French toast is the dish I associate most strongly with childhood. Even now, if I see it on a menu, I have to have it. It used to be made for me by my grandmother who was of a generation of women who didn't want to put anything in the dustbin; she taught us to use up every last bit of food. Every other day or so, she would make French toast from days-old bread, which she would serve with some marmalade or jam and a little bit of cream. It could be eaten as a meal on its own when we came in hungry from school, or as a dessert after dinner. I always knew if she'd made it by the smell as soon as I walked through the front door.
My grandmother was a very important figure in my life. I used to sleep in her bed with her when I was a child, and now I've named my daughter, Charlotte, after her. When I was growing up in the South of France, my father worked in a restaurant in a hotel, and my mother had a pharmacy, and she had to be there all the time. So my grandmother took charge of my brother and of me, of our education – she used to be a schoolteacher, and was very strict and rigorous – as well as making all our meals.
This dish can be made with brioche, too, but my grandmother would never have dreamt of doing that. If you do want to use brioche, make sure it's a little stale. Country bread is a good traditional choice. To add a light, liquorice taste, use muscovado sugar. In this recipe, I've suggested serving it with black figs, but you can use jams according to what you fancy.
French toast with figs
3 slices of pain de campagne (country bread)
A little butter
10cl whipping cream
2 tablespoons of muscovado sugar
4 black figs
Break 2 full eggs and 2 egg yolks into a wide shallow bowl. Beat lightly with a fork. Stir in the whipping cream.
Place a frying pan over a low to medium heat with a thin layer of the butter.
Place the three slices of pain de campagne one at a time into the bowl, letting the slices soak up the egg mixture, then carefully turning to coat the other side.
Transfer the bread slices to the frying pan, heating slowly until the bottom of each slice is golden brown.
Turn and brown the other side of the bread, at the same time as adding about 2tbsp of muscovado sugar.
Slice the fresh figs into four wedges. Serve hot with fig jam and fresh figs.
Helene Darroze is head chef at the Connaught ( the-connaught.co.uk)