Cookbook review: Fictional meals from Perigord, brought to life

‘Bruno’s Cookbook: Recipes and Traditions from a French Country Kitchen’ by Martin Walker and Julia Watson (Knopf, $40)
"Bruno's Cookbook: Recipes and Traditions from a French Country Kitchen" by Martin Walker and Julia Watson (Knopf, $40)

Credit: Handout

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"Bruno's Cookbook: Recipes and Traditions from a French Country Kitchen" by Martin Walker and Julia Watson (Knopf, $40)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Martin Walker made a name for himself covering news and politics around the world for the Guardian and United Press International.

But the British journalist is currently renowned for his best-selling series of detective novels (translated into more than 15 languages) featuring Benoit “Bruno” Courreges, a French police chief and passionate cook. The books are set in the Dordogne region of southwest France, known by locals as Perigord, where Walker, an avid gardener and gourmet himself, has lived for the last 25 years.

Perigord is also the backdrop for “Bruno’s Cookbook: Recipes from a French Country Kitchen” (Knopf, $40). The new release is Walker’s gorgeous collaboration with his wife, Julia Watson, a cookbook author and novelist who worked with him on earlier German and French versions of the book.

In the introduction, he lovingly describes their real-life neighbors — including a beekeeper, a cheesemaker and, yes, the local policeman — and what they taught him about their way of living and eating.

Chapters are focused on the person or skill that provides the main ingredient: the fisherman, hunter, butcher, cheesemaker, baker, forager and winemaker. A substantial section is devoted to “the potager,” the vegetable plot and market which supply much of the makings for daily meals in the village.

Recipes often reference Bruno and other characters in the fictional town of St. Denis, but all were prepared and photographed in the authors’ Perigord kitchen. I made Bruno’s Meatballs with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes, which were heavenly over mashed potatoes. Roasted Monkfish with Crushed Potatoes, Duck Breast Filets with Honey and Mustard, Chard Gratin, and Florence’s Chocolate Cookies (named for the schoolteacher of St. Denis) are others I’m anxious to try.

With doable directions and evocative prose, Walker and Watson inspire us to bring the stories of Perigord to life on our own tables.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at

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