The Frenchman and the Farmer’s Daughters
A Way With Media, £25
The title might sound like a bawdy joke, but this is a serious cookbook from the Michelin-starred Checkers in Montgomery, Powys. The Frenchman is Waterside Inn-trained chef Stéphane Borie and the farmer’s daughters are his wife, Sarah (also a former Waterside Inn chef), and her sister, Kathryn, who together run the acclaimed restaurant with rooms.
In the foreword, Michel Roux says Borie is ‘among the top 10’ of all the chefs that have worked at the Waterside Inn during its 45-year history; praise indeed, given that the list includes the likes of Pierre Koffmann and Mark Dodson, who Borie worked under for three years.
Borie’s book reflects his long and varied career and includes dishes he created at the Waterside Inn, such as Dover sole printaniére (stuffed with broad bean mousse and served with spring vegetables and a luxurious lobster, Champagne and sorrel cream sauce), as well as a recipe for figs marinated in honey, cardamom, mustard and ginger he picked up while working as a private chef and today serves at breakfast at Checkers.
Borie is at his most distinctive when he is marrying his French heritage (he grew up in Agen in south west France) with that of his adopted home. Sewin – Welsh sea trout – is served as a canapé in a feuille de brick ‘cornetto’ with lemon cream and caviar, while France and Wales sit side by side in a chessboard-style terrine of foie gras and leek.
While Borie isn’t averse to a few modern flourishes – date bubbles made in an alginate bath accompany a roasted crown of pigeon de Bresse, and sous vide and dehydration techniques are employed regularly throughout the book – his style is grounded firmly in the French classics. Methods are often complex and require a decent level of knowledge, skill and precision to pull off successfully, but the results are impressive.
The book suffers from a clunky and sometimes confusing layout and repetitious use of images. Nevertheless, Borie’s individual talent shines through, making The Frenchman and the Farmer’s Daughters a worthy addition to any cookbook collection.
If you like this, you may enjoy these:
• Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons by Raymond Blanc
• The French Kitchen by Michel Roux Jr
• Revolutionary French Cooking by Daniel Galmiche