Tuesday, December 15, 2009

french cooking in ten minutes

Edouard de Pomiane and his 1930 book French Cooking in Ten Minutes OR Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life are mentioned by Julian Barnes in The Pedant in the Kitchen. It's discussed at some length, actually, and sounded delightful to me. I have now read the translation by Philip and Mary Hyman and have been trying some recipes. It is indeed a wonderful little book.

Pomiane was an eminent medical doctor and researcher at the Pasteur Institute, not a professional chef. He was very much a food scientist, though, referring to this field as gastrotechnology. He was a renowned cooking lecturer, teacher, and radio host. He wrote twenty-two books on the art. Judging from this brief volume he was as entertaining as he was concise, and as philosophical as he was scientific.

And it's not just a collection of ten minute dishes. He has entire multi-course luncheon and dinner menus that can be prepared in ten minutes or so by a well-organized cook. (Of course he does not include the time it takes to boil water or heat oil, and allows for one dish to be finishing while its predecessor is being consumed.)

Here's how it begins:
I dedicate this book to Madame X, asking for ten minutes of her kind attention.

Barnes mentions Tomato Soup as a dish that failed for him. It's the first one I tried. This is my paraphrase:
bring two cups of water to a boil
stir in a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste
stir in two tablespoons of finely ground semolina
salt the soup
boil for six minutes
stir in four tablespoons of heavy cream
I also added a sprinkle of tarragon. I didn't have any semolina so I ground couscous made of durum wheat. I suspect it wasn't ground finely enough, as the soup had the distinct texture of very small couscous. However, it was not an objectionable texture, it stayed in suspension, and the flavor was just fine. Just as good as any canned tomato soup I've ever had, really, and it probably cost ten cents!

I've also made the Alsatian Dumplings and Whiting Boiled in Court Bouillon. Rather than whiting fish I used striped pangasius fillets. The court bouillon was made with a bay leaf, white vinegar, curry power, ground nutmeg, black pepper, and salt. Topped with lemon butter and bread crumbs the fish was excellent. The boys loved the dumplings, which I finished with just butter, salt, and pepper.

This book is a treasure trove of simple recipes and efficient methods. Great fun.

No comments: