The Aveyron is part of the Midi-Pyrénées and is an area of great beauty where nature is at the heart of this French department both in its landscapes and its people.
If you are seeking a holiday where you can relax and get away from it all this is an area to consider. It is a perfect hiking area with thousands of miles of perfect hiking trails to satisfy anyone wanting to set off on this kind of adventure. The Grand Causses Regional Nature Park covers one third of Aveyron and is one of the wildest nature parks in France and is simply wonderful if you enjoy hiking. It is where you will find the ewe – it is the milk from the ewe that makes the most wonderful famous blue Roquefort cheese. Other wild life includes eagles, peregrines, falcons, deer, beavers, owls and many more inhabitants.
For those of you who love the mountainous regions, the Aveyron contains part of the Cévennes National Park with several mountains and plateaus with Mont Lozère having the highest peak in the area reaching 1,699 metres.
There are many tourist attractions of which many are centuries old such as the Château de Najac a medieval castle perched high on a hill in Najac but there is also a fairly new attraction - the Millau viaduct which was opened by President Chirac in 2004. The viaduct was designed by the French engineer, Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster and is the tallest bridge in the world. You will find it on the auto route A75 – A71 from Paris to Montpellier.
There are many other activities in this area, in fact something for everyone such as horse riding, fishing – the river Aveyron is full of the most delicious trout – this is one food you simply must try, either one you have caught yourself or at a local restaurant as it is so much better than a farmed trout we get in the supermarkets.
There are many skilled crafts people here too and one of the most famous is the Lagioule knife, a high quality pocket knife originating from the town of Laguiole in the Aveyron since 1829. They are recognised by a small forged bee logo.
Food of course is just simply wonderful from this area and the Aveyronnaise have many foods and recipes they have had handed down over the generations and which they continue to make today with the same patience and love which will tempt your taste buds after a long day of your favourite activity in this beautiful area.
If you choose to dine in some of the restaurants of the area you will of course have a wonderful choice of foods such as confits de poule et canard, Feuilletés d'escargots à la crème d'ail, galipette de l'Anjou and many more tasty dishes.
Some of the more traditional dishes from the area are the Aveyronnaise Salade consisting of smoked duck, walnuts and Roquefort cheese which is really lovely and well worth trying. Some also include foi gras but you have to have a taste for it.
One traditional food which nowadays is made for special occasions and if you were to know how long it took to make and the patience needed to do it, you would truly understand why it is kept for special occasions only. This of course is the Gâteau à la broche, a cake which is centuries old and takes hours of preparation. It is made with a batter similar to that when you make Madeleine’s and the batter is poured on to a cone shape which hangs over a spit on an open fire. This gradually cooks as more and more batter is placed over it until all the batter is used and the result is the Gâteau à la broche. All I can say is that I admire the woman who has the patience to make one of these although when it comes to eating it I will be one of the first, it sounds fascinating.
As I said earlier, the river Aveyron is full of fresh trout and there are numerous recipes to turn this simple and often overlooked fish into a gourmet feast. Personally I don’t care for anything fancy such as trout with almonds for example, I much prefer it cooked more simply such as pan fried after a dusting of flour and served with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh parsley. Another method which is simple but very tasty is to gently poach the trout in a court
bouillon as the flavour is so good. So these are some simple and quick ideas if you manage to catch a good trout or two whilst staying in this area.
The French have many recipes for the humble potato and manage to turn them into the most wonderful dishes using simple ingredients. One of the most traditional recipes from this area is the L’Aligot or cheesy potatoes. It is a very old recipe and they say its origins began with the monks who made the very first dish but used bread until the potato was introduced into France. They made the dish with their homemade bread and the local cheese to satisfy the hungry pilgrims who passed their way.
Today this beautiful dish which I assure you is so yummy you will want lots of it, is made all over France and I love to watch the techniques used especially as they stretch the ingredients and often cut it when giving you a serving of this cheesy food.
So for this month’s recipe I thought you may like to try the L’Aligot as it is easy to make it at home using similar ingredients but if you are in the Aveyron then you will find it in most restaurants and market places too. Just to watch them make it is fascinating.
In France this traditional dish is usually made with a local cheese, the unfermented tome de Cantal. This cheese comes originally from the area around the town of Laguiole in the Aveyron. You can use a good soft mild cheese which melts easily such as Caerphilly or a Lancashire cheese is also good.
Potatoes should be nice and floury, these days in supermarkets they often tell you what type of potatoes they are but if in a market or greengrocers, they will tell you which are better for mashing.
- 2lb potatoes (about 1kg)
- 10oz cheese
- 2oz butter
- 6oz cream or crème fraiche
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
You can either peel or cook the potatoes in salted boiling water or my favourite method is to cook them in their skins then peel them. Mash the potatoes well.
Heat the cream and butter in a pan with the crushed garlic then add the cheese either grated or cut into small pieces and heat until it is all melted.
Add this creamy, cheesy mixture to the potatoes and mash really well until you have a consistency that is elastic in texture and then serve immediately.
It is traditionally served with good quality pork sausages but you could serve it with pork chops or even a good steak.
If you have any over, perhaps not but just in case you do, it makes lovely little potato cakes for a light meal. Simply form the potato mixture into small cakes, dust with flour and gently fry for a few minutes on each side.