November 10, 2015

Visit France in autumn and see the colours change © Francisco Gonzalez

Autumn in France truly is a foodie’s paradise, as the country is rich in flavoursome produce such as olives, figs, truffles and wild mushrooms, with locals scouring the forests and roadsides for the freshest goods to sell in markets and use in home cooking.

Autumn has always been my favourite season for enjoying traditional hearty French foods, such as cassoulet, stew, and confit. French food in autumn has wonderful depth, and so if you’re travelling the country at this time of year you’ll want to take a look at my guide to the best French produce and where to enjoy them this autumn.

Olives

During autumn in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, people’s attention focuses on wine and fresh produce. It’s a splendid area to travel during autumn and I still get excited when returning here during these special months of the year, to experience tastes that are, to me, uniquely French.

 Go to a local market in France and pick up some fresh olives
Go to a local market in France and pick up some fresh olives © Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble

A short drive from Montpellier, the Domaine de L'Oulivie is a large, family-run business, which has been operating since 1958. I love visiting this 17-hectare farm, not only because of the stunning surroundings but also for the produce on offer. You can buy various types of olive oil, tapenade, olive pureé, olives kept in oil or brine, plus some fantastic beauty products including body oils, moisturiser, hand creams, and soaps. I often visit in late autumn to see the olives being carefully harvested.

Figs

Figs can be found across France in autumn, and are used in many seasonal French dishes. When driving along, you might even get the chance to pick fresh figs from the roadside yourself! For me, the best place to get figs has always been the Midi-Pyrénées region, specifically the countryside around Toulouse. Figs don’t always keep well, so if you manage to get a good haul of juicy delicious figs, it can be a good idea to find a way of preserving them (if you’re unable to eat them all at once!). Here’s a recipe I enjoy, for roasting figs:

Ingredients:

450g fresh figs
4 branches fresh thyme
2 tablespoons red wine or liquor (Pernod, Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 strips of fresh lemon zest

 Delicious fresh figs
Delicious fresh figs © anika

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC (400ºF).
2. Cut the stem end off your figs and slice each one in half, lengthways.
3. Put the fig halves into a large baking dish along with the thyme, alcohol, brown sugar, honey, and lemon zest. Make sure the figs are all cut-side down in the tray.
4. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the figs are softened and cooked through. If you want your figs a little firmer with less liquid, roast them uncovered for 30 minutes, or until they’re cooked.
5. When cooked, take the figs out of the oven and allow them to cool completely before serving.

You can keep these figs in the fridge for about a week, in a sealed container.

Wild Mushrooms

Foraging for truffles and mushrooms in autumn is a fond childhood memory of mine, and it’s something I love to do with my family today. In my opinion, one of the best places in France to enjoy this fun activity is in the Burgundy region, in east-central France.

This area boasts around 150 different types of mushroom, as well as delicious Burgundy truffles found in the area north of Dijon. Unless you’re an expert or accompanied by a mushroom aficionado, it’s not a good idea to go picking yourself, as some types can be poisonous. However, here’s my guide to some mushrooms that can be found in local autumn markets across Burgundy and wider France, all delicious in their own right.

 An assortment of mushrooms, just some of the kinds you can enjoy across France in Autumn
An assortment of mushrooms, just some of the kinds you can enjoy across France in Autumn © Rudi Riet

Field Mushroom: This is France’s most common mushroom, and can be found in abundance throughout the year. Easily recognisable, they have a white cap and fine scales.

Honey Fungus: These mushrooms grow in clusters on tree trunks; they have long stalks and can vary in size.

Chanterelles: One of France’s best known mushrooms, these are frilly and yellow, and are also sometimes known as Girolles.

Cep: In the UK, this mushroom is known as the Penny Bun, and Porcini in Italy. They have a brown cap and rounded, fat stem.

Keen to travel to France this autumn?

Explore the gastronomic delights of this stunning country, driving from place to place for the best produce. With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you can get from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes.

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