For centuries, the whole world has appreciated French cuisine. Varied, both hearty and balanced, French cooks have built up their reputation step by step. Traditional French recipes became very popular when the chef Guillaume Tirel elaborated the first ones during the Middle Ages. Among the most famous, Marc-Antoine Carême was an early practitioner and exponent of the elaborate style of cooking known as Haute Cuisine, the “high art” of French cooking. Considered as one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs, Carême was the personal chef of Napoléon himself.
The Guide Michelin even reports the Gascon cuisine has an influence on regions such as Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in variations across the country. Most of them are considered part of the nation’s national cuisine. However, regional dishes have become the norm across the country and especially so in the south. Here food has been moulded by the sun and the sea. What follows is a selection of main dishes by region, which could give you an idea of the place where you wish to buy a French property:
Poitou-Charentes and Limousin:
With cultivation coming from the Bassin d’Arcachon and the Oléron-Marennes area, oysters are a top quality food of the area as well as mussels from the Aiguillon area. More in the hinterlands, Poitou and Charente produces the best butter and cream in France, as well as grillons, a local variation of rillettes.
Périgord and Castelnaudary:
The Périgord offers one of the world’s most expensive produce: the truffle. Between €250 and €500 per kilogramme, the Black Périgord truffle has rapidly become a luxurious product since its discovery thousands of years ago- it was even popular with the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
Another celebrated dish of the area that is slightly more accessible to most pockets is the cassoulet from Castelnaudary. This small town located to the south of Toulouse is the world capital of cassoulet. Requiring 3 days of preparation for its unique taste, this hearty dish is among the most appreciated in the world owing to the deep, meaty flavours accompanied with traditional roasted beans.
Provencal cooking has always been permeated by Mediterranean influences: the sea and the sun. Lamb from the Camargue area sets the tone with its special flavours coming from grazing on the salt marsh grasses.
But the seafood capital of Provence is Marseille with its famous Bouillabaisse. There are two varieties: The Bouillabaisse du Ravi (containing 6 different types of fish with mussels, tomato and lemon) and the Bouillabaisse du Pêcheur. The latter is usually a bit smaller than the Ravi as it contains only 3 types of fish and is generally served at lunch.
For those crazy about fish, no worries the Boullabaisse is not the only seafood available on the French Riviera: there is also Bourride which is a garlic fish stew, and the Brandade de Morue. Originally from Nimes this dish of salt cod with cream, garlic, olive oil and potatoes is served as a starter.
For those who don’t eat meat or fish, many local specialities are available for vegetarians! You have probably heard of Ratatouille, a sort of salad combining eggplants, peppers and herbs. Its recipe comes from Occitan cuisine but history moved it down to Provence. Still for vegetarians, the Salade Niçoise is known worldwide. it varies from place to place but, the Salade Niçoise should always contain long green beans, tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, hard-boiled eggs and lettuce.
Food in the South of France includes plenty of excellent dishes (but most of them have been mentioned above) and will probably be the most enjoyable part of your gastronomical tour!