The gastronomy of France is quite simply superb. Its outstanding fish and seafood, excellent wines and liqueurs, extraordinary cheeses, unique range of charcuteries, delicious bread, cakes and pâtisseries are a constant delight for the French people.
Every year in spring, I spend two months travelling in my beloved native land, where I began as a chef more than 40 years ago. During these visits, I produce and present Taste Le Tour, a series of gourmet segments for television, featuring the top specialities of the regions traversed by the amazing Tour de France bicycle race.
Each year the route of the race, which covers about 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles) through more than a dozen regions, varies, but it always finishes in Paris. My cookbook is a collection of the recipes prepared for the show over the past four years. It includes dishes from all the main regions of France, such as the popular Auge Valley Chicken Casserole from Normandy and colourful Ratatouille from Nice with Lemon Chantilly.
BAKED TROUT WITH HERBS AND BACON (TRUITE ROTIE AUX HERBS ET LARDONS
From the Midi-Pyrénées Region. The streams of the Pyrénées teem with trout that can be seen swimming in the water from the river bank. I’ve adapted this classic baked trout recipe by adding small apple cubes and walnuts. It’s superb.
1 Preheat the oven to 140C/Gas Mark 1. Pat the trout dry with a paper towel and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
2 In a bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with the chopped thyme and a little salt and pepper. Brush the inside and outside of the trout with this flavoured oil.
3 Insert the bay leaves, whole garlic cloves and lemon slices inside the fish. Place the fish in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until cooked, basting occasionally to keep the fish moist.
4 Meanwhile, mix together in a bowl the remaining oil, diced apple, chopped walnuts, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
5 Just before the trout is ready, cook the bacon for a few minutes in a small frying pan. Carefully transfer the trout to a serving platter. Spoon a little of the apple and walnut preparation on top, sprinkle with bacon pieces and chives and serve.
• A Cook’s Tour of France, by Gabriel Gaté (Hardie Grant Books, £20)