Pastis: A Quercy Speciality

Pastis Anguille de Limogne

Pastis Anguille de Limogne

Hands up everyone who thought pastis was an aniseed-flavoured apéritif. It is; but it’s not a local speciality here. The pastis I’m talking about is an apple dessert made with very fine pastry, which is particular to the Lot and the part of Tarn-et-Garonne that borders it (there’s also a Gascon version in the Gers). Following a conversation about it in the comments on last week’s post, I looked into its origins and recipes.

Origins of pastis

The origin of the name is probably Occitan. The Occitan verb pastissar means to mould something with the hands, or knead. The noun pastis can mean a mixture or a thick soup, but it also means pastry and gave rise to the old French word pastisserie (now pâtisserie).

Another possible, but less likely, origin is the Moorish pastilla, a kind of pasty made with thin pastry, enclosing a filling of pigeon. Moorish influences are in evidence in the region: they probably introduced saffron. But I believe more in the first explanation.

Pastis was not an everyday dessert. Rather, it was made for important occasions, such as religious fêtes or marriages.

Le vrai pastis – a well-kept secret

As with other regional specialities, such as cassoulet, there’s a lot of debate about what constitutes “le vrai pastis” (the real pastis). Equally, custodians of the recipe are very secretive about some of the ingredients, especially the alcoholic liquid that’s poured into it at the end. Traditionally, this is a recipe “qui ne se donne pas” (is not given away) – or only to a few initiates.

You can buy pastis in local boulangeries, but then it’s often made with filo pastry. Le vrai pastis is made according to the traditional recipe, which involves stretching the pastry until it is the thickness of a cigarette paper. Apparently, you should be able to read a love letter through it. Here’s a YouTube video showing how it’s done.

We bought a pastis at Limogne market when we had visitors. The woman selling it poured into it what she called her secret ingredient. Unsuspecting, we took it home, warmed it up in the oven and served it. Our guests’ children almost choked on what was obviously eau-de-vie – and so did we.

Recipe for Pastis de Limogne

Personally, I’d buy one, but if you really want to make it, here’s a recipe for Pastis de Limogne, courtesy of l’Institut Culturel Occitan Carcinol and published on the Parc Causses du Quercy site.

Ingredients

650 g plain flour
2 eggs
25 cl warm water
Pinch of salt
2 dsp oil
2 apples
300 g sugar
60 g melted butter
15 cl. eau-de-vie de prune

Put the flour in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and add eggs, salt and oil, then the water bit by bit, continuously working the mixture. When you have a soft ball of pastry, put it in an oiled bag and let it rest for 2 hours.

Spread a floured sheet (!) over a large table to a length of about 2 metres, place the pastry ball in the centre and stretch it out until you can see through it. Allow it to dry out.

Cut the apples into fine rounds and lay them along the pastry and sprinkle over the sugar. Mix the butter, eau-de-vie and a little water and oil and spread this over the apple mixture (not sure how).

Using the sheet, roll up the pastry lengthways into a sausage shape, and then coil it into a large cake tin or mould.  Around Limogne, this is known as “Pastis Anguille” (eel). In the Caylus area, it’s called in Occitan “Crostada al cabeçal”, after the coiled headdress once worn when carrying a burden.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour at 120° C until the outside is golden and crusty. Serve warm.

You’re very likely to be served this in local restaurants on the Causse de Limogne.

You might also like:

Saffron: Quercy’s Red Gold
Chestnuts and Chestnut Recipes
French Regional Cuisine: L’Auberge Lou Bourdie at Bach

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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11 Responses to Pastis: A Quercy Speciality

  1. Pingback: Bach, an Ancient Village on the Causse de Limogne | Life on La Lune

  2. Pingback: Biais : lo pastís carcinòl « anguila » | Le blog de l’occitan / Lo blòg occitan

  3. Cro Magnon says:

    I love eating them, but would never be tempted to make one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Osyth says:

    I too am so pleased you have written this post – the origins of the word (and indeed Patisserie) are very interesting indeed. It does sound delicious but having made the worlds greatest hash of a Strudel years ago I think I will wait until I am in your neck of the woods and buy one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I made a Strudel once, years ago now, and it was actually quite successful, but really not worth the effort – so I’m very happy to leave all that to someone else and buy pastis instead!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        Clearly if all else fails you should contemplate Austrian Pastry Making as an alternative career. For me this is not an option but I agree, even if it was, I would still rely on the experts
        !

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I can’t really see that as an option – after all, it was probably beginner’s luck that my Strudel turned out ok. And the older I get, the shorter I realise life is…so I’ll let the experts do what they’re good at!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        Sound attitude!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Brilliant; so glad you put this one together 🙂 I suspect I’ll go back to Varaire to eat it though, rather than make it … now that I look at my first go at a Christmas cake 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m with you there. Buying one or eating it at a restaurant are much simpler. They aren’t cheap, at about 16 euros apiece, but when you consider the work that goes into them, it’s hardly surprising.

      Liked by 1 person

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