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4.4 out of 5 stars
Simple French Cookery
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78 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on 31 August 2006
Ive just started cooking as a hobby and with books like these, a passion is quickly growing. Its so rewarding to produce recipes that are so delicious and not incredibly confusing to make and with the choice in this book you're bound to have some fun in the kitchen. I especially enjoyed the pan fried salmon fillet with sorrel sauce. The combination of all the flavours really works! But the reason this book isnt five stars is that there a few glaring errors which must be caused by the fact that Raymond is a professional. When making the floating islands maman blanc he seems to unaware that for amatuers like myself, it's not clear when the meringue would be properly poached as the consequences led to it tasting of eggs. Not something you want in a dessert! And when it came to making the syrup he said to rapidly take the saucepan out of the heat and into cold water...this takes away the one thing that keeps the syrup from doing just what happened...it became rock hard and impossible to use. Professionals maybe able to use it before it goes hard but i couldnt! Also, when i made the salmon dish i didnt exactly make it with sorrel, i used parsely which worked fine but if i had known when sorrel is in season i wouldnt have bothered wasting time trying to find it! The same goes for the chicory in the first recipe in the book. It led me to believe that the title of this book isnt quite accurate. Locating some of the ingredients is too much hard work i.e. no fun and NOT simple and understanding some of his directions leads to impossible (yet hilarious i have to admit, but still, not how it should be)confusion. Once again, not simple! Overall though the book is brilliantly laid out with colourful photographs, estimated preparation and cooking times and just a simply attractive design! In summary id say this book is a classic and instructive book that is enjoyable to use...just not a perfect one.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2008
I chose this book as a birthday present, my father said "good luck" as he had used Raymond Blanc books previously, finding them over complicated.

The pancakes with spinach, mushrooms & gruyere were wonderful, I served them with roasted cherry tomatoes, on the vine, and rocket salad, and they were well worth the effort.
The chicken breast with courgette ribbons takes a bit of effort the night before but on the day it is simple and very tasty.

I did not find the recipes over complicated, they do require some effort but to produce exceptional food (like in this book) when don't you need to put in the effort.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2006
This is a very impressive collection of classic yet simple French recipes using ingredients commonly available in the UK. I haven't tried them all yet, but I haven't come across a dud yet either.

The only criticism I have is the recipes involving pulses will typically need longer cooking than the book suggests if you are using dried (even if pre-soaked) - I'd suggest twice as long. That's the only reason it doesn't get 5 stars.

I'd strongly recommend this to anyone who is interested in expanding their repertoire into French cuisine but has been put off by the perception that it's complicated.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2009
I have bought various cookbooks over the years, but rarely attempted more than a few recipes and rarely any recipe more than once or twice.

This was the first cookbook I bought where not only have I tried most of the recipes but a number have become regular family favouties.

The things I like about this book are:

- The recipes really are quite straightforward, they work and are delicious.

- There are lots of colour photos, so you know what the food should actually look like at each stage.

- The emphasis on good-quality ingredients, simply but well-prepared often with really excellent sauces (usually involving butter, wine, cream and garlic).

- Logical sections (starters, mains, sides, desserts) with a manageable, rather than overwhelming, number of recipes in each section.

- The additional sections at the beginning and end, discussing ingredients, equipment and suggested menus for different occasions.

Overall, these are straightforward, classic recipes without pretension - they match well with wine and are simple enough for family dinners yet sophisticated enough for entertaining.

Two words of warning - 1) do not buy this book if you are looking to impress with molecular-gastronomy-type stuff, it's just not that type of book and 2) with its emphasis on good quality ingredients, you may find yourself becoming rather more upmarket in your shopping habits.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2005
40 simple-to-follow recipes aimed to dispel the myth that French cuisine is hard to master.

'These recipes demonstrate what is really good about French cuisine. The conviviality, the friends and the laughter; the simple, hearty food; the rustic bread dipped into the sauce, and the heavy red wine that will be drunk.'

And the reader gets precisely that, which is why this book remains one of my French favourites.
It is no secret that most French life revolves around mealtimes and Raymond certainly makes no secret of the fact that this choice of recipes is very expressive of his own 'Maman's' cooking (sometimes Papa's, too!).....and successfully aims to 'dispel the myth that French cuisine is difficult to master.'

Published by BBC Books, the pastel soft-covers open to 128 shiny pages, split into main chapters:

1. Ingredients and Equipment
2. Starters and Soup
3. Fish, Poultry and Meat
4. Vegetable Dishes
5. Desserts

sandwiched between an introduction and a concise index.

