By Hiromi Marcinik
It has been eight years since I started teaching French home cooking. I never enjoyed cooking very much because I had never learned to do it properly. Then I read a large number of cookbooks and cooking magazines, which my mother and mother-in-law who lives in France sent to me. I also did research on the Internet. I developed my homemade full-course recipes every month in an experimental manner, testing many prototypes along the way. This is the extent to which I dedicated myself to my recipes. It makes me very happy when my home recipes are enjoyed.
Old style of French cuisine is generally perceived to consist of high-calorie food with plenty of butter, cream and cheese in addition to staple foods such as french fries, boiled potatoes and butter rice. In fact, if I were to compare the recipes of old cookbooks from my mother-in-law with that of modern day cooking magazines you will see a difference in colour and serving portion, which makes it hard to believe that they are talking about the same country’s food. One of the jobs of rich sauces made with butter or cream is to keep meat, fish or vegetables tasting good even when it was not possible to serve them fresh. It was a trick used in order to serve good tasting food back then.
Today it is not so difficult to obtain fresh food. A greater familiarity with vegetarian food and a focus on healthy dietary living including low-fat, low-sodium, organic, vegan or raw options is drawing more attention. Under these influences, French food is also becoming more healthful. It should look as good as it tastes as well as being low in fat and providing healthy satisfaction. It is a real challenge to create such dishes. Now let’s take a look at some helpful tips for home cooking.
Instead of creamy sauce;
a) Use vegetable puree or consommé with herbs.
b) Use high quality oils of vegetables or nuts with chopped aromatic herbs.
c) Sprinkle a dash of crunchy fried nuts or onions to enjoy their texture.
Instead of butter, cheese or sauce;
d) Add boiled vegetables, baby spinach or herbs like parsley with aromatic oil like extra virgin olive oil to give a special touch for the flavour. You could add a little plain yoghurt as well. (This can function as a substitute or allow for the reduction of butter, cheese or sauce.)
Instead of potatoes, rice or pasta for the side dish;
e) Choose brown rice, millet, heads of raw cauliflower in place of white rice, and choose from the families of dark-coloured yams or beans in place of potatoes (even as a partial substitute it makes a big difference).
f) Choose whole wheat or gluten-free pasta in place of regular pasta, or have spaghetti squash, zucchini or carrots instead of pasta or along with pasta.
g) Use lots of fresh fruits or dried fruits in salads and desserts.
h) Place your food on the centre of your plate and decorate with herbs, a little bit of sauce or puree.
That just about does it.
You will then enjoy not only the taste of the food but also the colour and the aroma first and appreciate the taste slowly over time. I believe this is the important point in common for foods of all kinds from around the world.
By Hiromi Marcinik