From the Source-France and From the Source- Mexico. Authentic recipes from the people who know them best.
If you love trying food from different cultures and especially if you are thinking of travelling to France or Mexico you will enjoy these new Lonely Planet cookbooks. Too heavy to tuck into a suitcase but you could easily photocopy the regional maps and addresses of the eateries which are featured and make plans to visit some of them.
To create these cookbooks Lonely Planet sent some of their experienced food photographers and writers off on journeys through France and Mexico. Their mission was to track down passionate cooks, chefs and bakers who are creating authentic recipes, to persuade them to part with one each and to listen to their stories.
The French have long recognised that the growing conditions of a particular region can impart special flavour differences which they call terroir. Each region over time took pride in developing its own unique recipes using local ingredients. Normandy has dairy-rich dishes, Burgundy has wine infused stews and Provence’s cuisine is full of vegetables.
In Mexico also there are marked regional culinary differences due to its geography and history. Here there is a blend of Indigenous and Spanish Cuisine as well as some later influences from other cultures.
We spent a week in Mexico City two years ago. Unfortunately, I picked up a tummy bug (as you do sometimes when travelling). The street food looked very inviting, and the pavement was often jammed with eager customers waiting for their takeaways but I couldn’t indulge. So I have especially enjoyed reading the stories and recipes in From the Source-Mexico and looking at the beautiful photographs-.It was almost as good as being there and sampling the food.
The recipes are a great introduction to Mexico’s wide-ranging and colourful cuisine. But trying them out will have to wait for a while. Packets of tacos and tortillas, sachets of prepared Mexican spices, corn chips and Mexican meal kits are on our supermarket shelves. But there is much more to Mexican cuisine and the essential ingredients for authentic Mexican dishes, especially the many different kinds of chillies and masa harina flour, have to be ordered on the internet and are quite expensive.
So I focused instead on some recipes in From the Source- France for which the ingredients are ready to hand
My mouth still waters when I think of the delectable tarts, pastries and macaroons beautifully displayed in bakery windows when we were in Paris for a week earlier this year. There are plenty of recipes for these in this book as well as desserts.
There is a legend that the first Madeleines were created in Commercy in 1755 and they are still popular there today. The traditional recipe, contributed by Chef Stephane Zins, a local baker, required 7 minutes of whisking and beating, and the batter had to stand for 6 hours before baking. So not for those in a hurry!
I didn’t have the traditional madeleine moulds so I baked them in a patty pan tin which no doubt contributed to the fact that they didn’t achieve that traditional madeleine hump. But these little cakes with a hint of lemon were a lovely treat for afternoon tea with a very liberal sprinkling of icing sugar
A soufflé can be a tricky beast but I thought this one, created by Chef Franck Houdebine, was worth a try as it had only three ingredients: eggs, a little sugar and a dash of Cointreau (which we had left over from Christmases past). The recipe said it serves two but there was easily enough to fill three of my sizeable ramekins. They rose like golden globes above the rims. I rushed them from oven to table where they were much admired before (as soufflés do) they sank again. We tucked happily into this not too sweet and light dessert.
Clafoutis (Cherry Flan)
This wobbly flan was child’s play to make. The eggy batter was speedily mixed before being poured over fruit. Traditionally small black cherries which grow wild in the woods in Limousin were used. But local chef Anne France says that as they are hard to come by and their season is short other fruits can also be used. I made it with apples. It was perfect for brunch but would also have made an easy dessert, so a versatile recipe.
Beef Bourguignon (Burgundy Beef)
This dish was a great favourite at sixties dinner parties and I am pleased it has recently come back into fashion. It’s a great dish to make ahead and tastes just as good the next day.
This version of beef bourguignon required 2 bottles of French pinot noir, too extravagant! So I halved the recipe and used one bottle of New Zealand pinot instead .which worked really well and still served four.
Adding chocolate to a French beef stew? That sounded intriguing. I did it but found that the flavour was a little too strong for my taste. Next time I’d probably halve the quantity.
Titles: Lonely Planet Food: From the Source-Mexico and Lonely Planet Food: From the Source-France
Publisher: Lonely Planet Global
RRP $39.99 each
Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet Food: From the Source – France, © 2017 Lonely Planet, www.lonelyplanet.com.
Reviews by Lyn Potter
Parent and grandparent, Avid traveller, writer & passionate home cook