Basics

Basics

By
Annie Smithers
Contains
15 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743792643
Photographer
Patricia Niven; Illustrations: Robin Cowcher

There are a few basic components to a meal that I feel are a must. Firstly, good bread and butter. Good bread is readily available, but if you feel inspired it really isn’t that hard to knock up a couple of very decent baguettes. It’s also possible to buy some really glorious butter or, if you leave some cream whisking in a stand mixer long enough, you’ll find you’ve made your own butter! The baguette recipe is one I have been using for years, championed by a baker by the name of Richard Bertinet. Don’t be shy – it’s easy.

I like to serve most main courses with either a simple green salad or a simple green vegetable. It must be those fearsome words still ringing in my ears from childhood: ’eat your greens’. I’m not a big fan of highly complex side dishes. If a side has to be complex, my feeling is that it should get a guernsey on the main team and be a stand-alone course, like a complex salad for example. So a lot of my menus will simply call for a bowl of green vegetables or a green salad. And by the latter I mean beautiful, crisp lettuce leaves, tossed with seasonal herbs, a pinch of salt flakes and a good dose of sherry vinaigrette.

Then there are the potatoes. With a few exceptions I tend to serve my main courses with some form of potato or another. There are so many potato recipes to choose from, so I have whittled them down to those that best complement my menus. To make triple-cooked French fries like we do in restaurants you’ll need to start them a couple of days ahead as the potato needs to be soaked and dried before frying. The results are worth it though!

Stocks are one of the backbones of my cooking. A good chicken stock is indispensable for soups, stews and the like, but it is veal stock, and, more importantly, reduced veal stock, that can elevate your food from lovely to sublime. Its incomparable depth of flavour and viscosity add a restaurant-quality flourish to every dish it is used in. Make a batch and freeze it – it is so obliging that, because of its gelatine content, you can freeze it in a block and just cut a bit off when you need it.

And last but not least: pastry. What would a French farmhouse be without a few pastries cooling on the windowsill? Not all home cooks have a patisserie in walking distance so, to recreate the magic, pastry making is a necessary skill to master in the French kitchen. I’ve included here the four pastries I use most in my cooking. All the recipes for sides dishes make enough to serve eight people.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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