If ‘Bastille Day’ the fare on the table must be French
Bastille Day, which is a national holiday in France, celebrates the action of a mob of Frenchman, tired of the rule of their king, who stormed a prison to get weapons and to free the prisoners. It marked the start of the French Revolution. The celebrations take place on July 14. The oldest and largest regular military parade is held on the Champs-Elysees in Paris in front of the French president and his guests. The day is spent with family and friends and watching fireworks at night. Today being Bastille Day, here is how you can make some signature French dishes should you fancy celebrating the day a la France.
FRENCH ONION SOUP
Onion soups have been popular at least as far back as Roman times. Throughout history, they were seen as food for the poor as onions were plentiful and easy to grow. The modern version of this soup originated in Paris in the 18th century. Legend has it that
King Louis XV invented this soup during one of his hunting parties.
INGREDIENTS (To serve six)
• Onions: 4, large, chopped fine
• Extra virgin olive oil: 1tbsp
• Butter: 3-4tbsp
• Flour: 2tbsp
• Leek: 1 large, cut fine. The white part and a little of the green tender part
• Chicken stock: 6-7 cups
• Sherry wine: ¼ cup (optional)
• Port wine: ¼ cup (optional)
• French bread: 1
• Cheese (of your choice): 1 cup grated
• Saute the onions to caramelise them before adding them to the soup. They should be golden brown.
• Boil the carcass of the chicken with carrot, celery and onion for 50 minutes minimum. Then strain. The stock is a must in this recipe.
• In the soup pot add butter and when melted add the flour and make a soft roux.
• Add the caramelised onion. Then add the leeks and the chicken stock. Adjust salt and pepper.
• After the first boil cook on low heat for 45 minutes.
• Slice the bread and toast it. Cover with cheese and bake for 5 minutes till the cheese melts and is a little brown.
• Serve the soup in individual bowls. Place a slice or two of the toasted bread on the soup.
This dish dates back to the Middle Ages and began as peasant food. At the time slow cooking was popular in rural areas because it was cheap, filling, and could feed many. It was also a safe and thorough way to cook tougher cuts of meat. This dish is basically a lamb/beef stew braised in red wine, stock, pearl onions, herbs and garlic and mushrooms. I like it best with creamy mashed potatoes.
INGREDIENTS (To serve eight)
• Extra virgin olive oil: 1tbsp
• Mutton: 1kg boneless, cut into 1½-inch cubes
• Pearl onions (or small shallots): 20, peeled
• Mushrooms: 250g, cut into quarters
• Garlic: 2tbsp, minced
• Tomatoes: 2 cups, chopped fine
• Tomato puree: ½ cup
• Fresh/dry rosemary: 1tsp, chopped fine
• Fresh/dry thyme: 1tsp
• Red wine: 1 cup good quality
• Mutton/chicken stock: 6 cups
• Bay leaf: 1
• Flour: ½ cup, mixed with water
• Salt and pepper: To taste
• Parsley: 2tbsp, chopped for garnishing
• In a large skillet heat the oil and saute mutton cubes in batches till they are nice and brown. Remove each batch as it browns and set aside. Use more oil if necessary.
• In the same pot add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown. Then add the mushrooms and cook till most of their juice is released. Then add the garlic and stir till fragrant. Then add the tomatoes, wine, herbs, tomato puree, bay leaf and mutton cubes.
• Add the stock. Mix well. Then slowly add the flour mixture. See that no lumps are formed. After the first boil put on low flame and let it cook covered for at least 1-1½ hours, or till the meat is tender.
• If the stew is thin, you can add a little corn starch dissolved in a little water. If the stew is too thick, then add more stock. Adjust the seasoning.
• Sprinkle the stew with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes, or roasted small whole potatoes, sauteed carrots or vegetables of your choice.
• Note. You can even add the roasted baby potatoes, carrots, etc., to the cooked stew.
COQ AU VIN
Coq au vin is a French dish of chicken braised with wine, lardons, mushrooms, garlic, etc. A red Burgundy wine is typically used. This dish is traced back to ancient Gaul and Julius Caesar, but the recipe was not documented until the early 20th century. It is generally accepted that it existed as a rustic dish long before that.
• Chicken thighs: 4
• Chicken drumsticks: 4
• Red wine: 1½ cup
• Chicken stock: 1½ cup
• Bacon: 3 strips cut into ½-inch pieces
• Onion: 1 medium, quartered and then thinly sliced.
