We have all been there, you read a recipe, you decide to prepare the dish, only to find that some essential information is missing, that the ingredients are impossible to find or that the result is something completely different. For instance, we once decided to prepare a fairly complex dish. It consisted of four components, one being a popcorn-like version of saffron rice. The steps were not too challenging: cook sushi rice with saffron, dry for 2 days and then fry in oil on 180 °C or 355 °F for 10 minutes until the rice looks like popcorn. Sounds do-able, doesn’t it? Apart from the ‘like popcorn’. All rice turned out fat and golden-brown. Finally, we figured it out: we had to use a neutral oil with a very high smoking point, for instance refined sesame seed or avocado oil. But that information wasn’t provided in the recipe. Why not, we wonder, isn’t the goal of a recipe to help the reader prepare it? So why not provide all the necessary information?
(In case you wonder what the smoking point of oil is, it’s the temperature on which the oil breaks down. That’s when it may release unhealthy, damaging chemicals and nasty flavours. Olive oil has a relative low smoking point which is why you should pay careful attention to your pan when using it for frying.)
Je Sais Cuisinier
Ginnete Mathiot approach to recipes is clearly based on an ambition to educate, to transfer and share knowledge. She was born in 1907 in Paris and pursued a career as a teacher and inspector in home economics and as an author of many cookbooks. She didn’t own a restaurant, she never worked as a chef, she wasn’t a tv-celebrity. She was focused on sharing recipes and useful household and kitchen information. Millions of copies of her cookbooks were sold and many more benefitted from her knowledge and experience.
When she was 25 years old she published her classic Je Sais Cuisinier. Today the book is known as La Cuisine pour Tous. The English version is titled I Know How to Cook. It is a very useful cookbook with recipes that truly help you to prepare a dish. She also wrote excellent books on patisserie and preserves.
When you leave through I Know How to Cook you will notice helpful sections on spices, aromatic vegetables and flavourings, you’ll see a well written glossary of essential cooking terms, seasonal suggestions and many more aspects of food.
Given the time of year we looked for the artichoke-section of the book. Such a delicious vegetable! She includes a recipe for Artichoke Hearts Printanière (artichoke hearts with a filling of mushrooms, shallot, boiled egg, ham and artichoke, grilled in the oven) and for Artichokes à la Barigoule. This is a classic dish from the Provence region. The artichoke hearts are stuffed, wrapped in bacon, fried and then cooked in a sauce with carrots and onion. The artichoke is then served with the (strained) sauce. Next week we will publish our vegetarian version of this classic.
Her books (in French, Italian and English) are available via your local bookstore and the usual channels.