[Photo] Monique

Recipes

Every so often I shall post up a new recipe if I think it might add something to the thousands already available from professional chefs in books and broadcasts.

I would love it if you email me your favourite recipes and maybe I can post them up here as well.

French cooking

French cooking in Britain has changed a lot over my lifetime. Its early reputation was for heavy sauces and lots of cream and butter. When I first came to London, a local told me it was common knowledge that the French had to use lots of sauces to disguise the fact that their meat wasn’t any good. Mmm. But that style was only ever the cooking from the North of France. It never represented what is now fashionably called the Mediterranean diet, the cooking from the South, which is where I was born.

At that time, French cuisine was pretty good compared to English. Now, that’s no longer true. There are fantastic restaurants in London, offering something for everyone at the highest standards. Where perhaps you can still see a difference is in regional, local restaurants. The French Bistro or local family restaurant will often still turn in a better meal.

The big challenge for the French is to adapt to global trends: they have lost much of their wine market because they have been a bit slow to react to changing fashion and health concerns in their principal markets. At present, they must adapt their cuisine to a global market in exotic produce, although the emphasis might return to local, seasonal produce if non-essential air travel becomes both expensive and socially unacceptable.

My philosophy of cooking

I love creating simple variations of regional French cooking. I am not a professional chef. I cook by instinct. I rarely go out to buy the ingredients for a planned menu. I will adapt according to what I’ve got in the fridge and the cupboard.

My aim is to take the stress out of having to follow a recipe slavishly and to make cooking fun. I have never understood how to be a domestic Goddess and the best cooking is done with a glass or two of your favourite wine. By the time you serve up, you should be slightly merry, have a number of pots and pans on the floor because there is nowhere else to put them and under no circumstances must you have found time to do any washing up as you go along.

I rarely measure anything out, preferring a bit of intuition about quantities! I avoid cream and rarely use butter or salt (just a bit of herbal salt). I will always use fresh ingredients when I can, preferably organic (but not essentially so) and I will look for low-fat alternatives where possible. I do love Mediterranean cuisine generally: grilled meats, olive oil, lots of tomatoes and garlic. Anything I cook can normally be found by anyone in a decent, well-stocked supermarket, without paying through the nose.