The chicken can be a scraggy old boiler as it’s going to cook for ages. Similarly the meat should be cheap stewing cuts — breast or shoulder of lamb, shin of beef, hacked roughly into pieces. This is not an elegant dish!

Ras-el-hanout is a North African spice mixture. If you can’t get it or the French 4-épices, use paprika, cayenne, and coriander to season the stew.

Harissa is a kind of very hot chilli paste.

The vegetables can be varied although I think turnips and carrots are essential for the flavour.

You can cook the chickpeas from scratch yourself, but you have to soak them for ages beforehand. I think it’s easier to just use a can or jar (particularly if you didn’t think of making the couscous until the night before).

You will need a large stockpot with a lid which will take all the ingredients with room to spare.

This quantity will feed at least ten people.

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Boeuf aux carottes et à l’orange

Years ago, I had a dish of boeuf aux carottes in a suburban bistro in Paris. Accompanied with noodles and a glass of beaujolais nouveau, it was absolutely divine (although I had a strong suspicion it was actually horse). I have tried several times since to reproduce this classic French dish, without success. This version, cooked by Steve recently using a recipe in a magazine, is as close as I have ever tasted — the tarragon is an inspired touch. Lovely with either noodles or baked potatoes to mop up the sauce.

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Blanquette de poulet

This is real traditional French bourgeois cooking. To be truly authentic, it should be served with plainly boiled white rice to soak up the sauce, but pasta or steamed new potatoes are also possibilities.

[note for purists — strictly speaking this should probably be called Fricassée, not Blanquette, as the meat is browned before cooking]

For 4 people:

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Bourride Sètoise

Bourride is a classic Mediterranean fish soup which is somewhat less complicated and expensive to make than bouillabaisse. There are various local variations. In Sète they make it with monkfish on its own, but in Marseille they use a mixture of firm white fish. Some people serve the broth on its own, followed by the fish and vegetables with boiled potatoes and aioli. You can put the slices of bread in bowls and pour the soup over them. However this version is restrained and elegant – you could serve it as a first course at a dinner party. It is said that when the Greek gods got bored with Olympus they came to Marseille to eat bourride, this being the only food that was fit for the gods.

Note: don’t be put off by the amount of garlic that goes into it. The soup itself tastes creamy rather than garlicky, and it’s up to you how much aioli you spread on your bread.

This quantity serves 6-8 people.

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