to the Loire regions
cuisine of the Auvergne
is a land of a thousand potato dishes, of hard sausages and strong
The Auvergne is a region of peasant cuisine, simple
but good, with dishes built around the staple ingredients of potatoes and
cabbages, but the region is also famous for its dried sausages and cured,
salted or smoked hams. There is ample mutton for the production of gigot
brayaude and a stuffed sheep’s trotter dish, called tripoux.
The Auvergnat’s also claim to
have invented coq-au-vin. Dairy
and beef cattle are common on the plains and there is a natural extension
of the cereal growing region of Berry to the north. For a brief period in
the 18th Century, the Auvergne also enjoyed a market in Paris
for its frogs, and a century later Alexandre Dumas wrote that they made
for a healthy diet, especially when cooked in soup.
The Limagne also supports much mixed agriculture, extending from the
plains and onto the lower slopes, which accommodate apple and pear
orchards and, in turn, give way to peach, apricot, cherry and almond trees
as one climbs higher up the slopes. Candied fruits are a specialty of the
Auvergne, given the diversity of produce grown here.
Local dishes include Potée
auvergnate, a rib sticking stew, Truffade,
a rustic potato and cheese dish which is seen on every tourist menu; its
quality and style as diverse as a pizza in Napoli. Aligot
is made by mashing potatoes and blending with fresh cheese (ideally Cantal
or Laguiole, or Tomme) and beating over a flame until the dish resembles a
thick fondue. It can be bought, oven-ready, and is delicious when eaten
with local charcuterie and a side salad with a bowl of cornichons. Pounti is a specialty of Cantal and is based on a batter of eggs and
flour, cooked to resemble an omelette. It’s often filled with a
fridge-emptying mélange of herbs and prunes which can then be eaten hot
Vineyards in the Haute-Loire may have disappeared
with the onset of phylloxera, but the département
does have a reputation for the growing of lentils enjoying, since 1996,
its own appellation for them. They are cultivated on the high plateaux,
between 600 and 1,000 metres with the production centred on the town of
Le-Puy-en-Velay. It is a triangular area encompassing 88 communes in the
Haute-Loire, from Saint-George d’Aurac in the valley of the Allier in
the north-west, across to Retournac, a village of the Loire in the
north-east, and down to Pradelles in the south. Their origin in the region
predates the arrival of the Romans, with the rich volcanic soil, climate
and the specific varieties of lentil found here being attributed to its
quick cooking time. The harvest follows that of the vine, being from late
August through to October.
One hundred years ago, it would have been a bottle
of Auvergne wine that would have been more likely have been found on the
tables of Paris. Today, it’s about a thousand times more likely that you
will be offered a bottle of
Auvergnat water instead: Volvic, Vichy-Saint-Yorre and Châteldon all
The Auvergne is known as the cheeseboard of France
due to the rich diversity available; expect to find the familiar names of
blue, pressed and soft cheeses here and manufactured, primarily, in the
upland meadows of the Cantal. Cheese making is also one of the oldest
industries in the country, with production in the Region being recorded by
Pliny the Elder, two thousand years ago.
The original blue of the Auvergne; legend goes that
a farmer by the name of Antoine Roussel produced the first one in 1850
when he left a fresh cheese in a drawer with some crumbs of mouldy bread.
A mild blue cheese produced around Ambert in the
Fourme d’Ambert AOC
of the most famous of all France’s blue cheeses, this
is produced through much of the upland Auvergne.
Bleue d’Auvergne AOC
A hard, uncooked pressed cheese which carries an AC
for production within the département
and comes as jeune (young) or entre-deux
Two other smaller areas within the Cantal which produce hard cheese at
high altitude are from unpasteurised cows milk in summer only are Laguiole
AOC and Salers AOC.
One of the most famous soft cheeses in France, it
enjoys its own appellation, although the style and quality varies
enormously. There are two distinct types: farm produced, or cru, which is generally made from unpasteurised milk and better,
although also more expensive, and dairy; sold when still too young and
essentially found in supermarkets.
When young, a proper Saint-Nectaire will be hard and
dry, but with age will soften and become elastic and have a tendency to
run when at room temperature.
is a little seen cheese, similar to Saint-Nectaire, which has had its own
AC since 1945.