Racines purée

Root vegetables in the kitchen garden

At the time of the First Empire the word “racines” (roots) was used to mean carrots, parsnips, salsify or black radish, in other words cultivated root vegetables, not the roots of wild plants that were gathered in times of famine. The carrot was very common, both at table and in animals' feeding troughs. The most famous variety came from Amiens. It was used by the French navy in dried or powdered form.  

In villages, every family had its own garden, of a size dependent upon their wealth.
Plants cultivated by labourers were those which required little care and yielded a good crop: cabbages, leeks, onions, garlic, sometimes also a little celery, chicory and lettuce. The potato was still fairly rare in the South of France, but became commonplace in the North. The Jerusalem artichoke was also sometimes grown.
Landowners who were better off cultivated artichokes, asparagus, Swiss chard, beetroot, salsify, sorrel, spinach, beans, peas, strawberries, cucumbers and gherkins, parsnips and turnips.

For salads, “little extras” such as Verdun anise, rocket, buck's horn plantain, broad-leaved garden cress and salad burnet were grown.


10 good size carrots
2 large potatoes
2 dsp thick crème fraîche
1 tsp coarse salt
1 pinch pepper

Period Recipe

Chop finely about thirty or forty carrots (depending on the size); sauté them in a quarter pound of butter, stirring them from time to time so that they do not burn. Then, after about three-quarters of an hour's cooking, moisten with some broth; add a little rough sugar (about half an egg in size) and cook for about two hours on a low heat; then push the mixture through a sieve. If the purée is too thick, add a little more stock.  As for the bread, do as you would for bread soup; soak some old bread in consommé (which it soaks up more easily) and then pour your purée over it; make sure that the purée is quite liquid so that the soup is not too thick. Before serving, add a little broth to dilute it a little, then boil, skimming off the foam and excess fat. André Viard, Le cuisinier impérial, Paris : Barba, 1806

Bon appetit

1. Peel the potatoes and carrots, rinse and chop finely.
2. Heat the water in a large saucepan. When the water comes to the boil, add salt and put in carrots and potatoes.
3. Cook for 30 minutes. Drain.
4. Mash by hand or pass through a mill.
5. Put back into pan. Add pepper and crème fraîche. Mix well and reheat over gentle heat for 3 minutes.

Type of Recipe