Elizabeth David

Sunday, 6 March 2011


I have owned Elizabeth David's books for most of my cooking life but it is only very recently that I have begun to cook from them. For a long time they intimidated me. I had read that David's books were wonderful to read but impossible, or at least hard to cook from. Perhaps that is true of some of her early recipes but I am finding the ones I have tried to be clear, concise and delicious. They are wonderfully free from pretension, unnecessary ingredients, modern fads, and, thank God, metric measurements. They also produce very modest quantities, so despite some rich ingredients there is little excess about Elizabeth David.

These are some of the recipes I have made recently.

Chocolate and almond cake -dense, moist and luscious (and gluten-free)
Hollandaise sauce -exquisite and easy to make
Chicken liver paté - I've been making this one for years. Simplicity itself.
Tarte au Fromage - made last week for supper, so good next time I will make two.
Piedmontese peppers - peppers roasted with olive oil, anchovy fillets and garlic
Pommes Dauphinoise - creamy lusciousness
Chocolate mousse - see below


Two ingredients are required.
 One egg per person and one ounce of chocolate per person.
Can you remember all that?


One of my favourite kitchen tasks is separating eggs. I don't faff about with gadgets or even egg shells. I just crack the egg into my hand and let the white slip away between my fingers. I do this over a different bowl from the one I am collecting the whites in just in case a yolk splits. This did happen today so I have a little dish with a cracked egg in the fridge waiting for someone's breakfast tomorrow. You don't want any yolk in your whites because they won't whip. A little white in the yolks though doesn't matter.


The chocolate must be melted slowly and gently in a thick bottomed pan with a tablespoon of water (or coffee or rum). It is then stirred into the beaten egg yolks.


The whites must be whipped until very stiff. Watching the transparent egg white transform into a billowing cloud is another task I greatly enjoy.


Finally fold the whites gently but thoroughly into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into a bowl or individual glasses or ramekins.


Simple and elegant.

I might make a little project of Elizabeth David's recipes. Nothing like the Julie-Julia project, only recipes I like the sound of and with none of the self-indulgent whining (I didn't warm to Julie Powell). So, there may be more simple and elegant dishes making an appearance on The Quince Tree.

Interesting links

16 comments:

  1. For a long time I didn't know there was any other way to make chocolate mousse - that was always the recipe my Mother used and I got it from her (she is a huge fan of ED). I like ED's quiche Lorraine recipe and the petit pains au chocolat from the bread book play a big part in my childhood memories. Now I make them for my children, although a few always seem to make themselves my way I must admit.

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  2. God that chocolate mousse looks good. I am, however, full of last nights left-over sticky toffee pud and the thought of more rich pudding makes me feel slightly sick.
    In a couple of days the feeling will have gone...
    I agree with ED recipes. I have a couple of books which have scared me and never used but maybe I will be brave and give her a go.
    Have a good week, Ax

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  3. Oddly enough these were the first books I cooked from and it is time I returned to them. Always a treat to see what you put up here.

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  4. Anonymous9:20 pm GMT

    I've always made choclate mousse that way and I always seperate eggs that way. ME

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  5. Anonymous9:29 pm GMT

    Thinking back,I remember now Iwas givena Elizabeth David book soon after I got married.I wonder what happened to it. ME

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  6. Wonderful, aren't they? I've been having a little love affair with Elizabeth David (or at least her books!) over the last year or so.

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  7. Hi Sue
    I also break eggs that way - love the feel of the white slipping through my fingers. I was wondering if you have posted the recipe of the gluten-free chocolate and almond cake ...it sounds yum, and one I would like to make.
    Dee

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  8. My cookbook shelf is lacking an ED book - if you could recommend just one - which would it be??

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  9. Pati from London10:27 am GMT

    Hello Sue,
    Perhaps because I am a foreigner in your land, I have never heard of ED but your recipe sounds really easy and yummy... Yep, which of her books would you recommend? I will have to wait until the baby is born to cook raw eggs, though! but will be on my to do/to eat list for when baby 3 comes along. The sun is shinning in London.... perhaps, something is finally coming??? x Pati

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  10. What a simple recipe! That looks delicious and could be trotted out time and time again no matter the occasion - what's not to like about chocolate mousse? Okay except if you're pregnant, can't or won't eat raw eggs, understandable... I would love to have the ED provincial cooking. And totally agree with you about Julie from Julie and Julia, but LOVE the idea of a ED project along similar lines. Looking forward to seeing more! Thanks Sue.

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  11. I use the same technique to separate eggs, so easy isn't it!
    And mousse, I remember making some pretty much exactly like that about 4 years ago, ended up making layers of dark, milk and white chocolate mousse - it was divine!! A total treat!

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  12. A simple chocolate mousse is the most elegant dessert I sometimes add coffee or brandy. My daughter made it recently with amaretto that was gorgeous.
    I don't own any ED books will have to hunt down.
    Jo x

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  13. Yum!
    I join you in your admiration of Elizabeth David - I could read an omelette and a glass of wine until the cow come home!!

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  14. Elizabeth David books are great books and like most people I make the chocolate moose.
    I thought that was the only way to separate eggs. Well unless I was in my domestic science lessons at school 1967 to 72 then that was a different story! (too long to go into here - lets just say I didn't see eye-to-eye with the teacher)!
    Julie xxxxxx

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  15. I read your posts and imagine sitting at your table to eat a meal. I have seriously lost my way where food is concerned. I have a daughter who won't eat anything other than curry and sausages, a husband who only likes meat and veg full stop. Have lost the inclination and don't know where to start again or even if I can be bothered. Meal times are like a war zone in our house, sometimes with 3 different meals being eaten. My own fault, but anything for an easy life sometimes. Oh to be normal...Dev x

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  16. Anonymous8:03 am GMT

    Your mousse looks so light and airy. I always feel I can cook most things apart from chocolate mousse. Mine come out a bit dense and more like chocolate pots. i'm not quite sure where I'm going wrong. Any advice would be welcome.
    So enjoying your blog. I am now living in the South of France and it's good to hear about life in Blighty>

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