Great Escapes

European Travel Blog


1 Comment

Speciality dishes from different regions in France

As we’re sure you’re already aware, France is a foodie’s paradise. It’s a place where connoisseurs can revel in all kinds of weird and wondrous cuisines, from escargots and ratatouille to soupe à L’oignon and tartiflette. That’s why we’ve decided to give you a whistle-stop tour around this flavoursome country, delving into a selection of different regional dishes, so you can choose which regions of France are to your taste.

South France

Making a start at the bottom in Southern France, this area is appreciated for its seafood, tomatoes and olive oil. Cassolulet (a slow cooked casserole with meat and white beans) is a popular winter dish, and a distinct Spanish influence can be found in their cooking, including spicy sausages and peppers. You’ll also find that lamb is the most popular meat in the south.

On the seafood front, bouillabaisse is popular (especially in Marseille), which is a traditional fish soup with a hint of aniseed, along with Brandade de morue – a starter made up of pureed salt cod combined with cream, garlic and olive oil, served with bread or potatoes.

You’ll certainly find an aromatic mix of Mediterranean flavours in the south, more so than in any other region, so if these dishes ignited your taste buds, it’s time to head down to the south of France.

bouillabaisse
Bouillabaisse, image credit: Blue moon in her eyes, Flickr

South-West France

Wonderfully rich foods dominate this region, with duck, oysters and truffles being some of the main specialities. One of the delicacies popular in south-west of France (and arguably all over the country) is Foie gras, meaning duck or goose liver, which has a rich and buttery taste and can be prepared as a mousse, pâté or parfait.

You’ll find a great lobster terrine here too, known in France as Homard Persille, which is cooked with some wonderful herbs, including parsley. Confit de canard (duck confit) is another speciality which comes from the Aquitaine region of France, and to finish it all off, if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, have a look out for Touron – a multi-variety, multi-coloured marzipan roll made with all kinds of sweet ingredients.

Fois gras
Foie Gras, image credit: Charles Haynes, Flickr

Confit de canard
Confit de canard, image credit:
Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr

North France

Now let’s take a trip up to northern France, where there’s a whole new world of gourmet delights to discover. Although a close neighbour to us in the UK, Truite Ardennaise (pan fried trout with smoked ham and cream) or kougelhopf (a delightful ring shaped cake with sultanas and almonds), are not necessarily dishes you’d find in abundance in the UK. Generally speaking, northern France is influenced by German and Belgian gastronomy and tends to be less Mediterranean-esque. Cold meats and root vegetables are popular, and if you’re a seafood fan then you’re in luck, as there are plenty of mussels and oysters to go round, especially in Normandy.

mussels
Normandy mussels, image credit:
Connie Ma, Flickr

North-East France

As close neighbour of Germany, as you might expect there’s a German influence in north-eastern French cuisine. Quiche Lorraine is perhaps one of the more well-known dishes which originated from German culture (although with a slightly varied recipe). Tarte flambée is another popular dish, especially in Alsace. It can be best described as a mix between a pizza and a crepe, and is traditionally laden with crème fraiche, onions and bacon. And finally, pickled cabbage or ‘choucroute’ is a very popular accompaniment to north-eastern French meals.

quiche lorraine
Quiche Lorraine, image credit:
Olga/ Олька, Flickr

Tarte flambée
Tarte flambée, image credit:
Nicolas Winspeare, Flickr

West France

With such a vast stretch of coastline, you can certainly expect western France to be a seafood lover’s paradise, with everything from crabs, shrimps, cockles, whelks, and lobster, right through to the more unusual delicacy of fried eel, which is a popular dish in the city of Nantes.

Farci Poitevin, traditionally a stuffed herb and pork pâté is a popular starter in the region of Poitou-Charentes, and Rillettes de Porc, a rich pork terrine which is usually enjoyed with crackers or bread.

A classic French sauce titled ‘Beurre Blanc’ also originates from the western region of Pays de la Loire; however both Nantes and Angers lay claim to the recipe. Being deliciously buttery, smooth and of course very popular, it’s no wonder that both towns would want to claim it as their own. Find the recipe here.

seafood plate
Seafood platter, image credit:
Archangel12, Flickr

Central France

The ideal place for both meat and cheese lovers alike, central France is home to some real culinary treats, including Potee Auvergnate, a warming casserole from the Auvergne region with pork, cabbage, bacon, sausages, carrots and potatoes. There’s also some top quality meat to be discovered in Limousin, as its pork, lamb and beef are acknowledged throughout France as being second to no other.

