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Book review – Memories of Gascony

02 October 2012 by

Memories of Gascony
By Pierre Koffmann
Mitchell Beazley, £30
ISBN 978-1845337094

Pierre Koffmann has been at the heart of fine cuisine in Britain for more than 40 years. Initially he worked for the Roux brothers at both Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn, before establishing a name in his own right at La Tante Claire, where he achieved three Michelin stars.

Today - having taken a short time away from the coal face of the industry - he is back in the kitchen at Koffmann's at London's Berkeley hotel, where he serves a relaxed, provincial French menu.

The dishes he offers eschew the fripperies and formalities of fine cuisine and instead feature the rustic, honest food which is the focus of Memories of Gascony, a book that originally appeared in 1990.

This new edition, just published, provides a fresh take on the earlier version with new photography from Laura Edwards and a redesign, but the recipes are unchanged. The inspiration is the food Koffmann was surrounded by during his formative years, growing up in the south-west of France.

In particular, he says that the book grew out of "the gratitude and affection I have always felt for my maternal grandparents" who were peasant farmers in central Gascony. Many of the stories that are sprinkled throughout the hefty 300-page tome centre on that farm in Saint Puy and provide a real sense of place for each dish.

Divided into seasonal chapters, the recipes feature produce that is plentiful in the south-west of France - eels in red wine, young pigeon with thyme and garlic, goose giblets with root vegetables, greengages in Armagnac, and creamy apple tart.

Koffmann fans will be pleased to see his most famous dishes - stuffed pig's trotter with morels and pistachio soufflé - are included. They are dishes that have travelled with him from La Tante Claire to his latest venture and have been much copied, but rarely bettered.

Memories of Gascony provides a wonderful and heartfelt insight into the man who is known as the chefs' chef and is as relevant today as it was when it was first published.

If you like this, you'll love these:
Tante Claire: Recipes from a Master Chef Pierre Koffmann
â- Cuisinier Gascon: Meals from a Gascon Chef Pascal Aussignac
â- Goose Fat and Garlic: Country Recipes from South-West France Jeanne Strang

By Janet Harmer

E-mail your comments to Janet Harmer here.

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