We always add to our cookbook collection at the Abergavenny Food Festival. We buy the cookbooks of the chefs giving demos or talks that we go to see and then have them signed. After 7 years of going to the Abergavenny Food Festival, we have a nice collection of signed cookbooks. Last year I won a copy of Memories of Gascony by Pierre Koffmann which he then autographed.
If you are not familiar with Pierre Koffman, he moved to the UK in 1970 and by pure luck landed a job with the Roux brothers. In his 5 year tenure he helped them gain 2 Michelin stars at the Waterside Inn in Bray. In 1977 he opened his own restaurant La Tante Claire focusing on the flavours of Gascony. He went on to earn 3 Michelin stars and helped to train generations of British chefs including Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsey, Tom Aikens, Tom Kitchin and Jason Atherton.
This cookbook is an homage to his maternal grandparents who were peasant farmers in Gascony and tells the story of his visits to see them, seasonal Gascon food and his grandmother’s cooking. As his grandmother cooked Gascon dishes according to the seasonality of ingredients, the book has 4 main chapters: Spring, Summer Autumn and Winter. Each chapter contains recipes that his grandmother cooked for every day meals, special holidays, and family feasts.
These are flavoursome traditional Gascon recipes with very simple cooking techniques. Although Koffman is a Michelin starred chef, you will only find traditional recipes and cooking methods in this book. What I really like about this book is that it gives recipes for what I call everyday meat such as beef, lamb and pork as well as game and off cuts such as sweetbreads, chicken necks and giblets; and that the recipes are easy to follow.
In Spring you will find recipes such as omelette with asparagus, salmon cooked with spring vegetables, eels in red wine and for dessert, sweet crepes and fritters. In Summer you will find frog’s legs with oyster mushrooms, fricassee of rabbit with artichokes, slow roasted shoulder of lamb with potatoes and lovely summer fruit desserts. In Autumn you will find recipes for quince and plum jam as well as dishes featuring game such as a wild boar casserole and venison with peppercorns. Winter of course features hearty stews and dishes such as chicken necks, wings and giblets in white wine with macaroni, stuffed cabbage, and duck breasts with mushrooms.
I opted to make the Gasconnade de Gigot d ‘Agneau. A simple roast leg of lamb rubbed with duck fat, and then seasoned garlic, anchovies salt and pepper before roasting alongside carrots and onions. I do happen to have duck fat in my fridge as I have taken to making confit de canard (and you need duck fat to make it) after attending a Masterclass at the Abergavenny Food Festival in 2011 given by Henry Harris of Racine Restaurant. He made the most incredible sandwich using confit de canard that I have been making my own ever since and hence the duck fat in the fridge. Of course you can find duck or goose fat in most supermarkets.
Now to decide where to buy the lamb. Mark spent 5 days this year judging at the Great Taste Awards. When reviewing the results he discovered that The Great Taste Awards gave the highest rating of 3 stars to Ashfield Farm leg of lamb which is sold by Aldi’s. This lamb was praised by The Great Taste Awards “for its nice grain, good level of crisp fat and tender and sweetly succulent flavour” according to the Aldi’s website.
This lamb was truly delicious and in this simple preparation, the beautiful lamb was the star.
This cookbook is a delightful read with charming stories about what his grandmother cooked and the rhythm of life and on the farm in Gascony. These are beautiful home cooking recipes. If you are interested in learning about and cooking traditional dishes from Gascony, I highly recommend this cookbook to you.
*If you want to know more about Carol’s adventure with food or even join her on one then check out Food Adventure Ltd.