The Dordogne, also known as the Perigord, is a land where time has stood still. On the carpeted hills, you can still see Romanesque churches and century old houses and gardens that enhance the natural beauty of the region, villages are dotted around on the limestone cliffs and the region is known for its agricultural heritage.
The locals thrive on locally grown foods. They produce wonderful meals from produce that they have cultivated in their gardens and farms or where they sell and buy from local markets for restaurateurs to cook gastronomic meals.
The area is known for its duck, which is a staple dish of the Perigord and is found on every menu. The duck is cooked in many ways, the favourite being Confit of Duck. Confit of Duck is generally the leg but can be the breast and is left to marinade in salt for a few days prior to cooking very slowly on a low heat. The duck becomes unbelievably tender and is generally served with pommes sarladaises. Pommes sarladaises are sliced potatoes fried in duck fat. The other favourite is Magret de Canard which is generally the duck breast served pink with a sauce. My favourite duck recipe is pan fried duck breast with spiced orange and cranberry sauce, I will add the recipe to our website.
The other famous duck dish from this region of course is foie gras. This smooth velvety pate is made from goose or duck liver and is extremely rich. The duck version has a much stronger flavour than the delicate goose foie gras. Foie gras is generally served with an onion chutney and toasted brioche. I think it’s like marmite you either love it or hate it but it is adored by the locals.
The Dordogne is also synonymous with some wonderful fromages, from melt in your mouth delicate flavours to strong natural intense blues. The traditional cheeses of the region are Bleu de Causses, Ossau Iraty and Rocamadour.
Bleu de Causses is produced from the milk from the cows grazing on the limestone hills. The cheese is left to mature on oak shelves or in the natural caves for 3 to 6 months. It has a special aroma and the flavour differs depending on when it was produced. It is sometimes considered to be a milder form of Roquefort although it’s made from sheep’s milk, both sharing blue penicillium veins.
With its mild flavour and special aroma is definitely deserves a place on the cheeseboard it is delicious when paired with the sweet white wine or pears .
Rocamadour Is a goats cheese also known as Canecous. This small smooth disk gets its name from the village of Rocamadour and is one of the oldest cheeses produced in the Dordogne.
It is made with non-pasteurised milk and is only aged for a couple of weeks, it is soft and creamy and best served with a slice of freshly toasted walnut bread. It is also delicious crumbled into a salad.
Ossau Iraty is a very old cheese, some say one of the first intentionally made cheeses in Europe.
It is made with sheep’s milk, ivory in colour with a natural rind it is creamy and buttery with flavours of nuts, fruits and herbs.
Truffles are another one of the main local specialities these have been harvested since forever, the prized ‘truffe noire’. During the winter months local trufficulteurs head to the regions rocky woods and sun dappled pastures for the truffle hunting season.
There are 70 varieties of truffles cultivated in the world, only 30 varieties grown in Europe. However the king of truffles known as the truffle noire Is found in the Dordogne Valley.
It has a black flesh, striped with thin white lines and is known as the ‘black diamond’, it’s grown underground with the roots of the oak and hazelnut tree taking months to ripen.
Like any spice or great fragrant fragrance, buying a truffle requires some precautions as the best quality is rare and extremely expensive and will leave you wanting more.
Restaurants serve up dishes topped with shavings of the local delicacy from omelettes, risotto and foie gras.
Walnuts – La Noix du Perigord, are also an integral part of the Dordognes local culture and commerce being the biggest regional producers of walnuts in France. Walnuts have been grown in this area for centuries. Back in the 10th century peasants paid their debts with walnuts and their medicinal and nutritional values were even peddled by the early doctors. In the 11th century they were expected to give a 10th of their crop to the church. In the 13th century walnut oil was considered gold dust and then by the 18th century they were being exported around the world. Most families had a couple of trees to enhance their income and if you were wondering what is done with all the shells, they are crushed and used as cat litter.
Whilst driving through the Dordogne you will see rows of leafy trees all over the place these are generally walnut trees. These delicious nuts can be used in many ways fresh or dried. They can be used for making oil, adding to salads or chocolate, eaten with cheese. Walnuts are remarkably good for you and are rich in Omega 3 & 6, fibre, vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese and iron.
Walnuts are harvested in October, this is done by a tractor tying a rope around the trees trunk and revving up the engine to make the tree shake and the nuts fall to the ground where they are hovered up by specialist machinery.
Make sure you try the local aperitif, Vin de noix of course made from the wanlnuts.