It might be renowned as a bastion of elegance and good taste, but French cuisine doesn’t have to be snooty. From perfect potatoes and sweet crêpes to wholesome casseroles, there are plenty of recipes and clever techniques everyone can enjoy.
By
Siobhan Hegarty

17 Jul 2018 - 12:27 PM  UPDATED 11 Sep 2018 - 3:03 PM

Ah, French cuisine… The croissants! The cheeses! The unrestrained use of butter! From sauté styles to magical soufflés, France has bestowed us with an infinite number of flavours, dishes and cooking techniques – heck, even the word ‘cuisine’ is French. Across the globe, chefs are schooled in French recipes and rules; but don’t go thinking this cuisine is restricted to fancy restaurants. Quite the opposite. French food is steeped in simplicity; using minimal, albeit good-quality ingredients, and easy-to-master methods. 

So, what are the basics? Celebrate the seasons using fresh produce and practicing up on you soup, sauté and roasting skills. Sauces are a core component of French cooking, so practice your bechamel, beurre blanc and green peppercorn sauce. An omelette may seem humble, but in French cooking, it’s a basic enjoyed by all. When it comes to breads and sweets, master your choux pastry skills (hello coffee éclairs!), practice making crêpesand embrace the baguette. If you want to cook something a little special, you can’t go past a classic soufflésweet or savoury – or this smoked trout terrine.

 

Pantry essentials

For your French pantry, grab the Brittany salt Fleur du Sel, good quality olive oil, brown onions and garlic.  In the fridge, keep butter (a bedrock of French cooking); a selection cheeses (such as washed rind, blue vein and hard cheeses); speck and charcuterie; along with Dijon mustard. Don’t forget the crusty bread and flours for all your pastry needs.

 

Fast five

The richer, the better: Add depth and smokiness to French casseroles, such as boeuf bourguignon, with the cured meat speck.

Flat chat: The secret to an excellent crêpe isn’t just in the batter. You also need a shallow and extremely flat pan on which to thinly spread the mixture.

Gentle approach: A bain-marie is a ‘water bath’ used to gently cook dishes – such as crème brûlée – without direct heat. 

Special sauce: To deglaze a pan, add stock or water to the remnants of your sauté or roast. The rich, caramelised liquid makes a delicious gravy.

Ultimate potatoes: Parboil potatoes, roughing up the edges and tossing in a colander for texture. Next, add to a pre-heated pan with 2 tbsp of goose or duck fat and roast till crisp. 

View our French recipe collection here.

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? The Chefs' Line airs weeknights at 6pm on SBS, with an encore at 9.30pm on Food Network. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more! 

Get cooking: French
French flag macarons

Ok… So macarons can be tricky to make… up until now that is! Here we will tell you the hidden secret to making the best macarons, previously reserved only for elite pastry chefs with many years of training. So… the secret to preventing your own macarons from cracking is as easy as sitting on the sofa and having a nap or perhaps watching a movie for an hour or so while the macarons rest before baking. We have colour-themed our macarons blue and red and joined each with a dollop of meringue buttercream, making very cute little French flag macarons.

Snails with herb and walnut butter (escargots aux beurre d’herbes et de noix)

This dish is from the Midi-Pyrénées region. For the French, this is a very festive dish and each region has its own version, but they all contain lots of garlic. In the Midi/Pyrénées region, walnuts are added for extra crunch.

Potato and reblochon cheese gratin (tartiflette au reblochon)

This dish is from the Haute Savoie Alps region. This tasty gratin-style dish, often served in the alpine ski resorts, is a wonderful choice for a winter dinner and a popular party dish for young adults.

Three-cheese soufflé

Light but incredibly flavoursome, this French classic is made truly memorable by the wonderful combination of cheddar, Gruyère and Parmesan, along with the Dijon mustard and hint of cayenne. The soufflés make a wonderful start to a meal or a light lunch when served with a classic leaf salad.