Sometimes, all it needs is takeaway pizza, a few bottles of red wine and some good friends to create a memorable meal. But if you're keen to impress, why not host a dinner with French flair? The wide array of food and drink pairings can be high-end or rustic, making a Gallic theme easy and delicious. And if the closest you've been to France is a spin in an old Peugeot, fear not – here are some basic guidelines that will transform you into a sophisticated bon vivant.
Firstly, forget the clichés – make your feast a beret-free zone and keep the baguettes to a minimum. Instead, aim for clean lines and an emphasis on several well-executed dishes matched with a few well-chosen wines. A high-end approach might involve a simple white linen tablecloth, fresh flowers, lots of candles and five or more courses. A rustic dinner has a more relaxed table setting, with a starter and main followed by cheese and fruit or dessert.
Fresh, good-quality ingredients are the key, from seasonal produce to the salted butter and eggs. Haute cuisine can be time consuming – for example, many French dishes start with a stock that's best made from scratch for complex flavours. Start with an appetiser of asparagus with hollandaise sauce, followed by a soup (perhaps watercress or shellfish). Then it's onto a main of venison with green pepper sauce, roast pigeon with figs or beef tenderloin served with a port and truffle sauce. Cheeses, dessert and coffee follow a simple green salad.
For a farmhouse approach, start with a classic onion soup or cheese soufflé, followed by cured salmon or veal escalopes. Finish with a cheese plate featuring a trio of cow's, sheep's and goat's milk cheeses.
Welcome guests with a cheery Champagne (be warned: only sparkling from the Champagne region can take this name) or offer a pink-hued Kir Royale (crème de cassis and sparkling wine). Wine is an essential part of any French meal but it doesn't have to be a budget-breaker. Just be sure to choose quality wines that complement your courses. A medium-bodied chardonnay or smooth pinot noir works well with lighter starters and soups. Then move onto full-bodied red Bordeaux or cabernet sauvignon to accompany richer meat-based dishes. For cheeses and dessert, a sauternes or port nicely rounds off the meal.
The French joie de vivre – joy of living – is more about having fun and savouring the food and company than sweating for days over pots in the kitchen. So have a glass of wine or two and enjoy!
Still not sure where to start? Why not try one of these classic French recipes from the Dan Murphy's Buyer's Guide.
Content provided by Dan Murphy’s.