With the cold weather of winter fast approaching I start to think about preparing nourishing and warming meals for my family both in the evenings when they come home from work and at weekends. Having been bought up in France I do tend to make lots of thick soups, stews and casseroles which are very traditional French dishes.
I have always loved to prepare and eat cassoulet which is a very nourishing dish made with haricot beans, lots of chunks of pork and I sometimes add a leg or two of confit de canard. I make the cassoulet the day before I intend dishing it up to my family because it means all the flavours really get a chance to come out to the full. I served a really full bodied red wine with cassoulet and lots of chunks of pain de campagne with plenty of butter much to the delight of my family.
I grew up with the cuisine de Provence, so bouillabaisse is a soup that I truly love to make occasionally. This has got to be one of the best fish soups ever. When you think it used to be considered a poor dish that fishermen would prepare for themselves out of the fish they could not sell, you suddenly appreciate how the recipe today has evolved into one of the most famous ones in the world.
Another great favourite of both mine and my entire family is Soupe a l’Oignon. I absolutely adore the aromas that waft from the kitchen when this soup is being made. French onion soup is a meal all of its own and I serve it piping hot with lots of extra garlic croutons and a heaped bowl full of Gruyère cheese that my family can top up their soup bowls with as they devour it.
Pot au Feu to me, is one of the very best French stews. It is not only delicious but really wholesome too. I like to add all sorts of things to the root vegetables I use to make pot au feu, including Foie Gras de Canard, which is duck foie gras. My family adores pot au feu and really enjoy this lovely warming stew with lots of chunky bread and butter.
I love lamb dishes and really adore making Navarin which is a traditional French lamb stew and I tend to use mutton when I can get hold of it because I prefer the flavour of the meat. Navarin has to be cooked for a very long time so that the meat melts in your mouth. When I prepare this stew, I add all the vegetables later so that they do not turn too mushy but traditionally they should be cooked for as long as the meat.
Meal times during the winter are wonderful and I really enjoy preparing lots of lovely piping hot thick soups and stews. I tend to keep away from the ones which have wine in them and go more for the wholesome and nourishingly thick ones. I keep the boeuf bourguigon and coq au vin dishes for special occasions or when I have a dinner party, but the traditional cassoulet recipes and others are very much on the top of my list as winter warmer meals.