Travelling through France is never complete without sampling the culinary delights on offer throughout the country. Fine dining, finer wines and a cheese selection of which dreams are made, few cuisines around the world can better that of the French. And the route from Lyon, regarded as the culinary capital of the world, following the Rhône down through the Provence region and to the Mediterranean, is perhaps France’s most treasured foodie path.
With beautiful wine regions flanking the winding course of the river and small Provençal towns preserving fiercely-guarded secret recipes, the Rhône region offers a foodie tour into the heart and belly of France. Few places in the world can boast so much heritage and forward-thinking culinary ambition in such abundance as this beautiful stretch of the continent.
At Emerald Waterways, we know that for many of our guests, food plays a central role in the holiday experience, and we truly believe you can learn a lot about new cultures from their favoured fare. So, to provide everyone with a taste of one of our favourite river cruise routes through Europe, we are taking a tour through the Rhône in five delicious recipes.
Coq au Vin
Simple, rustic peasant cooking at its very finest; legend has it coq au vin can trace its history back to Julius Caesar and the Roman rule of France (or Gaul as the region was known at the time), when rooster or other ‘tough’ birds were braised in wine for a long time to make the meat more tasty and tender.
Coq au vin is one of the most popular French dishes outside of the country, largely thanks to the hugely influential cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, released in 1961. The dish became a staple in homes in the UK, with families desperate to recreate the sophistication of our Gallic neighbours.
Eaten throughout France, coq au vin is perhaps most synonymous with the Burgundy or Beaujolais regions – using the famous red wines these vine-rich stretches produce. Sometimes called coq au violet when using wines from the Beaujolais region of Provence, this is the recipe we’re going to follow thanks to its proximity to the Rhône.
Here’s our recipe for coq au vin.
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 30 Mins. Cook Time: 1 Hour.
- 6 chicken thighs
- 25g butter
- 150g shallots, peeled
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 150g streaky bacon, roughly chopped
- 350g button mushrooms
- 500ml Beaujolais red wine
- 500ml chicken stock
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- Handful chopped flatleaf parsley
- Pinch salt and black pepper
Step One: Heat a thick casserole dish on the stove, add (all but a knob) butter and shallots. Brown off and stir in the garlic before adding the bacon and thyme, and cook for three minutes.
Step Two: Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat before adding the wine, stock and vinegar. Add the chicken pieces, bring to the boil and allow to simmer until the chicken is cooked and tender.
Step Three: Remove the chicken and cook the sauce for a few minutes to thicken the mixture before adding the parsley, the remaining butter, and the chicken again. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving with crusty bread.
In 1935, famed food critic Curnonsky heralded Lyon as the ‘world capital of gastronomy’ in recognition of the delightful fare on offer. At the very heart of Lyonnaise cooking are two basic principles, simplicity and quality.
These principles largely derive from the mid-19th century, when many middle-class women of the city left their homes and worked as chefs, using their regional roots to inspire new culinary traditions. This period oversaw a huge selection of new dishes emerge from the bouchons (traditional Lyonnaise restaurants) of the city, many of which still delight visitors to this day.
One of the simplest yet most enduringly popular dishes to emerge from the city is salade Lyonnaise, a hearty yet stylish greens dish topped with crisp bacon, fluffy egg and piquant vinaigrette. It makes a wonderful lunch or sophisticated starter for a dinner party.
Here’s our favourite recipe for a stylish and delicious salade Lyonnais.
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 15 Mins. Cook Time: 35 Mins.
For the salad
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400g lardons
- 350g crust-free white bread, cubed
- 2 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 small head frisée lettuce
- 2 shallot, peeled and ringed
For the dressing
- 2 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 6 tbsp olive oil
For the eggs
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 4 fresh eggs
Step One: Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan before adding bacon and garlic for about 15 minutes, until bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, and add the bread – tossing the latter in the bacon fat until crisp and brown, then remove.
Step Two: Whilst the bread is frying, make the dressing by whisking the shallot, vinegar, and mustard with a little splash of water. Gradually add the oil whilst whisking to create a thick dressing.
Step Three: Prepare and wash the frisée lettuce before plating with the ringed shallots.
Step Four: Poach the eggs using your preferred method, whilst tossing the croutons, lardons and two-thirds of the dressing. Layer the croutons and lardons on the salad, and then one poached per plate. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the dish, before seasoning with salt and pepper.
Soupe a L’oignon
Or French onion soup if you can’t get your tongue around those Gallic syllables; soupe a l’oignon follows a well-beaten path explored in this blog. Another dish which dates back to Roman rule with roots in rustic peasant cooking, and which really came to the attention of UK diners in the 60s during the French food revolution.
