Friday, 29 December 2017

My Paris Market Cookbook: A Cookbook Review

"Markets bring us together. They introduce us to the people who grow our food, the people who feed us. They are a source of new ideas, inspiration and recipes. They are the way we participate in the most basic and fundamental ritual shared by all humans- shopping for the ingredients that we will take home, make into a meal, and share with the people we love."
Emily Dilling.
My Paris Market Cookbook.

It's no secret that the French can be intimidating. Their disdain for the English rubs off onto those with a similar accent and a lack of French language skills is barely tolerated. At times I have found this has left me struggling to find a connection with a culture I want to know better. I have found this disconnect more apparent in Paris than rural France and although I have been to Paris twice and have admired the architecture and galleries I have never been able to immerse myself in the culture. I am in large part to blame for this, my trips to Paris have been so brief that there was barely time to wave to the Mona Lisa let alone learn anything beyond "parlez-vous Anglais?".

This lack of connection with Paris is one of the reasons I enjoyed Emily Dillings book "My Paris Market Cookbook" so much. Emily, as an expat who has had time to crack the tough cookie that is Paris takes us behind the scenes. It's like having a personal tour guide who speaks the language and understands the customs. It's like an unveiling of sorts or possibly even a disrobing, the intimate nature in which Emily understands the city will leave you with a new appreciation for the aspects of Paris that are more elusive to the day tripper.

The book is laid out in seasons, starting in Autumn and ending in Summer, which is perfect for seasonal nature of market shopping and cooking. Emily explains that the recipes are intentionally simple, designed to be cooked with ingredients solely found at local markets. You could use this book a number of ways. If heading to Paris this book could be used as a guide to the markets themselves, when they are on and where. I only wish I had a trip planned so I could hunt down these markets myself and make the recipes with the local produce to experience the real "terroir" France provides these dishes. In lieu of that I used the book as an inspiration to cook some French cuisine using food from my own local markets.

Sitting down and choosing which recipes to cook I realised in order to do the book justice I needed to stick with Emily's philosophy of local, high quality, seasonal produce. Being late Spring/ Early Summer at the time in Australia I made a selection of recipes from these two sections of the book, grabbed my hessian shopping bag and headed to the local markets. I actually live in a semi-rural location where a farmers market came to be a few years ago and I have to admit, I rarely attend. This book gave me the perfect excuse to see what the local producers were doing and try some of the produce on offer.

Being a small town the markets in turn are quite small. Just a handful of local producers selling a small variety of produce but I was able to pick up everything I needed. I had intentionally chosen recipes with ingredients I was pretty certain I would be able to pick up.

You can see my market haul pictured here. I particularly fell in love with the beautiful purple flowers on the chives, you would never see that in the supermarket. The bunch of leeks that looked like swollen scallions was a great find and added a wonderful subtle oniony flavour to dishes. Once used I kept the stems in the freezer to use in a future stock. The local garlic was quite different to the two varieties you get in the supermarket, it was more subtle that the Australian purple variety sold in the supermarket that I often find too pungent and overpowering and a more gentle flavour than the imported Chinese variety. The store holder indicated that this subtlety is a feature of late spring garlic.

The excursion to the markets was also a lesson in the fact that just because it is local doesn't guarantee quality. I hate to say it but the eggs were of very poor quality (not the ones pictured here), as I cracked them open the whites were as liquid as water and ran out all over the bench before I had time to get them over a bowl. They also tasted like nothing, even the yolks were watery tasting. This forced me into the supermarket, something I didn't want to do for fear of being caught by Emily walking through the artificially lit aisles when I should have been pursuing the trestle tables in the sun. I think even Emily could agree that quality eggs are a must for French cooking and shopping local cannot be a substitute for quality. Luck have it be I was able to source a different brand of local eggs in the supermarket, this brand much better in quality and although not purchased directly from the producer it was still nice to be supporting local business.

With family coming over I decided to whip out a number of the dishes for a French themed lunch. We had the baked eggs with French chives, steamed asparagus with home made hollandaise and cultured butter with wonderful crusty local woodfired bread. I had also grabbed a smoked trout which we served alongside Emily's dishes as well as some locally grown potatoes that I par-boiled and roasted in golden, crunchy gems.

It was all very civilised and my husbands 95 year old grandmother thought it a wonderful change from the nursing home food.

The next day I decided I wanted to see how good French toast could be using such quality ingredients and Emily's summertime recipe. I had grown up with the type of French toast that is very satisfactory to anyone under the age of 12. You know the kind with wonder white bread and margarine cooked up as a special treat on a Sunday morning and a welcome change from the usual Wheetbix. But now it was time for something next level and I can tell you it really was next level. I used the woodfired bread with it's chewy, smoky crust. Cultured butter, made in Australia in the French style, local full cream milk and a lovely fresh bag of cinnamon still containing it's full bouquet of flavours. It didn't compare to any French Toast I have had in the past, far beyond the Sunday morning treat this was decadence at it's finest.

After the weekend of exploring my local markets and cooking Emily's recipes I really felt a new connection with Paris. One that due to limitations of time and language I was unable to obtain myself whilst with Paris. That is the gift books can give us, they can take us away to places known and unknown and expand our views and experiences.

My copy was supplied by Skyhorse publishing and I highly recommend getting your own copy of My Paris Market Cookbook by Emily Dilling.

Originally posted on Friday, 29 December 2017 by

1 comment:

  1. Great piece! We really enjoyed that lunch and reading about the shopping for it makes the memory even better.