ESSENTIAL FRENCH DISHES
The danger when you visit France is that you over-indulge on
the great dishes they have to offer – that, and the wine, of course. But there
are some dishes that, given the opportunity, you must try.
This renowned fish dish was created, like many French ‘classics’,
as a poor people’s platter. Marseille fishermen boiled up for themselves the fish
they couldn't sell. These days, bouillabaisse has tipped over into top-end
dining, and many restaurants claim to be the only one with the ‘authentic’
recipe, when, in reality, the very ‘use-whatever-is-available’ fundamental
means that there can be no definitive recipe: but don’t go for cheap versions.
It comes in two servings – first a fish soup, with croutons
and a rouille sauce, then a platter of different sorts of fish. The entire dish
is a huge undertaking, and best eaten at a steady pace, with no intentions of
doing anything else with the rest of the day except walk (or sleep) it off.
Where to try it: Marseille, especially at Le Miramar, which
is where I was shown round the kitchen before being presented with the dish. Be
sure to take a hearty appetite…or some friends.
This is something I make at home, a tasty Savoyard dish of
potatoes, bacon and onions covered in Reblochon cheese. This is irresistible
comfort food, probably invented in to increase the sales of Reblochon cheese.
Where to try it: In the Haute-Savoie, for sure, although the
first, and most recent times I’ve had it have been in Gavarnie in the Pyrenees,
but, admittedly, the chef was from Chamonix.
This speciality of the French south-west, between Toulouse
and Carcassonne has a chunky meatiness, very much from the stick-in-the-ribs
department. Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary regularly come to blows on
Where to try it: I’ve tried it in all three of those places,
but the most evocative was in the citadel in Carcassonne, late in the evening
once all the tourists had gone.
4. BEEF BOURGUIGNONNE
This unbeatable, wine-rich beef dish (bourguignonne =
burgundian, incidentally) goes a treat served with creamy mashed potatoes, or,
if you want to be rather less splash-and-dash when you’re eating in company then
try it with gratin Dauphinois, and a bit of shredded cabbage cooked with
Where to try it: In Dijon, is the logical place, but you can
get this in one form or another pretty well anywhere in Burgundy, and beyond.
Aligot is one of the oldest traditional dishes originating
from the Aveyron in the Midi-Pyrénées and is really a simple dish of really
yummy cheesy potatoes – and it is stretchy......! The French have many recipes
for the humble potato, but they manage to turn them into the most wonderful
It is said that the origins of Aligot 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 home-made bread and the local cheese
to satisfy the hungry pilgrims who passed their way.
Where to try it: Almost every restaurant in Aveyron serves
aligot; you can even buy it in the weekly markets.