Cook it, live it – French toast terrine

Cook French toast terrine with tarragon-poached pears from Mange Tout by Bruno Loubet, live it with elegant, subtle tableware from Habitat.

Chef Bruno Loubet is known for reinventing French bistro food. After training in Bordeaux, he worked in Belgium then Paris, before moving to London in 1982 and a job at Pierre Koffmann’s La Tante Claire. He was head chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir, ran his own restaurants in the UK and Australia, and returned to London in 2009 to open Bistrot Bruno Loubet at the Zetter hotel. His latest opening is the Grain Store in June 2013. Mange Tout: Bistro Cooking With a Modern Twist is his first book since 1995. Inspired by his upbringing and travels, it places emphasis on the lighter style of classic French bistro, with a nod to health and Asian influences.

‘French toast or “pain perdu” (lost bread) was always one of my favourite snacks when I came home from school in the afternoons. The problem was that we only had it on rare occasions because “pain perdu” is traditionally made with stale bread, which we didn’t usually have in our house. The version below is a more “cheffy” one for a dinner party with guests but you could keep it simpler by pan-frying the bread and missing out the terrine stage. I would suggest you keep the tarragon pears, though, as they are truly amazing.’

Serves 8

600ml whole milk
60g caster sugar
2 eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod, split in half and seeds scraped
8 thick slices of stale bread
80g butter
a dollop of creme fraiche, to serve

Poached pears
8 ripe pears, such as Williams, peeled (reserve the peelings)
500g jam sugar (with pectin)
1 litre water
50ml tarragon vinegar
50 fresh tarragon leaves

For the poached pears, place the pear peelings, sugar and water in a small pan. Bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes, then add the vinegar, tarragon leaves and pears. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to a very gentle simmer, and cover the surface with greaseproof paper. Make a hole in the middle for the steam to escape. The cooking time will vary, depending on the pears you use, but if they are ripe and soft, check the cooking after 10 minutes: a thin knife blade should go through the flesh easily. Leave the pears to cool in their liquid. Once cool, transfer to the fridge.

Put the milk, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla seeds in a mixing bowl. (Reserve the empty vanilla pod and place it in a jar with caster sugar to make vanilla sugar.) Using a hand blender, blitz the mix well. Soak each slice of bread in the mixture for a few minutes. Heat some of the butter in a frying pan until foaming, then pan-fry the bread until golden brown on each side. Repeat, adding more butter between batches, until all the slices are cooked.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/ Gas 6. Line a 22 x 6cm tin or terrine mould with a piece of foil. Put a bit of the soaking mixture into the bottom of the mould. Add a layer of the sliced bread, filling any gaps by cutting up one of the other slices of bread. Add another thin layer of mixture, then another layer of bread. Repeat until all the bread and mixture has been used. Bake for 20 minutes then place the tin on a wire rack to cool. When cool, transfer to the fridge to chill completely (see Bruno’s Tip).

Meanwhile, lift the pears out of their poaching syrup and transfer to a plate, then return to the fridge. Pass half the pear poaching liquid through a fine sieve into a small pan and place over a medium heat to bubble and reduce to a third of its original volume – it should be syrupy. Chill this syrup. When the terrine is cold, turn out on to a plate and cut into eight slices. Place a slice in the middle of a serving plate and top with a pear. Divide the syrup among the plates and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Bruno’s Tip

  • I would suggest that you prepare this recipe the day before so the pears can marinate in their poaching liquid and absorb all the flavours. The terrine will also benefit from a longer rest as it will hold better when slicing.

Abi bread bin (lid is chopping board; Andalucia bowl; Matilda yellow bowl; Lavric tea towel; Albany tablecloth; Yoshimi runner; Courbe side plate; Alfie tumbler; Varick tea light holder; Martini glass

Mange Tout: Bistro Cooking with a Modern Twist by Bruno Loubet (Ebury Press, £25).

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