THE GASTRONOMY OF Midi-Pyrénées
7th October 2013…There are no fewer than 25 Michelin-starred chefs in the Midi-Pyrénées all inspired by the wealth of iconic local produce such as foie gras, truffles, Roquefort, and more. This part of France offers some of the finest food that, once prepared by these great chefs, will satisfy the most discerning palate.
Regional specialities include:
Foie gras is obtained from ducks and geese that are forced fed using a process called ‘gavage’. Traditionally this area of south-west France has teemed with geese although ducks are used more frequently these days as they are cheaper. Christopher Columbus introduced white maize to Europe and this is what is used to feed the animals. Most foie gras is produced in the Gers on small farms and sold in some of the villages on market days. This is the very best foie gras you could possibly buy and is emblematic of Midi-Pyrenees although the Romans used to force fed their geese with figs so it has not always been associated with France.
The Quercy black truffle is rare and expensive – hence the moniker Black Gold. It used to be produced in great quantities but phylloxera and the Second World War put paid to that. Nowadays the black truffle is found in the oak forests around the village of Lalbenque which is in the Lot in the area known as the Causses. It is a mystery how the truffle forms but it seems to require a well looked after oak presence nearby, a warm, wet spring, hotsummers with plenty of thunderstorms and the dog or pig with which to hunt for the truffles. Lalbenque has been recognised as a place of outstanding food heritage.Only three to ten tonnes are produced nowadays.
Saffron is another product of the Quercy area and another very pricey item indeed. It comes from the red stigmas of the crocus plant which are harvested in October/November. It is expensive as the harvesting has to be done by hand and it takes enormous quantities of flowers – about 200,000 to get just one kilo of saffron. It costs about thirty euros per gram. The industry was at its heyday in the XVc to XViiic and was revived in 1997. It covers just three hectares and there are just sixty producers.
As everywhere in France Midi-Pyrénées has signature cheeses and wines. Here the most famous cheeses are Rocamadour, made with goat’s milk since the XVc and Roquefort, the fine blue-veined variety made in the caves dug out of the hillside in the Xvc. To accompany these fine AOC cheeses we could try some local AOC wines such as Gaillac – one of France’s oldest vineyards, Fronton, produced from the Négrette grape that only grows here – nowhere else in the world, Madiran is a fine wine for laying down and can be aged for up to twenty years. At the end of the meal a glass of Armagnac – the king of brandies and developed here in the region since the XVc.
A Glance at some of the Chefs:
Michel Bras is the only three star Michelin – chef in the region. He was awarded the third star back in 1999. He was born in the Aubrac where his restaurant is situated, a truly amazing sight near Laguiole (where the famous knives of the same name are from). Michel is so influenced by the Aubrac and uses produce the area has so offer such as in the ‘gargouillou’ of tender young vegetables, herbs and flowers. Michel has opened a restaurant in Japan as he says Hokkaido reminds him of the Aubrac. In 2014 he will open a new establishment in Toulouse. Michel works with his son Sébastien.
Michel Sarran is exceptional, uncompromising and independently minded. He is from Toulouse so naturally is a great rugby fan as well as two-star Michelin chef who embodies all that is good about the cuisine of the region. He is a natural champion of the Midi-Pyrenees. His cooking, learnt at the hand of great chefs such as Ducasse and Guérard, is bold and free of the shackles of convention. Tempting dishes such as Haricots Tarbais mousse with aged rum, coconut milk and marrons glacés and Ferme de la Cave duck foie gras never fail to please.
Nicole Fagegaltier is the only female Michelin- star chef in the region. She has had her star for 20 years for the fabulous food she delivers in what was her family home and is now a small hotel /restaurant in Belcastel, Aveyron – one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The local produce inspires her creations such as baby goat with sorrel and fried gudgeon. Nicole works with her sister and husband to produce superb dishes that consistently deliver in quality.
Simon Scott came to Castres in the Tarn as his French wife Marie-Helene is from the town.
Simon is the only English chef in France to have been awarded a Michelin star (awarded in 2009). Le Bistrot Saveur has exquisite cuisine, not only in terms of taste but in its presentation. It’s probably what you might expect from a chef of Simon’s pedigree with time served at The Savoy, The Ritz London and with Jean-Claude Aubertin. With a fine-tuned skill set, married with the richness and variety of the regional products available in the area, Simon’s inner genius was unleashed on the French populace!
|Note to Editors: Whether you prefer to spend your time experiencing culture, pursuing an activity or enjoying typical French hospitality, the Midi-Pyrénées appeals to most tastes. Midi-Pyrénées is the largest region of south-west France. From Toulouse, The Pink City, to the banks of the Canal du Midi, the grandiose spectacle of the Cirque de Gavarnie or the Millau Viaduct, authentic villages oozing with character such as Saint-Cirque Lapopie and exuberant festivals like Jazz in Marciac, explore all the possibilities that Midi-Pyrénées offers. The region is easily accessible from the UK with direct flights from London Stansted to Rodez and from London Gatwick, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and Dublin to Toulouse. For more information, visit www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk or call +33 561 13 55 12.
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