Brittany: local delicacies attracting worldwide renown04-09-2017
Spearheaded by its famous “crepes”, or pancakes, Breton cuisine is famous the world over. Franceagroalimentaire.com has cooked up a « made in Brittany » menu to whet your appetite:
Breton cuisine Introduction
Kouign-amann, crêpes, galettes and andouille are all typical Breton dishes engrained in local culture, with the accent firmly on irresistible flavour. Butter is very much a beacon on the local food landscape, which has forged its identity on the fruits of both land and sea. Fish, shellfish, seafood, cereals and vegetables feature prominently and seamlessly in the most popular Breton dishes.
Aperitif: Kir Breton and andouille de Guémené
While classic kir made from white wine and creme de cassis is known the world over, here in Brittany, kir Breton made with cider rather than wine is traditionally served as an aperitif. Celtic kir is the latest cocktail variant, which like kir Breton is made with cider, but with cream and the added twist of a dash of chouchen or hydromel, a honey-based mead which is very popular in the region. It is also very easy to make and with the honey-based flavour makes an original alternative to more traditional cocktails. Try it served with a few thin slices of andouille de Gueméné-sur-Scorff from the Morbihan region, a pork dried-meat speciality commonly found in Breton markets. The best examples are smoky and succulent, and not too fatty.
Starter: seafood’s the dish of the day
While few fish dishes spring to mind as typical of the region, with its extensive coastline, Brittany boasts a seafood and shellfish tradition attracting worldwide following. And if that doesn’t convince you, the mere mention of prestigious delicacies such as Cancale oysters, AOC Moules de Bouchet, speciality mussels from Mont-Saint-Michel bay (Vivier-sur-Mer) and also fine scallops from Erquy should do the trick. Sumptuous seafood platters are a restaurant speciality and typically include whelks, winkles, clams, razor clams, praires clams, scallops and amandes de mer (dog scallops), and if you are really lucky, ormeau (conch), which also can be found at the local market. A good way to savour this seafood bounty would be to make a cotriade, or fish stew. Often likened to the famous Bouillabaisse fish soup from Marseilles, this is a stew including local fresh ingredients, shellfish of the day cooked in stock, white wine, plenty of seasoning, vegetables and spices. In Brittany, there are as many recipe variants are as villages…
Perfect pairing: this dish has dry white wine written all over it – and neighbouring Muscadet is the obvious choice, with its crisp, fresh and saline notes.
Crepe or galette, the choix is yours!
Or both! Famously and firmly rooted in local food culture, these pancake variants are often cited as responsible for making Brittany a go-to gastronomic destination. Legend has it that the galette came into being as a result of a mishap at the hands of a local farmer’s wife, who inadvertently spilled buckwheat flour on a hot cooking stone. Not wanting it to go to waste, she decided to cook it all the same. Traditionally, galette de ble noir from Haute-Bretagne, made with black flour, are a savoury treat, with the most well-known examples garnished with sausage or even the full complement of egg, ham and grated cheese. Galette can also be enjoyed with scallops and creamed leaks. Its cousin, galette de Sarrasin, rooted in Basse-Bretagne, is an entirely different kettle of fish according to locals, and is made from wheat flour as well as buckwheat flour. Paper-thin and crispy in texture, while in contrast, galettes from ble noir (black flour) are thicker and softer.
Perfect pairing: not wine this time, opt for a dry cider instead.
Dessert: crepes, Far Breton and Kouign-amann
When it comes to buttery cakes, Brittany reigns supreme and Kouign-amann (pronounced “Queen A-man”) is the perfect example. The star of local patisserie shops is said to have originated in Douarnenez. Legend has it that the cake came to fruition through a failed attempt at pastry by its inventor, boulanger Yves-René Sordia, who rather than let it go to waste, baked it anyway. The result is a mouth-wateringly succulent cake. It is however notoriously tricky to get right, as patisserie shop window signs remind us: « Le fait qui veut, le réussit qui peut”; anyone can try, success is not guaranteed.
Featuring equally highly on the list of must-try Brittany delicacies is Far Breton, a flan sometimes flavoured with prunes, traou-mad, a full-fat butter cookie from Pont-Aven, galettes pure butter biscuits from Playben, Fouesnant and Saint-Michel, paper-thin and crispy crepes dentelle biscuits from Quimper, gotchial brioche from Saint Armel, fouace bread pockets, quatre-quarts or pound cake, made with eggs, sugar, butter and flour in equal measure and delicious, buttery biscuits from La Trinitiane.