Cyril Lignac, with his refreshing attitude and poster boy good looks, is often hailed as France's equivalent to Jamie Oliver. He was voted the country's favourite chef, has television programmes, cookbooks and a healthy eating revolution to his name. Lignac worked with the likes of Alain Passard, Pierre Hermé and Alain Ducasse, before going solo with his own restaurants, which are celebrated for their modern twist on traditional French cooking.
Bistro Cooking is a homage to his Saint-Germain des Prés restaurant: Le Chardenoux des Prés. The book showcases Lignac's contemporary take on traditional French bistro cooking. Packed with Arthur Delloye's lavish photographs from the restaurant, this book deserves a space on your coffee table before the pages are spattered with wine and cream!
The forty recipes, based on the restaurant menu, are neatly organised into starters, mains and desserts. The instructions are easy-to-follow, with clear labelling of the preparation times and, most satisfyingly, each is accompanied by a crisp full page photograph of the exquisitely presented dish.
Starters are brimming with flavour, but most (save for the odd slab of fois gras) are mercifully light. To whet your appetite, imagine Carpaccio of Sea Bream Flavoured with Citrus and Espelette Chilli Pepper: the components can be prepared in advance and assembled when ready to serve. Burrata with Ligurian Olive Oil and Grilled Vegetables is characteristically unfussy, but rich with the flavours of aubergine, artichoke and courgette. The twist on the classic French bistro sandwich, the Croque-Monsieur, requires a little planning (refrigerate for 8 hours), but is easy to prepare as a hearty starter or, for those with a smaller appetite, a delicious weekend lunch.
Main Dishes are split across seafood and meat. Griddled Scallops with White Asparagus and a Creamy Orange Sauce will impress, with the orange foam giving it that cheffy feel. On the meaty side Braised Beef Cheek with Mild Spices, Macaroni Gratan with Mature Paremesan Cheese is one of the more relaxed mains, and the cooking time (4 hours 30 mins) leaves you free to host your guests - this is sure to be a dinner party hit.
Desserts are irresistible, this is my favourite chapter. Lignac's famed Chocolate Éclair looks decadent - almost sexy - whilst other recipes expertly combine nutty and fruity flavours. The Rice Pudding with Bourbon Vanilla, Mango Coulis is childlishy easy to prepare and tastes divine. The book finishes in a flourish with bistro favourite Salted Caramel Macarons.
A triumph of accessible but no less sophisticated recipes, which are free from the rigidity of the old guard of French cuisine.