6 specialties from Nouvelle-Aquitaines Dordogne

6-specialties-from-nouvelle-aquitaines-dordogne.jpg

NOUVELLE-AQUITANE, FRANCE – This region might be best known for its quality Bordeaux wines, but its food is an epicurean’s paradise. To the east of Bordeaux, the department of Dordogne (historically known as Périgord) is best known for its gourmet foods. With more than 2,000 years of history and numerous regionally protected products, there’s a plethora of choices to keep any food lover happy.

Truffles: Native to the Dordogne, the black Périgord truffle is coveted by gourmands worldwide for its complex aroma. From November to March, the expensive delicacy can be purchased for a fair price from Perigueux’s Place St-Louis market and Sarlat’s Saturday market. Connoisseurs of the black diamond are known to visit Sorges, about 19 kilometres northeast of Perigueux, to learn about the fungus at its charming truffle ecomuseum and area truffle farms. Or attend Sarlat’s truffle festival on the third weekend of January.

Foie gras: Despite its controversy, the traditional skill of force-feeding geese and ducks is still practised in Périgord and remains part of the department’s identity. Foie gras, a.k.a., fattened goose or duck liver, is served at most restaurants and found in specialty shops in Sarlat. There’s even a Route de Foie Gras for those wishing to meet the more than 60 producers of the specialty. Look for products labelled “Indication géographique protégée” (IGP) which guarantees the high quality product is strictly from Périgord.

Dordogne strawberries: Delicate, candy-sweet and a treasure of the region, the excellent, large-fleshed Dordogne strawberries are the only strawberries protected by the IGP geographic status. Thanks to ideal temperatures and soils, the region enjoys a long season that lasts from April to October. The main strawberry varieties, including Gariguette and Darselect in the spring, and Mara des Bois and Charlotte in the fall, can be found at most markets.

Traditional macarons: Ursuline nuns brought the traditional macaron to Saint-Émilion in the early 17th century. Although they’re made with the same ingredients — egg whites, sugar and almond flour — as their gussied-up sandwiched Parisian cousins, the rustic confection is chewier, straddling a soft biscotti and almond cake. Many shops sell traditional macarons, but the original recipe (a carefully guarded secret that’s only passed down to the business’ successor) is only available at Les Macarons de Saint-Emilion.

Caviar: A pioneer in river sturgeon breeding in Aquitaine, Domaine Huso in Neuvic sur I’Isle is one of three production sites in the Dordogne that specialize in high-quality caviar. Using methods that create minimal environmental impact, the prestigious products are processed and packaged, then marketed as Caviar de Neuvic. The 7.6-hecatre farm is open to visitors seven days a week. Tours of the facilities (that concludes with a caviar tasting) are available, but pre-booking is required.

Walnuts: Since the Paleolithic era (with evidence found in Cro-Magnon habitations from 17,000 years ago), walnuts have been widely celebrated for its many uses. At area ecomuseums or walnut-oil mills including Moulin de la Veyssière, you’ll find products such as vin de noix, a sweet and rich liqueur made from the green nuts, walnut flour, and walnut oil that’s been pressed from cooked nutmeal. For quality and authenticity, look for appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC)-certified Périgord walnuts.

Credit/Source: Info-Europa.com

Advertisements

The Queen Mother’s Favourite Fruit Cake

For the cake:

  • 225g dried dates chopped
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g dried walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 275g plain flour
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 75g butter

For the icing:

  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Grease and line a 23cm x 30cm tin.  Heat oven to 180ºF.

To make the cake:

Put the chopped dates in a bowl and pour over a breakfast cup of boiling water. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in. Set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar in another bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter, sugar and egg mix, then the dates and incorporate well. Scrape the batter into the baking pan and spread it right to the edges. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. To make the topping: In a small heavy saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and cream over a low heat. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil gently for 3 minutes, stirring all the time. Pour over warm cake. When cool, store in an airtight tin.

Credit/Source:  Julia Watson, The Bugle

 

Dordogne named among the ‘best places in Europe’

Dordogne named among the 'best places in Europe'

Photo: Dale Musselman/Flickr

This rural southwestern département has made this year’s Lonely Planet list of top ten destinations in Europe for 2016.

Last year it was the mountainous Auvergne region that Lonely Planet shone a light on and now in the spotlight is an area in southwestern France that locals and expats have already cherished for quite some time: the Dordogne.

The area, often jokingly called Dordogneshire – given the huge number of British living there – came in fourth out of ten on Lonely Planet’s Best of Europe list.

