Carcassonne – The Food

Inside the walls of the medieval city there are numerous cafes and restaurants selling everything from crepes and baguettes through to fine dining restaurants.

The Occitane region enjoys a great climate and has lots of regional specialities. Truffles are found locally and are highly prized. People either love or hate them, but I adore them. Weight for weight white truffles are more expensive than gold. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to afford the fist sized truffles kept under glass cloches. However, specialist shops sell a range of products including truffle oil, truffle honey, tapenade and truffle salt.

White truffle and shaving blade
Well guarded truffles

The other main speciality of the region is cassoulet. If you haven’t had it before it’s a rich dish of white beans, duck legs, and Toulouse sausage. You can find this in pretty much every restaurant in Caracasonne. Like every peasant dish, this is made to fill you up and keep you feeling full. While it’s delicious it’s important to warn that you will probably need to lie down after eating of it, but it is good fuel for sight seeing.

Thick and unctuous, cassoulet is the perfect meal after a day’s sightseeing.

We found great little bistros that offered simple tasty food, starting at 3 courses for 15 Euros for the daily Prix Fixe menu, and were happy enough to stay with these.

Chevre wrapped in filo pastry with salad
Steak and frites

These bistro meals were usually uncomplicated with cheese, soup or charcuterie to start, fish or meat for the main and dessert or cheese to finish.

Chocolate tart
Cherry clafoutis

The area also has some great wine. We usually orded the house wine, which was affordable and very drinkable.

Tarte au pomme

Carcassonne

Low cost airlines can be great for opening routes to places you may not have normally visited. One of these is the ancient city of Caracasonne in the Occitane region of France.

The city has two parts, the Cite (old town), which contains the largest medieval town in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There has been a settlement in Carcasonne since around 3500 BC, and because of it’s strategic position has been taken by everyone from the Romans, Visigoths, and Moors.

The castle was also an important hub during the crusades when infighting amongst christian sects like the Cathars and Knights Templar were rife (if you’re a history fan or have ever read any of Dan Brown or Kate Moss’ books this will make more sense).

The fortified city was demilitarised by Napoleon Bonaparte, and fell into disrepair until thankfully restoration began in the mid 1850s.

Inside the walls of the Cite the are countless artisan shops selling hand made confectionery, toy swords shields, and costumes (little visitors go crazy for them), and regional specialities. As well as fabulous well priced restaurants, with Prix Fixe 3 course menus starting from 15 euros per person.

The city is split by the River Aude, the new city still has lots of character. The main square is the Place Carnot, with a very pretty marble fountain in the centre and bars and restaurants lining the edges. A market is held there twice weekly, although I missed both due to how my flights fell.

The city seems to be busiest in July and August, and although the place is super quaint and amazing to look at, it is very quiet outside this time . We stayed in a great Air B&B, but most hotels, including those inside the old town seem well priced. We didn’t have time, but if you are driving/renting a car, you can organise visits to local vineyards within about 20 minutes of town.

Place Carnot

If you are bit of history nerd, enjoy good restaurants and aren’t too put out that there isn’t a throbbing nightlife scene then Carcasonne is the place for you.

Spicy (Vegan) Dauphinoise Potatoes

Classic dauphinoise potatoes are loaded with cream and sometimes cheese, and are one of my favourite things to eat.

The first time I made this I had spuds but no cream, so these were basically an experiment. But it was a really yummy one. It’s also nice to mess with the classics sometimes.

I could eat a massive bowl of this on its own, but it’s works really well as a side dish to marinated tempeh or chicken or fish if you’re a carnivore. This is full of creamy, garlicy, chilli gorgeousness.

Left overs are also great heated up with a fried egg on top.

1Kg Potatoes

400ml Tin of Coconut mik

3-4 Cloves of Garlic (minced)

1Tsp Chilli flakes

1 Tsp Ground ginger

1Tsp Tumeric

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Peel and slice your potatoes as finely possible. Some people use a mandolin, but I’ve never been able to use one without cutting myself, I just use a kitchen knife
  3. Add the coconut milk, garlic and spices to a saucepan and heat over a gentle heat, add the sliced potatoes and simmer very gently for 10 minutes
  4. Line a baking dish with parchment paper (you don’t have to this, but it does make it easier to clean the dish afterwards)
  5. Add the potatoes to the dish and spread evenly before putting in oven for 40-45 minutes. Test with a fork to make sure the potatoes are soft

Halloumi Bake

Healthy food can still be rich and unctuous. This makes a great week night dinner or you can assemble and bake the following day.

Packed with flavour and protein, this makes a deeply satisfying meal. I love it served with salad and crusty bread.

Ingredients

200 Grams Halloumi (allow the halloumi to come to room temperature before using)

340 Gram Tin of Chick peas

400ml Passata

150 Grams Mushrooms (roughly chopped)

1 Onion (roughly chopped)

1 Courgette (roughly chopped)

Large sprig of thyme

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Add oil to a large pan over a medium heat, add onion, courgettes and mushrooms, and thyme and cook for 5 minutes, stirring until the vegetables start to soften.
  3. Add the chick peas and passata, and simmer for a another 5-10 minutes before transfering to an oven proof dish
  4. Slice the halloumi into 1cm think slices and brush or spray with a little oil
  5. Top the vegetable mix with the halloumi and bake for 25-30 mins or until the cheese had turn a rich golden brown.

Champ and Chilli Pie

It can still get cold, so comfort food is still on the menu. This is a variation on a Shepherd’s pie, I started making this a couple of years ago to use up some leftovers.

If you’re one of those organised people who plans meals for the week then you can make the champ and the chilli for separate meals in advance and just assemble before you bake it

There’s a decent amount of vegetables in this chilli but you could also swap it for an entirely vegetarian chilli if you’re not a meat eater

Ingredients

For the champ

1kg Potatoes

250 ml Milk

5-6 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

Salt

For the chilli

400 Grams Minced beef

1 Onion (chopped into 1cm chunks)

100 Grams Mushrooms (chopped chopped into 1cm chunks)

50 Grams Sweetcorn

2 Stalks of celery (chopped into 1 cm chunks)

1 Red Pepper (chopped into 1 cm chunks)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

1 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Chilli flakes (increase this if you like a hotter chilli)

400ml Passata

400 Gram Can of black beans or kidney beans

Coriander (optional, but I usually add a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander)

75 Grams Grated Cheese (I used mature Cheddar)

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes and chop into equal sized cubes before boiling in salted water until soft and then mash thoroughly
  2. While the potatoes are cooking add the milk and scallions/spring onions into a small pot and simmer over a very gentle heat
  3. Stir the milk and scallions into the mashed potatoes and mix well, check if it needs more salt.
  4. For the chilli, heat a large high sided frying pan and add the mince and allow to brown
  5. Add the tomato puree, spices and sliced vegetables and beans and cook for 5 minutes
  6. Add the passata and simmer for a further 10 – 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the chilli has thickened
  7. Transfer the chilli to a large oven proof dish and then top with the champ mix
  8. Spread the champ across the chilli with a fork, so that the top has a rough texture (this will help give a lovely crunch once its baked). Sprinkle with grated cheese
  9. Cook in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees (Celsius) for 30 minutes