Food and Cuisine in Cognac
The Cognac wine region shares the culinary heritage of the South-west with the addition of exotic influences from beyond its shores.
A “must visit experience” is the covered market at Royan. There you will find a range of fresh produce that will satisfy the most fastidious gourmet, and a treasure chest for those who just love the smell, colour and excitement of food and cuisine. Come on a Sunday morning for the best ever displays.
About Cognac Food
You can expect an extra zing in your dishes either through the addition of Cognac or Pineau, or a wide range of spices.
The region is well-known for its shellfish, being France’s largest producer of oysters and mussels. Fish, both salt and freshwater, are in plentiful supply. As are melons, other fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, meat, poultry, and game, which are all locally produced and gathered.
“La Mouchade” is a mussel dish you can find in other coastal areas of France so while in the Languedoc you will savour it with Pastis (the aniseed flavoured aperitif), in Cognac curry powder is added for a really spicy taste and a zing to the taste buds.
Look in the markets for the wonderful hams of Poitou. They are cured with spices, herbs and cognac. Also terrines and pâtés with the same delicious ingredients such as Terrine Charentaise au Cognac or rabbit pâté Pâté de Lapin au Cognac.
Eating at Home in Cognac
Towns like Saintes, Royan, Angoulême and Cognac abound with cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy wonderful food. However if you enjoy the colour and excitement of market shopping or even visiting the supermarket (be prepared to be surprised at the quality of produce and display in the a good French supermarket), then a meal back at your accommodation, on a shady terrace under the vines, is an attractive proposition.
Here are two pre-dinner cocktails and four dishes that we have enjoyed at home in Cognac.
Cognac & Orange
Cognac and fresh orange juice were made for each other. To 2 cl of cognac add fresh orange juice to taste, some ice cubes, and decorate with an orange slice.
In a shaker mix 4 cl of White Pineau with equal parts of pineapple, mango and orange juices. Shake and serve over crushed ice in a long glass.
Figs with Ham & Goat's Cheese
A pre-dinner favourite it consists of delicious tree-ripened black figs, a local air-dryed ham and a ripened goat’s cheese, Fromage de Chevre Fermier. On their own, wonderful tastes; in combination, divine!
The French love affair with olives is evident in the wide range available. Not only French olives but Italian, Greek, and those from many other Mediterranean countries. They come in green, red and black and every shade between; they are marinated in numerous herbs and spices with tastes that will surprise and delight. Enjoy with crusty bread and a glass of “Vin de Pays Charentais” rouge.
The finest oysters in France, Huitre de Claire, come from the Cognac coast round La Rochelle. In the markets you will find them graded according to size and where they have been raised. My choice is to buy the biggest and the best! Do take a cold pack to the market and keep them chilled until ready to open and serve. A strong downward thrust with an oyster opener at the hinge end, remove the top shell, put on a bed of ice with a grind of fresh black pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and you are ready to enjoy a gastronomic delight!
MELON with Grapes au Pineau
Serves 4 persons
A dead easy winner! One gros melon or 4 petits melons, cut off the top and scoop out the seeds. Fill with grapes and top up with Pineau. Cover with film and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
Mussels with white wine & cream sauce
For 4 to 6 people
2kg mussels in shells
2 cups dry white wine
1 tbs olive oil
2 shallots or red onions, finely shopped
1 heaped tbs grated fresh horseradish
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & ground black pepper
1 Lemon sliced
- Wash mussels under running water. Remover grit and seaweed with a sharp knife. Discard any that don’t close with a tap.
- Heat oil in large pan and sauté onions until clear but not brown. Add wine and mussels and simmer for 5 minutes. Do not over cook but give them a stir several times.
- Strain off liquid into another pan, add curry powder and horseradish and heat to reduce liquid quickly. Add cream at end and reduce heat to avoid splitting.
- Season with salt and pepper.
Put mussels in a heated dish, pour over the curry sauce, and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately with French bread, lemon slices and a chilled Vin de Pays Charentais Dry White.
- You cannot visit Cognac and the Charente-Maritime area without trying their mussels.
- You will find them on offer in special cafes anywhere on the coast as a signature dish.
- Or buy them fresh from the market or supermarket and prepare this dish at home.