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The greatest French recipes for Bastille Day

The greatest French recipes for Bastille Day

by Great British Chefs 13 July 2016

Salut! Bienvenue! Bonjour! On 14 July the national day of France will see French nationals all over the world celebrate everything good and great about their country. If you’re looking to inject some culinary joie de vivre into your celebrations, these unashamedly French dishes are exactly what you need.

We have so much to thank the French for when it comes to gastronomy. They practically invented cooking today as we know it, from how a restaurant kitchen should be run to how we chop and prepare ingredients for cooking. But in the modern world, where we can choose from any cuisine we want, French cuisine can sometimes get lost in the crowd.

We say it’s time to give French food the love and attention it deserves once more. From rich, rustic dishes full of buttery goodness to accomplished culinary marvels that prove just how complex French cooking can be, there’s plenty to get your teeth into for this year’s Bastille Day celebrations. Wave the flag high, stock up on butter and enjoy some of the best dishes Europe has ever produced.

1. Cassolette of snails and anchovies

Along with frog’s legs, snails are probably France’s most famously unusual delicacies. If you’ve ever had them you know they can be a bit rubbery, acting as nothing more than a medium for obscene amounts of garlic butter. Cooked properly, however, as they are in this recipe, they can become something truly beautiful – especially when they’re flavoured with punchy anchovies, salty capers, crisp breadcrumbs and plenty of lemon juice (plus, of course, a generous helping of butter).

2. Classic pissaladière

Often described as France’s answer to pizza, pissaladière is so much more than that, and an absolute must-try if you’re a fan of anchovies. A huge amount of onions are gently cooked down until they’re a sticky tangle of sweet deliciousness, before being spread across puff pastry, olive paste and anchovies. The result is a flaky, unctuous, umami-rich snack that you can’t help but demolish in one go.

3. Panisses

Forget French fries – these are southern France’s alternative to the deep-fried potato. Made by simply combining chickpea flour with water, butter (of course), salt and pepper, the batter is left to set before being cut into chips and deep-fried. The crunchy surface gives way to a fluffy, dense interior, with a creamy earthy taste that’ll make you wonder why you ever bothered with potatoes.

4. Salmon with sauce vierge

Sauce vierge is one of those things that can go with pretty much any potein – lamb, chicken, potatoes and (as in this case) fish are all complemented by its moreish flavour. It’s quite simple but encapsulates how flavourful French cuisine can be. Rather than using butter as a base, olive oil is featured, with a simple mix of garlic, concasse tomatoes, crushed coriander seeds, lemon juice and plenty of herbs added. A classic.

5. Soupe de poisson, rouille and Gruyère

Soupe de poisson sounds so much more sophisticated than fish soup, doesn’t it? This version, by the celebrated Galvin brothers, is the best example of this classic you’ll ever get. Fish are gently simmered in plenty of stock with tomatoes, Armagnac and Pernod until every last iota of flavour has become infused into the liquid, before it’s blended into a smooth, incredibly rich soup. The croutons on the side are topped with an even richer rouille and some grated Gruyère.

6. Tomato farcies

Tomatoes are all well and good, but hollowing them out and stuffing them with Toulouse sausage and braising them in white wine is something so deliciously extravagant only the French could come up with it. Make sure you use the biggest tomatoes you can get, so they hold their shape when you squeeze in as much stuffing as you can.

7. Lapin à la moutarde

Rabbit is still a bit of an elusive meat here in the UK, but in France they’ve embraced its beautiful delicate flavour with gusto. This simple, provincial way of preparing it ensures the meat doesn’t dry out by coating rabbit legs in crisp, fatty bacon and a creamy mustard sauce. The green beans on the bottom add a virtuous element, but feel free to swap them out for any vegetable you like the look of.

8. Grilled rack of lamb with ratatouille

Ah, ratatouille – one of the great rustic side dishes of Europe. The combination of tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, onions, garlic and courgettes might sound simple, but the end result somehow becomes something much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a natural partner to lamb, as the fresh vegetables cut through the fattiness of the meat, but it will go equally well with beef and fish.

9. Griotte cherry clafoutis

Onto dessert now, and you can’t get much more French than a clafoutis. This soft, flan-like cake is studded with cherries, which happily sit in the almond and egg-based batter, leaking their juices and flavour into the sponge as it cooks. The recipe here calls for Griotte cherries, which have a slightly tart flavour, but this clafoutis will be just as delicious if you use British varieties (which are in season right now).

10. Crème brûlée

This incredible dessert was seemingly, at one time, on every restaurant menu in the UK. It’s less common now, but by no means any less tasty. It’s surprisingly simple to prepare at home, and even if you don’t own a blowtorch to caramelise the sugar into a glass-like shard on top, you can use the grill to achieve the same effect. When it comes to sensory satisfaction, there’s nothing better than rapping the top of a crème brûlée with the back of your spoon to shatter it and expose the silky custard underneath.

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