This feature is part of The Happy Foodie's A Home-Cooked Summer series in partnership with Waterstones. All of the cookbooks featured are available to purchase with 25% off using the code TheHappyFoodie at the Waterstones online checkout until 30th June 2020.
At the start of the lockdown I thought finding and cooking food would be like navigating Second World War levels of rationing, with shortages of flour, rice, yeast and baking powder. I tried not to be greedy and filled my freezer with minced pork and beef, chickens, a couple of joints of meat and plenty of fish, which I got from my next door neighbour who goes out fishing every fortnight. Gradually things have returned to normal but I’m continuing to cook every day and thoroughly enjoying it too, particularly the drive to waste as little as possible, which has stayed with me from the panicked early days of lockdown. My nasi gorengs have been particularly inventive, including sliced pizza, leftover roast lamb and avocados from our tree in the garden; I am self-isolating in Sydney you see, and I think for me the future will entail a new respect for produce and a refusal to throw anything away.
Naturally, the French have been doing exactly this forever and my latest book Secret France contains one dish that I’m incredibly happy with in the réchauffage department – the use of confit of duck leg to make what the French call confit de canard parmentier and I call duck cottage pie. Fortunately, the book is also filled with recipes for the summer too, five of which I have selected for you here. Interestingly, before Coronavirus everybody was going mad for Italian food, but I’ve noticed that lots of people yearn for the comfort of French cuisine now.
One quick and easy meal – Poached Skate / Ray with Warm Tomato Vinaigrette
This light and summery recipes involves nothing more than poaching fish in water and making a warm olive oil, vinegar and red onion vinaigrette with capers, tomatoes and parsley. My original recipe from Secret France uses skate, but I also recommend using ray if you can get it. It's very similar to skate but is a better buy conservation-wise.
One dish to teach a new skill for life – Confit of Aubergine and Tomato Tatin
There are two skills to learn in this dish – making a tarte tatin, an accomplishment anyone would appreciate, and also making a confit of tomato and aubergine, which is something I picked up in Provence and will always relish from now on.
One store cupboard superstar dish – Beef and Pork Meatballs in a Tomato and Piment Sauce
These Catalan-inspired meatballs from the border town of Prades in the South of France freeze perfectly so you can make up a batch and store them. Everyone loves meatballs and they are best served with pasta or rice, two other store cupboard staples.
One slow-cooked bowl of comfort – Rhône Mariners' Stew with Anchoïade
Slow cooked beef freezes very well, you can keep the ancoiade in the fridge; it’ll keep for weeks.
One easy bake – French Raspberry Tart
As tarts go, this one is as easy as it gets. To make it even easier, you can feel free to buy in the shortcrust pastry.
And finally, don’t forget that duck cottage pie.
Five further reasons Rick Stein's Secret France is an essential companion to your Home-Cooked Summer, from The Happy Foodie team
1. There's nothing quite like a Rick Stein cookbook to make you feel as though you're travelling the back roads of a country and discovering its hidden gems without leaving your kitchen, and Rick Stein's Secret France is no exception. As we look ahead to a summer without the getaways we had planned, getting lost in the pages of this beautiful celebration of France will go some way to helping us bring the missed holidays home to our tables.
2. For so many of us, a plate of something comforting at the end of uncertain days has become a soul-soothing necessity. Given that French cuisine and comfort food are rightly synonymous, a copy of Secret France will soon become your go-to source of inspiration for meals that bring you joy. Think galettes oozing with cheese, creamy fish pies topped with crisp golden panko, and one-pot chicken recipes laced with crème fraîche and white wine.
3. France is home to some of the best produce that Europe has to offer, from wines and cheeses to fresh fruit and veg, so it is no surprise that in Secret France you'll find plenty of inspiration for how to make the most of it. From tarts adorned with apricots and salads dotted with peach, to chicken legs stuffed with Comté cheese and stews rich with Riesling.
4. Like in all of Rick's books, at the back of Secret France you'll find a handy guide to mastering all of the basic stocks, sauces and condiments that form the essential flavour building blocks of a cuisine. Once Rick has guided you through a homemade mayonnaise, vinaigrette or pistou, you'll be making your own from scratch every time and elevating all manner of dishes this summer.
5. If you're a particular fan of Rick's seafood recipes, you'll love the dishes to discover in Secret France. From moules to bouillabaisse, it is brimming with dishes that celebrate a French-inspired taste of the sea.
More Home-Cooked Summer inspiration from The Happy Foodie: