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Thursday, October 12, 2017

French food is luxurious. French food is delicious. French food is complicated. Purva Indulkar tells you about the founding blocks of French cooking, so that your kitchen is always ready for a Parisian feast

There was a time when we only saw scrumptious French food on episodes of MasterChef or in charming European films. But today, we find French classics in restaurants and bakeries across the city. We’ve bitten into moist and soft chocolate éclairs, started our day with crispy croissants and even gifted macaroons to our relatives on festivals. But, French food can be intimidating to many people, which is why, even the most enthusiastic foodies shy away from French cooking.

Italian food is simply mastering pasta and Chinese food features a variety of spices, but French food can be a little more complicated. Since their desserts are among the most popular around the world, and their food is considered indulgent (and calorie-heavy), we’ve broken down the essential elements of French cooking to make things easier. So, whether you are a seasoned cook who wishes to experiment with French delicacies or a beginner eager to try some exotic, foreign varieties, here’s what you need in your kitchen to jump-start your French cooking journey.

FRESH EGGS, ALWAYS

Most Parisian homes have packed egg cartons sitting on their countertops or windowsills, but never in the fridge. Unlike other cuisine, in which eggs are used mostly for breakfast (like our omelettes and scrambled eggs), the French typically use eggs as the basis for their lunch and dinner. To add a French spin to your cooking, use hard-boiled eggs with cheese and mayonnaise to make a sandwich for lunch, or quickly whip up dinner with fried eggs and some healthy veggies.

A BIG BAGUETTE

Yes, those long, slender breads that we spot in movies are baguettes — as essential to French cooking as rotis are to Indian meals. When buying a loaf at a local bakery, look for ones that are crisp and fresh. French people never eat baguettes that were made the previous day. Use them as a side for your lunch or as an accompaniment for your morning coffee, or spread some butter and jam on baguette slices for an evening snack.

DOWN WITH DIJON MUSTARD

What makes Dijon mustard a French staple? The wine in it, of course! The mustard has burgundy or white wine in it. This simple condiment can be spread on a slice of the aforementioned baguette for a quick, zesty snack or mixed with olive oil to make a nutritious salad dressing. Buy it or prepare it in large quantities so that you can use it every day. It is quite flavourful and will remind you of Indian sauces.

WINE AND MORE WINE

If there is one thing that is associated with French people (apart from their effortless sense of style), it is their love for wine. French people believe that wine needs to go with every meal, and it’s not just reserved for a party. A drop of the right wine can make the simplest home-cooked dishes taste ‘gourmet’. So, use wine to enhance your cooking; the alcohol content evaporates and the flavour remains. Or, pair it with your dishes.

BUTTER IS BETTER

Chef extraordinaire Julia Child, who popularized French cooking across the world, once said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” So add it in dollops to everything from sauces to meats and from croissants to desserts. Even if you think you can’t prominently taste the butter, it still helps bring out the flavour of other ingredients.

A LITTLE SECRET — YOGHURT

We have all jumped on to the yoghurt train, but French people have been snacking on this delicious probiotic for decades. On days when you are rushing to work, simply open a pack and snack on its nutritious, creamy goodness. Choose yoghurt made by French brands because it is creamier and isn’t excessively flavoured.

FROMAGE IS A MUST!

The French are quite attached to their cheese. There are fromageries all across Paris selling the most exquisite varieties of cheese. Unlike us — we put the same shredded cheese on everything from sandwiches to pav bhaji — Parisians actually use different cheeses for different meals. The cheese plate that you find in high-end restaurants, featuring a selection of cheeses, fruits and carbohydrates like crackers, is offered to guests almost all the time. The French also know how to bring out the flavour of the cheese by pairing it with the right kind of wine.

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