To say French culture and tradition are serious about their food would be an understatement! Their dedication to the art of flavour and preparation is pretty much unrivalled and may be the biggest influence on Western cuisine in general. French cuisine is so revered that UNESCO added traditional french food to the world’s “intangible cultural heritage” in 2010!
While initially established as a tricky art of preparation and presentation by French pioneer chefs, modern haute cuisine has made French recipes more accessible to the average foodie.
So slap on your beret, reach for the chardonnay or champagne and lay the table for great recipes for French dishes that are perfect for any occasion in the comfort of your own home! Better yet, if you’re still not sure how to treat that special lady in your life, why not treat mom to a French culinary experience for Mother’s Day!
No breakfast is as elegant as French crêpes, which are thinner and lighter than pancakes. Dating back as far as 472 ACE from the Bretagne region in West of France, crêpes, even have their own holiday in France (La Chandeleur on 2 February every year). Start the day off with this surprisingly easy, yet distinctively French breakfast option.
For the batter:
1. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well to break the eggs into.
2. Mix the eggs and the flour together
3. Once mixed, add the milk and melted butter (for the sweet option add the sugar, vanilla and the optional dash of rum) and continue to stir until you have a runny batter.
4. Allow batter to rest for an hour for the flour mixture to properly absorb the liquids.
5. Heat a non-stick pan covering the surface with butter.
6. Once the butter starts to bubble, pour in the batter. Enough to cover the surface of the pan.
7. Cook for approximately one minute until or until the bottom of the crêpe is a light golden brown.
8. Flip the crêpe and cook for approximately 30 seconds.
9. Remove from the pan and roll the crêpe or fold into a triangle (similar to folding a wrap).
1. Once removing the crêpe from the pan, add the grated cheese to the centre of the crêpe with enough space in the centre of the cheese to crack an egg into.
2. Place the chopped ham, mushrooms (and/or spinach) around the cheese centre and fold each side of the crêpe in towards the centre to make a square.
3. Place back into the pan and cook for another 30 seconds on each side.
4. Remove the crêpe square from the pan and place onto a baking tray. Repeat the above until all your crêpes are in the baking tray.
5. Place the baking tray into the oven to bake at approximately 180 degree celsius for 6 to 7 minutes until the egg whites are set.
6. Remove from the oven and place on a serving plate.
Side Note: Resting the batter for an hour is considered by many to be the secret to making perfect crêpes.
As summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, light, cold lunches are the order of the day. The classic French Salad Nicoise hails from one of Europe’s favourite beach destinations, Nice, and when prepared correctly it is hailed by some chefs as the perfect salad combination!
Over the decades the Salad Nicoise has seen numerous adaptations, but the classic salad relies on four essential ingredients, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tuna or anchovies and black olives (as from Nice). The true salad nicoise does not contain any cooked vegetables as a summer dish.
Preparing the dressing:
Preparing the salad:
Side Note: The Salad Nicoise was traditionally a fisherman’s dish, hence few cooked ingredients and abundance of fresh, readily available vegetables and fish. Other popular variations of the salad include boiled and quartered potatoes and green beans.
Beyond the movie namesake, ratatouille is famously easy to cook in abundance and is delectably moreish and versatile enough to freeze for later. Traditional French ratatouille, while easy, can be time-consuming as the selection of ingredients needs to be chopped and then cooked separately before stewing so as to achieve consistency.
While great as a supper, ratatouille, like many French dishes suits any time of day.
Side Note: Serve with lightly toasted french baguette slices to soak up all the stew, and a glass of red wine!
The soufflé is as notorious for its fickleness as it is for its light fluffy indulgence. The soufflé, as with crêpes have both sweet and savoury varieties, with the sweet option guaranteed to delight. As with anything made to perfection, all the perfect soufflé needs is attention and some simple rules to keep in mind when preparing.
Side Note: The biggest issue many cooks have with their first attempt in making soufflé is that it collapses. This is usually caused by opening the oven too soon. Other reasons are not enough butter and sugar coating in the ramekins. For some common issues and answers take a look here.
While there are as vast an array of ways to prepare each of these traditional dishes as there are the chefs that make them, the above recipes have been researched to make it as painless and as pleasant an experience as a tour of France. Do you have tips and tricks to share from your experience? Leave your comments below!