Friday 19 January 2007

Bruno Loubet - An Unsung Hero.....

When I first began to cook, my references were Julia Child ('Mastering the Art...') and subsequently Marcella Hazan ('Classic Italian Cooking'). I would still recommend these today to anybody who wants a basic grounding in techniques, and who would benefit from exposure to as broad a range as possible of established dishes in these two rich food traditions. Thereafter, I start to flounder. Pomiane, of course remains a classic with a well-earned place on the shelf - but I have difficulties with a lot of the newer arrivals. Raymond Blanc has much merit, and the occasional gem has fallen from the pages of Marco Pierre White - but from what I've seen of people like Ramsay and Rhodes and Oliver, there's nothing new or interesting in most of what they write, and for the most part it's just the same old tried-and-trusteds re-packaged and photographed ever more theatrically for optimal coffee table presentation.

For me, however, the most Unsung Hero of cooking in modern times is Bruno Loubet. Over the past twenty years he seems intermittently to have flirted with the idea of celebrity chefdom, before disappearing once more into obscurity. I remember eating both at Odeon and, much later, at Isola, when he was cooking at both places, and the food was sublime; possibly also I tasted his cooking when he was at The Four Seasons or even when he started out, at Le Manoir, but I didn't know of him at the time. Having disappeared from view once more, I see he has now re-surfaced in Brisbane.....which is good news for Oz, but, sadly, I doubt I'll be trecking down-under merely for dinner!

Loubet has an ability to think up new and unexpected combinations of flavours and textures which is unerringly successful, and the results are just simply wonderful. If I had to name the single recipe book from which more recipes have entered my repertoire over the years than any other, then it would have to be Loubet's 'Cuisine Courante'. My battered and stained copy has pride of place on the shelf, and never actually stays there for long. I can't recommend it highly enough. His second book, when he was at L'Odeon, also has many good things in it, but somehow lacks the edge and sparkling originality of Cuisine Courante - still worth having, but the earlier work slightly pips it at the post.

Today's Menu:

Asparagus with Hollandaise.

Beef skirt, marinated in Soy, Honey, Garlic, and Coriander, flash-fried, and served with a puree of Broccoli and Parmesan.

Iced White Chocolate and Gingerbread Parfait. A conversation-stopper from Bruno Loubet; relatively complicated, and you need to plan in advance how many mixing bowls you need at various stages in the process- but, my God, this one is worth the effort! For the full recipe, see below.

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