooms, including information on choosing, storing and preparing them. The book offers an introduction to the joy of cooking with mushrooms such as button mushrooms, morels, oyster mushroom, truffle, trompette de la mort, chanterelle, shiitake, cèpes and huitlacoche, a Mexican mushroom that grows on corn.
Michael McLaughlin is also known as co-author of The Silver Palate Cookbook with recipes from Manhattan’s celebrated gourmet food shop.

Amongst our favourite recipes are Mushroom Tapenade and Raw Mushroom, Fennel and Provolone Salad.

The Mushroom Book was published in 1994. It’s available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for something like 15 euro. Ii is an ideal and friendly introduction to the world of earthly delights. 

The Mushroom Book
The Mushroom Book

Hilaire Walden

Some chefs love the limelight, some prefer to stay in the background, focusing on cooking and writing. Hilaire Walden is clearly one of them. 

She is author of some 40 books and she has written for prestigious magazines and newspapers about food, cooking and restaurants. She wrote The Great Big Cookie Book, The Book of Tapas and Spanish Cooking, the Book of French Provincial Cooking, The Singapore CookbookQuick After Work Summer Vegetarian CookbookThe Book of Fish and Shellfish and more recently I Love My Barbecue. Indeed, a broad culinary spectrum!

The Loire

One of our favourites is Loire Gastronomique. In this book she follows the course of the French river and describes the various regions, local products, local recipes and of course the wines that go with it. Cheese, cookies, pies, everything. The Loire region is known as the Garden of France. In this garden you’ll find wonderful castles (Azay-le-RideauChambordChinon), great wine (MuscadetSancerrePouilly-Fumé) and beautiful food (asparagus, lots of fruit, artichokes and of course Lentille Verte du Puy). The book is inspiring and it will make you dream of a walk along the Loire, with a view on Amboise and a glass Crémant de Loire in your hand.

Recipes

One of the benefits of Hilaire Walden’s recipes is that they are always correct. Sounds odd, but as we all know, unfortunately, often recipes are simply not complete or correct.
If you prepare a dish for the first time, simply follow her instructions and you’re fine.

She started publishing books around 1980, so perhaps your favourite book will be second hand, but don’t worry, it will not be outdated.