Often referred to by its previous name, the Périgord, this département sits between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenées mountain range (highlighted in red below).

It takes its name from the stately Dordogne river that flows from the Auvergne mountains to the sea near Bordeaux.

“Nowhere does French art de vivre (art of living) quite like the Dordogne,” says Lonely Planet, going on to call it a “Garden of Eden… stitched from dreamy chateaux, market towns and walnut groves.”

Photo: Stephane Mignon/Flickr

You might know Lyon as the culinary capital of France, but Lonely Planet would beg to differ.

“For travellers following the increasingly hip ‘local produce, homemade’ mantra, this foodie region – without the crowds of Provence and 100 percent au naturel – has never been so alluring.”

Photo: Jonny/Flickr

Indeed, apart from its gorgeous countryside and flourishing British expat population, the area is famous for its cuisine, often based on duck or goose. Foie gras, confit de canard, truffles, and walnut cake are just a few of the local specialties. 

Lonely Planet recommends that to take full advantage of this foodie region, you need to “dive into the markets”, “dine at the region’s top tables”, “quaff the local wines”, and “gorge on truffles”. 

After that, the travel guide advises checking out the area’s abundance of castles which have earned it the nickname “The Other Chateau Country” (after the Loire Valley) as well as the multitude of prehistoric cave paintings, Lascaux being the most famous.

Photo: @lain G/Flickr

It’s not only Lonely Planet that has taken notice of the Dordogne; British Airways just started offering direct flights from London.

Best go now before the crowds move in.

CREDIT/SOURCE: Le Local

Product of the month: The Périgord Walnut

The Perigord walnut is an extremely healthy and versatile nut grown in southwestern France. Perigord is the old walnutsname for this region, which is now usually referred to in English as the Dordogne. Most of the Perigord walnut production area is located in the Dordogne department, but there are also significant amounts produced in the neighboring Corrèze and Lot departments and small areas of other neighboring ones.

It has benefited from a Protected Designation of Origin status since 2002, but the walnut has had a history in the region that dates back thousands of years. While the walnuts grown today aren’t quite the same, walnuts themselves have been found at 17,000-year-old prehistorical Cro-Magnon sites in the Périgord walnut-producing region.
The Périgord walnut production area is located in and around the départment of Dordogne in southwestern France.

Walnuts continued to play a major role in the culture of the area ever since then and are inextricably linked to the region’s history. During the early Middle Ages, peasants would often pay off their debts with Perigord walnuts and by the 13th century, tithes to local churches were paid in walnut oil. The oil was at one time considered to be worth its weight in gold and contributed greatly to the wealth of the region due to its widespread and many varied uses. In 1730, it was found that more than three fourths of the national peasant population used nothing but Perigord walnut oil for cooking. Besides culinary uses, the oil can also be used as body oil or in painting.

The Périgord walnut can be used in so many ways in cuisine that the list of culinary dishes it can’t be used in is probably a lot shorter than the list of dishes it is included in. The possibilities are almost endless: Salads, mousses, covered in chocolate, baked in breads, used in cheeses, roasted or used as oil – the Périgord walnut is a versatile nut that has thousands of applications. It’s even used to make a type of liqueur, Eau-de-vie de Noix du Périgord, and a type of wine in the region (vin de noix – “walnut wine”), bringing a subtle, nutty flavor to the drinks.

 

There are numerous health benefits of consuming this walnut. The Périgord region of France has one of the lowest rates of heart disease – by some estimates it has the second-lowest rate in the world. The cholesterol-lowering properties of the walnut, which play a large role in local cuisine, certainly help to play a part in this. The walnut is also rich in fiber and antioxidants, high in protein, and filled with healthy minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium.

Credit/Source:  French Food in the U.S.

Saturday Market in Sarlat

Sarlat’s population is approximately 10,000 but in summer jumps to around 100,000.  It’s late May and today, I saw two tour buses, strategically parked for attending the weekly Saturday morning market: the main street through town becomes an avenue of vendors, as well as throughout the historic center and its side streets – a true medieval maze of sights, smells, and flavors!

Regional specialties are walnuts, foie gras, strawberries, confit de canard, and a cheese made from goat’s milk, called “cabecou.”

cab_cou

walnuts

Walnuts

crown of flowers

Couronne de fleurs

nutcrackers

Nutcrackers

Piella

Paella

food covers

Incense

incens

Incense

baskets cremerie flowers hats

olives

food covers

Food screens & dream catchers

main square

Place de la Liberte (main square)

main street

Rue de la Republique

street tablecloths

confit de canard

Confit de canard

bread cheese

food stand strawberries

French eating habits: An introduction for your kids

French eating habits are traditionally very healthy, and food is first and foremost a pleasure. Most French children will devour food that children in other countries may never even encounter: Roquefort cheese, mussels, vinaigrette on green salad and vegetable soup. So what’s the secret?

