Memories of Gascony

Pierre Koffman is a hugely important figure in british food. He worked at Le Gavroche, The Waterside Inn and opened La Tante Claire. With an impressive CV, the next generation of chefs trained and three michelin stars under his belt he retired from the restaurant business.

Until recently when his pop-up restaurant at Selfridges was an instant sell-out and shortly after he opened ‘Koffman’s at the Berkley’ serving french classics which combine rustic influences with luxury ingredients. His love of food and cooking style is heavily influenced by his youth – chronicled in ‘Memories of Gascony’.

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Growing up he spent long school holidays on his grandparent’s farm – surrounded by food and a fiercely independent local cuisine. The book itself is really beautiful, first published in 1990 it has been out of print for a while. It contains a lovely selection of recipes and stories covering a year on the farm, the various harvests and crops each being showcased. Last weekend I cooked a couple of recipes to see how they stack up. You can also read about his famous trotter recipe here.

Wild Pigeons with Armangac

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Designed with a rustic french kitchen in mind this whole recipe requires just one pot. As is common in Gascony, he uses duck fat as his oil of choice. When used to seal the pigeon it adds a lovely richness and fragrance. Armangac is another Gascon speciality and works beautifully with the rich gamey meat. A great dish and very easy to make – I served it with some simple steamed vegetables and aligot as a main, but it would work equally well as a starter.

Pistachio Soufflé

I adore soufflés. They have a distinct ‘wow factor’ and are surprisingly quick to make. Koffman’s recipe is very easy and, if followed carefully, should be very reliable. On the first batch I got so much lift that the tops hit the roof of the oven! Pistachio paste can be hard to find (Whole Foods let your grind your own) but provided you have a good food processor you can simply blend the unsalted nuts yourself. I served it with a vanilla ice cream and some grated chocolate.

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The flavour is gorgeous – nutty, savoury and with just the right hint of sweetness. The contrast between the bready, slightly chocolatey outside and the soft gooey centre is really nice. Delicious.

Conclusion
‘Memories of Gascony’ is a great book, as Jay Rayner notes “If you don’t own a copy… your cookbook collection is not complete”. The recipes range from the simple and hearty to the complex and refined. Like all my favourite books there are dishes which even the most tentative of cooks can manage while there are also ones which would make keen chefs sweat. Units are sensible and ingredients are relatively common – the odd wildcard (fresh blood, unusual game) can easily be substituted using a bit of creativity.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it – make room on your bookshelf, get some great ingredients and transport yourself to a Gascon farmhouse for an evening.

‘Memories of Gascony’ by Pierre Koffman, RRP £30 is published by Mitchell Beazley and available now in all good bookstores.

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