Pâté aux pomme de terre Limousin is a traditional dish of the region which puts their fine produce to good use, being a pastry or bread filled with potato, sour cream, bacon, sausage meat and parsley, usually served with a green salad.

With cheese in abundance, especially in Auvergne, make sure you stop by on your travels to appreciate the sensational tastes and smells this region has to offer. Strong blue cheese titled ‘bleu d’Auvergne’, and one of the oldest French cheeses ‘fourme d’Ambert’ can be found here, and if you’re really into your dairy delights, there’s an Auvergne cheese trail, where you can learn about the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) cheeses.

Bleu_d'Auvergne_11
Bleu d’Auvergne, image credit:
Coyau, Wikimedia Commons

If these culinary delights have prompted you to head to France for a gastronomic getaway, then visit GreatEscapes.co.uk for more information and to book a trip to the ultimate foodie’s paradise!

Carbonnade Flamande - beef and beer stew, Northern France


1 Comment

Carbonnade beef and beer stew recipe

I first came across this hearty traditional Flemish dish in the hot summer months in Lille in the north of France, but it would make the perfect winter warmer for the gray, damp days we’re having here in England at the moment.

_DSC5621b

Carbonnade Flamande (Beef and beer stew)

Ingredients: Serves 6
3 1/2 lbs chuck steak, cut into 2.5 cm pieces
4 tbsp butter
3 medium onions sliced about 1 cm thick
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
360 ml chicken or beef stock
360 ml Belgian beer (plus some to drink with the meal)
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of parsley for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
 

1. Season the beef with a little salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large dutch oven (a covered earthenware or cast-iron container for cooking casseroles) over medium-high heat until hot and almost smoking. Brown the beef well for about 3 minutes on each side. Put to one side.

2. Add 2 tablespoons butter to dutch oven and reduce heat to medium.

3. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for about 15 minutes, until onions are browned.

4. Add flour and  evenly coat the onions in flour. Cook for about 2 minutes, until flour is lightly browned.

5. Add stock (and loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan). Then stir in beer, thyme, bay, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste.

6. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer.

7. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and leave it cooking for about 2 hours..

or

Cook in the oven at 150°c / Gas 2 for 2 hours.

8. Stir occasionally, scraping up anything that is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

9. Add the mustard and brown sugar, plus slat and pepper if required. Cook for a further 30 minutes until beef tender.

10. Remove the thyme and bay leaf and serve.

Served traditionally with French fries and salad as I had it Lille (but it would also go very well with mashed, baked or new potatoes and some seasonal vegetables).

Better still, let it cool, uncovered, before covering and refrigerating for the next day. It will taste even better and can be made up to 2 days in advance! The cooled stew can also be frozen, in airtight container, for up to 3 months. It should be defrosted overnight before reheating. To reheat, put the stew back the dutch dish and reheat slowly in a preheated oven at 150ºC/gas mark 2 for 1 hour, until piping hot.

Bon appétit!

 


Leave a comment

Banana & Coconut Créme Brûlée

Here’s a wonderful recipe for a popular and well-known French dessert from Jonathan Groves, an experienced and highly regarded chef, currently working in The Gambia at Ngala Lodge.

Let’s face it, French cuisine tastes great no matter where you are!

creme brulee

Coconut Créme Brulee
Ingredients: serves 6

8 Egg yolks
30g sugar
1 tin coconut milk (400ml)
100g creamed coconut
400g cream
4 large bananas
sesame seeds and brown sugar to sprinkle on top
sprig of mint to garnish

1. Pre-heat the oven to 150° C (or gas mark 2)

2. Slowly reduce the coconut milk and the creamed coconut to approx 250g

3. Then add approx 400g cream to make a total 650g

4. Heat slowly until JUST boiling & then remove from heat

5. Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar untill thick and pale yellow and double in quantity

6. Whisk the coconut and cream mixture into the egg & sugar mixture

7. Place in 6 large ramekins

8. Bake in bain maire for 30-40 mins until just cooked – the middle should still have a wobble when shaken gently

TO SERVE

9. Sprinkle with sesame seeds

10. Cover in a layer of slice of banana

11. Sprinkle with Brown sugar

12. Warm in the oven

13. Glaze sugar until brown

14. Top with a sprig of mint

Photography courtesy of Ngala Lodge