“Simple French Cooking for English Homes” by X. Marcel Boulestin - a Review

~  Menu  ~

Trout and Asparagus Hash
A glass of secret white wine*

The other day I went on at some length about a wonderful book about to be published by Quadrille; “The Gentle Art of Cookery” which is out on 5th September.

Well, lucky me, I have another book in the Classic Voices in Food series; “Simple French Cooking for English Homes” by X. Marcel Boulestin - the X is for Xavier but he is generally known as Marcel Boulestin. 

I got stuck in a couple of days ago and found it to be a real treat.  Monsieur Boulestin has a great turn of phrase and lots of opinions both on cooking and otherwise.  In fact on page 2 under General Remarks he says …

“A good cook is not necessarily a good woman with an even temper.  Some allowance should be made for the artistic temperament.”

… and he gives some useful advice on the handling of servants.

The book, very much as the title suggests, is about French food towards which I had much the same attitude as the people for whom he wrote the book almost 100 years ago, that is that it is expensive and rich and laced with butter. 

However reading the book in bed as Monsieur Boulestin himself suggests I found much to interest me and quite a bit that surprised me too.  His standard recipe for vinaigrette, for instance, includes a whole sheep or calf’s brain which must be where I have been going wrong!  Most of his ideas and suggestions are not nearly so far out.

I decided to treat myself to a classic French dinner whilst my real men were eating something British.  I chose Truites Meuniuère with Petits Pois and it was delicious.  

Truites Meunières 

This is, basically, trout fillets coated with seasoned flour and pan fried in a little olive oil.  Once cooked set the fish aside somewhere warm and wipe out the pan.  Return it to the heat and melt 20g butter per person and cook till it starts to turn golden, add the juice of a quarter of a lemon (and a handful of capers if you are that way inclined, I’m not), swirl about a bit to meld and pour over the fish.

Petits Pois à la Française pour Deux (2!)

2 spring onions finely sliced, on the diagonal if you can – much prettier
45g butter
1 little gem, or similar soft lettuce – shredded
300g frozen peas – petits pois being the best choice, obviously
120ml hot chicken stock (or hot water if that’s all you have!)

~   Gently cook the spring onions in the butter till soft.
~   Stir in the lettuce and as soon as it is wilted add the peas and the stock.
~   Bring to a boil turn down the heat and cook at a fast simmer till the peas are tender.
~   Taste and season and serve.

This way of cooking the peas very much reminded me of my youth!  

When we had our first restaurant, the House on the Strand at Trebarwith in Cornwall, we used to cook our peas in a most appalling and pleasant way using a minimum of water and a large maximum of butter.  They were yummy, decadent and popular but really rich and cholesterolly and we stopped being so extravagant after a while – we didn't even add any healthy lettuce and onions as the French do.

Pin this perhaps?

As is often the way I couldn't eat the whole meal so kept all my leavings and the next day I fried them up with some asparagus I found in the fridge to make a hash.  I topped it with some roasted garlic mayonnaise, sprinkled with smoked black pepper  and Bob’s your uncle so to speak!  (American readers – don’t ask!) 

Marcel would have approved of this behaviour and perhaps this blog, at the end of the book he gives “A Week’s Menu ~ showing how to use up everything” explaining how consecutive meals use up the previous meal’s leftovers.

There are a surprisingly, to me, large number of recipes and ideas in the book that I shall be trying.  They range from the simple idea of whisking a little extra butter into Béchamel before serving to his recipe for sausages.  The very next thing I shall do however is his Sirop de Café to see if it is better than mine. It may well be because he advocates adding rum which, unbelievably, I hadn't thought of!  Different flavoured syrups are really useful standbys in the kitchen and are far, far cheaper to make than to buy those expensive syrups for adding to coffee.  I often make vanilla syrup, coffee syrup, port syrup (for blue cheese) and, seasonally, mulled wine syrup.   Here’s a handy hint.

Handy Hint

The easiest way to clean a pan after making sweet syrup is to add a cupful of water and simmer till the syrup has dissolved into the water.  Use this to make a well deserved cup of coffee.

I shall be looking out for the two previously published books in the Classic Voices in Food series (Eliza Acton’s “Modern Cookery for Private Families” and Madame Prunier’s “Fish Cookery Book”) which both came out in April and am excited to read that  “Publisher Jane O’Shea said she sees this as an ongoing series and four more titles are already scheduled for 2012.”  Yippee!

“Simple French Cooking for English Homes” by X. Marcel Boulestin is a slim hardback volume to be published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd on 5 Sep 2011, ISBN-10: 1844009815
ISBN-13: 978-1844009817.


debs said...

too right its scammy..have you seen the increase in the price of butter and coffee recently?the coffee i usually buy has gone up by 90p a jar!

martincheese said...

I have spoken to people who have been wine buyers and they tell me they honestly have conversations with suppliers that go:
buyer:"what's the RRP on this wine then?"
producer:"it's £8.99 reduced to £4.99"