A “potted” collection of French Cookbooks

My Favourite French cookbooks

With such a proliferation of glamorous cookbooks in the marketplace, the “Bible’’ of them all – the new English edition of the French encyclopedia of cooking, Larousse Gastronomique  is on sale for a hefty $145.00.

It was originally published in 1938 in French, but the first English translation wasn’t until 1961. This new edition has a new overseer – Joel  Robuchon heads a team of French cuisine specialists, who have checked out more than 3,800 recipes.

It’s a huge book, of course, to command attention on any kitchen shelf, but reviewers claim it is also “eminently practical’’ and provides an education in French cooking.

Another exquisite French cookbook by Ginette Mathiot isn’t a new publication, but is worthy of a mention for its thorough education in the art of French baking Needless to say, this is the title – The Art of French Baking and claims to be the definite guide to home baking by France’s favourite cookbook author.  Published by Phaidon, it offers 350 “simple’’ and authentic recipes.

The sceptic, however,  may be tempted to ask “When has anything so deliciously French as Brioches, Souffles, Choux Buns or Madeleines been “simple”?

Ginette was a legendary French food writer and the foremost authority on home cooking in France, living to a ripe old age of 91 years, being born in 1907 and passing away in 1998. Phaidon claims she is the foremost authority on home cooking in France teaching three generations of French families how to cook. Ginette wrote more than 30 best-selling cookbooks covering every aspect of French cuisine.

The Art of French Baking originates from one of Ginette’s definitive works Je sais faire la patisserie.


However, my precious French cookbook is Le Cuisine sub-titled Everyday French Home Cooking by Francoise Bernard.  French newspaper Le Monde claims Francoise is “the icon of family cooking’’ and publisher Rizzoli of New York further promotes the book as “The culinary bible from the woman who revolutionised French cooking”.

This is one of the few that I use regularly when entertaining and each recipe is foolproof.  Francoise’s simplicity of ingredients even usurps my most prestigious cookbook by legendary Auguste Escoffier, the French chef who wrote 2000 Favourite French Recipes just before he died for French housewives.  (It has four pages of recipes for using brains).

Francois came of age in Paris during the Ocupation    and she is credited with promoting economy in the kitchen in the post-war era. Her culinary career began in the 1950s when she was recruited by Unilever to be the company spokesperson, devising new recipes. She soon became the trusted authority for the modern housewife, providing advice for a new generation of womn who had less time and money to spend in the kitchen. Her first cookbook Recettes Faciles (1963) sold more than one million copies in France and is still in print. And while it was followed by more tghan 20 pther volumes, La Cuisine represents Francoise’s best recipes and culminates her lifelong culinary career.

Here are a few tantalising recipe titles – Pot-Roasted Duck with Peaches, Herb-Marinated Rabbit with Ham Stuffing  and Rosemary-marinated Mullet with Saffron.  And for the love of your life, she has created Coeur tender en chocolat or Tender Heart Chocolate Cake.

It is a cookbook to fall in love with.

Her underlying lesson is that French cooking can be as diverse as the ingredients at your disposal.