From Croydon to La Cocotte
South London girl Rachel Khoo learned to cook in Paris and is now hosting her own television show explaining how you, too, can cook the French way.
Rachel Khoo, soon to be
seen on your television screen in a new series of programmes demystifying French food, is, as her publicity machine proudly insists, just 'an ordinary girl from Croydon'. First Kate Moss, now Rachel... plainly there's something in the water.
And like Kate, Rachel didn't hang around the Whitgift shopping mall for long. She escaped to Paris to enrol in the world-famous Cordon Bleu school. Five years later, she's still there, as who wouldn't be, when given a choice between stepping out on to the South Circular or the Rue de Rivoli of a morning.
Once she had graduated, Rachel began work at La Cocotte, a culinary bookstore where she 'baked delicious delicacies for the salon du thé and catered for their book launches.' She's now what's known as a 'food creative', testing recipes in her chic Parisian apartment kitchen. She even opened up her own underground restaurant to try out her recipes on the public – just two diners a night as 'my apartment is so small. People came from all over the world. No matter what nationality they were, the thing they loved most was simple, home-cooked food.' The smallness of her apartment is important; one of Rachel's contentions – her USP if you like – is that all this fancy French food can be cooked in any kitchen, whatever its size.
Agree or disagree, her book is a charming illustration of this theory – providing 120 recipes ranging from the great French classics (Magret de canarde, pot-au-feu, blanquette de veau, endives au jambon, Iles flottantes) to modern Gallic cuisine (pastis posicles, rouleaux de salade Niçoise, grapefruit and pepper meringue tartlets), most of which does indeed seem to have been produced in her tiny apartment, all set against the romantic, seductive background of Paris. Who can possibly resist?
Recipes from The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo is published by Penguin/Michael Joseph, priced £20.
Navarin d'agneau printanier
- 1kg lamb neck, cut into 6 pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 4 carrots, cut into chunks
- 100g fresh or frozen peas
- 100g green beans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 160C. Brown the meat, garlic and onion with the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole. Add the bay leaf, thyme and carrots and enough water to cover by at least a couple of centimetres. Bring to a simmer and remove any scum that rises to the top. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
Ten minutes before serving, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the peas and beans. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain. Take the casserole out of the oven, remove the bay leaf and thyme. Add the peas and beans to the lamb, season and serve.
- 300ml double cream
- 200ml milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 6 egg yolks
- 100g sugar
For the caramel topping:
- 30g caster sugar
- 30g raw cane sugar
Pour the cream and milk into a pan. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the grains. Add the pod and grains to the cream and milk. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and remove the pod from the pan. Combine the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl, then slowly pour in the hot cream, whisking continuously.
Preheat the oven to 110C. Divide the custard between 6 wide, shallow ramekins and place in a roasting tin. Pour cold water into the tin to come halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the custard is set round the edges but still wobbly in the middle. Remove ramekins from the water and set aside until cooled to room temperature. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least four hours.
When ready to serve, make the caramel topping. Uncover the ramekins, blotting up any moisture from condensation. Mix the two types of sugar together and sprinkle an even layer of sugar over each custard. Place the ramekins on a metal tray. For best results, use a hand-held blowtorch and hold it 10-12cm away from the sugar. Move the flame slowly round the sugar and stop torching just before the desired degree of caramelisation is reached as the sugar will continue to cook for a few seconds after the flame has been removed.
- 2 knobs butter
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
- 450g mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 4 eggs
- 250g crème fraîche
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 160C. Line two 250g mini loaf tins*. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the shallots and garlic. Once the shallots begin to brown, add the mushrooms and fry for a good 10 minutes until they have released their juices.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl with the crème fraîche and mustard. Add the nutmeg and parsley and season.
Remove the mushroom mixture with a slotted spoon to drain off any excess liquid and divide between the prepared tins. Pour over the crème fraîche mixture and bake for about 15 minutes, or until set. Leave to cool slightly before serving at room temperature. *Or make one large terrine in a 500g loaf tin and bake for about 30 minutes
Daily tip from the lady archive
“HEAVEN forbid that we should go back to the days when beauty was under suspicion and plain girls were assumed to have angelic natures.”The Lady. With Prejudice. 28th April 1938