My love of food stems from my childhood. I was fortunate enough to be brought up knowing what good ingredients should taste like, in a family that liked to eat well.
I call it the food gene. It was almost inevitable that I would have a career in food.
The idea for this book came way back, when I was learning to cook and working my way through Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'.
I wished that there were pictures showing you techniques to go with the recipes. I always said that if I was given the chance to write a book about classical cookery techniques, there would be pictures giving a step-by-step guide.
That's what I've done in my new book, and there are lots of hints and tips and plenty of explanations to take the mystery out of French cooking.
Take scrambled eggs, for example. The trick to making good scrambled eggs is to cook them slowly and gently in a non-stick pan, as this is what makes them creamy.
Terrines are not usually considered an essential part of everyone's repertoire, but I feel strongly that they should be. They're a wonderful way of feeding a lot of people. A good terrine will keep in the fridge for ages and they are fun to prepare and look so impressive.
They are also very easy to make and there are no real cooking skills to master -- it is just a question of layering the ingredients in the dish.
I often make fresh pasta, but there is no shame in buying it. However, there are certain rules to be observed when cooking dried pasta, and also when it comes to saucing it.
As with so many things, you will be rewarded if you take the trouble to do it well.
With a few perfect recipes in your repertoire, you can master any dish and create many more.
Extracted from Rosemary
Shrager's ‘Absolutely Foolproof
Classic Home Cooking’ is
published by Hamlyn, £18.99;
ORECCHIETTE WITH GORGONZOLA, SPINACH AND ROASTED RED-PEPPER SAUCE
YOU WILL NEED
4 red peppers
½ small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
30g unsalted butter
300g fresh spinach, washed, stalks
400g orecchiette pasta
120g Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
50g pecorino cheese, grated
Sea salt and black pepper
Put the red peppers in a roasting tin and drizzle a little oil over them. Place in an oven pre-heated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 and roast for 20 minutes, until patched with brown, turning halfway through. Cool a little and then peel off the skin. Remove the seeds and roughly chop the flesh.
Drizzle some oil into a large frying pan, add the onion and cook gently until softened. Add the garlic and red pepper and season well with salt and pepper. Put into a liquidiser or food processor and whiz to a purée, then transfer to a saucepan and set aside.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the spinach and cook briefly over a medium heat until wilted. Drain well, season and set aside. Cook the orecchiette in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain well.
Thoroughly heat the red pepper sauce and toss with the drained pasta, then fold in the Gorgonzola, pecorino and wilted spinach. Adjust the seasoning and serve.
CHICKEN, PORK AND PISTACHIO TERRINE
YOU WILL NEED
3 large skinless, boneless chicken
breasts, cut into long strips about
Sea salt and black pepper
15 very thin slices Parma ham
800g belly pork, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsps brandy
2 handfuls pistachio nuts
Put the chicken strips into a dish. Season with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the rest of the filling. Line the terrine dish with Parma ham. Make sure there are no gaps and let the ends overhang the dish — save two pieces for the top. Put the minced pork and all the remaining ingredients into a bowl, mix and season well — this mixture will help your terrine hold together.
Spread one-third of the pork mixture evenly over the bottom of the lined terrine dish. Arrange half of the chicken on top. Repeat these layers, then finish with a final layer of the pork mixture. Fold the Parma ham over the top and add the two reserved slices, if necessary, to cover the filling completely. Cover the terrine with foil.
Put a wad of greaseproof paper or a folded newspaper into the roasting tin; sit the terrine dish on top. Pour cold water into the tin to come three-quarters of the way up the dish. Place in an oven preheated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 140°C/Gas Mark 1 and cook for one-and-a-half hours. Use a meat thermometer to check if it is done — it should register 65°C-70°C. Another way to check is to press gently with your finger: the juices should run clear and the terrine should be fairly firm but with a little give.
Remove from the oven and make little holes in the top with a skewer, then put a weight on top, such as several tins or another terrine dish, and leave to cool. Leave overnight in the fridge, still weighted down. To remove the terrine from the dish, put a roll of cling film behind a board and pull the cling film over the board. Do not cut it at this point. Turn out the terrine on to the cling film; remove any excess jelly.
Start wrapping the terrine using the roll behind the board as leverage. When it is wrapped in seven or eight layers, cut the cling film and chill the terrine again. To serve, slice the terrine through the cling film with a very sharp, thin knife, using a sawing motion. This helps each slice hold together. Peel off the cling film and serve.
MANGO AND PASSIONFRUIT FOOL
Make crème anglaise in a heavy-bottomed pan, as this distributes the heat evenly. Stir the custard with a wooden spoon, scraping backwards and forwards over the base of the pan in case there are any hot spots.
You will eventually feel the mixture start to thicken. Crème anglaise will keep, covered, in the fridge for three days It is not suitable for freezing, however. Serves six.
YOU WILL NEED
2 very ripe mangoes
4 ripe passionfruit
200ml double cream
For the crème anglaise
4 large egg yolks
70g caster sugar
First make the crème anglaise. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Whisk the eggs together with a balloon whisk until smooth and slightly paler. Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove the milk from the heat and gradually add to the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
Return the mixture to the pan and place over a low heat. Stir gently from side to side with a wooden spoon until it begins to thicken. Be careful not to overheat it, as this is when the mixture can curdle. Draw your finger across the back of the custard-coated spoon; if the channel this creates stays clear and does not drip, the custard is ready.
Pour the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl and leave to cool. To prevent a skin forming as the custard cools, press a sheet of cling film directly on to the surface. Cut and peel the mangoes, making sure that you get all the flesh off the stone. Cut the passionfruit in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds into a sieve set over a bowl. Push the pulp through the sieve, leaving just the seeds behind (save these to decorate the fool).
Put the mango flesh and sieved passion fruit into a food processor and whiz to a purée. Fold the purée into the cold custard. Whip the double cream until it forms soft peaks, then fold the cream into the mango mixture a little at a time. Spoon the fool into individual glasses and chill. Serve the fool topped with the passionfruit seeds.