Fig brioche and petit four of violet in Toulouse

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Spain and France 2014 September 361Toulouse in South of France, with its rich French culinary history, is a perfect destination for foodies -but I didn’t know that until during my three weeks holiday in France and Spain- I could manage to visit the city and had a chance to sample a vast array of hearty dishes in some local restaurants, cafes and market places. There’s no shortage of wonderful things to sample and places to dine, such as the

Foie gras

Which is made from the liver of a specially-fattened goose or duck, and has a smooth, rich texture to it. Usually available as a starter or as an accompaniment to a main meal, but foie gras is also eaten on special occasions, such as New Year’s Eve and during the Yule tide season. However, it can be found in restaurants throughout Toulouse all year round, with the Cordon Rose on rue Valade among the establishments to offer it as a starter dish.

Cassoulet

When I worked up my appetite seeing the various sights of the city, I felt like I need to recharge my battery so I satisfied my hunger with a cassoulet which I have eaten once in Paris and liked it. The dish named after the casserole – the traditional earthenware pot it is cooked in – and this slow-cooked dish contains typically pork sausages, goose, duck and sometimes mutton, pork skin (couennes), white haricot beans, vegetables and herbs. The particular meats found in a cassoulet tend to differ depending on where in France you are, but trying this in Toulouse means you’re likely to get pork sausages and goose or duck confit. The locals drink a hearty glass of red wine –to accompany this dish – such as one from the Collioure region of France. The best Toulouse cassoulet can be find at the Le Colombier, an establishment that has served homemade traditional French cuisine since 1873. In the restaurant’s wine cellar consisting of vintages from Bordeaux and Burgundy – among other regions – there is plenty of scope to find a bottle that complements the cassoulet perfectly.

Garbure

Garbure is the perfect thick French soup or stew of ham with cabbage and other vegetables, usually with cheese and stale bread added. The name derives from the use of the term garb to describe sheaves of grain depicted on a heraldic shield or coat of arms. Thus the name of garbure, which is eaten with a fork, is a reference to the use of pitchforks to pick up sheaves of grain. The dish is often served during the winter months, because it is thick, and hearty. Although the specific ingredients vary depending on the restaurant – in the past it was traditionally made by peasants and contained meat and cabbage. The speciality of this meal is that it is cooked in a toupin, an earthenware round-bellied casserole dish, and the sign you can be sure you’re tucking into authentic garbure is if the spoon can stand up straight in the bowl without falling over.

Spain and France 2014 September 341Toulouse sausage

The saussage is simply made for the lovers of rustic cuisine. Whether eaten grilled or in a confit (preserved in fat), in a cassoulet or with haricot beans, Toulouse sausage retains its unique flavour and reveals the authentic taste of the South-West of France. It will be even more enjoyable served with a regional wine. Consisting of diced pork that has been flavoured with wine, smoked bacon and garlic, this tastes great when fried or braised.

Violet ice cream, violet petit four

Toulouse and the violet-they are items! The hardy winter bloom- the Violet of Toulouse-, was introduced into the city under Napoleon the IIId, and since it has had a place of glory and economic importance. For here, in France’s fourth largest city the violet is the basis of a whole craft-based range of foodstuffs, recipes, perfumes, beauty products, small shops, romantic stories, a barge on the Canal du Midi. In the early 19th century, more than 600 small farming families lived off the winter cultivation of this plant, making very fashionable bouquets exported to the UK, Germany, Russia, Morocco and elsewhere. The city held Violet Tea Dances, there was the annual election of Miss Violet and personalised bouquets were delivered by romantic young blades wooing their belles. Peak production of the Violet of Toulouse came in the last century when apart from bouquets, the flowers were also dusted with sugar and used for decorating cakes, opening up an entire new industry. So I was curious of its taste and I tried the violet ice cream and the petit four of violet and believe me that they had strong violet flavors! The other favorit sweet in Toulouse was a fairly simple to bake croquant. It was a savoury dessert consists of crisp biscuits that are made from almonds and caramelised sugar and are the perfect way to finish off a traditional Toulouse meal. You can eat them on their own, although pairing them with chocolate or fruit – such as raspberries – is sure to bring out their flavour even more!Spain and France 2014 September 089

Fig brioche

On the very last day of my staying in Toulouse- in the neighbourhood of my hotel- I discovered a sensational baker shop where I popped in for breakfast, and I chose a brioche which was riched with figs! I enjoyed the pastry so much that I even brought one home yet. The baker-seeing my great enthusiasm-, told me that the normal method is to make the dough that let it rise to double its volume at room temperature and then punch it down and let it rise again in the refrigerator for varying periods (according to the recipe), retarding the dough to develop the flavour. Refrigeration also stiffens the dough, which still rises, albeit slowly, making it easier to form. The dough is then shaped, placed in containers for the final rise (proof), and the tops are generally brushed with an egg wash just before baking to give the top a burnished sheen during baking, and then baked at 230 °C (446 °F) until the crust browns and the interior is done (reaches at least 90 °C). The first rise time for small rolls is 1 to 1½ hours, for larger brioche the time is lengthened until the loaves double. If you happened to want to bake it here are the ingredients for the brioche with fig:

500 g flour – 10 g salt – 25 cl milk – 4 eggs – 200 g butter – 70 ml water – 20 g gist- 200 g figs stemmed and roughly chopped dried, zest, water, juice, salt, and a few grinds of black peper

 

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