February 25, 2016

The seafood in Normandy is fresh and flavoursome © Cooking etc.

With a history in agriculture, Normandy has always been a dream foodie destination. Famous for producing Haute-Cuisine, it’s been a leader in providing some of France’s most indulgent and recognisable dishes for centuries. So, it seems only fitting that we take a little time to explore the culinary delights of one of France’s northernmost regions.

Agneau de pré-salé

Meaning “salt meadow lamb”, agneau de pré-salé is a term used for lamb which has been raised on the scenic salt marshes of France. In Normandy, the sheep used for this meat graze on grass which is naturally abundant in iodine and saline, namely the fields surrounding the stunning island of Mont Saint-Michel.

The mineral-rich grass gives the meat a very unique taste, and many in France see this lamb as a delicacy. Normandy is one of only four regions which produce this unique lamb, so be sure to look out for Salt Marsh Lamb on the menu when you visit!

The sheep grazing the fields at Mont Saint-Michel.
The sheep grazing the fields at Mont Saint-Michel. © Eric Huybrechts

Seafood

The freshness of the seafood in Normandy is unrivalled. When exploring delightful beachfront towns and villages, you’ll undoubtedly find classic dishes such as moules marinière (mussels with shallots, white wine and cream), fresh oysters and scallops.

Normandy is the number one region in France for the production of cupped oysters, so if you’ve never tried them before, this is the place! It’s also the top region for scallop fishing. But what’s the reason behind Normandy’s success? Its coastline boasts some of the highest tides in Europe, with plenty of plankton for oysters to feast on.

If you’re a fan of mackerel, head to Trouville-sur-Mer, where you’ll be greeted by one of France’s leading ports for mackerel fishing. The pretty coastal city of Honfleur, on the other hand, is known for its shrimp and sole. Wherever you end up in Normandy, especially if you’re visiting the coast, a taste of the region’s fresh seafood is a must-do.

Light and tasty, the best mackerel can be enjoyed at Trouville-sur-Mer.
Light and tasty, the best mackerel can be enjoyed at Trouville-sur-Mer. © jenny downing

Cheese

The Normandy region is most famous for its production of rich dairy products. It produces some of France’s most indulgent cheeses, including Camembert, Boursin, Livarot and Petit Suisse. A testament to the quality of Normandy’s cheeses is the fact that many of them have their own Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP). This mark certifies both the place of origin of the product, as well as its quality.

Perhaps the most well-known cheese from the area, Camembert, comes from a village of the same name, which even has its own Camembert Museum! Camembert has a slightly sweet taste, and is both buttery and rich. It’s often compared to Brie, but has an earthier, more refined taste.

Slightly less rich, Livarot is one of Normandy’s oldest cheeses. With a distinct look, it has a reddish rind and is often wrapped with lengths of dried bulrush, or occasionally green paper. Coming from the town of Livarot in Lower Normandy, this cheese has a strong smell with a smooth and creamy texture. It’s nutty, and a little bitter, which gives it a delightfully unique flavour. It’s great when enjoyed with cured meats, so be sure to pick some up on your trip!

As well as cheese, cream is a staple ingredient in Normandy cuisine. Many recipes from the region rely on the heavy use of butter and cream to create delicious bases and sauces, often with meat and seafood. Try a traditional Normandy casserole, or pot chicken, for a taste of authentic home cooking.

Livarot cheese has a distinctive wrapped rind.
Livarot cheese has a distinctive wrapped rind. © Debbi Baron

Calvados

As well as seafood and dairy, Normandy is famous for producing delicious, crisp apples, which are used to create Normandy Cider and apple brandy, known as Calvados. Cider has long been enjoyed across Europe, and the production of Calvados begins by pressing the apples, then fermenting them to create a dry cider. This cider is then distilled to create an eau de vie (a colourless fruit brandy) before being aged for several years.

The drink is enjoyed in Normandy cuisine as an apéritif, but is also perfect alongside dessert. Good Calvados should have a smooth, fruity taste, indicative of its apple and pear beginnings. Look out for darker-coloured Calvados, as this might suggest an older drink with delicious notes of butterscotch.

Dreaming of dining in Normandy?

If your stomach is rumbling, book your next trip to France with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, and you can get from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes. From there, the dining awaits!

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