Book of the Week: Jan – A Breath of French Air…

A little while back we blogged about a French Cooking Course we had been doing with our cooking friends from Yuppie Chef, it makes sense that we followed up by reviewing a cookbook with a French Twist. Jan, a Breath of French Air, by Jan Hendrik Van Der Westhuizen is published by Penguin Random House South Africa, is the memoir of a South African with a Michelin Star restaurant in the south of France. So very French, and lots of South Africanisms brought into it to add a little twist and a flair.

If you follow Jan Hendrik on instagram you will immediately see that he is a food artist of note. His book deserves to be a fabulous coffee table book, it is a work of art… to be perused and paged through, not to mention a certain amount of spillage, at least a splash of flour between the pages. This is a working book and the pages need to be open in order to cook from it. I received a e-version of the book for review purposes and to be honest, you need to feel the paper.


So first things first… we went trawling through the book together looking for fine things to eat… there were lots of fine things to choose from. The problem is, when you are working from an artist… not everything is as simple as it looks. Many of the recipes were overnighters. Very few things recipes were make in a flash… which is fine. We tackled this book and found ourselves quite lost, in a good way, in the process many times. Also upon careful reading we were able to discover that there were indeed quite a few quick and easy tricks that could be performed fairly quickly with great results… we started with those. We learnt a lot reviewing this cookbook, it took us a long time to work our way through it satisfactorily. Quite a few recipes have been popped into various notebooks because we will return to them again and again.


  1. Mosbolletjies: Mosbolletjies are a staple South African favourite. A bread that is like a soft springy brioche packed with aniseed. These just say “road trip” to my family and I have been trying to perfect them for years… finally we have a recipe that works. My fail was in fact that we were always adding a teaspoon or two of aniseed to our bread dough, but the recipe in this book adds a whole lot more… and a quick glaze once they are baked and we have arrived in the world of mosbolletjie heaven.
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  3. Pain Au Chocolat: We tried our hand at croissants for the first time ever, chocolate croissants. For a first try… mini croissants, next time we are making them bigger and better. Firstly, a whole new respect for the bakers that make the chocolate croissants we buy in the store and secondly… while time consuming, making croissants wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be… we are definitely going to be making these again and again.
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  5. Olive and Rosemary Sticks with Whipped Miso Butter: Well always looking for an instant snack that looks a little smarted than you average… these are perfect and impressive. Honestly, olive tapenade can be made in an instant and if you keep a roll of pastry handy then thesis snacks can be made, literally in moments.
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  7. Homemade Ricotta: This is just the easiest thing in the world… basically with a little ricotta, and some olive tapenade from the previous recipe, you have a ready made party waiting for you to serve up at anytime. This ricotta is packed with a zesty lemon flavour, and herbs from the garden added to the flavour. I have a feeling we are going to have a tub of ricotta in the fridge for weeks and weeks because of this book, everytime we finish a tub somebody quickly creates a new one.
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  9. Homemade Butter: I love that in this book there are recipes that are literally child’s play, and some recipes call for butter. My kids love making their own butter from cream. It is easy enough for kids to make… we normally make it in a jar, but in honour of the book we used the mixer… Just as easy and so worth it. The croissant recipe called for butter and we were happy to add it to our recipe collection.
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  11. Chocolate Bark: For all the recipes in this book that require you to wait overnight and leave things to rest for a couple of hours, not to mention multiple components… there is chocolate bark. Anyone can make this. Anyone.
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  13. Milk Tart Croquembouche: Hmmmm… these are eclairs with a surprising and lovely twist. The eclairs are filled with a delicious milk tart custard, with a caramel glaze poured over them. Fairly heavenly and if you are going to make it you have to know that if you can get all the delicious components to the plate. they aren’t going to last a moment longer.
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  15. Raspberry and Cream Meringue Kisses: Yum, yum, yum… without a piping bag our meringues did not look anything like the rows and rows of perfection in the recipe book. However, ours meringues were spiky, pail pink and delicious and the raspberry cream turned something quite lovely into something extravagant.
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  17. Pancakes With Mushrooms and Gruyere: Follow the link to this recipe, for our latest and favourite pancake mixture… our dinner did not look quite as perfect as the version in the cookbook, but I can say that the entire family loved it. And so we have another fairly easy family friendly dinner to add to our repertoire.

All in all this is a beautiful book and well worth the artwork of it. The recipes look a lot harder than they are… follow the steps and you will conquer them. We really enjoyed working our way through this book. You can take a look at Jan Hendrik’s website here, and he has lots of recipes to try as well.


We would like to thank the publishers Penguin Random House South Africa who supplied us with a copy of the book for review purposes. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed are as usual, entirely our own.

6 Replies to “Book of the Week: Jan – A Breath of French Air…”

  1. I have paged through the book – it is exquisite! BTW have you seen his video with Suzelle DIY – my favorite of hers ever. And he is such a charmer

  2. Oh Cat, I am off to check it out, thanks for the tip!!! Isn’t it the most stunning book, nit just beautiful but lots of really useful and stunning tips tucked between the pages. Hope you have a great week!!!

  3. Well now I want to make (and eat!) every recipe you posted about – we will have to check out this lovely book!

  4. Oh Christi, there were some great recipes in this one. It was a real lesson in creating beautiful food needn’t be crazy complicated… just follow the steps carefully!!! I hope you all have a wonderful week!!!

  5. You always talk so beautifully about food 🙂 Makes me want to dash into the kitchen and whip up something….

    Now I think the book is called Recipe for Love – Katie Fforde – where there was a cooking competition and the girl made these things croquembouche so I’m quite tickled that when I saw that word, I knew what it was 🙂

  6. Hay Marcia, So good to hear your voice!!! It is quite a fancy word… for essentially eclairs… there was quite a bit of that in this book. That added to the lovely French spin to this book and exploring the ins and outs of French Cooking with a South African twist turned out to be quite a food adventure. Hope you guys all have a great week!!!

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