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4.7 out of 5 stars
Plats du Jour
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£15.00+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 30 October 1999
"or, foreign food", is the subtitle of this book. It was published in Britain in 1957, when foreign food was, well, foreign to the insular British, who still had vivid memories of post-war rationing. Elizabeth David had burst onto the scene seven years earlier with Mediterranean Food, a book which unforgettably celebrates the vivid flavours and colours of southern Europe and has become part of our culinary heritage. Despite this, Plats du Jour is a voice from another age -- an age where the words pasta, risotto, and paella were still considered sufficiently foreign to be italicised, where the authors felt the need to explain, "Pizza is a dish made with leavened bread."
To me, this sense of the exotic is part of the period charm of this book, which is further enhanced by the beautiful, intricately detailed drawings of David Gentleman. But period charm on its own does not a cookbook make. I adore reading Alice B Toklas but rarely cook any of her dishes. Plats du Jour on the other hand is resolutely practical. The authors introduce it by saying, "In this book we have tried to set down the recipes for a number of dishes of foreign origin, in the belief that English people may be stimulated to interpret them". It sounds stuffy, but knowing British lack of familiarity with "foreign food", the authors describe in great detail exactly how to go about making a daube or a goulash, to the extent of describing what kind of pot to cook it in. Their enjoyment of cooking comes across in the recipes, and even if you think you know all the classic dishes you'll find a refreshing return to basic values here. No lemongrass, no sundried tomatoes, no rocket leaves, no shavings of Parmesan ... These are utterly simple dishes that I turn to over and over again -- an Italian way of roasting lamb that makes even the dullest frozen joint delectable, the classic French lamb recipe gigot aux haricots, a lovely bland and soothing dish of chicken, saffron sauce, and rice.
If you're a novice cook seeking to learn about classic European cooking without spending an arm and a leg on equipment and ingredients, and all day in the kitchen, this is a better place to start than Elizabeth David. The dishes are chosen to be substantial main courses, requiring no accompaniment other than a salad, cheese, and fruit. And by their very nature as rustic, homely food, they are not difficult to make.
The chapters on store cupboard ingredients and wine (both requiring trips to specialist shops in Soho) are largely irrelevant now that every supermarket stocks these things. But the book includes, daringly, a chapter on wild fungi, widely enjoyed in mainland Europe but still, over 40 years later, considered risky "foreign food" in Britain. Some things don't change ...
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on 21 February 2014
Lots of interesting stories with recipes as well. For anyone who is fed up with today's boring celebrity chefs. Takes you back to when it was about learning how to cook.
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on 24 September 2017
This is a wonderful cookery book. Yes it is not a 'young' book but it has some wonderful advice and great recipes in it.
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on 25 August 2016
a bit dull, but fine.
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on 29 November 2000
I bought the original paperback which has now all but disintegrated. After a year in France as a student it took me back to the culinary wonders of the Massif Central while we were still suffering the rigours of post-war shortages. I thought the names of the authors were a joke. Years late I found they were genuine - so English but so right. Several hundred cook-books later this is still one of my favourites - an incomparable introduction to food that tastes as it should. She is now out there with "the sculptor" writing as magically as ever. Without peer.
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on 22 October 2011
I have my grandmother's copy - with annotations written next to the various recipes she tried - pommes de terre dauphinoises 14-5-1958, sugo di pomodoro (1), poulet a l'estragon, bracioline de vitello 30-4-1961. The paper is brown and the index stops at "S' because so many pages have fallen off the back of the book. But it's a most wonderful evocative view of mediterranean cooking, well ahead of its time, with simple-to-follow recipes beautifully executed and generally splendid results.
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