I love meeting cool people doing cool new things. Recently I was a guest at the first of many private dining experiences to come at ‘La petite cuisine à Paris’ (literally ‘The little Paris kitchen’) a unique new project by the talented British, now Paris-based culinary creative Rachel Khoo.
After packing up and leaving a fashion career in London to study Pâtisserie at the world-renown Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rachel began by baking sweet treats at Paris’ specialty cookery bookstore, La Cocotte. Four years on, she now jets around Europe cooking and catering for prestigious events, launches and private parties. In between all of this, she has also found the time to knock out 2 wonderful cookbooks in French: Pâtes à tartiner and Barres de céréales: Muesli & granola.
‘The little Paris kitchen’ is the now the delicious testing ground for her next recipe book where she will be developing and perfecting all her recipes to go in the publication. “La Petite Cuisine” is her first English publication and is due for release in Spring 2012. The concept is simple and is sure to fill a growing craving for simple, modern, uncomplicated recipes that reinterpret traditional cooking techniques and traditions from the godmothers of French cuisine such as Elizabeth David and Julia Child. Rachel Khoo’s goal is to “Make French food fun.”
What better way to start than to invite people, two at a time for a memorable, delectable experience as taste-testers in her private kitchen where all her culinary creations are made with the ingredients sources at her local produce markets, fromagerie and favorite specialty stores and boulangeries.
Update as of March 19th, 2012. Rachel Khoo now appears on BBC two at 8.30pm Monday evenings UK time. The Paris “Test Kitchen” is therefore no longer open but you can get your fix of Rachel Khoo and her delightful recipes and tiny kithen on TV and through her new book. Enjoy!
So… back to LE FOOD! Well Rachel cooked up a delicious storm in a teacup in her tiny Paris kitchen for myself and other lucky guest- the fabulous Amy Thomas from the super godiloveparis blog.
Creamy bèchamel cauliflower gratin with a hazelnut crumbs
Sticky lemon & lavender roast chicken
Baked apples with a sweet spiced bèchamel sauce
Bread: From Du Pain et des idées in Paris’ 10eme. This stuff is dangerously good bread by the way- still warm and fresh out of the oven when it landed on the table- it took some serious restraint for me to stop eating it! Oh the simple pleasures…
Now of course, this post would not be complete without a recipe! Rachel’s menu was based around making the perfect béchamel, and what I loved about her approach was that the same base for this sauce called the “Roux” can be used to make both a sweet or savory sauce- depending on the seasonings and aromatics you use.
For a savoury sauce- follow the standard Bèchamel formula (here is a good recipe for a classic béchamel sauce) and add a combination of classic aromatics such as:
Rachel also suggests:
Saffron, orange zest, turmeric or cumin
For a sweet sauce or alternative to crème anglaise:
Simply leave out the salt and savoury additions above, and sweeten with sugar to taste, adding fresh vanilla seeds and optional spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg.
Here are Rachel’s top three tips for the perfect bèchamel:
1. Use whole milk. Semi or skimmed just won’t give you that rich creamy taste.
2. When you add your milk to the roux (flour and butter thickener) make sure to do it a slow, gradual stream and then whisk, whisk and whisk!
3. Classic bèchamel aromatics are: onion, bayleaf and clove but feel free to experiment with non traditional flavours such as saffron and orange zest or tumeric and cumin.