Best French cookbooks for making classic dishes at home

·7-min read
 (Evening Standard)
(Evening Standard)

France is a culturally and gastronomically-rich country. For centuries, the food from the Hexagon has long been the star of the show with so much variety.

Generally inspired by local produce, you’ll find an abundance of patisseries from Paris, mouth-watering crêpes from Brittany served all year round (not just on Shrove Tuesday), and an endless stream of seafood dishes from the coast - moules mariniére is after all one of the most revered dishes.

Recreate this much loved cuisine from the comfort of your own kitchen with the abundance of French cookbooks that will teach you all the techniques, provide tricks from the best chefs and offer endlessly inspiration that will tickle your taste buds.

Whilst dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon and Steak Au Poivre play a big (and arguably the most delicious) part of the cuisine, there’s a lot more to it than that. Alongside these fan-favourites come lighter and healthier recipes that make for a perfect midweek meal or alfresco dinner with a glass of the finest French wine.

Whether it’s your first time cooking French food or you’re a budding chef dreaming of your own Michelin-starred restaurant, these top recommended cookbooks will help you on your journey of food discovery. Learn everything from mastering complicated sauces, perfecting precarious souffles and refining those mouth-watering steaks.

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French Laundry, Per Se, The

Ready to take your culinary skills to the next level? Learn from Thomas Keller, one of the best in the industry who has produced a cookbook with over 100 recipes that are as delicious as they are beautiful.

This is fine dining at its best, so be prepared to dedicate some serious time in the kitchen (and the supermarket as you shop around for the lengthy list of ingredients). The recipes require skill and precision, but it’s 100 per cent worth it when you’re able to present some of the most creative and visually-pleasing dishes out there to your friends and family.

We recommend trying out the Butter-Poached Lobster and the Champignon De Bois (mushroom croquettes with watercress puree) that make perfect canapes. Alongside these dishes come some of the all important basics of French cooking - learn how to make Parmesan Mousse, Tomato Water and various stocks.

Buy now £37.49, Amazon

The Modern Cheeseboard

For your next dinner party, ditch the stale crisps and budget dips and enter the Modern Cheeseboard, a cookbook that will make you the host(ess) with the mostess.

There are 40 cheeseboard ideas perfect for every occasion from cosy nights in to the perfect summer picnic. The layout of the boards are stunning and there’s plenty of room for creativity as you learn how to pair your cheese. Who knew salami and gouda were such a great combination?

Our fave? The Birthday Board, which alongside an array of seasonal berries, bacon jam and honeycomb comes the centrepiece - a five tier cheese wheel birthday cake made from brie, camembert, goat’s brie and Brillat-Savarin.

Sweet dreams really are made of cheese.

Buy now £13.59, Amazon

The French Revolution

Revered French chef and owner of the two-Michelin star restaurant Le Gavroche in London, Michael Roux Jr brings us a cookbook featuring 140 recipes that provides a modern approach to authentic cooking.

Classic recipes have been adapted to be lighter and more health conscious - the heavy and rich cream and meat dishes are replaced with simple alternatives that are lower in calories, but equally as delicious.

Some of our favourite include the Delicate Pea Tart made with light filo-like pastry and the Poulet Basqaise that’s a simple hearty chicken stew, which is ideal for a weeknight dinner. The Hollandaise Sauce is another must try - it’s so delicious you’d have no idea it was made without the heaps of butter.

Buy now £19.00, Amazon

French Countryside Cooking

This cookbook is all about fresh food found everywhere from forests and fields, to sea and rivers. These simple and humble ingredients are expertly put together by multiple Michelin-starred chef Daniel Galmiche to create truly inspirational dishes.

Sustainability and seasonality is key for Galmiche, hence why recipes are organised by the origin of the main ingredient. For example, dandelions from the meadow are used in a Wild Thyme and Lemon Cake, whilst scallops form the basis of a wonderful Souffle with Mushroom and Tarragon Cream.

These recipes may sound complicated, but ingredient lists are relatively short and techniques are well explained so all abilities can get involved.

Buy now £17.34, Amazon

Modern French Pastry

Of course, France has many great things, but few as good as its pastries. There’s nothing quite like browsing a patisserie shop and then tucking into a freshly made tart, macaron or choux bun. Now you can learn to make these mouth-watering desserts at home thanks to this cookbook that provides endless techniques, designs and tools.

The range of recipes means it’s suitable for novice and expert bakers alike. If you’re just starting out, try the Pear Rosemary Tart or Pistachio Picnic Cake. Alternatively, stretch your skills by giving the special Amélie recipe a go - it brings together crême brulée, glazed chocolate mousse, caramelised hazelnuts, praline crisp and orange liqueur génoise to create an explosion of flavour.

The 80 photographs in the book are just as exquisite as the pastries themselves and will leave your stomach rumbling.

Buy now £18.99, Amazon

Provence: Recipes from the French Mediterranean

The next best thing to being on holiday in Provence is to read this glorious homage to the region. The beautiful photography of the area is complimented by seasonal and local recipes that are bursting with flavour. For dishes so flavoursome, it’s a miracle that they’re so simple and require very few ingredients.

Split by seasons, these recipes delight all the senses - there’s Salade de Pois Chiches (chickpea salad) for a light alfresco meal, Garlic Roast Chicken for a twist on Sunday lunch and the Gateaux de Cerises (cherry tart) makes for a refreshing dessert in the summer months.

Buy now £13.38, Amazon

Let's Eat France!

This is not an ordinary cookbook - it is a Francophile’s encyclopaedia. From the first page, there are fun and creative infographics, pictures and snippets of information on all things France. To go alongside, there are 375 recipes on how you can recreate the country’s most loved dishes.

There are 1250 ingredients profiled and we loved the dedicated pages on gherkins, onions and garlic that teach you everything there is to know about varieties, how to use it and top culinary tips.

Once you’ve torn yourself away from the fabulous illustrations and great fun facts, try out one of the many Croque-Monsieur twist recipes and the potato Gratin for a versatile and scrumptious side dish.

Buy now £21.90, Amazon

The Last Bite: A Whole New Approach to Making Desserts Through the Year

What award-winning pastry Chef Anna Higham doesn’t know about baking is not worth knowing. This revolutionary dessert cookbook covers everything from skills and seasonings, to techniques and tasting.

With over 150 recipes set alongside beautiful illustrations and photographs, this cookbook will soon become your baking bible as you learn more about the food you cook with and how to construct your own desserts - all with healthiness and balance at its core.

Split seasonally, there are berry recipes in summer, apples and pears in autumn, citrus fruits in winter and nuts and grains in spring. Absolute must-makes include the Sage Meringues, Burnt Butter Cakes and Blackcurrant Leaf Oil. Prepare for your culinary skills to be taken up a notch, or five, with this cookbook.

Buy now £16.76, Amazon