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.
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, image credit: Blue moon in her eyes, Flickr
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.
Foie Gras, image credit: Charles Haynes, Flickr
Confit de canard, image credit: Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr
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.
Normandy mussels, image credit: Connie Ma, Flickr
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, image credit: Olga/ Олька, Flickr
Tarte flambée, image credit: Nicolas Winspeare, Flickr
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 platter, image credit: Archangel12, Flickr
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, 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!