Last Updated on March 28, 2021
Two cookbooks from the Chef Patron of Le Gavroche
Le Gavroche is one of London’s most prestigious restaurants. Sporting two Michelin stars, it was opened in 1967 by the Roux brothers and set the bar for classical French haute cuisine in the capital. A dynastic family in the food world, Albert (who died in January aged 85) and his late brother Michel Roux senior taught a raft of chefs who themselves became household names including Gordon Ramsey, Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing, Pierre Koffman, Monica Galetti, and Rowley Leigh. Michel Roux Jr, Britain’s most acclaimed French chef, took over Le Gavroche in 1991 and under his leadership, the restaurant has remained a glittering star in London’s firmament. Now that eating out is on the horizon once again, we can all look forward to booking tables, but for now, I have been exploring some of the cookbooks that Michel Roux Jr has written over the past years. There are five books in the collection available for purchase on the Le Gavroche online shop along with all manner of goodies such as a 1967 Armagnac, fine wines, cooks knives, leather aprons, engraved glasses and other luxury items to treat yourself or gift to others.
I began with reading through Les Abats: Recipes celebrating the whole beast, (Seven Dials, 2017). This book is all about offal and it makes for some educational reading for those unaccustomed to the internal organs of animals including sheep, cows, game, poultry and fish. Vegetarians would have no reason to page through it, but some omnivores might think twice about calf brain, cockscombs or lambs’ testicles with lemon and capers for lunch. Unless of course, you are in a French restaurant in which case you may well want to order tête de veau and other classics from the canon. Some of my favourite meat memories from French restaurants include steak with roast marrow bones, while diners of a certain age may have fond memories of devilled kidneys for breakfast. Les Abats shows you how to cook these yourself. My own childhood memories of hearty oxtail stews and ox tongue in mustard sauce certainly whet my appetite so I will keep Les Abats close to hand when I next visit the butchers. Cod roe is a popular dish for many – perhaps especially in the form of taramasalata for which there is a recipe in Les Abats. I was intrigued by the recipes for cod tongue and hake throat which I will have to discuss with my fishmonger.
In the meantime, I decided to reacquaint myself with an old favourite, chicken livers. When I was a student, I often cooked with this very cheap and delicious source of protein. I haven’t used it in decades so a return visit was long overdue. Chicken livers – even the organic kind I bought – are still a delicious and very cheap source of protein and can be cooked in a flash. Roux’s chicken liver salad calls for crispy roast chicken skin as a garnish and fortunately I had some chicken skin handy. This really was a delicious topping for the pink livers, salad leaves and honey, chilli and sherry vinegar dressing. We ate it with toasted sourdough and had a thoroughly satisfying lunch.
Far more accessible for home cooks is Michel Roux’s The French Revolution. Historians may be surprised to discover that this is a revolution in the kitchen rather than on the Paris streets.
This beautifully photographed book (Seven Dials, 2018) brings to your table a wide range of favourite French recipes made simple. Not only has Roux pared down the process, but he has also lightened the dishes. French cuisine traditionally is quite heavy on butter and sauces which may not suit the contemporary taste for lower-fat cooking. This collection has one great adjustment after another and I was really spoilt for choice when it came to deciding what to try. I ended up making four dishes and have earmarked plenty more for the weeks ahead.
I began with my favourite course – soup. We eat loads of soup and I am always looking to try new ideas. Velouté de pois chiches et harissa – chickpea and harissa soup – was like a silky houmous. A warm hug in a bowl with a swirl of harissa oil and a simple, fresh garnish of herbs dressed with olive oil, lemon zest and juice. Ready in 15 minutes. This is the kind of cooking I need at times. The soup is now firmly on my list of favourites.
Next up was a main course of pintade au vieux vinaigre. I am particularly fond of guinea fowl partly because it is a low fat and slightly gamey bird, but also because guests are impressed when I serve it. In fact, it is no more complicated to cook than chicken but carries more caché. My favourite French food memory is eating roast guinea fowl with apples and mushrooms as part of a table d’hote dinner on a farm. Arriving after a long day of driving – with another ahead next morning – we were ushered into a barn where we ate a simple dinner packed with the flavours of the fresh farm produce and lots of local wine.
Roux’s dish could not be simpler – roast the bird (my oven took a bit longer than the recipe suggested) and then make a sauce of diced onion, celery and carrot plus tomato paste and a good quality red wine vinegar. The sauce was wonderful and I was especially proud of the brown chicken stock I made in advance. That took extra time of course but was well worth the small amount of effort involved. As we all know, the secret to a good sauce is the stock and taking time to prepare these will pay off well. The last chapter of The French Revolution provides recipes for most stocks the home kitchen could need.
For dessert, it just had to be mousse au chocolat. My late mother used to make a superb chocolate mousse and perhaps this is why I have always failed at this task. I even had her supervise my efforts once but there is something about this dish that has me beaten. My chocolate always seizes up no matter how carefully I follow the recipe. This time I ended up having to put my mousse through a sieve – I think Michel Roux would not approve – in order to save the day and then refrigerated the mousse overnight. The taste was lovely but I had lost the delightful texture. I hasten to report that it is not the fault of the recipe – it is me. I am all thumbs when it comes to mousse.
For tea I served slices of gâteau au yaourt. We had already eaten very well and hardly needed cake, but I could not resist attempting to bake what is described as ‘one of the first recipes that a French child cooks at home with the family’. It really is child’s play and in no time I had a charming loaf cake just right for afternoon tea. I served it with a few raspberries, and you could choose to dress it up or leave it au naturel.
The French Revolution is a very useful and accessible book to add to any collection. I will return to it repeatedly because it has so many interesting dishes which are not complicated to make. Most of the recipes are quick to prepare and there is also a section for more leisurely weekend fare. It would certainly be a good set of recipes to take away on holidays when my self-catering requires quick, easy and tantalising dishes with which to treat the family.
A quick and nutritious salad with chicken livers
- 200 grams chicken skin
- 320 grams fresh chicken livers
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 shallot peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 red chilli sliced
- 1 tbsp Xeres (sherry) vinegar
- 3 tbsp walnut oil
- 220 grams mixed salad leaves including radicchio or curly endive
- salt and ground pepper
Begin by making the crispy chicken skin. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas4. Scrape off any feathers and excess fat. Place the skin flat on a piece of baking parchment on a baking tray. Sprinkle it with a little salt and cover it with baking paper or greaseproof paper and then another baking tray. Place it in the oven for 30 minutes.
The skin should be crispy after half an hour but it not, continue cooking for another 10 minutes uncovered. Leave the skin to cool.
Trim the livers of any sinew or green bits. Dry them well on kitchen paper and season.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan until it is smoking. Sear the livers for 30 seconds, then add the chopped shallot and garlic. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes until the livers are cooked but still pink inside. Place the liver, shallot and garlic in a bowl.
Put the pan back on the heat and add the honey, chilli and vinegar. Simmer for 30 seconds and then pour over the livers. Add the walnut oil, salad leaves and the crispy skin broken into bite-sized pieces.
Toss carefully and serve.
Oh and if you want to try Michel Roux’s food without having to cook yourself, he has a number of restaurants. While we haven’t reviewed Le Gavroche yet, we have tried Roux at the Landau and love it!