I have been cooking quite a bit lately from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen and am loving everything I have tried so far. This is a bit of a revelation for me considering that I am quite familiar with French food, having grown up eating this cuisine as a child and now married to a French husband. Sure, I have always enjoyed eating French food but, for so long, everything I had eaten had been prepared in faithful reproduction of the classic, such that a coq au vin in one bistro was very likely to taste the same at another. As much as I love French food, my feeling was that it was a bit monotonous at times.
Rachel Khoo brings a lovely, fresh twist to French cooking which has struck a note with me. Quite often, the Vietnamese like to take French classics and give them a fragrant tweak, often involving punchy spices like star anise and gutsy herbs like lemongrass and coriander, but Rachel Khoo’s influence comes from her British upbringing and her Austrian-Malay-Chinese background, a combination which is sure to turn heads in the kitchen.
Her recipe for Meatballs in Spicy Sauce with Alsatian Pasta caught my eye because, after having made a huge serving of pot-au-feu, I had some leftover broth which I didn’t want to go to waste. Due to our teeny tiny freezer, I don’t often make stock to freeze for later use, and the broth from the pot-au-feu was essentially a very flavourful beef stock that would have been a shame to throw away.
The sauce for this recipe uses the bold flavours of red wine, its aroma upon cooking very reminiscent of a coq au vin. There are quite a few vegetables and herbs added to the sauce to add body and flavour, but you will notice from the photos that none of the vegetables actually make it to the plate; they are merely used to infuse flavour and then discarded once their job is done. Perhaps a bit of a waste but quite a few French sauces are made using this technique. You could certainly leave the vegetables in the sauce (but remove the herbs) for a more textured and filling dish.
Rachel Khoo calls the sauce “spicy” but I think it is more piquant than anything else, owing to the addition of chopped cornichons and capers at the end which add a nice sour and salty note.
The red wine sauce and meatballs are served over a bed of pasta which you wouldn’t normally associate with French food, but the Alsace region is renowned for its egg pasta. The recipe calls for Alsatian pasta but I couldn’t find any in the supermarkets or food halls, despite our close proximity to the region. So I used a curly pasta instead but I think you could choose any pasta to your liking.
Despite the simplicity of the final dish, the recipe does involve quite a few pots and pans and activity in the kitchen, but the end result was definitely worth it. It was nice to have pasta with something other than a tomato sauce, and the red wine sauce enriched with pot-au-feu broth gave the dish a distinct French touch. Another successful recipe from Rachel Khoo.