For many, France is synonymous with fromage. From melt-in-your mouth camembert to strong blue Roquefort, each region of France has its own variety of cheese to offer. There's no doubt that taking a train holiday to Europe will offer you the opportunity to tempt your taste buds. Here's a list of five regional cheeses you mustn't miss when delving into the Dordogne's culinary tradition.
One of the Aquitaine's most famous foods, Cabécou de Rocamadour, came about at the time of the Arab invasion, when goats were first introduced to the region. Centuries later, in 1996, Rocamadour de Cabécou was granted the AOC certification. This means that its production is protected, and can only happen in the Aquitaine region. With its soft velvety texture and delicate nutty flavour, you can't go wrong by crumbling a bit of this goat's cheese into a crisp salad or by spreading it on top of freshly toasted bread.
Any visitor to the Dordogne must treat their taste buds to the delightful Trappe d'Echourgnac cheese. This cheese was first made by monks in 1852 at the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bonne Esperance. On arriving in the town, the monks started to buy milk from local farmers and established cheese making facilities at the monastery. Today, the l'Abbaye Echourgnac produces its own variety of cheese that is washed with a walnut liqueur from the nearby Périgord. This technique not only boosts the cheese's flavour, but gives it a unique mahogany tint with an aubergine coloured rind. If you're planning to travel on your holidays in France by train, take a detour to track down a slice of Trappe d'Echourgnac and savour its smooth and smoky taste.
Despite being formerly known as "the poor man's Roquefort", Le Bleu de Causses' delectable taste was officially recognised in 1979 when it received AOC protection. This cheese is left to mature for six months in Gorges du Tarn's natural limestone caves. Exposed at the north side and ventilated by natural chimneys in the cliffs, these caves allow the cheese to absorb the fresh aromas of the surrounding countryside. Savour this sweet and salty cheese after a meal or melt it on top of grilled meat.
When heading off on your holidays to France by train, the delectable Ossau Iraty is another cheese that can't be missed. Legend has it that Aristee, the shepherd son of Apollo, originally created this firm, creamy cheese. There is no doubt that this cheese dates far back in time, as historic references to Ossau Iraty can be traced to the first century. This cheese is made wholly from the milk of Manech ewes and has served as a key source of income for local shepherds throughout the centuries. When cooking with Ossau Iraty, add it to canapés, tarts and gratins to complement other flavours. Traditionally however, this cheese is known as the "farmer's dessert" and is enjoyed after a meal accompanied by a tart cherry jam.
Laguiole cheese originally comes from the plateau of Aubrac in the south of France. The cheese was first made by cattle breeders living on the plateau, as they looked for a way to preserve milk during the winter months. However, it was the monks of the Aubrac Dômerie who established the cheese making process and developed Laguiole cheese as it is known today. Laguiole is made purely from raw unpasteurised cows' milk and is matured from anywhere between four months and two years. Enjoy this tangy, semi-hard cheese with soufflés, pancakes or, most famously, with Aubrac Aligot: melted Laguiole cheese mixed with mashed potatoes. Irresistible!
Most will agree that a good hunk of cheese is one of the most delicious gastronomic treats. So, if you're travelling by train during your holidays to France, why not take the opportunity to try each of these sumptuous cheeses?