Paul Flynn: Rustic French recipes better than any haute cuisine

Have a storming Bastille Day with three classic dishes of the people

Socca with piment d’Espelette and anchovies. Photograph: Harry Weir

Socca with piment d’Espelette and anchovies. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

It’s almost Bastille Day. Some time back I wrote about a joyous restaurant experience I had in the south of France before the pandemic. Friends had been talking about Auberge de la Môle for years, and I was crippled with jealously. I finally got there and ate in a bistro straight out of central casting: abundant terrines, perfect confit de canard with sauté potatoes and persillade, mousse au chocolate and the most ethereal of crème caramels. It delivered on my ridiculously high expectations. What I wouldn’t give to be there now.

I crave French country cooking like this. It’s not the overworked food of a hushed, intimidating three-Michelin-star restaurant that I want, but the crackle of Brasserie Lipp or the exquisite intimacy of Bistro Paul Bert – I prefer the haute left out of my cuisine. Cuisine paysanne – the food of the people, rustic, delicious and world famous – has my heart. 

I sometimes imagine I am Rick Stein, in the bucolic depths of Secret France or on a barge put putting on the Canal du Midi eating my all the way down to Sète. What a dream.

These dishes are only a flicker of what French food can offer. The first two are from the south of France. Socca is a street food from Nice, made from chickpea flour. I’ve added piment d’Espelette (a mild, powdered chili pepper) to give them a little fire, and some roasted peppers, anchovies and crème fraîche to make it a dish. If you can’t get piment d’Espelette, you can use smoked paprika.

The brandade is a perfect example of how to elevate simple ingredients. Salt, cod, potatoes, onions, olive oil and garlic are blended together to make one of my favourite French dishes. I’m using fresh cod here and salting it myself, as salted cod is hard to get (although O’Connells in the English Market in Cork have the real deal if you’re anywhere nearby). Then I’m pairing it with roasted fennel: a classic combination.

I never tire of duck confit. This tart isn’t light but it is very special. A green salad will do with it, otherwise you might have to go straight to bed afterwards.  

Recipe: Socca with piment d’Espelette, peppers and anchovies

Socca with piment d’Espelette and anchovies. Photograph: Harry Weir
Socca with piment d’Espelette and anchovies. Photograph: Harry Weir

Recipe: Cod brandade with roasted fennel and olives

Cod brandade with roasted fennel and olives. Photograph: Harry Weir
Cod brandade with roasted fennel and olives. Photograph: Harry Weir

Recipe: Duck confit tart

Duck confit tart. Photograph: Harry Weir
Duck confit tart. Photograph: Harry Weir
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