It’s January, it’s parky outside and nights are either spent (frantically shedding post-gorging-season guilt) in the gym, or rugged-up against the cold and cruising through the mountain of new cookery books. Inspirational – if you are very quiet, you can just about hear the cogs rotating in the food department of the BSG brain.
If there was ever a cookbook that said so much about the author, its Pascal Aussignac’s new book, Cuisinier Gascon. It focuses on the region in South West France from which he hails, its well-established, world-renowned cooking traditions and unrivalled produce – think Armagnac, duck and charcuterie – prunes, truffles, and…Fisherman’s Friend..(not French I know, but I kid you not.)
With regards to its creator, the work is the equivalent of that ubiquitous red book under Michael Aspel’s arm. From the photograph of the path through the woods in his native region you are led into Pierre Koffmann’s introduction, through the now-famous piggy treats, many of his signature dishes and other clever recipes – using honest, top-quality ingredients. There is a whole chapter dedicated to Foie Gras – you don’t see many of those around, do you?
Gascony is not an officially defined province in modern day France, being more of an area in which culture and tradition are strong. It exists perhaps most famously in stories of swashbuckling, mustachioed heroes, such as Cyrano de Bergerac and d’Artagnan and his Musketeers. A scene in C de B has the expert baker Ragueneau wrapping his marvels in patisserie in sheets of wonderful poetry. Turning to the extensive chapter on cakes and pastries evokes much the same delight in me as in the customers at the fictional bakery. A madeleine tin will be forthcoming.
Pascal’s ode to the tastes of his homeland reads like a memoir, telling the reader exactly who he is, and how he has grown, through food: it’s very clever really. If that isn’t enough, the book is also lovingly illustrated like a personal family album with evocative and beautiful photographs of the places to which he is so devoted – and no doubt thinks about when searching for culinary inspiration. Pascal’s expert, guiding hand is there throughout, as it is in each of his restaurants, from the food to the flowers (he does the arrangements in Club Gascon himself), and sometimes in both of the above combined – stuffed tulip, anyone?
I can’t wait to get down to the florist’s…
-Watch as many Gossip Girl and Sex and the City episodes as is humanly possible.
– Buy bag of frozen peas.
– Dine each night on aforementioned peas, with butter, salt and pepper and an illicit dollop of Salad Cream (can food get any faster, easier or, indeed, cheaper?)
However, this week I’ve taken on some extra work – dotting someone’s ‘i’s and crossing their ‘t’s – the grey asphalt of which stretches out before me. Alas, Blair and Serena will have to fight without me this time. The BSG, aware of my plight and being rather fond of cooking has made me a different meal for every night. They’re stacked and labelled, sitting neatly in our freezer – nothing, not even flowers (or a new madeleine tin) could be more gratefully received. Each morning I head to the freezer drawer to discover my feast, in its little Tupperware box, and leave it to defrost for the day; very much like opening a Christmas stocking. It’s a virtual, daily hug, BSG-style. As well as the mandatory cups of tea, these will keep me alert for those fiendish, misplaced semicolons.