WHAT is the first thing that comes to mind when French cooking is mentioned?

Some people may feel intimidated because of how sophisticated and complex the cooking techniques can be.

Renowned Chef Rachel Khoo begs to differ.

Born to a Malaysian father and Austrian mother in Croydon, South London, Khoo was in town recently to meet her fans and promote her latest BBC Lifestyle series, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: A Cosmopolitan Cook, shown here on HyppTV Channel 620.

Growing up, she always helped her mother in the kitchen, mainly with baking. Soon after, her passion for patisserie lead her to Paris where she obtained a pastry degree at Le Cordon Bleu.

Khoo mixing the ingredients during her hands-on cooking class for her fans in Kuala Lumpur.
Khoo mixing the ingredients during her hands-on cooking class for her fans in Kuala Lumpur.

Khoo’s first cooking show, The Little Paris Kitchen aired in the UK and internationally on the BBC’s global BBC Lifestyle channel last year, to great critical acclaim.Khoo’s first English book, The Little Paris Kitchen, where she shares her French recipes, tips and techniques, was the number one bestseller for three consecutive weeks in the UK.

Her next cookbook called Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook will be out next February.

According to Khoo, there are two types of French cooking – Michelin- and home cook-style. Michelin-style French cooking is the one that brings sweat and tears to home cooks.

Rachel Khoo showing off the Baked Cheese Cigar dish.
Rachel Khoo showing off the Baked Cheese Cigar dish.

It requires years of training and experience, whereas home-style French cooking is relatively simple and all you need are fresh ingredients.

Want to try French cooking? Here are three basic tips by Khoo on simple French cooking for all you first-timers out there.

1.Start with easy recipes

If you are unfamiliar with French cooking, it is best to start by following recipes from a good French cookbook.

Start with simple recipes that requires less ingredients. Don’t go overboard and start with a croquembouche. Croquembouche is a type of French dessert where choux pastry balls are piled up on a cone. It takes time and practice to perfect.

Make sure to follow the recipe and measure your ingredients carefully. Do not make it up as you go. The chef and recipe writers have done plenty of research and trials for it to work so it is important to follow the recipe exactly.

Here is a tip when it comes to using an oven. Not all ovens bake at the same temperature so, make sure to place more than one thermometer for your oven. This helps prevent over-baking and under-baking.

After mastering the simple recipes, you can gradually try more complex ones.

2. Use fresh produce

You do not need any special ingredients or tools to master French cooking. All you need are fresh ingredients that are in season.

When it comes to home-cooked French dishes, they cook with ingredients that are in season, says Khoo. So, start using more fresh ingredients that are in season. They are not only nutritious but they bring freshness and quality to your dishes. According to Khoo, that is what French dishes are all about – freshness.

People usually tastes their vinaigrettes straight as it is. Instead, taste them with the vegetables that are in your salad. Just cut a small piece to test.

3. Simplicity is best

Did you know that you don’t need fancy techniques to make fancy dishes?

Cooking techniques like flambéing, sautéing and puréeing are just basic French cooking techniques.  They are not as sophisticated as people may think, says Khoo.

Keep your dishes simple. You do not have to go all out to purée, sauté and flambé to make your dish sophisticated. Ingredients that are kept simple tastes better.

Instead, take note on other small details like presentation. One must not forget that people eat with their eyes too. With good presentation, you can turn any simple dish into a sophisticated gourmet dish.

Now that you are equipped with these tips, it is time to start cooking. Khoo shares three recipes to get you started:

1. Baked Cheese Cigars. Click here for recipe.


Photo courtesy of Rachel Khoo.

2. Lingonberry and Raspberry Marzipan Tart. Click here for recipe.


Photo courtesy of Rachel Khoo.

3. Pasta Pizza. Click here for recipe.


Photo courtesy of Rachel Khoo.

4. Coconut Chocolate Truffles. Click here for recipe.


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