Guide to the Loire regions

Côtes d'Auvergne



Wild flowers, Puy-de-Dôme


The cuisine of the Auvergne

‘It is a land of a thousand potato dishes, of hard sausages and strong mountain cheese’ 

                                                                                         – Jacqueline Friedrich. 

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 or cold.

Puy Lentils
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.

Mineral waters
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 originate here.

Cheese
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.

BLUE
Bleu de Laqueuille
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.

Fourme d’Ambert AOC
A mild blue cheese produced around Ambert in the Forez mountains.

Bleue d’Auvergne AOC
One of the most famous of all France’s blue cheeses, this is produced through much of the upland Auvergne.

PRESSED
Cantal AOC
A hard, uncooked pressed cheese which carries an AC for production within the département and comes as jeune (young) or entre-deux (aged).

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.

Saint-Nectaire
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.

Savaron is a little seen cheese, similar to Saint-Nectaire, which has had its own AC since 1945.

 


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