In her book ‘French Kids Eat Everything’ Karen Le Billon describes a scene she experienced in a French restaurant, of a toddler dining with his parents: “He sat patiently as the meal progressed, eyes glazing over until he slumped over and fell asleep while his parents continued their meal undisturbed. When it was time to go, their child was woken up without ceremony. Popping his thumb in his mouth, he placidly allowed himself to be carried out of the restaurant without making a sound.”

French eating habits see French children not only eat what is put in front of them, but they are also taught to treat food and meal times with respect. Food, they learn, is an art form: an object of fulfilment to be shared with others. They will eat wholesome, natural food, try new flavours and participate in discussion at the dinner table. So how do we teach our children to do the same? Here are some tips for introducing your children to French eating habits.

Begin treating meal times as an event

Eat at least one meal a day as a family and treat it as an event to look forward to. Use pretty plates, glasses instead of childish cups and a tablecloth. Karen Le Billon suggests putting in place a meal time ritual where each member of the family recounts their favourite part of the day. Do not allow electronics or toys at the table. Mealtime should be for sharing and discussion and you and your children should have each other’s full attention. Allow your children the fulfilment of participating independently in the meal by letting them set the table and serve their food themselves.

Introduce new foods gradually

Many French people believe in the phase d’opposition, a phase that begins at age two in which children begin to reject new foods. For this reason, they gradually introduce a large amount of new foods throughout the first two years of life. They begin by offering soft, mild food to babies before progressing to stronger flavours and different textures. So, you will more likely find a French baby eating soft Roquefort than cheddar, and beginning with leek purée before moving on to whole vegetables.

If your children dislike vegetables, start them off with a smooth soup of carrots or courgette. You can have fun with the colours, pureeing beets for a pink purée or red pepper for a bright red soup. You may have to serve the soup a few times before they begin to enjoy it. Serve new foods alongside food that your children already like. Pasta can be tossed with spinach, for example.

Let your children see you tasting new foods, too. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and discover new flavours with them! Once your child is enjoying a certain food in one form, you should try serving it in a different way. After they have discovered carrot soup, serve thin slices of steamed carrots as part of the next meal. Do not put pressure on you children to eat new things. French eating habits dictate that everyone must taste, but they aren’t obliged to finish if they dislike something. Forcing a child to eat a particular food will cause a long term aversion to it.

Everybody must eat the same

My French Life™_French eating habits_Child eatingThe menu for meal times should be the same for everyone: this means no alternatives for picky eaters. Do not fuss if your children do not eat at first—this will create anxiety and make the problem worse. You want your children to see eating as normal and a source of pleasure they don’t want to miss out on, not something they do as a favour to you.

Most importantly, you must abide by your own rules: your children cannot be expected to change their eating habits if you are not leading by example, so try to adapt French eating habits yourself.

Reduce unnecessary snacking

Numerous western cultures are prone to offering their children snacks every few hours, but French children eat one big snack a day. This is usually a bowl of fruit, a sandwich or apple compote. The French teach their children that it’s okay to feel a little hungry between meals, and believe that reducing snacking means their children will eat more at meal times, including the vegetables served.

My French Life™_French eating habits_Cherries

It may be hard to get children out of the habit of snacking, and into French eating habits—especially if they are used to eating between every meal. Instead of abolishing snacking completely, you could offer just fruit when your child asks for food. Plan snack-time for mid afternoon; French children have the gouté at around 4pm. Get your children involved in choosing their daily snack: fruit salad one day, banana bread the next. As a treat, they could even have Karen Le Billon’s chocolate stuffed baguette! Everything in moderation is the key.

Include your children in meal prep

You are in charge of the menu in your house, but this does not mean that your children should be denied a choice. Instead of disguising healthy food, encourage children to help you put family meals together. Allow them to choose a type of vegetable for each meal, or a healthy dish from a selection you have given them.

Children can participate in the cooking too. Preparing a meal will give them more of an incentive to eat it, and will teach them where their food comes from and how the different flavours come together. Have your child stir the pot on the stove or chop soft vegetables with a butter knife. Children love to feel included and if you trust them with these jobs, they will begin to see your new ‘food rules’ as a family choice. In this way, French eating habits will become second nature.

