Posted on 10 April 2015 by Dan Johnson
Mealtimes are always an integral part of a trip to France, and regional variety is key. We asked journalist BEN LERWILL to recommend seven delicious dishes from across the country – if you can wash them down with a drop of something local, so much the better.
Brittany: Gigot d’Agneau
Think of Breton cuisine and the first things that leap to mind are generally seafood, crepes and cider. These three components alone would see the average traveller through a contented mealtime or ten, but no less notable is the region’s flavoursome gigot d’agneau. A roasted leg of lamb prepared with garlic, cloves, bay leaves and other herbs – and customarily served with potatoes and haricot beans – it’s a choice for those days when hunger demands something substantial. The recipe itself is adapted in different ways by different chefs, but it’s not uncommon for the meat to be softened before cooking with Breton butter.
Holidays in Brittany: www.siblu.com/france/brittany/
Poitou-Charentes: Marennes-Oléron Oysters
There are oysters, and there are oysters. Now granted Protected Geographical Status by the EU, those that are sold under the Marennes-Oléron name are cultured on the country’s Atlantic coast, where oysters still thrive naturally. Ranging in style from the juicy fine de claire to the fleshier la pousse en claire, they can be enjoyed on their own (perhaps with a squeeze of lemon juice), or as part of a more elaborate recipe. Dry white wine and champagne both go well as an accompaniment. The Marennes-Oléron region itself is along the Poitou-Charentes shoreline, a short way south of La Rochelle.
Holidays in Charente Maritime: www.siblu.com/france/charente_maritime/
In Languedoc, the locals take their food like they take their rugby: seriously. It means that cassoulet, the famous bean casserole of the southwest, has become one of the best-known provincial dishes in France. The perfect example should be rich and slow-cooked, with a range of meaty ingredients (sausages, duck, goose and pork skin often appear) and a healthy helping of haricot beans. Various towns around the region lay claim to the definitive version – among them Toulouse, Castelnaudary and Carcassonne – and there’s even evidence that the Romans were eating similar stews when they occupied the southwest more than 1500 years ago.
Holidays in Languedoc: www.siblu.com/france/languedoc/
Normandy: La Mère Poulard Omelette
Not many dishes can trace their roots back to one specific kitchen, but in the case of the La Mère Poulard omelette, it can point directly to the restaurant of the same name on Mont Saint-Michel. Open since 1888, it’s a high-end dining spot – past guests include Yves Saint Laurent, Nicolas Sarkozy and even Ernest Hemingway – and this befits the omelette itself. Fluffy and almost soufflé-like, it’s cooked over an open fire, often served with lobster and costs a pretty penny. If you can’t bag a table at the restaurant, meanwhile, try the more widespread omelette normande – a sweet version that can be flambéd in calvados.
Holidays in Normandy: www.siblu.com/france/normandy/domaine_de_litteau.php
Paris, despite its towering culinary reputation, can’t really be said to have its own cuisine. What it can lay claim to, however, are some very fine sweets and pastries. These include the millefeuille and the cream-heavy St Honoré, although the best known is surely the macaron. While its earliest origins are thought to lay outside Paris, it was here in the capital that a pâtissier at Maison Ladurée first developed the colourful sandwich-style confections that have become so familiar today. You won’t be stuck for a choice of flavours: as well as the likes of raspberry, caramel and pistachio, you’ll also find varieties such as mint, bergamot and Lily of the Valley.
French gastronomy might these days conjure up visions of slick inner-city restaurants and delicately blended flavours, but some of the country’s heartiest dishes started out as the sustenance of poor rural communities. Garbure, a thick soup of smoked ham and Savoy cabbage, is a case in point. First created in the area of Gascony, which sits largely in the Aquitaine region, it can also incorporate beans, other root vegetables, cheese and even stale bread. For a prime example of traditional French country cooking, look no further. Try it with a bottle of local Cabernet Sauvignon red.
Holidays in Aquitaine: www.siblu.com/france/aquitaine/
Loire Valley: Rillettes
The Pays de la Loire gives various good reasons to visit, from its chateaux and mansions to its cycle routes and sparkling wines. The food’s pretty special too. There are some great cheeses – Port Salut and St Paulin are both products of the region – but the most interesting local speciality is rillettes. A pâté-like substance best enjoyed with fresh crusty bread, it’s most commonly made from salted, slow-cooked pork which is then shredded and blended with fat to create a spreadable paste. It’s not the healthiest thing you’ll ever eat, but, mon dieu, it could well be one of the tastiest.
Holidays in Loire Valley: www.siblu.com/france/loire_valley/
Tempted to try a taste of France with your own holiday home? Find out more about owning your own holiday home with siblu: www.sibluvillages.com/villages/
Rilletes: Shutterstock / Wiktory
Cassoulet: Shutterstock /Lilyana Vynogradova
Oysters: Shutterstock /gori910
Macaroons: Shutterstock /Nejron Photo
Tags | regional foods