Our guide to French cooking
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to French cooking

First published date January 17 2014 Amended date April 22 2015

There are few countries in the world which have such strong connotations with food as France. Indeed, it’s hard to think of France without thinking of delicious cheese, bread, and patisserie – to name but a few. Indeed, with French chefs like Raymond Blanc and Jean-Christophe Novelli regular faces on our television screens, and our recent love affair with Rachel Khoo, our affinity for French cuisine continues to be as strong as ever. A French cooking course can give you an overview of the history of French cookery and teach you recipes for some traditional dishes.


A brief history of French food

Today France is firmly established in its position at the forefront of cooking internationally, and you’d expect nothing less of the country that brought us the gastronomy bible – The Michelin Guide. It was in the 17th Century that French’s own distinct cookery style evolved, separate from foreign influences. Haute cuisine has its roots in the 17th Century France – a style of cooking characterised by meticulous preparation and careful presentation, which is sold at premium prices.

Georges Auguste Escoffier is credited as the main force in modernising haute cuisine, and is recognised as the central figure in the movement in the last 19th Century. He also split up the tasks in a kitchen so that rather than one chef preparing an entire meal, a team of chefs took positions at different stations in the kitchen:

1)      Garde manger - cold dishes

2)      Entremettier - starches and vegetables

3)      Rôtisseur - roasts, grilled and fried dishes

4)      Saucier - sauces and soups

5)      Pâtissier - pastry and desserts


Popular French dishes

French cooking courses tend to cover a range of popular French dishes – there are a lot to choose from, so it’s worth having a close look at the course description to find out what you’ll be learning. We take a look at some of France’s most famous food exports:

·         Bisque – a smooth, creamy soup made from crustaceans

·         Cassoulet – a rich, slow-cooked casserole made with meat, pork skin and white beans

·         Boeuf bourguignon – a stew containing with beef that is braised in red wine, flavoured with garlic, onions and mixed herbs

·         Coq au vin – a dish containing chicken braised with wine, lardons and mushrooms

·         Escargots – snails are purged, killed, removed from their shells, and cooked (usually with garlic butter, chicken stock or wine,) before being returned to their shells for serving

·         Quiche – open pastry crust, filled with savoury custard with cheese, meat, seafood, or vegetables

·         Soufflé – lightly baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients, to be served either as a dessert (such as chocolate soufflé) or a savoury dish (such as cheese soufflé)

·         Ratatouille – stewed vegetables

·         Tarte tatin – an upside down fruit tart, the fruit is normally caramelised in butter and sugar.

·         Crème brulee  ­- custard base topped with a layer of hard caramel

Of course, French food is famously best accompanied by French wine. Drinks that are served before a meal are called aperitifs (drinks like Kir, Pastis, or a simple glass of wine are served before a meal) and drinks to finish a meal are called digestifs (Cognac and Armagnac are traditional examples.)

And, who could forget the cheese? No overview of French cuisine would be complete without a mention of cheese...


10 of the best French cheeses

·         Camembert

·         Brie de Meaux

·         Roquefort

·         Boursin

·         Reblochon

·         Munster

·         Pont l'Évêque

·         Époisses

·         Chèvre

·         Tomme de Savoie


Did you know? Many of the most popular French cheeses are protected by the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée – which means that they must be made in a particular region of France.


After a French cookery course

A French cookery course will introduce you to French cuisine and give you recipes that you can take away and make again in the comfort of your own home. Some courses will give you an overview of French etiquette and tips for hosting a traditional French-style dinner party. If you enjoy learning about European cuisine, you might want to look into a course in Italian cooking to expand your culinary knowledge. Or, if you want to delve deeper into French cuisine, you could take a course specialising in wine tasting or patisserie.

If you enjoy studying cookery, and are interested in turning your hobby into a career, read more information about chef careers.


By Fiona Hughes