Having recently watched Trish Deseine's TV series called 'Trish's Paris Kitchen', I ordered her book entitled Trish's French Kitchen which arrived in the mail a few days ago, and I haven't been able to put it down. Like Deseine, I am an ardent francophile, having studied the language at university and become a translator. Elizabeth David's 'French Provincial Cooking' has long been my culinary Bible, and although Deseine's cooking style is more relaxed and modern, the same respect for traditional methods and top-quality ingredients prevails.
Trish Deseine's approach is fresh and undogmatic: 'The dishes in this book follow mood and desire, not geography and history' she says in her introduction. The different sections of the book - fast, slow, raw, larder, posh and sweet - reflect the nature of the dishes, rather than their regional provenance, making it easy to find a recipe for a particular occasion, whether a simple family meal or a special dinner. The photographs are stunning, highlighting the superb quality of the ingredients with no unnecessary embellishments.
Deseine's informal, but informed introduction to each recipe and her extensive knowledge of contemporary food trends in France result in a book that works as a social commentary as much as a collection of stylish, yet practical dishes. The love affair between the French and their food is legenday: The French are conscious of all the elements that go into making our food: the air, sun and soil, the altitude and orientation of the land from which it comes. The combination of these elements is what the French call terroir, a word that, tellingly, has no English translation.'
For some time now, there has been a move towards instilling something of this national pride in local produce in Britain, encouraged by TV shows such as 'Local Food Heroes' and 'The Great British Menu', and very commendable it is too. The French, on the other hand, have always revered and jealously guarded their culinary heritage: the Appellation d'origine controlée (AOC)is a system of labelling protecting the quality, authenticity and regionality of various products regarded as national treasures, e.g. Champagne, Camembert, Puy lentils, to name but a few.
Mastering French home cooking is not a betrayal of British values, as some critics of this book imply; rather, it is a celebration of simple ingredients respectfully and imaginatively prepared. This, in my opinion, is the essence of Trish's French Kitchen. Take a look and prepare to be captivated by this stylish Irish cook and food writer.