Tarn specialities to try
While you are visiting Cordes sur Ciel, why not try some of the wonderful regional speciality products and recipes? Here is a short, illustrated list, with brief descriptions of what to expect. Bon appétit!
Foie gras is the liver of a duck or goose which has been fed using a method designed to fatten it rapidly. The most expensive is foie gras entier and it may be obtained cooked, semi-cooked or fresh. If you have this at home, try serving it, well-seasoned, on toast and accompany it with a locally produced fruit conserve and a dessert wine.
Confit is well-seasoned meat which is cooked and preserved in its own fat, typically goose and duck leg or gizzards; you may also find some cuts of pork prepared in this way. Serve your confit hot, with sliced potatoes cooked in the fat from the duck confit and a plate of simply prepared fresh vegetables or salad. Confit is quite rich, so a little goes a long way.
Civet de Sanglier
Civet de sanglier is a hearty wild boar stew made with red wine, herbs, mushrooms, garlic, onions and seasonings. Once cooked, the flavour is best left to develop to its full strength, preferably overnight. This dish is often served with potatoes and vegetables, but may also be accompanied by rice or pasta.
Cassoulet is a rich-flavoured, slow-cooked casserole made with beans, sausages, and other meats such as pork and duck. Its name derives from the cassole in which it is traditionally cooked. Cassoulet toulousain is made using duck confit and gorgeous Toulouse sausages. This is a rich and intensely satisfying meal, usually served on its own in a bowl and enjoyed with a glass of red wine.
Croquants are biscuits made with almonds and caramelised sugar; these are a Cordes sur Ciel speciality. The recipe is said to have been created originally in order to use up the very generous almond harvests of the area. The best croquants are light, crisp and airy: they are delicious with coffee, tea or even a glass of local wine. Modern bakers have introduced a variation in the shape of croquants drizzled with dark chocolate. You may also find similar croquant-style products using peanuts or hazelnuts in place of the almonds
Echaudé biscuits are flavoured with aniseed and the pieces of dough are boiled before they are baked. These biscuits have been made for many centuries - one of the earliest references to them in 1202 says that they were well-known throughout the Albi region. Production is centred in Carmaux, just a few miles away from Cordes sur Ciel.
Veau d'Aveyron et du Ségala
Veal from calves reared traditionally, in accordance with strict regulations concerning animal welfare. Veau d'Aveyron et du Ségala bears the coveted Label Rouge granted by the French Ministry for Agriculture as well as the IGP mark indicating Protected Geographical Status.
Saucisse and Saucisson
Saucisse is sausage that has to be cooked before it is eaten, such as the saucisse de Toulouse, which is said to be the finest French sausage. Toulouse sausage contains pork, smoked bacon, red wine and garlic. Try them braised in a little red wine, with onions and Puy lentils.
Saucisson is a dried sausage and there are many traditional, hand-made varieties to try. Bruniquel, about half an hour from Cordes sur Ciel, holds a sausage festival in July.
Jambon de Laucane
Jambon de Laucane is a cured ham prepared to a special method which takes at least seven months to complete. It is first treated with salt, then allowed to dry slowly until it reaches perfection. Slice the ham very thinly and try it with salad and a glass of wine.
Tripou Naucellois is a prize-winning tripe dish from Naucelle; there is now an organic version on the market. The tripe is prepared and cooked in a white wine sauce, best served very hot with steamed potatoes. Tripe has been enjoying something of a renaissance in France in recent years. Originally considered a peasant food, it is now found on gourmet tables everywhere.
Truffles are the “black diamonds” which are found in the winter months in the oak forests of the area; truffles cannot be cultivated, they grow wild and they a rare and therefore expensive delicacy. Truffles are hunted out by specially trained dogs and pigs who seek the distinctive aroma. Black truffles are usually served shaved wafer thin over the top of dishes such as scrambled egg or risotto.
Ceps are wild mushrooms often used in stewed dishes where their deep flavour has time to develop but they are equally delicious sautéed in a little butter. Out of season, ceps are available dried. If using the dried version, rehydrate them in hot water, or add them direct to your casserole. If you pick your own mushrooms, always be sure to check with an expert that they are indeed safe to eat.
L’Ail Rose de Lautrec (AOC)
L’Ail Rose de Lautrec is a highly recommended, sweet-flavoured, pink garlic which keeps well - suitably stored it will last for at least six months. It has the Label Rouge and IGP certification. Use it in the same way as standard garlic in all recipes and even as a remedy, prepared with honey, for sore throats and colds.
Bleu de Causses (AOC)
- a blue cheese made from cow’s milk and matured in limestone caves
- a small round soft cheese made from unpasteurised goat’s milk
- a soft creamy goat’s milk cheese
- a blue cheese made from ewe’s milk, crumbly and slightly moist
Tomme Noire des Pyrénées
- a semi-hard cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk