French Cooking – and I Can’t Speak French – oo la la!

For Christmas my French sister-in-law gave me a recipe book.

So what, you might ask. Well, its in French. Now I haven’t gone near that language since I was 13. My mother, at the time, said:

‘Sure son, you can take Art at ‘O’ Level (the school exam you took at 16 in the 80’s)…so long as you do French too’.

‘But Mum I don’t get French, I can’t (won’t) do it!’

‘Well fine, you have to do Chemistry instead’.

So I took Chemistry (which turned out to be a bloody useless qualification) and never learnt French.

So there I was this weekend with a cookbook that I couldn’t read and a big piece of lamb. Enter the ‘Adventurous Eater’ – an 11 year old with superior Googling skills. I got him to intepret a recipe for lamb. I knew it was lamb because of the picture in the book. Anyway down to business. To create Moroccan Lamb (well its spicy and fruity anyway) you’ll need a bunch of spices and dried fruits and some lamb:


  • D’epaule d’agneau – lamb
  • Oignons – onions
  • Gousses d’ail – garlic cloves
  • Gingembre – ginger
  • Poivre de Cayenne – cayenne pepper
  • Cannelle – cinnamon
  • Paprika – paprika
  • Poivre noir – black pepper
  • Curcuma – turmeric
  • Safran – saffron
  • d’amandes entieres – flaked almonds
  • d’abricots secs moelleux – dried apricots
  • You’ll also need some tomatoes and some lamb stock


First you need to get the spices on a plate and get a picture like this:

Then you combine them with a bit of oil and spread 3/4 of the mix all over your piece of lamb (I think mine was half a leg but I can’t remember) and set aside for a while:

Then you fry the garlic and onion in the remaining spice mix:

Remove the onions from the pan and set aside. Put some more oil in the pan and sear the lamb all over:

Remove the meat from the pan and put the stock, tomatoes and saffron in it. Boil down for a bit then put the onions and fruits in. Add the meat and some fresh tomato and the almonds:

Cover and put in the oven for a couple of hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone:

If you are a decadent glutton you might want to stick your finger in there and try the marrow. Not that I would – I would never do that. Now serve up. I tried this out with butter bean mash, sour cream and some chopped up coriander (or whatever you want to call that herb):

Now this picture doesn’t really tell the whole story – we need to get an ‘inside shot’, no?

Very juicy. Problem was it was so late by the time it was done no one else was around to eat it. So I made Cottage Pie the next day. And no one ate that either because I put peas in it.

21 thoughts on “French Cooking – and I Can’t Speak French – oo la la!

  1. Wow! I wouldn’t have jumped out of bed to sample that one!! It looks like an outstanding recipe book! Good for you to figure out and translate it all! I use Google Translate for stuff like that.. but this is a lot of work!! I’d be buying your sister-in-law a spanish novel 😉

  2. Looks pretty tasty. You have a habit of cooking your food in the early hours of the morning. Perhaps you should move to Australia. It would be the early evening there.

    I could suck on the bone to get the marrow out and then use it like a straw to suck the stew bit dry!

    • Creative use of bone. BTW re bunny rabbits; I always remember my sisters loved their rabbits until a fox carefully removed the head of one of them and made off with it. (Rabbit not sister). They went off the furry little things after that.

  3. Language barrier aside, it looks like you still managed! Lamb looks amazing! It does look amazingly tender and juicy.

    And I love the fancy shot of all the spices measured out onto the white plate. Very Michelin of you!

  4. Ooo la la… now.. that looks lovely!!
    I actually think you did a terrific job translating the recipe. Maybe you might even mistranslated the recipe for the better 😉 as it looks scrumptious!

    But I totally understand, I tend to buy a lot cooks books when I a way travelling ( especially regional ones). It’s a hassle trying to translate them, but I really do enjoy preparing them.

    I really do enjoy your blogs! Put’s a smile on my face on a stressful day at work.

    Eagerly awaiting for your next blog!

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