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With its long coastline, it is no surprise that seafood features strongly in the
cooking of the Vendée. High-
Dover and lemon sole, sardines, bass, brill, gurnard, mackerel and sea bream are
The marais provides a selection of fresh water fish – eels (anguilles), pike (brochet) and frogs’ legs (cuisses de grenouilles. OK: not a fish, but living close by and actually pretty good when cooked à la Luçonnais – see recipes below) all appearing on menus featuring local dishes.
Oysters and mussels are reared in vast numbers on the coast of the Vendée. Vendéen
Oysters have an excellent culinary reputation and are available year round (not just
when there is an “r” in the month) from markets, fishmongers, supermarkets and (particularly
during the run up to Christmas & New Year) local shops & bakeries. They are not
an expensive treat costing only a few euros per kilo. Most oysters offered for
sale are the Pacific or “cup” variety (characterised by a rough shell and an irregular
form), though sometimes native oysters (smoother, flatter and more-
Oysters can be eaten raw or cooked and are best consumed on the day of purchase. We provide shucking knives for oysters in all our gites If eaten raw, the traditional dressing is white wine vinegar to which very finely chopped shallots have been added. Drink bone dry whites such a muscadet sur lie or a gros plant from the region.
Oysters are also delicious cooked: in the Vendée the traditional approach is to allow 6 or 8 big oysters per person and to grill them. Place the open oysters on the grill with a pinch of finely chopped shallots, a nut of sweet butter and a grind of pepper in each. They should be cooked just until the meat detaches from the shell and forms a little morsel.
Mussels are also available ready-
Eclade is a fine open air dish, though for obvious reasons of fire safety is best
done on a BBQ grill rather than in the traditional setting of coastal pine woods.
A flat plank of wood needs to be soaked for at least an hour in water and then placed
on the grill. Onto this is arranges a closely-
Mouclade is an iconic dish of the Vendée. It is a happy marriage of mussels with white wine, butter, spices (notably saffron) and crème fraîche. – there’s a recipe further down, and the dish can be found on many restaurant menus.
Snails (escargots) are not seafood but are molluscs and so would seem to have a natural fit in this section. They are as popular in the Vendée as anywhere else in France and after rain it is a common to see people working the verges and field margins in search of this particular delicacy. The local dish to look out for is petits gris en matelote in which the snails are with garlic and ham in red wine (recipe below).
Poultry are raised in large numbers in the Vendée. Particularly well regarded are
Game is available in autumn and winter months, and a traditional pâté made from wild rabbit (though these days farmed rabbit is more commonly used and there is a recipe below for this) is highly esteemed. Venison and boar are sometimes available, as are game birds. A more unusual delicacy is a pâté made from wild coypu that breed in large numbers on the marais.
Sheep raised on the salt marshes in the north of the Vendée are the source of expensive but succulent lamb and mutton with a characteristic “iodised” flavour. Beef produced from locally reared parthenaise cattle has an exceptional taste and texture and is available from many butchers and markets. Rather rarer, and for the most part restricted to the South Vendée, is beef and veal produced from the maraichine breed which came close to extinction in the late 1980s but is now thriving, albeit on a very local scale. Particularly sought after is veal from the maraichine, which is reared free range on a diet of milk and grass to give a wonderfully tender pink meat that is a million miles from the flabby, pallid, stuff produced via intensive farming.
Pigs are farmed to produce Vendéen ham. This is a raw-
For a département not particularly considered as a great cheese manufacturing region, the Vendée does seem to produce rather a lot of the stuff, some of it very good indeed.
Best known outside of the Vendée are three cows milk cheeses: Halbran, Mizotte and Fleur d’Aunis.
Halbran, probably the most ancient of the three, has a thin, greyish rind, a mild but distinctive flavour and a smooth, creamy texture. It makes a fine sandwich with a split baguette and a good tomato. The name comes from a local patois word meaning a duckling that has not yet learned how to fly. Lord knows why.
Mizotte is a pungent, washed cheese with a yellow rind. Traditionally, the cheese is washed with white wine and has a soft texture. It melts well. The name comes from a another local word, this time the name for a salt marsh grass, Puccinellia maritime known as sea poa grass in English.
Fleur d’Aunis is another yellow rind cheese, though in this case the washing is done with the aperitif Pineau de Charantes, a blend of grape juice, sugar and Cognac. It is another pungent cheese with a smooth, fairly soft, texture.
Aside from the “big three” there are dozens of lesser known cheeses that are easy enough to find the locality, but seldom seen outside.
The dairy at nearby Maillezais makes a range of cheeses in all kinds of shapes, sizes and flavours from locally produced cow, goat and ewe milk. These can be bought directly from them at the Union Laiterie Venise Verte or can be found in local supermarkets. The half goats’ / half cows’ milk soft cheese “Le Petit Maillezais” is particularly good as is the harder 100% cows’ milk Tomme de Vendée.
There is any number of small operations producing good quality goats’ cheeses. One
of the best is conveniently located about a kilometre from us in Le Langon. Le Petit
Langonnais is a range that runs from very young fromage frais right through to matured
What is préfou? Well, it’s garlic bread. After a fashion. Préfou is what garlic bread would like to be when it grows up. This is a speciality of bakery that has remained curiously specific to the Vendée with only small incursions into neighbouring départements If it is made elsewhere in France it is invariably made from a baguette sliced along it’s length and from which the crumb is then removed. This is just not right at all.
The origin of préfou is a tale of necessity becoming the mother of invention Years
ago, in the days when bread ovens were wood fired, brick-
Not wishing to waste the crispy treat, some bright spark hit upon the notion of splitting
it and spreading the inside with a mixture of butter, salt and crushed garlic and
in doing so gave the Vendée its quintessential aperitif snack, an ideal foil to cold
beer, chilled wine or the local pre-
The process was modified a little: the préfou was allowed a short rise only before
being flattened, quickly pre-
In the 1980s, préfou was available in only a handful of boulongeries, but it established itself and is now sold in boulangeries and supermarkets across the Vendée.
The Vendée is famous for its brioche which is very different from the more usual fluted loaf sold in bakeries elsewhere in France. Here the dough is enriched with butter and orange flower water before being platted or formed into a lozenge shaped loaf called a gâche.
Melons are grown in large numbers in the South Vendée and can be purchased at roadside
stalls throughout the summer at very reasonable prices. They are of the “charantaise”
type, a grey-
Tourteau fromager is a kind of cake made (unusually) from fresh goats’ cheese. It has a characteristic very dark domed top and can be eaten as is or spread with butter, made into a bread & butter pudding or served with cream. It can be found in bakeries and on market stalls across the region.
For our selection of local restaurants see our Restaurant page.
We have put together a few local traditional recipes for you. Link to recipe page
|Things to Do in the Vendee|
|Beaches of the South Vendee|
|Food in the Vendee|
|Restaurants in the Vendee|
|Wines of the Vendee|