In Claude Monet's Kitchen

A great artist and his culinary passion

From the column "And a Spoonful of Love"...

I am launching my new gourmet column in Elysium with this first-story recipe. The name "And a Spoonful of Love" is no coincidence. I have chosen this charming phrase as the title for my next book.

Starting as a hobby, today cooking is something much more special for me. When I read, cook, and experiment in the kitchen, I not only feel pleasure and relaxation – it is a passion that I strive to develop almost to a professional level. I attend courses, follow experts, and often talk to chefs. I enhance this exciting world of mine by collecting interesting culinary books from around the world, especially those related to the kitchens of historical figures. I deeply believe that cooking is a true art – one of the most beautiful, and the only one that combines all human senses – sight, hearing (doesn't your appetite increase when you hear the clinking of dishes and glasses?), scent, savour, and sensation. Very often, for me, the emotion is more in the preparation and serving than in the actual consumption. I love watching others enjoy the food, and it brings me a special sense of shared human joy and intimacy. After my first book with filled with fascinating stories about the people of Loire Valley, which I wrote and then published in France, I am now slowly making the start of this new one. This time it will feature not only recipes but also many stories. You can find recipes almost anywhere, but it is the stories that, together with a particular dish or aroma, will take you to a different, often new or little-known world.

Part of my invaluable literary and culinary collection

And finally – why "And a Spoonful of Love"? Because no matter what ingredients are in a dish, no matter what the recipe is, in the end, you just need to add a little love…

Welcome to my culinary world.

In 2024, we celebrate 150 years since the birth of Impressionism, and throughout France, this anniversary is marked with numerous events and exhibitions. Therefore, this year, if you are visiting France, don't miss the magnificent exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, “Paris 1874 Inventer l'impressionnisme” (literally, “Paris 1874 Creating Impressionism”). And if you have a bit more time, just an hour from the French capital, in the town of Giverny, you can visit Monet's house and its unique gardens that inspired the artist. Claude Monet is considered the father of Impressionism because his painting “Impression, Sunrise,” painted in 1872, gave rise to this most delicate movement in visual art.

Here, however, we will not talk about the paintings, but about Monsieur Monet's kitchen!

Coincidentally or not, with the arrival of spring, the French artist somehow firmly entered my life. First, I came across the French book “Les carnets de cuisine de Monet” (literally "Monet's Cooking Notebooks"). How interesting! I didn't know that Claude Monet expressed his artistry not only in front of the canvas but also in front of the stove! His blue kitchen and yellow dining room are iconic and the most photographed places in his entire house, but I had never heard that he himself was a cook.

There is no need for me to create a description of Monet's culinary creativity. I have translated parts of the preface of the book, which are sufficiently eloquent and appetising. The preface is written by one of the great chefs of France, Chef Joël Robuchon:

"In 1980, when I was the head chef at the Hotel Nikko, I visited Claude Monet's house in Giverny. This memory left a deep and lasting impression on me. The harmoniously blooming garden created a natural symphony, and the decoration and skillful layout of the artist's beautiful house provided a true emotional experience. Inside, I was struck by the large dining room painted in chrome yellow, which in itself indicated that this was a grand house. I am a great admirer not only of culinary art but also of various utensils, so the huge kitchen with its simple decoration of blue ceramic tiles made me imagine all the delicious things that had been lovingly prepared there. I worked with great pleasure to adapt Monet's recipes; I conscientiously ensured that their realisation is no longer a difficulty... To better understand the artist and discover his personality through his generous kitchen, I read extensively, and this allowed me to meet up close to a giant, a kind man, who had overcome all the vicissitudes of life. His friends and biographers say that he had solid skills with a fork and knife while being quite particular about food. For his many guests - Clemenceau, Renoir, Pissarro, Durand-Ruel - and of course, his family, he himself carved the game roasted meat, and the poultry right at the table. He chose only foie gras from Alsace and truffles from Périgord. He loved fish, especially pike from his ponds. He maintained a meticulously tended vegetable garden with fine herbs, aromatic plants, vegetables, and mushrooms, which he delicately gathered at dawn. Discovering his recipes pleasantly surprised me, as it is a true palette filled with common sense, serving simple, bourgeois, and tasty cuisine. Some are extremely simple, others more complex, bordering on professionalism, which for its time was a great achievement. We must also remember that there was not a single one of the household appliances that are essential to us in the kitchen today.

For so many beautiful paintings, for so much generosity, for all these beautiful and good recipes, for these dear notebooks, witnesses of an authentic gourmet past, for this art of everyday life,

Thank you, Claude Monet!"

What words! How can one not follow in the culinary footsteps of Claude Monet!

Spring continued for me with a visit to Monet's house in Giverny. A riot of colours! The house inside and out, the gardens, the lily pond! No photo or painting can capture this fairy tale. It must be seen and experienced.

The recipes in Monet's book are quite "complex" and time-consuming, so I will suggest something not too laborious – a sauce for white fish that seemed very appetising to me! I wasn't wrong.

A few weeks ago, at a Saturday market (a tradition throughout France), a young girl was selling delicate yellow and purple flowers – edible flowers. This completely convinced me that we were heading towards a dinner à la Claude Monet. At the market, I came across swordfish fillets – big, juicy! This is not a common fish, so it made perfect sense to buy it. The thick fillets are simply passed through a pan with a mixture of pure butter (if you have salted butter, even better) and olive oil. And don't worry – the fish can be a thick fillet of any white fish!

But the green sauce, it is Monsieur Monet's speciality.

The recipe is perfect for the beginning of summer when fish and vegetables are abundant.

For the sauce (for two generous portions), I cleaned and chopped the white part of a thick leek, one large carrot, a spring onion along with its white bulb, and half a bunch of curly parsley. I put all this in a pot with water and a little salt. The water should just lightly cover the vegetables. I let it simmer until all the vegetables were completely soft and only a little water remained. I took it off the heat, added 100 ml of thick sour cream, a knob of butter, and blended it. Then, following Claude Monet's advice, I added 3 large tablespoons of Calvados and put the sauce back on the stove to simmer until it reached the desired thickness. I added a pinch of Parmesan – a little idea of mine, pardon Monsieur Monet.

Again, inspired by the great impressionist, the fish is served on a delicate bed of chives and a sprig of edible flowers. You can also grate some lemon zest or add a lemon slice on the side.

And voila – you have white fish with Claude Monet's sauce and presentation.

And don't forget – every recipe should always end with adding a spoonful of love.

  • Joël Robuchon has a long and impressive biography as a chef. With 32 Michelin stars, numerous restaurants, including the best restaurant in the world, and a recipient of the French Legion of Honour... In the 1980s, he became internationally famous with his recipe for mashed potatoes, a dish that had almost disappeared from restaurants. Using Ratte du Touquet potatoes (a variety that is white, slightly elongated, and of the "washed" type), he created a new texture with 250 grams of butter and 250 ml of milk per kilogram of potatoes.

Photos: from personal archive

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