Paris on the menu : from farm to fork11-10-2017
The area surrounding the French capital provides a rich variety of quality fresh produce and a gastronomic offer to match.
It’s true that the greater Paris region, or Ile de France as it is known in French circles, is more likely to be associated with France’s capital, monuments and extensive crown-shaped urban sprawl rather than agriculture. Paris and farming rarely go hand in hand, and yet 50% of the land around greater Paris is devoted to agriculture, and to cereals in particular (60%). In total, there are essentially four main types of agriculture found around Paris. First there is the wheat sector, including flour, bread, cakes and pastries. “It really is fork to fork in this sector” explains Catherine Le Dantec, Director General at ARIA, the Regional Associations of Agri-food Industries, Ile de France. Next is drinks, with a diverse range of products originating from this region, including soft drinks, fruit juices, beers, cider and various alcoholic beverages such as Grand Marnier or Noyau de Poissy, one of France’s oldest liqueurs. “The drinks sector is full of innovation in the Greater Paris region. It is an important sector, showing great prospects for the future” adds Catherine le Dantec. Grocery is also an important sector (sweet and savoury) which includes condiments, jams, confectionery, chocolate and sweets. Last but not least, the delicatessen and prepared food sector, including meat and fish. “Historically, fish originating from France and Europe was processed in the region to meet the demands of the greater Paris region. The region is particularly adept when it comes to smoked salmon” points out Catherine Le Dantec. And in the case of meat, two iconic products immediately spring to mind, “saucisson de Paris” (sausage) and “jambon de Paris” (cooked ham), both of which are particularly popular in export markets.
Star products from the region
It is worth taking a closer look at some of the produce that have shaped the identity of the Ile-de-France region. Jambon de Paris continues to preserve its tradition and savoir-faire, and is produced in the region by a large number of artisans using ancient methods. French company Doumbea, owned by the Leguel family, produces hams in true French gastronomic tradition. The uniqueness and excellent quality standards of their products have forged a path to the most sought-after tables, including those of illustrious chefs Alain Ducasse and Yannick Alléno. The ham is also recommended by Paris’s champion butcher Hugo Desnoyer. Moving to condiments, mustard has shaped the reputation of the town of Meaux, together with Brie, a soft cheese also produced in Melun, Montereau, Nangis and also Provins. Finally, Grand Marnier, a Cognac and orange based liqueur originating in Neauphle-le-Chateau in Yvelines, is arguably the most famous exemplar from the drinks sector. In France, Grand Marnier is historically famed for its use in cooking – think Crepes Suzette – but is also a quality ingredient in cocktails. Today, exports account for 90% of its production, notably to the US, where it is enjoyed in famous cocktails such as the Grand Margarita.
On today’s menu : cress and Paris-Brest
Ile-de-France is France’s leading region for producing cress. Available all year round on supermarket shelves, this dainty salad leaf is a delicious accompaniment to enhance savoury dishes. And to top it all, cress is rich in vitamins and minerals. You may find it on the menu served in a tart, quiche or even transformed into pesto. This versatile, delicious salad, with its tiny green leaves, is delicately flavoured with a subtle peppery dimension. Its tender, crunchy texture goes particularly well with Brie de Meaux and a drizzle of olive oil.
And for dessert, Paris-Brest is a pastry adored by the French. Shaped like a crown, it is made of choux pastry filled with crème mousseline, a delicious pastry cream flavoured with almonds, and topped with flaked almonds. It is attributed to pastry-chef Louis Durand, who was inspired by a cycle race between Paris and Brest, sadly no longer in existence, with its shape emulating that of a bicycle wheel. The famous cake can still be tasted in the place it was first created, at Durand patisserie, Maisons-Lafitte, Yvelines. Bon appetit !
And for a real taste of Made in Ile-de-France fare, we wholeheartedly recommend the restaurants set up by chef Yannick Alleno, a native of the region, which you can check out online.