A wonderfully hearty dish, there are few more welcome sights on a winter’s eve than a bowl of steaming, thick onion broth topped with a large cheese-covered crouton. Although variations of soupe a l’oignon had been eaten by the poor of France for centuries, using different recipes — the version we know today with beef broth and caramelised onions originated in the 18th century.
While you’ll rarely find two identical bowls of soupe a l’oignon, we’ve pulled together a recipe reminiscent of those you’d enjoy in the towns down the Rhône.
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 30 Mins. Cook Time: 30 Mins.
- 5 onions, peeled and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 20g butter
- 2 large glasses Beaujolais red
- 750g beef stock
- 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 8 thick slices white bread
- 300g grated gruyère
- 2 shots brandy
- Handful chopped flatleaf parsley
- Pinch salt and black pepper
Step One: Sauté the onions and garlic in butter until brown and then stir in the wine, stock, vinegar and brandy. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins.
Step Two: Toast the bread and sprinkle the gruyère on top before melting under the grill.
Step Three: Pour the soup evenly between four bowls, and top each with two slices of bread. Sprinkle the parsley on top.
Matefaim aux Pommes
Another dish with Lyonnaise roots, matefaim aux pommes toes the line between cake and crêpe – two wonderfully-French desserts. Packed full of tart apples, this traditional dessert offers sweet and sharp tastes with every forkful.
A little more refined than many other classic dishes of the Rhône, matefaim aux pommes is a popular dish to celebrate special occasions. But, given it consists of mostly cupboard staples (and pear alcohol, if you fancy); you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to treat the family to this delicious pud.
Here’s a wonderfully traditional matefaim aux pommes.
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 30 Mins to 1 Hour. Cook Time: 2 Hours 30 Mins.
- 200g flour
- 2 eggs
- 100g caster sugar
- 250ml milk
- 4 apples
- 50ml oil
- Pinch of salt
Step One: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half of the sugar and the salt. Add the flour and half the oil, whisking all the time. Add the milk and stir until smooth (you can also add pear alcohol at this time, if you’re feeling brave).
Step Two: Set aside the mixture for two hours. In the meantime — peel, core and grate the apple. When the pastry mixture has set, add the remaining sugar and stir.
Step Three: In a large frying pan, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, pour everything in and fry for 30 minutes. Flip the mixture every five minutes to ensure an even cook. When completely set, but still spongy, serve with a dollop of double cream.
One of the lesser known staples of Rhône cuisine, rouzole is a meaty, savoury pancake traditionally served on top of soups, casseroles and cassoulets, although they can also be served on their own. Soaking up the delicious taste of the dishes they top, a rouzole is a wonderfully hearty slice of rustic cooking, and a great example of traditional French cookery, getting the maximum out of every ingredient.
It’s quite unlikely that you’ll find rouzole on the menu of your local French restaurant, making it a great addition to a dinner party with a France theme, impressing your guests with its understated authenticity.
So, we’ve pulled out this recipe to help you impress dinner party guests.
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 30 Mins to 1 Hour. Cook Time: 1 Hour 30 Mins.
- 8 slices white bread
- 1 cup milk
- 115g lean bacon, cut into ¾ inches
- 345g diced ham
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 4 tbsp chopped parsley
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 3 tbsp butter
Step One: Preheat oven to 100°C/90°C fan/gas 3 and spray a baking tray with cooking spray.
Step Two: Mix the meats on a dinner plate and place in the freezer for 20 minutes until half frozen.
Step Three: Whilst the meat is freezing, mix the bread and milk in a medium-sized bowl and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then gently squeeze the excess milk from the bread and add to a large bowl with the beaten eggs. Add herbs, salt and pepper.
Step Four: Remove the meat from the freezer and pulse in a food processor until chopped into small pieces. Add the meat to the remaining ingredients and stir everything together.
Step Five: After everything is mixed, melt ¼ of the butter in a non-stick skillet over a medium-low heat. Scoop out ¾ cup of well-mixed batter and pour into the skillet, spread even and cook for five minutes until bottom is browned. Flip the batter and repeat. Repeat this process until all the batter is used.
If you’d like to experience these tastes of the Rhône in their traditional surroundings, we can help take you to this beautiful part of the world in absolute luxury. For a full selection of Emerald Waterways river cruises on the Rhône, click here, or call our helpful sales team on 0808 301 4705.
Image credits: Wikimedia Creative Commons, Fotolia