One of the main differences between a typical French and English (or any ‘Anglo Saxon’ country) meal is portion size.
A typical English meal (the type eaten on a daily basis, not at a restaurant, weekends or special occasions) usually involves just one enormous (by French standards) ‘main course’ and maybe a dessert.
The concept of the main course is not the same in France (although ‘le plat principle’ exists). The idea is to eat a selection of simple, small courses giving a well-balanced variety of foods, rather than piling everything onto one plate.
Many French people will serve the meat or fish alone then the vegetable dish immediately after as they do not to overload their palates and prefer to appreciate individual flavours,. I always serve vegetables with the meat/fish and eat a little of both with each mouthful, but my partner usually eats all his vegetables first, then starts on the meat/fish……
A simple green salad or sorbet is often served between courses to refresh the palate and aid digestion and I almost always have a largee simply dressed green salad on the table throughout the meal to ‘servez-vous’
A typical everyday dinner ‘chez moi’ will include:-
Aperitif – More often at the weekend, but not unknown during the week!
This can be as simple as nuts, small savoury biscuits, slices of ‘saucison’, cherry tomatoes, olives etc, or a a bit more elaborate with various ‘verrines’, mousses and pates or ‘savory cakes’ and such like (I have not included an aperitif section at the time of publishing this post, but some will be coming up very soon…….)
Entrée – Generally includes some salad or vegetables, but quite often sea food such as oysters, ‘Coquilles Saint Jacques’, prawns and smoked salmon.
See ‘Starters’ for my selection of entrees published so far
Plat principle – Usually just meat or fish with one vegetable and quite often a sauce (as featured on this post), or alternatively a traditional casserole such as ‘Boeuf Bourguignon’ or ‘Coq au Vin’.
See ‘main courses’
Fromage – Unlike an English meal where cheese is usually served at the end, the ‘cheese course’ comes before the dessert in a French meal (as the French do a lot of kissing and prefer to kiss a sweet tasting mouth than one that smells of cheese!) I often skip this course at home to keep the calorie count down! And in fact this is the only course that you can politely refuse without offending the host/hostess.
Dessert – I have never heard a French person say that they have ‘no room’ for dessert – if you are too full for dessert then you have eaten too much for one of the other courses. Desserts quite often include fruit and although luscious patisseries spring to mind, the pastry is very fine and light and a vehicle for the topping – alternatively desserts can be full on chocolate or of course crème brulée and crème caramel, but not to be eaten every day!
See ‘desserts’ for my selection published so far, including ‘chocolate fondant’ and my own ‘chocolate pots’
So gone are the days when I could skip out to the Chinese take-away or put a pie in the oven……………I can’t pretend that I do not wish that I could do this from time to time, but I think that now I eat much healthier and thank my lucky stars that I enjoy cooking……….
1 organic trout fillet per person
1 large organic courgette (serves 2)
For the very simple Hollandaise sauce:-
2 egg yolks (save the whites to use in my lime mousse Brulée – a perfect combination)
2 teaspoons (cuillers de café) of lemon juice
3 ½ oz/90g of unsalted butter cut into small cubes
I seasoned organic trout fillets with a little sea salt flavoured with lime zest and coriander and quickly seared them in hot butter, then cooked them for around 6 minutes until just cooked through.
I shaved 1 large courgette (for 2 people) into ribbons (as tagliatelle) and steamed them for around 6 minutes also until just tender with a little ‘bite’ remaining, then quickly tossed them in a little very light olive oil flavoured with a little lime juice.
Whisk the egg yolk and lemon juice with a hand whisk and heat very gently whisking continually and adding the butter a cube as a time until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately.
I usually begin the sauce as soon as the courgette is steaming and the trout cooking. This sauce takes time and if you rush it and over heat the eggs they will scramble!
Patience is a virtue, but the end result is worth the effort – bon apetit!