The other day while sorting through my not inconsiderable collection of recipe books, I rediscovered an old but treasured book on baking. Even though I’ve never baked a single recipe from within it’s pages, this book, more than any other holds great significance for me. The book entitled ‘Patisserie’ and written by Michel and Albert Roux is a keep sake, that marks the day that I found my love of baking.
The year was 1997 and the location the elegant Grand Hotel, in the heart of Amsterdam. I was attending a workshop on the British afternoon tea, given by my hero, the great Albert Roux. Yes, a Frenchman, in Holland, teaching me the secrets of baking scones, Selkirk bannock, gingerbread and pikelets.
What you may not realise, is that this Michelin star chef, started his career as a commis de cuisine in the kitchens of Lady Astor’s country house at Cliveden in Berkshire. In his time he served up many a grand afternoon tea to the likes of Noël Coward and Douglas Fairbanks Junior.
He also introduced British cuisine to the discerning French public, when in 1994, he opened Bertie’s restaurant in Paris. Bertie’s, named in honour of Edward VII served only British dishes. On the menu flan brioche aux fruits confits, better known in it’s land of origin as bread and butter pudding.
To my mind, Albert and his brother Michel where two of the driving forces behind the British food revolution. They helped transform the country’s approach to food, and breathed new life into our traditional dishes.
On that cold day in February, Albert Roux opened my eyes to the delights of baking or as he puts it “An affair of the heart”. And for that I am ever grateful.