This is an easy-to-read and well laid out book, in mainly double page spreads (sometimes more depending on the number of stages), each with colour photos of some of the stages and ALWAYS of the completed dish.

Each recipe is clearly laid out with the number of servings, an estimated preparation time, and cooking time (if applicable), along with the stage-numbered method. Each opens with some relevant notes which sometimes includes advice on 'tweaking', or suitable accompaniments....even a friendly note about fellow chefs, e.g.:

'Pâté de campagne':
Surprisingly quick and easy; a great dish to grace every day or a dinner party. Even the grande dame of British cuisine, Delia Smith, is embracing this magnificent coarse pâté with great Francophile fervour! Try it for yourself. It is best prepared about two days in advance, so the flavours have time to mature. You could replace the pork with veal. Gherkins or pickled vegetables are the best garnish, not forgetting a hunk of rustic bread.'

For the more ambitious cook, 'Floating Islands Maman Blanc' is a spectacular dessert, which certainly tested my culinary skills!

Other recipes include:

* Maman Blanc's Vegetable and Chervil Soup
* Pan-fried Salmon Fillet with Sorrel Sauce
* Coq au Vin
* Duck Breast with Sweet Potatoes and Cherry Sauce
* Pot-au-feu of Braised Pork Belly
* Provençal Rack of Lamb with Crushed Peas
* Steak 'Maman Blanc'
* Calf's Liver with Persillade
* Stuffed Tomatoes
* Gratin Dauphinois
* Baked Pancakes with Spinach, Mushrooms and Gruyere
* Chocolate Mousse
* Crème Caramel
* Lemon Tart

and what better excuse for me to get out my favourite sweet dish, than Monsieur Blanc's super recipe for 'Tarte Tatin', which I serve warm with a scoop of Cornish ice cream!

This super book winds up with ideas for combining selected recipes for various menus, including the final one - 'Family Meal', and a closing quote:

'I wish I could sit down with you for this meal as I have shared it so many times with my parents in my native Franche-Comté. This simple, wholesome menu demonstrates the appeal of French cuisine.
More please!'
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2011
I've been trying to cook French style for years, unsuccessfully. I saw Raymond Blanc's tv series and it seemed so easy I bought the book. Practice with these recipes has confirmed that cooking French style is not only easier than I imagined, but the result is so flavoursome.

The writing style is comfortable and easy to follow, more like a conversation with the man himself than a set of dry instructions. The small photos of stages in preparation are helpful too, showing the way to the completed dish.

I cook French three or four times a week now, and have already developed my own variations of some of the recipes.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2006
Raymond Blanc is one of the most respected and accomplished chefs in England.I can still remember vividly the fantastic experience of eating at his "Manoir aux Quat Saisons." This book makes it possible to create spectacular and delicious meals. M Blanc shares some of his philosophy of cooking in a logical and passionate way. I have managed to achieve some very tasty results simply by following his straightforward recipies. If you like this book then I would recommend his "cooking for friends."
Also to be recomended is Ken Hom's simple Thai cooking; It works!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2008
I bought this book because I wanted to improve my cooking skills and enjoy home cooked French food. I found the recipes very easy to follow with great end results. There are two and three course menu suggestions for different occasions at the back of the book which is a great idea.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 May 2010
Although there are only around 40 recipes in this book, they represent an excellent collection of classic French recipes covering everything from French onion soup, moules mariniere, chicken liver parfait, pate de campagne to duck confit, pot au feu & chicken fricasee, with a selection of classic French desserts thrown in too (lemon tart, cherry clafoutis, crème caramel & more). I am a vegetarian, although I cook meat & fish for my husband and for family/friends. It isn't often that you find French cookery books which make even the slightest accommodation for vegetarians. There are a couple of fantastic vegetarian main courses: baked pancakes with spinach, mushroom & gruyere; semolina & gruyere quenelles with tomato sauce. For me, the book would have been worth buying for those two recipes alone!

The recipes are straightforward, well laid out, with clear easy-to-follow instructions, small photographs showing intermediate stages and a picture of the finished dish. Estimated preparation and cooking times are given although sometimes the prep takes longer than advertised.

At the beginning of the book there is a section covering basic ingredients and equipment. I think one reviewer commented on ingredients being difficult to find but I have to say I have never had this problem except in relation to seasonal items which I don't expect to be in stock year-round. I live in a village and our very small branch of Waitrose (the only general food shop we have) normally has everything I need. At the back of the book there is a series of menu suggestions for various meals/occasions.

This is a worthwhile addition to the shelves and the book I turn to most often for classic French cooking.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2008
I liked this book because it has got simple and step-by-step instructions with basic ingredients that you can not find in most of other cookery books. Highly recommended.
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