Bogus Café de Paris Sauce

A while ago I was asked what was the first ever recipe that I'd collected. I've been tearing recipes out from newspapers and magazines and jotting others down for a very long time but everything before about 1983 has been lost somewhere along the way. I did some digging and came up with this which is just possibly the earliest surviving recipe in my collection.

I can't remember where the recipe came from but I'm fairly sure it wasn't called “bogus” in the original. It is bogus, though, and has only a distant connection to the original Café de Paris recipe. This may be partly my fault because I think I played around with it a fair bit before I wrote it down but I believe that the real sauce served in the Café de Paris in Geneva is a creamy sauce that’s allegedly made using chicken livers. (Although maybe not - the actual recipe is still secret). To make things even more confusing, there are plenty of recipes for a Café de Paris butter around and that’s an entirely different beast.
Bogus Café de Paris Sauce
Sauces like this aren't very 2015 - not many people seem to make them these days. That's a shame because this is really useful, easy and versatile. This sauce was intended to accompany steaks and there's nothing wrong with that but it will also sit very well alongside pork and, my favourite, simply cooked lamb.

Making sauces might seem a bit of a faff but there's not much work involved, it can all be done in advance mostly using store cupboard ingredients and you'll get enough sauce from the amounts given here for around 6 servings. If you don't use it all at once, it will keep for several days in the fridge and freezes well.
Lamb with Bogus Café de Paris Sauce
If you don't have any tarragon vinegar then simply increase the amount of sherry vinegar, but I must admit that the hint of tarragon does add an extra something.

1 or 2 carrots (about 60 g), peeled or scraped
1 small bulb of fennel (about 120 g), any tough outer leaves and base removed
1 large or 2 small shallots (about 90 g), peeled
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp tarragon vinegar
400 g tin of tomatoes
½ tsp sugar
3 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
100 ml marsala
300 ml chicken stock
Juice of ½ lemon

Put the carrots, fennel and shallots into a processor and reduce them to very small pieces. Place them in a large frying pan and fry gently with a little butter for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the crushed garlic and continue frying gently for a further 10 minutes.

Add the two vinegars to the pan followed by the tomatoes, stirring to ensure that the tomatoes are broken up. Add the sugar, tomato purée, mustard, marsala and stock. Season well. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 hour.

Pour the contents of the pan through a fine sieve. Press down on the puréed veg to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Stir in the lemon juice. (Alternatively, you could just liquidise the whole sauce. It will be thicker and cloudier and personally I don't think the texture and flavour of the liquidised version is quite as good but at least you won't waste anything.)

There are a number of ways of finishing this sauce before serving. The simplest way is to reduce a little of the sauce to thicken it slightly and pour it around your chosen piece of meat. Whisking in a little butter at the last moment will give the sauce a gloss. Adding more mustard along with the butter will work well if you fancy a bit of heat. Or whisk in some crème fraîche for a slightly richer finish. You could also add fresh herbs: a generous sprinkling of parsley would be the obvious choice.

Serve with your choice of meat and imagine yourself in Geneva. Unless, of course, you are in Geneva, in which case I can't think what to suggest.


Janis at Farmersgirl Kitchen has started a new blog event #RecipeClippings this month to encourage us to dig out recipes from our collections of cut out and copied recipes. I think this should fit in quite nicely even if I haven't the foggiest idea where I found it.


  1. Your sauce sounds delicious and is a glorious colour.
    It's the kind of thing we would get much more often in our local French restaurants than over here I think, usually served with a piece of veal, a lamb or pork chop, or even a chunky piece of fish. With of course the usual single well peeled potato and a small spoonful of haricots verts!
    Come to think of it, we don't make sauces ourselves anywhere near as often as we should, unless you count gravy from the roast or the sauce from a casserole!

    1. You're right about the local French restaurants, especially if they're traditionally inclined. In many ways this is old school French cooking, although there'd probably be more butter and cream traditionally.

  2. I still have most of my hand written index cards from the mid seventies, but have lost most of my early cuttings. It is the Jane Grigson recipe cuttings I feel saddest about losing. Your sauce recipe instantly appealed, must stock up on Marsala; do you use the dry or sweet version?

    Promted by your post I have just dug out my Michel Roux 'senior' book of Sauces; it is signed by him as I bought it at a book promotion talk in Newcastle, Nov 1996. Seeing the recipe for Chasseur sauce reminded me how in my youth restaurants would so often serve steaks with a classic sauce like Steak Diane but Chasseur was always my favourite.

    1. Losing or just losing track of recipes is really irritating to me but then I'm obsessive. I had some index cards in the 70s but I've no idea where they went. As for Marsala, you could use any type for this particular sauce depending on personal preference but I prefer to have a sweet Marsala in the kitchen. I think it's the most useful type for adding to both sweet and savoury recipes. Having said that, some sweet Marsalas seem to be a lot sweeter than others. I try to pick one that's sweet but not too sweet.

  3. This does sound good. I make sauces quite often but this sounds pretty special. Definitely added to my list. I still have my original file of hand written recipes from 50 years back!!! Have a good day Diane

    1. I'm very impressed that you've managed to keep recipes for that long, especially when moving from country to country. I wish I was that careful.

  4. This is just the kind of sauce we love. I agree that it's something you might find in a local restaurant in France. Didn't keep many cuttings, but wrote copious recipes in notebooks, which I still have.

    1. I still have notebooks dating back to the 80s and they were definitely the better solution before we had sensible electronic storage. It's the earlier random clippings and the loose index cards (typed on a manual typewriter) that have disappeared. There must be a lesson there somewhere.

  5. I bet this sauce is very tangy and rich! Looks as though it would go well with a piece of lamb. Got me all hungry now...

  6. There is something so much nicer about flicking through a scrapbook or notebook of cuttings, clippings and scribbled recipes on the back of old envelopes compared to say, pagemarked recipes on the t'internet. But as you say, electronic storage is a little more convenient, sensible and takes up a LOT less room!

  7. Ooh, I do like the colour of your sauce and the sound of it too. I'd be happy to make it and serve it with pasta.

  8. Love the colour, and it isn't too complicated.Like I could serve it with whatever I choose.


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