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              Basque country

              The Basque country is a region situated between the South West of French and the north west of Spain. It is split into 7 provinces: 4 in Spain (Alava, Biscaye, Guipuzcoa and Navarra) and 3 in France (Labourd, Soule and Basse-Navarre).

              The French Basque Country, known as the "Northern Basque Country", is situated in the extreme South West of the Aquitaine region, and covers more or less the same area as the Pyrénées Atlantiques Department (64). The Atlantic coast forms the west side of the region, and Spain borders it in the south. Most of the region is situated in the Pyrenees mountain range, which extends across the border with the Spanish Basque Country.

              Overall, the Basque Country is a touristic region due to its rich heritage, history and culture. The natural landscape is characterized by both mountains and coastal areas. The Basque coast is an important tourist area and includes towns like Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye. Both French holidaymakers and tourists love the area and its famous beaches and Atlantic ocean waves.

              The region is steeped in tradition, with respect to both culture and gastronomy. Agriculture, farming and fishing are all prevalent in the region, offering an extremely varied cuisine, based on simple products, with a mix of French and Spanish influences. Local charcuterie is a gastronomic must, especially Bayonne ham, and cheese is also important. The region specializes in charcuterie and includes such produces as blood sausage, Basque sausage, chorizo and ventrèche.

              In Basque cuisine, Spanish influences come through with the use of olive oil, tomatoes, peppers or chilies, giving a typical color to recipes using the description "à la Basquaise" such as chicken or tuna, but also to the distinctively local "piperade", made with scrambled eggs. The use of spices and chilies is indeed a strong characteristic of Basque gastronomy, and Espelette pepper is a veritable regional culinary symbol. Basque houses are also frequently decorated with these chilies. The Basques also enjoy stuffing small, pointed Piquillo peppers (grown in the Spanish Basque country) with salt cod. The ocean provides the Basque Country with a continual supply of fish (horse mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna) and seafood (spider crab, shrimp, baby calamari, langoustines, etc.). Pork and lamb are often used in local cuisine.

              Black Itxassou cherries are also something the Basques are proud of, particularly black cherry jam, traditionally eaten with ewes' milk cheese.

              Brittany

              Brittany is a peninsula on the extreme west of France that stretches along the English Channel and the Atlantic coast. With the city of Rennes as its capital, the region is made up of four departments: the Finistère, Morbihan, Côtes d’Armor and Ille-et-Vilaine.

              Brittany has a mild climate, with little fluctuation between summer and winter temperatures. Due to its proximity to the ocean, the region is relatively wind-exposed and governed by the sea; yet the passage of the Gulf Stream along the Finistère results in a remarkably clement climate. The area receives less rainfall than the national average, but is nonetheless still damp, and the richness of the soil provides quality produce and abundant vegetation. Fruit and vegetables are plentiful and of excellent quality: samphire (which grows in areas rich in sea salt), camus artichokes, chicory from Kerlouan, white Paimpol AOC beans, Plougastel strawberries, ‘little grey’ melons from Rennes, etc.

              Breton heathland is well populated but livestock is not particularly diversified and pig farming is widespread. As for the coast, the Breton waters are famous for the quality, variety and freshness of their fish, shellfish and crustaceans: the Brittany lobster is world-renowned, as are oysters, mussels, clams, crabs, scallops, line-caught sea bass, red mullet, and many others. Breton sailors have also succeeded in introducing delicate touches to the regional gastronomy with ingredients brought back from their distant travels, such as buckwheat and curry.

              Breton gastronomy is simple and focuses on the continual rediscovery of local products from land and sea alike. Freshness, quality, diversity and finesse are ideal adjectives for describing Breton cuisine. Seafood platters always feature at the top of restaurant menus, served simply with lemon quarters and mayonnaise. Other regional specialties include bean soup à la Bretonne, cotriade (different varieties of fish cooked in broth with potatoes), lobster à l’armoricaine, or potée Bretonne (a Breton stew of pork and vegetables cooked in broth and served with slices of rye bread.)

              Brittany also offers plenty of choice for the sweet tooth, with a wide variety of regional pastries and candies: Far Breton with prunes (a thick flan using prunes soaked in rum), gotchial (a type of brioche), Niniche from Quiberon (caramel or fruit candies) and crêpes dentelles (fine lace crêpes), and many, many more. A distinguishing feature is the use of salted butter, a typically Breton ingredient, used in the famous Kouign Amann, caramel candies and Breton shortbread biscuits.

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