French Flavours E and F: Two Aveyronnais Specialities

Villefranche-de-Rouergue market in the shadow of la collégiale. You’ll find both dishes on stalls here

Time for another instalment of my French flavours series. I realise I have only got to ‘E’ and we’ll never get to the end at this rate, so this week I’ll do ‘F’ as well and you get two for the price of one. Both dishes are traditional recipes from Aveyron dating back centuries. You learn a lot about history and culture just by studying what people eat.

E is for Estofinado

Estofinado is a popular dish in Aveyron, although I have to say it’s not the first thing I would choose from a menu. It’s made of stockfish (dried salt cod, or haddock in some cases), which is reconstituted in water, flaked and mixed with mashed potato, hard-boiled egg and a lot of garlic. The ingredients are not dissimilar to those of the Provençal dish, brandade de morue, but that is blended to a purée.

River Lot, formerly a busy commercial thoroughfare

Estofinado’s origins go back a long way, when flat-bottomed barges plied the River Lot, whose upper reaches run through Aveyron. The barges transported coal, wood and cheeses down to Bordeaux and fish and other goods back up. Since the journey upstream could take some time, it was no good bringing back fresh fish, hence the dried variety.

Christian Signol, who has written many novels about the region, published a three-volume saga about a family of bateliers (barge boatmen), La Rivière Espérance. His trilogy is based on the River Dordogne, but the way of life was similar on the Lot. The coming of the railway spelled the end of this ancient line of work.

I won’t give the recipe here. You can find a good one on this site.

F is for les Farçous

Swiss chard (blettes or bettes), main ingredient of les farçous. Wikimedia Commons © Jean-Noël Lafargue

Unlike estofinado, you don’t often find les farçous on a restaurant menu. I came across this speciality of central Aveyron only when someone offered me one during a picnic. What are they? A kind of fritter, of which the main ingredients are Swiss chard and sausage meat. They are absolutely delicious, can be eaten hot or cold and are the ultimate on-the-hoof food.

The origin of the word is the Occitan fars (farce in French), i.e. stuffing.

I like to think of the 13th-century workmen who built the massive Collégiale (cathedral) in Villefranche-de-Rouergue snacking on les farçous when they took a break. Or pilgrims walking le chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. This tasty and sustaining snack is easy to transport without spoiling it and is the business when you’ve been hefting around blocks of stone or tramping along for hours in the rain.

The exact recipe is a matter of some controversy, as these things often are in France. Some people use breadcrumbs, others say it shouldn’t contain meat. I don’t think it matters. The recipe below is the meat version (les farçous gras), but vegetarians could just omit it and it’s just as good without it (les farçous maigres). In that case, you might want to add breadcrumbs, or bread soaked in milk, to bulk them out a bit.

If you don’t want to make les farçous yourself, you’ll find them on market stalls or in butchers’ shops.

Ingredients

5-6 Swiss chard leaves, spine removed
100 g sausage meat
1 onion
1 garlic clove
4 eggs
Handful of chopped parsley
2 level tablespoons flour
20 cl milk to moisten the mixture
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop finely the chard, sausage meat, onion, garlic and parsley and mix together. Mix the eggs, flour and milk to a thick batter and add the chard and sausage meat mixture. Shape into flat patties and fry in batches in hot olive oil. Serve hot or cold.

You might also like:

French Flavours Recipes
Garlic and Garlic Recipes
French Provincial Cooking

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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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7 Responses to French Flavours E and F: Two Aveyronnais Specialities

  1. Well now I have another use for the Chard in the potager. Love the sound of the farcous recipe. Thank you for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Osyth says:

    Estofinado, unsurprisingly finds its way onto the odd menu in the south of Cantal. I do like it very much though I prefer Brandade if forced on the issues. The Farcou fascinate me as they are similar to the Cantalien Pounti (which I love and do make from time to time) and I am inspired to give them a whirl as I think I would rather enjoy them. In winter when I need rib stickers rather than salades!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, the farçous are rather similar to pounti, which I’ve eaten in Cantal and enjoyed, except that pounti traditionally includes prunes, doesn’t it? If you like pounti, you’ll like these.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        Yes, prunes are essential in Pounti and I have only ever succeeded in large ones. The farçous appeal in part because they are individual thereby making it easier to halve the quantity successfully and not be eating them for a week!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Elly Wright says:

    It was really good to see the market in front of the church in V ‘franche and read your post about estofinade and farçous. The latter are always on offer on the Wednesday evening food market in Najac.
    Sorry that the water situation is not sorted yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We hope the water situation will be sorted out next week – but this is the holiday period, so it may be the triumph of hope over experience. I am very partial to les farçous, and the butcher in our village often has them. They are great picnic food.

      Like

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