French Food Tips: Understanding The Traditional 6 Course Meal

Published: 14th October 2011
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For a dinner party or special meal many people choose to go for French food, since many of the best recipes are inspired by, or come directly from France. French cuisine is known around the world as being one of the finest, and it's no surprise that it is one of the most popular choices when it comes to laying on a meal that's a little bit special.

But apart from serving up the obvious meals such as beef Bourgogne, what can you do to really transform a meal into a classic French one? One of the things that can be done is to serve French food in the same way the French do. If you've ever been to France for a meal you'll know that the one thing the French never do when they're eating is rush. In this country we tend to see each course as something to get through before we can chat a while before the next one, but in France they can make a meal last hours quite easily.

In part this is because they serve several courses, all of which are a little smaller than some of the courses we serve here in the UK. By having several courses, all planned carefully to keep the tastes separate and enjoyable, the meal can be made to feel full of more variety. It's important not to rush French food, but to savour it, and to enjoy and share the experience with those around you.

Here's a quick break down of the traditional way in which French food should be served, breaking it down into six separate courses. Remember, when serving this many courses the servings will need to be a little smaller than if you were just serving a three course meal.

Course 1: Hors D'oeuvres
Don't call this the starter, for a start! If you're serving up French food then the first dish must be hors d'oeuvres, which roughly translated means 'out of the works'. The word 'works' here relates to the main course, and the purpose of these is to stimulate the appetite - not to fill a person up!

Course 2: The Fish Course
A light fish course with a few vegetables will come next, although it's important to remember not only to keep this small and light, but also to offer something afterwards to cleanse the palate. The ideal thing here is to serve a citrus sorbet, which prepares the taste buds for the main course.

Course 3: The Main Course
Traditionally the meat dish. The focus here is on the meat, with just a few vegetables and potatoes. Poultry or traditional meat such as lamb, beef or pork will be ideal. There are plenty of traditional French recipes to choose from, any of which will be ideal.

Course 4 The Salad Course
The purpose of this course is to cleanse the palate, as well as helping to aid digestion. Simply serve up a few greens, tossed with a vinaigrette. You can make this as simple as you like, or as elaborate as you wish.

Course 5: The Cheese Plate
For family meals this is usually the last course, with the dessert reserved for special occasions. Simply serve up a selection of cheeses, along with some fruit, and let people help themselves. The French are well known for their love of cheese, but make sure you provide a range, from light, mild cheddars to a rich stilton.

Course 6: The Dessert
For special occasions a rich, indulgent and beautifully decorated sweet treat is called for! Avoid the really rich, heavy treacle puddings and go for something a little lighter, but still very sweet. To finish with of course coffee is always ideal.

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