Treat food as a pleasure

Healthy food choices are a part of French eating habits, providing a path to enjoyment and health and definitely not as a way to lose weight. Explain this to your children in a way they will understand: “wholesome food will help us grow, strengthen our bones, give us more energy and feel more satisfying.”  Treat food as something to delight in. Eat slowly and discuss the taste and texture of the food you are eating. Suggest that the children take small bites and ask them what they can taste in their cheese, or what the mousse au chocolat feels like on their tongue.

My French Life™_French eating habits_Chocolate mousse and pumpkin sponge cake

French eating habits are such that parents never use food as a punishment, reward or bribe. There are no cookies as an incentive to keep children quiet in the car, and dessert is rarely taken away for bad behaviour. This would undermine the positive aspect that the French teach their children to associate with food.

Credit/Source: Written by Stephanie Williamson for My French Life, May 2016


Dordorgne Dreaming

sunflowersThe Dordogne is France’s third largest department, and as well as numerous picturesque villages, it also boasts an incredible 4,000 chateaux, 10% of all the chateaux in France.  Like many French departments, the Dordogne is named after the river that flows through it. Foie gras, duck and goose are regional specialities.

The department has four distinct territories. In the north you will find ‘Green Périgord’ which derives its namedordogne regions from its many green valleys and woodland, covered with trickling streams, and houses the Périgord-Limousin Regional Natural Park. The major towns in the area are Brantome (the “Venice” of the Dordogne), Nontron and Riberac.  In the center of the department is ‘White Périgord’, so called because of its limestone plateaux. It contains the capital of the Dordogne, Périgueux, with attractive shopping centre and marvellous winding old town.  The ‘Purple Périgord’, in the South West of the department, is named from the area’s grapes, which are put to good use in Bergerac, the capital of this wine producing region. The area was of great strategic significance during the hundred years war, and visitors will find a number of fortified villages, castles and chateaux built by both the English and the French here.  In the south-east you’ll find ‘Black Périgord’, with deep valleys and ancient forests. It contains the towns of Saint-Cyprien and Sarlat-la-Caneda, which are both popular with foreign buyers. It houses numerous prehistoric caves with some 30,000 year old cave paintings.

Sarlatsarlat sign

Sarlat is the capital town of the Perigold Noir – a beautiful area of deep valleys and ancient fortresses, in the South East of the Dordogne. The town is a great example of 14th century France as many of its buildings from this era remain in tact. The nearest airport is Bergerac.

 The area surrounding Sarlat has history reaching back as far as ‘Primitive Man.’ Prehistoric caves with paintings for example have been found and the Vezere Valley is now classified by UNESCO as being a world heritage site.

The town center meanwhile began to makes its mark in the 9th century, eventually developing around a Benedictine abbey built in the 12th century. The wars then struck, and the town suffered greatly due to its position as a frontier region between the kings of France and England. In 1360, Sarlat became English and remained so until 1370 when the Connétable du Guesclin took over.

From the 14th to the 17th centuries, Sarlat was prosperous and displayed this through its architecture; new and grand dwellings were built as symbols of nobility, using Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Sarlat Activities 

Sights to see include:

  • the medieval sector centred around ‘Place de la Liberté’
  • the curious architecture of the St Bernard tower, also known as the ‘Lanterne des Morts’ (Lantern of the Dead)
  • the St Sacerdos Cathedral
  • ‘Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac’
  • the house of Etienne de la Boétie, a great philosopher
  • Château of Castelnaud with its medieval warfare museum
  • Château du Temniac, which overlooks Sarlat

There is a twice-weekly market, overflowing with fresh produce, including local specialities such as foie gras, walnuts, black truffles, wild mushrooms and pork delicacies.  Annual fairs and festivals include: ‘Les marches;’ different types of markets throughout the year, ‘Festival des Jeux de Théâtre,’ mid July to the beginning of August, ‘Festival du Cinéma’ every November, which unites big screen stars, directors and producers, as well as students studying film and ‘Les Hivernales;’ exhibitions of local artists every Christmas.  Cycling, horseriding, swimming, canoeing, fishing, hot air balooning, and golf are also popular activities.

Food and Drink 
A typical ‘Perigordin’ meal consists of: ‘tourin blanchi’ a garlic and onion soup mixed with goose fat and eggs and topped with sorrel, foie gras, a ceps or truffle omelette, goose preserved in fat with sarladaises potatoes, a salad with nut oil, cabécou (goats cheese), walnut cake and a bowl of strawberries.