French food

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

We’ve all been there – you’ve got nowt in your pantry other than a few onions, a stick or two of butter and half a bottle of wine in the fridge? Believe it or not, you have virtually all the ingredients necessary to whip up a true classic – French onion soup!

A tragically maligned stalwart of French cuisine, onion soup is a relic of 80s bistro fare that most of us are simply just too cool to admit to liking these days. Once considered the epitome of a classic soup, this wonderful dish has been woefully neglected in recent years; a travesty that bares testament to the fact that even the greatest dishes can eventually fall out of favour. Food fads and fashions come and go, but French onion soup deserves so much more and is, finally, enjoying somewhat of a revival and is being appreciated for the old school classic that it is.

So why, oh why is a good French onion soup still so hard to come by these days?

Sadly for what it lacks in fancy ingredients, French onion soup demands in effort and undivided attention, which is probably why a good bowl of this sweet and sour delight is so difficult to find. Simply given the sheer amount of time needed to diligently ‘guard’ your onions against burning, I sometimes doubt making this soup is always compatible with the rigours of a modern commercial kitchen and is, perhaps, more suited to home cooking. Not that I want to put you off, but making good French onion soup is the culinary equivalent of watching paint dry and should only be made when you’ve got the time to do it properly, without any distractions. After all, like so many French classics, onion soup is about transforming the humble into the divine and if that was meant to be easy, it simply wouldn’t be French.

Click here for the recipe


Confit de Canard (Duck Confit)

Duck ConfitLet me be clear from the start – French food freaks me out.

Alarmingly sophisticated, I have always been wary of making it at home and, on the face of it at least, with good reason. Widely regarded as the pinnacle of Western cuisine, French food seems to thrive on its reputation that it is impossibly complicated and perceived to be beyond those of us not blessed to be born French, or trained in the art of cordon bleu cooking! The truth is that neither of these “prerequisites” should be an impediment to whipping up your favourite French delight!

Generally speaking, much like many of the world’s other great cuisines, French food is all about making simple food exceptionally well. The devil is in the technique, but thankfully this can be mastered, or at the least, approximated. Armed with the weighty Larousse Gastronomique and some self-confidence, there is no reason why you can’t be tucking into your favourite bistro fare come dinner time.

Which brings me to this recipe. Perhaps the epitome of French cuisine, duck confit is simplicity made complicated, or at least so it seems. To make a confit is, in essence, an act of preservation – in this instance with duck. Whilst the preservation and cooking process is quite lengthy, it isn’t actually particularly complicated, but attention to detail is paramount. Every step of the recipe is essential, and I recommend one reads through the recipe a couple of times to familiarise yourself with the cooking process before starting. Duck Confit is not a recipe that should be rushed, so a certain amount of planning is required when making it. Effectively a dish that takes up to the better part of two days to prepare, don’t think to buy your duck in the morning and expect to be serving it come that evening!

One of the best things about duck confit is its near immortal shelf-life. Stored correctly in the refrigerator, duck confit can be kept for as long as 6 months, making it the ultimate pantry item – perfect for impromptu dinner parties or a special treat!

With all that said, duck confit’s meticulous preparation, prolonged curing time and languid cooking process shouldn’t deter you from making this dish! After you’ve made it once, you’ll realise that it is surprisingly straightforward and is not as complicated as it initially seems. After all, this is French cooking we are dealing with here and it wouldn’t be French if it didn’t at least sound intimidating!

Click here for the recipe