Gastronomy – French mountain life18-01-2018
From the Alps to the Pyrenees, from Jura via the Massif Central and the Vosges, typical French ski food is full of character and will bring a warming glow to even the most cold-sensitive among us…
Tartiflette, fondue and raclette from the Alps
The most famous food trio you are likely to encounter in the French Alps. And while their fame may stretch far beyond the mountains to the rest of France, it’s never as good as in its native region.
Fondue “Savoyarde” is the simplest ski food to make at home. Guests gather around a table, pop bite-size pieces of bread on a long fork, and plunge in a vat of melted cheese, known locally as a “caquelon”, positioned at handy reach in the centre of the table. Most cheeses work, but for that authentic Savoie taste, only Beaufort, Comte and Abondance will do.
Raclette is an equally sociable event, and even more filling. It is made using the cheese of the same name, which is melted in a unique contraption designed specifically for this purpose. Once the raclette is melted, guests help themselves to individual portions of cheese, scraped on their plates and served with local charcuterie and cooked potatoes. Delicious!
And last, but by no means least, tartiflette: a rustic, traditionally farmer’s dish invented by the local governing body for Reblochon cheese, which is produced locally in Savoie and Haute Savoie. It is the starring ingredient in this well-known dish, and is served as a gratin over a delicious mix of ham, potatoes, fresh cream and onions.
When in Auvergne, it’s all about truffade
Often deemed Auvergne’s answer to Savoie’s tartiflette, truffade is a cheese-based dish you are bound to encounter in the Massif Central region, where there are rumoured to be as many versions as there are chefs! It’s an easy dish to make and a match for even the heartiest of appetites. Just peel a few potatoes and slice into rounds. Transfer to a casserole dish and fry in duck fat with garlic, salt and pepper. Once cooked, add fresh Tomme cheese from Cantal and mix together well. This dish is best served with a green salad and sliced ham.
Ouillade in the Pyrenees
Ouillade, or ollada, is a typical winter casserole from the Pyrenees. The original, traditional recipe features pork and vegetables. Simply blanche white beans and green cabbage in a pan. Once cooked, transfer to a casserole dish with a generous piece of pork, diced potatoes, lard and bouquet garni and cover with water. Leave to gently simmer for 3 hours. If there are any left overs, Ouillade can also be served as a delicious, warming soup!
“Soupe aux cailloux” (Stone soup) in the Vosges and Jura
Stone soup is one of France’s most famous, traditional rustic dishes. The recipe is based on vegetable soup, together with the less conventional ingredient of two (clean!) stones placed in the cooking pot. When the liquid reaches boiling, the stones move around with the heat, and give the soup its characteristic smooth consistency. It’s a clever way to break down the vegetables, especially if you don’t happen to have a mixer or blender to hand, when on holiday for example, and has the added advantage of retaining all the full flavours of the vegetables. It’s also an easy recipe to replicate. Just roughly chop a selection of vegetables including turnip, carrots, potatoes, leeks and green cabbage, together with bacon and a knob of butter, gently heat in a casserole dish, then cover with water and season with salt and pepper. Add a couple of oval-shaped stones and simmer for approximately 4 hours.