RECIPES: three classic French dishes get an exotic twist

Caramelised onion soup, baked Mont d’Or cheese and Baba au Cognac - recipes inspired by the travels of two Paris chefs

Onion soup and a baba made differently with surprising ingredients

An inspirational new cookbook from a pioneering duo in Paris reveals the power of travel and sideways culinary thinking

Shirley Garrier and Mathieu Zouhairi are the founders of The Social Food, a creative studio specialising in food design, styling, and photography.

Known for their immensely popular Instagram account, where they share recipes and explore the world of cooking, they work in collaboration with the most acclaimed chefs and restaurants in Paris.

With their unique approach to tweaking and improving French classics by adding a soupçon of exoticism or creative flair thanks to ingredients and recipes discovered on their wide-reaching travels, they are viewed by some as the most exciting duo in the Parisian culinary scene.

Their new book The Social Food: Home Cooking Inspired By The Flavors Of The World will appeal to discerning epicureans, and is the must-have guide for anyone looking to master their unique take on shopping for, preparing –and most importantly – enjoying tasty food. Inspired by their love for travel, their contemporary approach to cooking is enhanced by ingredients and techniques brought back from their numerous adventures.

Blending French, Japanese, Vietnamese, Italian, and Spanish culinary traditions, each recipe packs complex flavours while requiring minimal effort using simple, everyday ingredients that anyone can source.

With sandwiches, rice, soups, fish, desserts, pasta, cocktails, and more, the dynamic plates radiate freshness and vibrancy.

In these three recipes from the book, spot the unique twist they give some French classics: nuoc mam (fish sauce) to add a special flavour to caramelised onion soup, a heart-warming whiskey and melted cheese combination – perfect for winter; and a Baba made with Cognac instead of the usual rum.

Caramelized Onion Soup

Preparation: 10 min, cooking: 40 min

Serves 4

Photo: The Social Food: Home Cooking Inspired By The Flavors Of The World


4 yellow onions

2.5 teaspoons sugar

4.25 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon nuoc mam

1 teaspoon white pepper

3.5oz grated Emmental cheese

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

12 slices baguette

4 sprigs thyme


1. Thinly slice the onions.

2. In a pot, dissolve the sugar in 1 tablespoon cold water over low heat.

3. As soon as it begins to foam, add the onions. Stir to combine, and cook over low heat for 4 minutes.

4. Add the chicken broth, the nuoc mam, and the white pepper. Continue cooking over low heat for 30 minutes, until the liquid cooks down.

5. In a bowl, combine the grated Emmental cheese with the crème fraîche. Spread the mixture over the bread slices.

6. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F (180C) for 5 minutes. Serve the soup in bowls topped with the cheesy bread slices and the thyme.

Mont d’Or with Black Garlic and Whisky

Preparation 10 min, cooking 20 min

Serves 2

Photo: The Social Food: Home Cooking Inspired By The Flavors Of The World


5 cloves black garlic

1 Mont d’Or cheese

1 tablespoon whisky


1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

2. In a mortar, crush the black garlic into a paste.

3. Place the Mont d’Or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.Cut an X into the crust of the cheese, and push the black garlic paste inside.

4. Drizzle with the whisky and bake for 20 minutes.

Baba au Cognac

For 4 small baba moulds or one large one

Preparation 20 min, cooking 40 to 50 min, rest 1 hour 15 min

Photo: The Social Food: Home Cooking Inspired By The Flavors Of The World


For the dough

3½ teaspoons active dry yeast

1½ teaspoons milk

4¼ tablespoons butter

1⅔ cups flour

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

2 extra-large eggs

For the whipped cream

1 vanilla bean pod

1¼ cups double cream

1 tablespoon icing sugar

1 cup sugar

½ cup Cognac

Zest from one lemon (optional)


Make the dough

1. Dissolve the yeast in warmed milk. Remove the butter from the fridge so that it is at room temperature.

2. Knead the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast together in a mixer. Incorporate the eggs, and knead until the dough comes away from the sides of the mixer. Next, incorporate the softened butter a third at a time, kneading until the dough is elastic.

3. Cover with a towel and allow to proof for 45 minutes at room temperature.

4. Butter the mould or moulds and transfer the dough into them, filling about two- thirds of the way. Set aside to proof once more for 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) for 10 minutes.

6. Bake 20 minutes for individual moulds or 30 minutes for a large one.

Make the whipped cream

7. Split the vanilla bean pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the edge of a knife. Whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy.

Make the cognac syrup

8. In a saucepan, heat 2 ¼ cups water and sugar over low heat.

9. Remove from the heat and add cognac and the citrus zest, if using. Set aside to cool.

10. Remove the baba (or babas) from the mould, place on a rack, and soak in the syrup until spongy. Place them on a dish and cover with whipped cream.

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