There is only about 40 days until my next - and significant - birthday, hence my visit to The Essential Ingredient in search of gift inspiration for my family and friends (or even you, my faithful readers...)
A La Mère de Famille is a book dedicated to one of the most ancient "chocolatier" and "confiseur" in continuous operation in Paris since 1761. It is full of chocolate recipes and sugary things (which I am not a great fan of, but plenty people are...) It is all printed on recycled paper (à la Movida, which I was gifted by my sister-in-law)
From chocolate eggs, to meringues and through cookies, lollipops and nougat, the book explores all the products and recipes which makes this boutique a Parisian institution. A must to visit when in Paris!
Manu Fieldel - French for Everyone - This is it, what you see is what you get!
After a recent trip back to his homeland, Manu became reinspired by the beauty of the French country and the French way of life. In French for Everyone Manu celebrates the simplicity and style of everyday French cooking, showing how easy and enjoyable it is to recreate the meals of his childhood back here in Australia using local produce.
You can forget the lengthy ingredients lists and complicated instructions that French cookbooks often include – in French for Everyone, Manu shares everyday French recipes that can be made at home such as Ham and Mushroom Vol Au Vents, Silver Dory Brioche Sliders (a great way to encourage kids to eat more fish), Breakfast Cassoulet (Manu’s great recipe for a hangover!), Braised Short Ribs of Beef in Red Wine (perfect for dunking bread in as Manu does) and Manu’s favourite dessert recipe – Crèpes with Bananas, Chocolate Sauce and Chantilly Cream.
It is good timing for Manu, as he is selling his Sydney restaurant L'Etoile and moving to Melbourne where he has just opened Le Grand Cirque. We went to L'Etoile for my daughter's 18th birthday and it was really good and very appropriate for such an occasion. His new Melbourne venture, Le Grand Cirque has opened at the end of March, so, if you are in Melbourne, you can go and try it. The menu is very much inspired by the book, or is it the other way around? You have to try the Cassoulet!
Le Livre Blanc - Anne Sophie Pic - Valence. I had lunch there a couple of times when her father was in charge on my way to visit my grand-parents and then my parents who first introduced me to it.Anne-Sophie Pic is the daughter of chef Jacques Pic, and grew up at her family's restaurant, Maison Pic in Valence, south of Lyon. Her grandfather, Andre Pic, was also a chef, who was particularly known for a crayfish gratin dish, and who first gained the restaurant three Michelin stars in 1934. However she initially decided not to follow in their footsteps, and instead travelled overseas to train in management. She worked in Japan and the United States as an intern for various companies, including Cartier and Moët & Chandon but found herself drawn back to the restaurant for her "passion".
At the age of 23, in 1992 she returned to Maison Pic to train under her father to become a chef. He died three months later, and she moved to working the front of the house. In 1995, the restaurant lost its third Michelin star, for which she felt she had lost "her father's star", and spurred her to return to the kitchen. In 1997, Pic took control of the restaurant. She had no formal training in cooking.
In 2007, she regained Maison Pic's three Michelin stars. This was only the fourth time anywhere that a female chef had achieved three Michelin stars. That same year, Pic was the only woman on French newspaper Le Figaro's list of the top twenty richest chefs in France. I believe this is her first book in English and according to the brief introduction, the whiteness of the book evokes Pic's cooking, chef's whites and "can be read as a manifesto of femininity", as so few of her peers are choosing to produce restaurant books of this quality. In fact, the singularity of the book almost explains the starkness: no room for frivolity here, just serious recipes and serious food porn. The book has both in great quantities
Cumulus Inc - Andrew McConnell - This restaurant is my favourite destination when I am dining alone in Melbourne, as I can sit at the bar overlooking the kitchen and watching the Chefs working!
And I have watched the man himself, Andrew McConnell, a number of times. It is quite a feast to watch the team preparing and endless array of dishes for a very noisy crowd with a never ending appetite!
Whether it is chuckling the oysters, cutting the charcuterie or plating a great variety of food, it makes for amazing theatre and would make you hungry even if you were not. Being in Melbourne, you always end up talking to your neighbours and it generally makes for great conversations and drinking more wine than you probably should (although I stay at a hotel within walking distance...). And you have to leave some space for the madeleines for dessert: they are the best I ever had anywhere in the World!In a few short years, Cumulus Inc. has won a place in many hearts. With its open kitchen, industrial architectural elements and light streaming in through the bank of windows, it is somewhere to gather, talk and eat at any time of day. And the food fits like a glove, starting with the perfect breakfast and ending with a late-night charcuterie plate.
Based around the ebb and flow of a day at Cumulus, Andrew McConnell's first book gathers his recipes for the signature dishes that keep people coming back for more. This is food for the way we eat now.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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