I met a french lady today, from Northern France. We had a lovely talk about France and french food. I lived and worked in France in the past, in Nancy for 3 months. It was great to chat to such a beautiful french lady.
Coincidentally, I had with me, and had just started to re-read, Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. It reminded me again of the basics.
For those of us who love cooking, it is easy to get carried away with the complexities of creating flavours and tastes, of cooking slow or fast, of whether we should chop, grind, blend or mince.
Sometimes we forget that simplest is bestest. We no longer live in an age where the food is not fresh or of good quality and must be hidden with sauces and gravies, spices and herbs.
We live in an age where we have access to food of incredible quality.
Thank you, Elizabeth David, for reminding me of this. I want to share with you her thoughts on ….
The following is from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David. The bolding and paragraphing is mine, so you can locate information easily.
“These are for the raw, crisp element of a hors-d’oevre [or any part of a meal - VY]. They consist of sliced very firm raw tomatoes, dressed with the minimum of oil, lemon and seasoning, sprinkled with finely chopped parsley.
Cucumber sliced very thin and dressed in the same way.
Radishes, washed, trimmed of excess greenery but left otherwise as god made them, rather than disguised as water lilies.
Raw Florentine fennel, the outer leaves removed, the heart cut into quarters, and sprinkled with plenty of lemon juice to prevent it turning brown. Or alternatively, cut into fine strips and dressed with oil, salt, lemon.
Celery treated the same way.
Very young broad beans, piled on a dish in their pods, to be eaten a la croque au sel i.e. simply with salt.
Raw red and green peppers, cut into the thinnest of rounds, all seeds and core carefully removed, dressed with oil, prepared in advance and perhaps mixed with a few black olives.
Raw carrots very finely grated, the red part only, the yellow core being discarded; the resulting preparation almost a puree, is mixed with a very small amount of finely chopped shallot, a little oil, lemon juice, salt and a pinch of sugar if necessary, depending on the quality of the carrots.
Celleri-rave remoulade, [i.e.] peeled and washed celeriac, shredded on the special crinkled blade of the mandoline into match-sized strips, put straight into a bowl of acidulated water to preserve its colour; blance a few seconds in boiling salted water, drained very dry, mixed with a thick [yogurt] mayonnaise very highly seasoned with salt, mustard and a good deal more vinegar than is ordinarily allowed.
A salad of cooked vegetables supplies the soft element of an hors-d’oeuvre; it may be potato salad, white haricot beans, beetroot, leeks, french beans.
Boil them, in the case of potatoes and beetroots, in their skins. Keep them firm; drain them carefully. Always skin and season them while still hot with a dressing of oil, vinegar or lemon, salt, pepper; a little mustard if you like. According to taste add a little chopped shallot or garlic; parsley, chives or tarragon.
A rice salad, mixed with a few strips of sweet pepper, comes into the same category; again, keep the rice on the firm side; season while hot, not forgetting a little nutmeg and tarragon vinegar as well as oil, salt and pepper.
All hail to Elizabeth David. I hope you enjoyed that. Do beg, borrow or steal buy her book. Wait for some very simple offerings to come out of my kitchen over the next week or two as Australia emerges into Spring and Summer and the gorgeousness of its garden offerings appears on the tables.