Three ways to improve your French cooking

Many weighty tomes have been written on how to master the art of French cooking, the cuisine that has given us the very language of the professional kitchen.

But if you want to improve your standing in the culinary stakes in less time than it takes to complete an apprenticeship with a temperamental French chef, concentrate your efforts in these key areas:

Knife work

The French don’t just cut vegetables, they julienne carrot (matchstick shape), brunoise onion (small dice) and turn leafy green vegetables into a chiffonade (long thin strips). Knowing how to wield a knife ensures the vegetables are cooked evenly and the final plated dish looks refined. So get busy with a sharp chef’s knife and practice by slicing the 2 kilos of onions required for Gary’s French Onion Soup with Gruyere Toasts.


It takes time to make a rich, flavourful stock but it’s time that will pay dividends in taste. Stock made from meat, fish, chicken or vegetables forms the basis of French savoury cooking. Try Justin North’s Brown Veal Stock and use it to tackle Marco Pierre White’s Lamb Noisettes a la Forestiere with Madeira Sauce.


Precision is the secret to making perfect pastry. Whether it’s puff pastry for a sweet tart or shortcrust for a savoury pie, make sure you measure ingredients carefully, try not to overwork the dough and follow the recipe exactly. Test your ability to make choux pastry with Adriano Zumbo’s challenging Croquembouche. Enjoy it with a Kir Royale, a French cocktail made with champagne and crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur), because you will have earnt it!