Why buy it?
Jettisoning a fashionable London life in favour of Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, Rachel Khoo buttoned up her pristine chef whites to learn the patient art of patisserie. Five years on and Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook and TV show of the same name proves the life change to have been a successful one. Part of the reason for that success may be down to Khoo’s approachable interpretation of French recipes. Somewhat unfairly, French fare has a reputation of being one of the more uptight cuisines, yet while many of the classics are assembled in The Little Paris Kitchen, they’re stripped of any pomp or ceremony. Instead, they’re simply delivered as everyday recipes to cook for a summer picnic, snack time, or dinner with friends and family. There’s blanc-manger, quiche Lorraine and sabayon, and there’s also the sense that if you happened to find yourself at the kitchen table of a diminutive Parisian home, you might have these dishes thrust in front of you with warm hospitality. That’s not to say that Khoo’s recipes are rustic or careless, she is deliberately aware of their traditional origins without being enslaved to them. Unlike some serious French cookbooks that can harass the cook and leave a novice as deflated as a failed soufflé, The Little Paris Kitchen, with its relaxed styling and a smiling Khoo, gently steers us away from anxiety and towards hungry anticipation.
The recipes in The Little Paris Kitchen are simple enough to create in any little Aussie kitchen too, even without the grocers and fromageries of Paris at your disposal. You’ll find French Basics at the back of the book to give beginner gourmands the solid foundations for French cuisine, from stock to crème patissiere.
It’s a tough call to choose just one, but for the sake of breathing life into a ’70s classic, canard a la’Orangina (duck with fizzy orange), made with sparkling Orangina or Aranciata, deserves to be taken out for a spin.
Most surprising dish
Truffes de foie gras (foie gras truffles) are inspired by Khoo’s experience at Parisian restaurant, Le Chateaubriand, where she was served soft balls of foie gras rolled in the Indian sweet snack mukhwas. The rich mousse with its deep duck flavour is offset by the floral and aniseed sweetness of the mukhwas. Khoo plays with this concept and rolls more foie gras balls in crushed ginger biscuits and others in cocoa. It’s both pâte and petits fours all at once and stirs a conundrum of whether to serve them with Champagne or coffee.
Khoo unclutters French cooking and quite rightly asserts that the foundations of French fare are not dissimilar to any other laidback European cuisines (looking at you, Italy).
Francophiles, those free from the tyrannical fear of butter and cheese, and for all who value the solid foundations of homestyle, unfussy French cooking.