Larousse Gastonomique

25 March 2004 by
Larousse Gastonomique

I can't recall when I first came across Larousse Gastronomique, but I suspect it was probably when I was at Bibendum, working under Simon Hopkinson. I do know, however, when I bought my copy - that was in 1990.

Because it's an encyclopaedia, Larousse is not a book that I seek ideas from, nor do I, in general, browse through it when changing a menu. But being a chef whose repertoire is, without exception, based on the flavours of classical French combinations, the book provides a great source for double-checking on culinary building blocks. It has a wealth of information not only on all the ingredients and cooking techniques in French cuisine, but also on a vast array of dishes based on them. The straightforward alphabetical listing makes it quick and easy to use, too.

While some, or most, of it - at least in my copy - is frustratingly out-of-date in terms of execution and presentation, the book still provides a sound source of reference when considering garnishes for dishes. It does, in fact, contain information on any term associated with French cookery or gastronomy in general.

I don't use any one section more than another. Having said that, classical sauces are probably the subject of much scrutiny in any kitchen, and Larousse does at least provide an answer to what should be in them, if not how to make one in 2004 - for instance, what goes into gribiche (hard-boiled egg yolk and white, oil, capers, parsley, chervil, tarragon) or what constitutes a classical sauce lyonnaise (onions, vinegar, white wine, tomato pur‚e) - so you can find out what must be in them and then do your own variation.

While I have not based any of my dishes on Larousse listings, I use the book to ensure that dishes are harmonious in flavour and that classical combinations work. It is, after all, the distillation of hundreds of years of French cookery, and I have no hesitation in always pointing my brigade in its direction.

Philip Howard, chef-proprietor, the Square, London

History Larousse Gastronomique was first published, in French, in 1938 and quickly established itself as probably the most important culinary encyclopeadia in the kitchen. Over the years it has been reprinted and updated several times, with the first English-language version hitting the bookshelves 43 years ago, in 1961. The current English reprint was published two years ago under the guidance of some of France's greatest chefs, including Jo‰l Robuchon and Michel Gu‚rard. The new version has broadened out its classical base, containing entries on international cuisines ranging from Chinese to Mexican. Even Scotland has its own section. The book also includes information on the major wine-producing countries of the world.

Larousse Gastronomique
Hamlyn
£60 (hardback)
ISBN 0-600-60235-4

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