On my return from France, because I was so fired up about French food I was desperate to review a French cookery book. But, alas none of my 80 cookbooks are French. Luckily my friend Katy came to the rescue with Rachel Khoo’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’.
I hadn’t personally been a fan of the tv programme – I found Rachel a bit smug with her glamourous outfits and her adorable Paris life and her perfect food. Or more accurately I was probably jealous. However I am now eating humble pie. Rachel Khoo – I apologise for misjudging you – I’m converted – your food is ace.
I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re on a diet – there’s a lot of cream and cheese, although I did try and select the marginally more healthy options. But I must confess I did like cooking with naughty ingredients. It made a refreshing change from my comfort zone of reviewing healthy cookbooks.
The dishes were so good I’ve even had to invent new categories for grading the dishes we tested. Firstly we’ve got the ‘Off The Scale’ category, followed by ‘Excellent’, finishing with ‘Really Good’.
I’ll talk you through them:
Off The Scale
- Cauliflower bake with hazelnut crunch. Cauliflower cheese is a comfort food dish, but this is a glammed up version. The crunchy breadcrumbs and hazelnuts on top were a lovely addition. I regret that I over steamed the cauliflower. Next time I will aspire to crunchier cauliflower.
- Bouillabaisse or fish stew. This was our new year’s eve dinner. I loved the exotic blend of herbs and spices – star anise, orange zest, fennel seeds, thyme and saffron threads – I’ve never eaten seafood with that kind of citrussy base before. We tried to make the ‘rouille’ to go with it – a saffrony homemade mayonnaise. Two attempts but no success – I think more thorough guidance from Khoo would have been useful, but the stew was still exceptional without it.
- Chocolate lava cakes with salted caramel filling. It was a triumphant moment at our table when Jamie and I tucked into these beauties. Hot molten chocolate with salted caramel in the middle. A definite moment of pudding heaven for me.
- Smoky fish pie. A good way to use up the leftovers from the christmas cheeseboard and random old veg in our fridge. This was made with smoked haddock, bechamel sauce and veg of your choice. It was a lovely warming wintery dish.
- Puy lentil salad with goat’s cheese, beetroot and a dill vinaigrette. The perfect post christmas health kick dinner with the dill sauce adding a nice fresh, tart note.
- Chicken and mushrooms in a white wine sauce. Chicken and mushrooms with cream and wine is always a winner and the aniseedy tarragon on top really made it for me.
- Mushroom terrine. Basically a mushroom quiche without a pastry. Simple and tasty.
- Carrot salad and celeriac and apple salad. I too often forget how good salads can taste with a bit of love and imagination. We were particularly taken with the celeriac and apple salad – the mustard and white wine vinegar giving it some pep.
I was rather sorry when we cooked the final recipe from ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’. It had been a lot of fun – I had enjoyed the feeling of extending my french holiday by continuing to learn about French cooking and eating French food. I also did really like the excuse to cook with fattening ingredients – the French know what they are doing with cream and butter. Thanks Rachel, your cookbook is colourful, inspiring and you make it easy for readers to get impressive results.