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Something cooking in the book world

People used to learn to cook at their mother’s knee; now many are turning to cookbooks instead

Thousands of cookbooks are published in France every year, fuelled by popular television shows such as Masterchef, and the pick of this year’s crop will be competing for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards at the Paris Cookbook Fair on March 3-6.

The fair was launched last year by Edouard Cointreau, the head of Madrid-based Gourmand International, which distributes cookbooks from the revered Catalan El Bulli restaurant among others.

He looks back over the good food industry and what lies behind the new trend for good food books.

Your awards have been going since 1995, but the show itself is new.

It was a logical extension. We have a very big network of cookbook and winebook authors and publishers, photographers and food stylists, who all needed a place to meet.

It is also open to the public and many of them are becoming interested in publishing a cookbook themselves.

They have become like food autobiographies. Many people identify themselves and their families through the food they eat; for example, foreigners write about their experience of food in France.

There was one last year called Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves: Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne by Kimberley Lovato, published in Britain, or there is So French, by Dany Chouet and Patricia Hobbs in Australia. They are travelogues
with food.

So cookbooks are now less likely to be written just by chefs?

Yes. There are also lots of people who make a good living from just writing cookbooks. Wine writing is also becoming successful worldwide and you get books like one where someone explains his experience of coming to France and producing rosé, which is trendy now, and how his life changed. These personal stories sell well.

What are some other trends?

One worldwide trend is charity cookbooks: non-profit groups putting together recipes to sell for their benefit. It used to be very much an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, but now there are more than 80 countries doing it.

In France, for example, there have been several cookbooks in aid of the charity Restaurants du Coeur, including one by the French association of food writers, Apcig.

We are also focusing this year on street food. In many countries, people eat standing up in the streets and some of the food is pretty good.

For instance, in Malaysia, tour guides take you around the street food [Chef Wan will demonstrate some of the best at the show]; the same goes for Bangkok and Beijing.

A street food event will be held in Marseille when it is Capital of Culture in 2016 and Yvon Cadiou from Marseille will be demonstrating at our show. He sometimes cooks on France 2 television: he goes to the market and opens his
suitcase, which converts into a gas stove, and cooks with what he has found.

We will have a market and he will cook from what is available. There will be vegetables, including organic ones, and gourmet fare such as foie gras and truffles.

Is vegetarian food popular?

It has become mainstream. It’s no longer seen as a kind of sect; you no longer have to convince people to eat it.

People say “I’ll be vegetarian for three days and then go back to meat”, a bit like they might eat Chinese or Thai; it is seen a clean kind of food.

We’ll have top vegetarian chefs demonstrating. We will have show kitchens, one international, in English, and a French one. Guests from all over the world, Ghana, Bhutan… will be demonstrating recipes from their books.

Which French chefs will be there?

The president of honour will be Alain Dutournier, from Le Carré des Feuillants, who specialises in cooking from the South-West, and he will be joined by many others.

Alain Ducasse, who has a successful publishing company now, may come. He hasn’t confirmed yet, but if he comes he likes to work, rather than be on show. He likes writing and has said he will retire to be a food writer when he no longer runs his restaurants.

His latest success was Nature, which goes very much into organics, and is translated into various languages. He is now releasing a series of books based on the world’s great cities, with beautiful photos. His first will be Paris.

We will also have a collage exhibition by vegetarian three-star chef Alain Passard of L’Arpège. He does a lot of modern art and, in his latest cookbook, he illustrates his food with his art rather than photographs.

I understand books about cheese are popular?

There is quite a trend for cheese books and interest in old artisanal cheese around the world.

There has been excellent cheese in Britain for centuries, but there is now really good cheese made by Swiss expats in Columbia or Bolivia, where they have big mountains and good milk.

Australia, Canada, the USA all make excellent cheese. We will be bringing their books to show the French who don’t know about them.

We will be doing a tasting comparing British and French cheeses, blues, hard or soft etc, which has never been done and will be fun.

A leading British expert, Juliet Harbutt, will monitor the tasting and give explanations.

Are the French becoming more open to different countries’ foods?

They are keen tourists and they have tried good food in other places; when they come back, they want to keep eating it. I heard in Paris there are more foreign restaurants than French ones.

They still think French food is the best, but that’s true in most countries. Now French food has been listed by Unesco it might go to their heads a bit...

That is a good thing, because it focuses on transmission through generations, and cookbooks help with that.

People used to learn about cooking through their mothers and grandmothers; now they learn through books and the television.

Cookbook titles have increased fourfold worldwide since 1995 and it has gone in parallel with an expansion of food TV. That used to be Anglo-Saxon, but it’s worldwide now. It’s been the engine pushing cookbook trends.

Also, with food scares and the economic crisis, people need food for comfort at home and more and more people are cooking at home.

Did you know?

THE FIRST famous French cookbook was Le Guide Culinaire by Auguste Escoffier (1903), while another of the most influential was by an American who studied in France: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961).

France’s first three-star female chef, Eugénie Brazier, is commemorated in the Eugénie Brazier Prize for a French cookbook by a woman. It was founded by her grand-daughter, Jacotte Brazier, who says 3,000 cookery books are now published
in France a year and about 24,000 worldwide.

It was won last year by Nicole Fagegaltier for Un Goût d’Aveyron, about specialities from the South-West (Ms Fagegaltier also won the 2010 Gourmand award in the Female Chef category).

Recipe: Echaudés au fromage Rodez

THESE pastries from the South-West can be eaten as an aperitif or as a starter served with an artichoke sauce.

They come from Nicole Fagegaltier’s Un Goût d’Aveyron (Editions du Rouergue), which won the prize for best book by a female chef at last year’s Gourmand awards.

If necessary, Rodez cheese, a typical product of the Aveyron, could be substituted with fresh Parmesan.

Echaudés, which means “scalded”, have been eaten since the Middle Ages.

Ingredients (serves four)
A few pitted olives, egg yolk to glaze; for the échaudés: 250g flour, 50g butter, 125g grated Rodez, 2.5g baking powder (levure chimique), 1 egg, 5g salt; for the sauce: four good-sized artichokes, olive oil, 1 bouquet garni, 100g
liquid cream (crème fleurette), lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Artichoke sauce
Remove artichoke leaves keeping just the bottoms, add lemon juice, remove the choke, cut the bottoms into pieces. In a pan on a low heat, cook artichokes in olive oil, add 1.5 litres of water, add bouquet garni, salt and pepper. Cook for 30 mins on low heat, without a lid; add cream and blend (filter if necessary).

The echaudés
Put into the food blender all the ingredients apart from the egg and the water. Mix well, then add the egg and 5cl of water so as to obtain a smooth pastry. Leave to rest for 30 minutes in a cool place. Roll out the pastry to 2-3mm
thickness and, using a cutter or a glass, cut out 8cm disks. Fold these into triangular shapes (as shown in photograph). Boil water and poach the shapes for 2-3 minutes (hence their name), drain them, place on a baking tray, place a half olive on each one, brush with egg yolk and cook 20 mins at 180C. Serve hot. Pour the sauce into warmed plates or verrines, and serve with the échaudés.

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