Tuesday 12 December 2017

Recipes: Rachel Khoo helps you add a little 'je ne sais quoi' to your cooking

Rachel Khoo
Rachel Khoo
Creme Brulee Caramel-topped custard
Terrine forestiere Wild mushroom terrine

Rachel Khoo

Five years ago, I made the decision to pursue my sweet dream of studying patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school. So I packed my belongings and waved goodbye to London. A short train journey across the Channel and it was bonjour Paris.

And so my edible Paris adventure began.

The bakeries would entice me with their perfume of freshly baked baguettes and croissants. The outdoor produce markets overflowed with the season's bounty and the traders would shout, "Mademoiselle, goutez le melon. C'est delicieux" -- taste the melon, it's delicious.

It was a world away from the markets in London and the traders' Cockney cries of "Pound of bananas, a pound".

But discovering la vie Parisienne wasn't just about eating it up. During my first summer in Paris, I donned my chef's whites at Le Cordon Bleu for a patisserie course. It was "oui chef" for the next three months while I learned how to make French classics such as croissants and creme brulee.

Two hundreds eggs and 20 kilos of butter, sugar and flour later, I graduated.

Not quite ready to give up my sweet dream of living in Paris, I started to work at a small culinary bookstore, La Cocotte, where I baked delicious delicacies for the salon du thé and catered for their book launches.

My little baking job led me to my current vocation as a food creative, where I develop culinary ideas for events, cookbooks, workshops and anything else food-related. All the testing is done from the tiny little kitchen in my apartment with just a mini oven and two gas rings.

Somehow, the rest of the world has forgotten how delicieux French food can be. The food headlines have been dominated by El Bulli's molecular movement in Spain, Heston Blumenthal's edible English eccentricities or, more recently, Scandinavia's flourishing foraging scene showcased at Noma.

French cuisine has been stereotyped with the stuffy image of an old-fashioned chef labouring over a terribly complicated dish, finished with a ton of butter.

Mais non, I say. French flavours and techniques needn't be out of reach of the everyday home cook. Living in Paris, I eat and cook everything from simple everyday suppers to big gourmet dinners.

And just because they use fancy words like jus or blanchir doesn't mean you need a Michelin-starred kitchen to cook great French food.

'The Little Paris Kitchen' by Rachel Khoo, published by Penguin

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