Pinch me! Eat dessert and learn French – tough life in Paris
We were seeking some French-flavoured dessert inspiration. And who better to learn from than a chef from the world-renowned Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris?
A few dozen of us crammed through the door, rushing to get the best seat possible. Chef Frank Poupard was going to show us how to prepare a raspberry dessert… as part of our French language course!
Cooking à la française
On the menu du jour was a verrine passion framboise, a raspberry and passionfruit dessert served in a glass. Leaning forward in their seats, the students whipped out their pens and notebooks.
Chef Poupard – wearing a six-foot-tall hat – tossed a handful of raspberries into a silver bowl.
He seized a fork from the table, held it up in the air and bent it in two. The students gasped.
“Mais c’est pas grave!” he said, grinning as he looked up at them. “A fork is the perfect tool to squish raspberries.”
The students took note.
He grabbed the head of the fork, and straightened it again with the tips of his fingers. “Exactement comme avant!” he said reassuringly. “However, I don’t suggest you do that with your grandmother’s silver. Trust me – I’ve made that mistake!”
Another pearl of culinary wisdom: the students took note.
“What do you cook at home?” he asked as he placed the fork back on the table. One student raised her hand. “J’achète chez Picard,” she said proudly. A burst of laughter filled the room – Picard is the go-to place for pre-prepared and frozen foods. Chez Picard, there is no cooking involved.
“Oh mon Dieu!” sighed Chef Poupard, smacking his hand to his forehead. “We would never be friends.”
Other students started blurting out their answers. Coq au vin! Boeuf Bourgignon! Gratin de courgettes! Chef Poupard smiled broadly and gave a single clap of his hands.
“Bravo! Now that is what I call French cuisine.”
He laced his fingers behind his back and lifted his arms, stretching in readiness for the demonstration. Then the magic began.
To make a verrine passion framboise, you need to make muscovado crumble, passionfruit cream and raspberry coulis. After he’d prepared the coulis, Chef Poupard heated it and poured it into a martini glass. He then whipped the passionfruit cream and added it to the coulis.
Students took note of the chef’s every move. They flipped their notebook pages furiously, making sure they didn’t leave out any important information.
The French finale!
At last it was time to taste the final result.
Since it takes the dessert a few minutes to chill, Chef Poupard had pre-prepared sample verrines for us to taste. Harmonised ouhs and ahhs filled the room as he emerged with a tray of the mini raspberry desserts and handed a small glass of his chef-d’œuvre to each of us.
I dipped my spoon down past the crumble, past the passionfruit cream, past the raspberry coulis until I’d scooped up all three layers together. The creamy sensation of the passionfruit cream was juxtaposed perfectly against the crunchiness of the crumble.
“Alors?” the Cordon Bleu chef asked.
C’est à se lécher les babines!
What is your favourite thing to cook at home?Image credits: All images © Briony Kemp Griffin. Proud Partner of Alliance française Paris Île-de-France (AFPIF)