I love Fall cookbook release season and this one saw the release of a huge number of great titles. My living room coffee table is groaning under the weight of all my new books that I am slowly reading through – easier said than done as I work on my very own kids’ French cookbook!
Today I’m sharing a handful of the French-themed titles, since naturally, those are the ones I am gravitating towards these day (there’s a baking book roundup coming in a week or so as well!) – perfect for the armchair traveller and/ or Francophile on your holiday gift list (or, you know, for yourself!).
A Cook’s Tour of France: Regional French Recipes by Gabriel Gâté
This name was a blast from the past! Growing up in Australia, I was familiar with Gabriel Gâté who was born in the Loire Valley in France but who moved to Australia with his Melbourne-born wife in 1977. He’s written 22 cookbooks (!) and for the past 35 years, he’s been presenting television shows (notably ‘Taste Le Tour with Gabriel Gaté’, a series about featuring food and wine from the regions the Tour de France bicycle race passes through in July every year) which is I think, where I remember seeing him first.
Originally published in 2013, A Cook’s Tour of France has just been re-released and contains a collection of recipes from the Taste Le Tour show and is a fabulous armchair (or kitchen!) tour around the country.
The book contains Starters and Light Meals, Vegetables and Sides, Fish and Seafood, Poultry and Rabbit, Beef, Lamb and Pork, Cakes and Sweet Morsels and Desserts and Tarts and the headnote for each recipe tells you its region of origin as well as the French language name of the dish. The recipes are all fairly straightforward (one page) and Gâté offers information about where you might find some of the more unusual ingredients (hare can be ordered from “good poultry shops”). There are often wine pairing suggestions too.
It’s a nice little book that covers the main regions of France and I’d recommend it for those who want a general overview of French cuisine. The photography is lovely and evocative of each region (I’m a sucker for beautiful photos of France!) – my only complaint would be that many of the recipes don’t have an accompanying photo so if you are a cook who needs to see the “end result” before you start, this might not be the book for you. In any case, as well as a cookbook, it’s a beautiful coffee table book and one that wouldn’t be out of place on your bedside table either.
French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards by Mimi Thorisson
French Country Cooking is Mimi Thorisson’s second book, after A Kitchen in France (2014). Thorisson has been writing her beautiful blog, Manger, for around 5 years – it tells the story of her family (her Icelandic photographer-husband and their eight children and 10 dogs) and their life in the Médoc in South West France and French Country Cooking tells the story of their house hunting, purchase and renovation three years ago and their life there today. “This was the house that had to be a restaurant and this is the book that wrote itself.” (Thorisson hosts cooking workshops in the house and occasionally a pop up restaurant).
This is also in the category of books that work as both cookery books and coffee table stars. It’s stunningly photographed and has quaint illustrations of the house and the village on the inside covers. The photos give that sense of place that will draw you in, the stories will keep you there and the recipes will make you want to head to your local farmers’ market and get in the kitchen and cook.
The recipes themselves *feel* like they should be complicated (perhaps because they are so exquisitely photographed) but when you take a good look many of the recipes are actually very do-able even for those of us who don’t live full-time in France. The chapters cover Starters, Main Courses, Side Dishes and Desserts as well as Sunday Suppers and Staff Meals and I particularly loved the snippets of French culture woven through the recipes (and appreciated the sections dedicated to “le goûter” and “l’apéro” – two of my favourite French non-meals). There’s definitely an element of country cooking brought to the next level but even a novice cook will find some recipes they can take on. The South West of France might not be on your list of travel destinations in 2017 but thanks to Thorisson, you can at least experience some of the flavours for yourself in the comfort of your kitchen.
French Desserts by Hillary Davis
The cover alone will want to make you dive into Hillary Davis’ latest (her fourth) cookbook, French Desserts. Davis, who authors and photographs three blogs reflecting her love of food and travel, was schooled in the art of French desserts while living in France by a neighbour with a sweet tooth. Her interest sparked, Davis set about learning everything she could about French (regional) desserts over the course of the years that followed, realising that many French desserts are not that complicated. While there is definitely a level of sophistication in the French pâtisseries you buy, no French person would ever make, for example, macarons at home – why would you when you can buy them? This book outlines the simpler desserts enjoyed in the French home. Davis is keen to bust the myth that French food is complex and hard to make and hopes that with her guidance, you’ll be able to make authentic French desserts at home without the need for special equipment or ingredients.
French Desserts is a peek into the everyday desserts enjoyed in French homes and features 10 sections. Each chapter is divided into two parts – recipes that are quick to make and those that require a little more time/ attention. Most of the recipes are short with a brief list of ingredients – Davis recommends using “nothing but the best” since with so few ingredients you really notice the quality. At the front of the book is a list of essential ingredients as well as fridge/ freezer staples as well as essential tools you’ll need to make the recipes.
The recipe headnotes include information about the region of origin and I really like that Davis lists the equipment needed for each recipe. A great way to make sure you really are ready to get baking is not just check your ingredients list twice, but also check you don’t need a special pan or tool as well. The recipes themselves are short and often include shortcuts (using store-bought puff pastry for example) which takes the intimidation factor out of a potentially complicated dish (millefeuille, in the case of the puff pastry). There’s something for everyone in this book – the recipes cover Homey Cakes, Cookies, Baked Goods, Verrines, Frozen or Refirgerated Desserts, Waffles, Crêpes and Pancakes, Puff Pastry Desserts, Tarts, Candies and Special Occasion Desserts. the recipes are simply photographed (the food is the star!) and there are a load of lovely images of life in France scattered through the book. Again, not out of place on a coffee table or in the kitchen!
The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act by Alex Prud’homme
In The French Chef in America, Julia Child’s great-nephew and My Life in France co-author Alex Prud’homme tells the tale of Julia Child’s life after the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and of her rise to fame as America’s first celebrity chef. Though perhaps best known for her two “Mastering” tomes on French cuisine, Child had a whole new career in TV once she returned to the United States (through the persona of “The French Chef” and later, simply as herself). It’s a fascinating look at the birth of the “celebrity chef” movement and the rise of a whole new genre of TV show. After appearing on TV to promote Mastering in the early 1960s, Julia had an idea for “an interesting, adult series of half-hour TV programs on French cooking addressed to an intelligent, reasonably sophisticated audience which likes good food and cooking.” And thus, The French Chef was born. After three pilots which were met with an overwhelmingly positive response, Julia, at the age of 50, signed for a 26-episode series which would launch her career in food in a whole new direction. Prud’homme chronicles Julia’s path to re-inventing herself, painting a vivid picture and the book was, for me at least, just as much of a page-turner as a thriller. Paul Child’s photography complements the stories beautifully. If you’re a fan of Julia, French food or have even a slight interest in this new Food Network culture we find ourselves living in today, this is a must read.
Please note: The product links from Amazon and The Book Depository in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you) which goes towards maintaining eat. live. travel. write. Thank you in advance!
Disclosure: I received copies of these books for review purposes from Raincoast Books and Appetite by Random House. I was not asked to write about the books, nor am I being compensated for doing do. All opinions 100% my own.