Cookbooks / France

The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan

The Country Cooking of France – Introduction

We have a number of books on the country cooking of France and we have included two in this Top Fifty Cookbooks survey.

What we are looking for is first of all authority – in other words, does the author have a deep understanding of the foods of this very diverse country or is it just another flimsy attempt to cobble some recipes together.

This is definitely not the case with Anne Willan’s Country Cooking of France – she has a very profound understanding of the foods of the regions through her long association with this country.

We have also included the book be Jean Ferniot entitled French Regional Cooking, because he also shows that he understands the differences intuitively.

Until you have explored France in detail it is impossible to understand the drivers behind the myriad differences between regions that are sometimes quite close together. For example, the region of Alsace with its Germanic influences sits just above the Jura which the Spanish ruled hundreds of years ago and left their legacy behind in both the foods and the wines.

Unlike the Ferniot book which is divided by region, Willan’s Country Cooking of France instead chooses to group her exploration of French dishes by food topic. Thus there are chapters on Frogs and Snails, Eggs and Cheese, Fish and Shellfish, Innards and Extremities, Rustic Sauces and Desserts and Ices, for example.

Within each of the chapters of the Country Cooking of France the regional differences are highlighted, if appropriate. Sometimes no region is mentioned where the recipe does not fit such a characterisation such as the excellent recipe for beef tongue with Sauce Gribiche. The tongue is poached for three to four hours and then served with this delightful mayonnaise made from cooked eggs rather than raw.

Other recipes are assigned to a very specific location such as the recipe for Pieds de Porc which was influenced by a dish she tried in Sainte-Ménéhould in the Lorraine region of north-west France.

She ranges widely with a recipe for Pebronata which is a delicious pork stew from Corsica which sees pork, peppers and tomatoes cooked separately and then joined together. She also adds her own recipe for a vegetarian version where eggplants are the hero.

We are pleased to see a recipe from the Jura highlighted in the Rustic Sauces chapter. Here a sauce made from the complex, oxidative and heavenly Vin Jaune wine which, by law, takes 6 years and three months at a minimum to mature made into aa sauce and teamed with morels that are found in many parts of France including the Jura.

We have written often about the amazing dish from the Aveyron called Aligot which is famously served at La Suquet, the restaurant of the Bras family in that region. This gets an airing in the book as does a recipe for La Truffade from the nearby Auvergne which is also a potato dish but this time presented as a potato cake loaded with Cantal or Gruyere cheese and flavoured with lardons of bacon.

Locality also plays a part in another recipe in the same chapter as the La Truffade but this time we are in Brittany to sample a recipe for the much-loved Galettes Bretonnes au Sarrasin – buckwheat pancakes. Our work often takes us to neighbouring Normandy and the Loire Valley so it is relatively easy for us to swing by Saint Malo to try the delicious galettes served at the Breizh Cafe.

This is a very thorough book with carefully tested recipes.

We have included The Country Cooking of France in our Foodtourist Top Fifty Cookbooks list.

You can order this book from Amazon by clicking on the link below:

Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan