Paysanne opened its doors in 1988 to what has since been described as 'a roar of apathy'. Bob & Barbara Ross had spent the previous four years running a pub in the heart of North Wales and having tired of sending out frozen lemon meringue pies and chicken in a basket (this was the 1980s!) they wanted to up their game and put into practice all the marvellous creations Barbara had been reading about in Elizabeth David books since the '60s.
This book tells the epic story of Paysanne's three-decade stint through a scrapbook/family album of images, newspaper clippings and mementos; through tales of evenings going spectacularly wrong and of heroically-snatched victories. It showcases the classic recipes that have been stalwarts for all these years, and also the latest staples that Bob & Barbara have picked up in the Languedoc since moving out there in 2003.
Classics like Cassoulet and our wonderful Bouillabaisse-style fish soup with rouille and grated Gruyere cheese are mixed in with new dishes like escargots served in a dish made of toasted baguette soaked in garlic butter. Slightly tricky experiments like baked apples stuffed with black pudding are undercut by childishly simple fare like potted shrimps in nutmeg butter.
All of Barbara's tried and tested recipes are accompanied by Bob's witty commentary, as though delivered over her shoulder as she cooks - very off putting!
In these tall tales, there is a warm humour that is often absent in modern cook books that often seem to forget that cooking is supposed to be a pleasure and not an exam in which only perfection will be tolerated. The recipes have been written with simplicity in mind, encouraging the reader not to panic and to enjoy the process, not fear it.