• Carrots: 2, cut into 1-inch pieces
• Garlic: 6 large cloves minced
• Tomato paste: ½ cup (or tomato puree 1 cup)
• Fresh thyme or parsley: 2tsp
• Mushrooms: 250g, sliced thick
• Pearl onions: 250g, peeled
• Flour: 2tbsp
• Butter: 2tbsp
• Beetroot juice: 3tbsp
• Place the chicken in a bowl and pour the wine and the stock in it along with the beetroot juice and keep aside.
• Heat a large skillet and saute the bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
• Remove the chicken from the bowl and dry it with some paper towels.
• In the same skillet add the butter and sear the chicken till golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes on each side). Then remove the chicken and keep aside. Put all but 2tbsp of the bacon chicken oil into a heatproof dish and set aside.
• Put the sliced onions in the skillet with 2tbsp of the chicken bacon oil. Add the carrots too. Cook until the onions are golden brown. It will take 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a minute.
• Push the vegetables to one side of the skillet and put the tomato paste. Cook till it becomes fragrant and dark in colour.
Now pour the stock with the wine in the skillet and mix well. Scrape any bits that are stuck to the bottom. These are the tasty bits. Now put the chicken back into the skillet. Sprinkle thyme over it. Cover the skillet and turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
• Take another skillet and pour one tbsp of reserved oil. When hot, add the mushrooms and saute over high heat until they are browned. Keep aside.
• Then add the pearl onions to the pot with the chicken and cook for five minutes.
• In a small bowl mix together flour and butter. Then remove the chicken. Add the beurre manie to the sauce and let it thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put the chicken in the sauce and top with bacon and the browned mushrooms.
• Serve hot. Sprinkle a little fresh thyme (or parsley). Have with a crusty bread or sourdough bread and fresh salad and mashed potatoes.
Crepes Suzette is French dessert consisting of crepes with beurre Suzette, or a sauce of caramelised sugar and butter, tangerine or
orange juice, zest and Grand Marnier, triple sec or orange curacao liqueur on top, prepared in a tableside performance, flambe.
#For the pancake
• Flour: 140g, plain
• Whole milk: 200ml
• Eggs: 2
• Butter: 25g melted plus a little more greasing.
#For the sauce
• Caster sugar: 3tbsp
• Orange juice: 25ml freshly squeezed (about 3 oranges)
• Orange zest: Of 1 orange
• Lemon juice: 1tsp
• Grand Marnier or Cointreau (or a little cognac or orange liqueur): 1tbsp (preferable but optional)
• Unsalted butter: 50g
#For the pancake
• Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a medium size bowl. Make a well in the centre.
• Mix the milk with 100ml of water. Break the eggs into the well and start whisking slowly. Add the milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly and gradually incorporating the flour as you do so. Whisk until the batter is smooth. Set the batter aside and let it rest for 30 minutes. Then whisk the melted butter into the batter.
• Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Very lightly grease the pan with melted butter. Using a ladle, pour roughly 2-3tbsp of batter into the pan and swirl it around so that the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. You want to use enough batter to make a delicate lacy pancake.
• Cook the pancake for about 45 seconds on one side until golden brown. Then flip it over and cook for another 30 seconds.
• Slide the pancake out of the pan and serve immediately or stack them on a plate with parchment paper in between.
#For the sauce
• Tip the sugar into a non-stick pan and over low medium heat let it melt slowly without stirring till it becomes a deep amber coloured caramel. Then quickly slide the pan off the heat.
• Now quickly add the orange juice, orange zest, lemon juice and the Cointreau and return the pan to a low heat to remelt the caramel into a liquid.
• Add the butter into the sauce in small pieces, bring it to a boil and simmer gently until glossy and reduced slightly.
• Add the pancakes to the pan and warm through. Or you can fold the pancakes, put them on a plate and drizzle the sauce over them. Serve immediately nice and warm.
This salad originated in Nice, where tomatoes and olives are plentiful. Tuna goes best with this salad. In case you do not get tuna, you can put sauteed prawns, grilled chicken strips, or, if vegetarian, grilled tofu.
• Canned tuna: 250g, drained and flaked
• Iceberg lettuce: Roughly torn and dipped in chilled water. You can add a mixture of rocket leaves, lollo rosso, etc.
