Pain Perdu aux Pommes

A delicious, homely dessert from Michelin-starred chef Marc Meneau, via Simon Hopkinson. It requires 4 different preparations, but you can make custard and caramel sauce in advance, and even fry the apples, leaving only the bread to do at the last minute.

If you can’t be bothered to make custard, I’m sure it would be lovely with a scoop of good-quality ice cream (vanilla or maybe even cinnamon). Serves 4. Calories: about a million per serving.

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Poule au riz au safran

This is a wonderfully old-fashioned and comforting dish, from one of my favourite cookbooks, Plats du Jour by Patience Gray and Pimrose Boyd (published 1957). I can’t recommend this book too highly; it’s so old-fashioned that words like pizza and courgettes are printed in italics, and the recipes owe absolutely nothing to fashion and everything to love of good, simple food.

Anyway, you would normally use a boiling chicken for this, difficult to find nowadays, so just use a nice free-range chicken and reduce the poaching time.

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Tomatoes stewed in olive oil

A typically simple dish from the Roux brothers, one where the ingredients “ont le gout de ce qu’ils sont”, as Curnonsky said. You need proper ripe tomatoes for this, and the best olive oil you can lay your hands on (I used the last of our designer Tuscan oil). It requires no last-minute attention and can be served hot or at room temperature, so it’s good for entertaining.

Serve with grilled or roast meat, or just on their own, with good bread to mop up the juice. Keep any left-over juice to add to salad dressings or sauces.

Source: the Roux brothers’ French Country Cooking.

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Ile flottante

It seems a terrible oversight that I do not yet have an entry for ile flottante, my favourite French nursery dessert. This is ace home cook Louisette’s way of doing it. This is one large island — the spoon-sized blobs of egg white floating in a sea of custard are oeufs à la neige. Ile flottante is easier to get right in my opinion, and certainly more manageable when cooking for a crowd.

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Chicken with 50 cloves of garlic

… known in our household as poulet aux cinquante gousses d’ail. British people used to find the idea terribly shocking, but I hope they don’t any more. As everyone should know by now, garlic that has been cooked for an hour and a half is mild and creamy. The fresher the garlic the better — it’s especially good with new season garlic. Squeeze it out of the skins and spread on pieces of toast if you want.

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Le vrai gratin dauphinois

Someone asked today how to make a gratin dauphinois without the cream separating and going oily. This is Edouard de Pomiane’s answer. However, I often leave out the flour with no ill effect. He specifies white Dutch potatoes — I’m not sure what he means by this, but I generally use waxy ones, as that’s about all we can get round here. Quantities are not very exact.

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This is my favourite way of using up surplus egg whites. They are time-consuming and fiddly to do, but they keep for ages in an airtight tin, and are a way of filling up a rainy Sunday afternoon. They make an elegant accompaniment for ice cream, but they go well with other fruity/creamy desserts too. You can also make little baskets by forming them in cups, or small tart tins, and fill with fruit. This quantity makes about 20-25.

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