Canadian Languedoc Living reader, Andrea Swan, spends winters in France and along with her neighbor, Monique Guezel, they have co-authored “Travels in Languedoc: Secrets to a Memorable Visit”, available through Amazon.fr. They are presenting recipes from their book and invite the reader to share this winter secret.
In all likelihood, every northern European country has its own “rib-sticking” recipe for winter warmth, be it porridge, perogies or spaetzle. With the tramontane winds continuing into February, bringing with it cold, wet weather, now is the time to serve the Languedoc version of comfort food, “la nourriture qui teint au corps”. Aligot is just such a dish. While the original dish was first prepared on the plateau d’Aubrac, the Languedoc version comes from the Lozere in the Haute Languedoc where villages and hamlets far outnumber towns and sheep and cows vastly outnumber people. Aligot is a simple, high protein, high fat dish made from local ingredients: potatoes, garlic and fresh cheese.
In France, there are many varieties of potatoes and it is often best to ask which varieties make “un vrai aligot” Often in the markets or stores, there will be information as to the best use of each potato variety. While aligot can be purchased ready-made from the supermarket or sometimes at weekly markets, this simple dish is quick and easy to prepare from scratch.
The secret to aligot is the slow stirring of the ingredients to break down the cheese and blend everything into a smooth, elastic mixture. Monique describes the process as needing strong arms and patience to transform the ingredients into the proper dish.
Historical references point out that aligot was prepared by monks and served to pilgrims as they journeyed down through France enroute to Santiago de Compestella. Today, it is a central feature of winter village celebrations where like the verre d’amitie, it is known as the “ruban d’amitie” (ribbon of friendship).
Ingredients for 4 people:
4-6 large boiling potatoes
500gms diced young, fresh Tomme cheese
250gm crème fraiche
2 garlic cloves, mashed
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil potatoes, drain and mash, adding salt and pepper.
In small amounts, mix in cheese until mixture is creamy and elastic-for an authentic touch, beat the mixture by hand with a wooden spoon.
Add crème fraiche and garlic and mix.
This dish can be eaten all by itself but is a tasty accompaniment for homemade sausage such as Toulouse sausage grilled over vine branches (sarments des vignes), and a coustaud (robust) red Minervois wine.
About the Authors
Authors Andrea Swan and Monique Guezel have more than forty years’ knowledge of the Languedoc. After being asked countless times, “When is the best time to visit the Languedoc?” they decided to team up to answer that question. The result is Travels in Languedoc: Secrets to a Memorable Visit.
Andrea has owned a house in Monique’s village and visited the Languedoc for more than ten years. She delights in going beyond the typical tourist attractions and immersing herself in everyday life to experience the region’s riches to the fullest. Andrea and her husband, Andy, spend six months of the year in the Languedoc and the other six months in Victoria, British Columbia. She is fluent in French and enjoys travelling the region to do research and collect anecdotes to share with her family and friends.
With deep roots in the Languedoc, Monique provides the secrets that only the locals know. She proudly shares her knowledge and understanding of the region and culture, including her recipes for authentic dishes that are popular in the Languedoc.
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