•Cherry tomatoes: 6 (or 1 tomato cut into 8 pieces removing the seeds and the soft part)
• Green French beans: 6, boiled and kept whole
• Round cucumber slices: 8
• Chopped parsley: 1tbsp
• Black olives: 8, pitted
• Small baby potatoes: 8, boiled and peeled and sauteed in olive oil
• Egg: 1, boiled and cut into 4 pieces for garnish
#For the honey mustard vinaigrette
• Vinegar: 1½tbsp
• Olive oil: 6tbsp
• Powdered sugar: 1tsp
• Dijon mustard: 2tsp
• Honey: 1tsp
• Salt and pepper: To taste
• Chopped herbs — parsley, basil and mint
• Cream: 2tbsp
• For the dressing, add all the ingredients except for the fresh herbs and cream and whisk till well-emulsified. At this point, you can store it covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before using. Whisk again. Add the herbs and cream. Mix well.
• For the plating, first put the leaves in your salad bowl. Pour 1tbsp of the dressing on top. Then put the green beans, cucumber, tomatoes and the potatoes. Pour all the dressing.
• Top with olives, tuna and parsley. Toss lightly. Garnish with eggs.
Ratatouille is a classic end-of-summer French stew. It is packed with fresh produce — tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, etc. In Provence, ratatouille is typically cooked on the stove. Each vegetable is cooked in olive oil until tender. Then all the ingredients are combined and simmered to meld the flavours.
• Tomatoes: 6 medium or 4 large
• Eggplant: 1 medium, diced into ½-inch cubes
• Bell peppers: 1 red and 1 yellow cut into ¾-inch squares
• Zucchini: 1 medium, diced into ½-inch squares
• Squash: 1 large, diced into ½-inch cubes
• Olive oil: 5tbsp
• Extra virgin olive oil: 1tsp
• Sea salt: 1tsp
• Onion: 1 big, chopped
• Garlic: 6 cloves, minced
• Fresh basil: ¼ cup, chopped
• Red chilli flakes: ½tsp or according to taste
• Dried oregano: ½tsp
• Black pepper: 1tsp, ground
• Preheat the oven to 220°C.
• Blend the tomatoes in a blender or grate them.
• On a baking sheet toss the diced eggplant with 2tbsp of olive oil. Arrange it in a single layer across the pan. Sprinkle a little salt and set aside.
• Take another baking sheet. Toss the bell peppers, zucchini and squash with 1tbsp olive oil and little salt. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the baking tray.
• Now place the eggplant pan on the middle rack and the other vegetable tray on the top rack. Set the timer for 15 minutes.
• Meanwhile, warm 2tbsp oil in a big pot over medium heat. Add the onion with ¼ tsp salt. Saute the onions till they become soft and caramelise.
• Now add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the tomatoes and stir well so that no browned bits are stuck to the bottom. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
• After 15 minutes remove the vegetables from the oven and put it in the simmering sauce. Continue simmering for 5 more minutes. Then remove the pot from heat and stir in 1tsp olive oil, fresh basil leaves and chilli flakes.
• Crumble the dried oregano between your fingers as you put it in the pot.
• Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
• Serve in bowls with an extra drizzle of virgin olive oil. Best had with crusty bread, with cheese sprinkled on it.
Fish Meuniere is a very simple to make, yet amazingly delicious. It is a delicate preparation made by using fresh bekti fillets with a butter lemon sauce. In France, they usually make it with sole fish.
INGREDIENTS (To serve six)
• Bekti fillets: 6
• Butter: 100g
• Flour: 60g
• Lemon juice: Of 2 lemons
• Salt and pepper and chopped parsley
• Sauteed spinach in a little butter and garlic as sides (You can also have glazed carrots, herb potatoes, etc., as accompaniments if you wish)
• Season the flour with salt and pepper. Coat the fish with it on both sides.
• In the skillet, melt half the butter till it takes a hazy colour, paying attention to burn it.
• Put the fish in and fry till it is golden brown on both sides.
• Heat the remaining butter until it turns nutty brown. Then add the lemon juice.
• Pour the melted butter on the fish before serving. Sprinkle chopped parsley.
• Place your accompaniments on the side and have it piping hot.
Durri Bhalla is a cookery expert and author of Indian Bohra Cuisine and Inner Truth To Good Health And Weight Loss. You can find her at @DurriBhallaKitchen on Instagram, Durri’s Kitchen on Facebook and Durri Bhalla on YouTube.