South West France

Delve Into The Delicacies Of Occitanie in South West France

When deciding on your ideal culinary adventure in South West France, one clear benefit of choosing to cater for yourself is that you can make the most of all the region has to offer, in the way of restaurants and wonderful produce! 

South West France, with its warm climate and long hours of sunshine, is the perfect location to grow the most amazing food.  Even vegetables that you know well, take on a more intense flavour, transforming the most simple of recipes into an incredible dish. 

Why is French Food so Good?

France’s love affair with food and wine can be seen everywhere and here’s why:- 

  • Age old recipes passed down from one generation to another.  
  • Classic cooking techniques to get the most out of local produce.  
  • Cooking what’s in season to get maximum flavour.  
  • Taking time to sit and savour every meal.  

I believe this is the essence of why the French have such a great reputation for all things culinary.

So Here’s My Must-try List

Food is a very personal thing, so I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy everything on the list. However, I do know that you’ll love your culinary journey and definitely find some magical ingredients and recipes guaranteed to inspire.

Cantaloupe Melons

These are grown less than a kilometre from Bijou Barn and they are absolutely wonderful and so refreshing for lunch on a hot summer’s day.  Sprinkle with lime juice and some coarsely ground black pepper to intensify the flavour.  Better still, top the pieces of melon with some wafer thin slices of Bayonne ham.

 

Bayonne Ham

This is the French version of Parma or Serano ham.  A delicious cured ham which you can buy from local supermarkets. However, for the best quality, try to find a local supplier who sells in the markets.  Without a doubt, you’ll be able to try before you buy and you will be in ham heaven (yes, there is such a place!) with this melt in the mouth treat.  

 

Duck

Duck in any shape or form is well worth a try. Go for succulent slices of duck breast served with a classic sauce.  Or why not enjoy the smoked variety with a light salad?  Of course, the classic slow-cooked confit duck leg is a must for a melt in the mouth option.

Truffles

These are also on the delicacy menu in South West France.  Of course this is an expensive option but fortunately, you don’t need much to elevate any dish from ordinary to outstanding.  Try with pasta and mushrooms, sprinkle over an omelette or mix into a risotto.  

 

Truffles And Slicer On Plate

Local vegetables

They are always good – just look at what’s in season and you can’t go wrong.  A selection of coloured tomatoes, each with their own unique flavour can be a lovely accompaniment to any BBQ food.

Walnuts

These nuts are grown in the area and whether you try them in a cake or top a salad with them to add texture, you’ll be impressed by the rich flavour of this soft nut. Look out for the local producers who sell in the markets as their walnuts are AMAZING!  We know a producer who makes the most delicious walnut and fig brownies and she sells them every week at the Sunday market in Montcuq – they are absolutely delicious, so get there early before they are sold out!

 

Foie Gras

Famous in the region and its smooth texture and powerful flavour makes for a versatile delicacy. Choose it in a salad with sweet chutney and toasted brioche, or have it warmed as a topping to steak or simply melted into a rich sauce.  You can visit a farm for a tasting – there’s one very close to Bijou Barn.

 Try with a glass of Mombaziac sweet wine for the ultimate decadence. 

Monbazillac: the best budget dessert wine

Goat’s Cheese

It’s a bit like marmite – you either love it or ….. you don’t.  I know so many people who love cheese but just don’t feel the same about the goaty variety.  I understand completely – it took a while for me to warm to this distinct flavour.  However, if there was ever a goats cheese that you would describe as the best introduction to this genre, you’ll find it here in South West France.  Cabecou cheese is made 3 km from Bijou Barn and has the most mellow flavour I have ever tasted in a goat’s cheese.  Try it warmed with a drizzle of local honey and some crusty bread – you’ll be converted.

Visit Local Markets

Isn’t it funny that food shopping at home can be really boring and is definitely regarded as a chore – that thing you need to do every week.  But by being transported to a different country, with a warm climate – shopping for the daily essentials becomes a stimulating experience.

 

 

Wandering through a local market on a sunny day is an inspiration to any food lover.  The whole atmosphere is mesmerising – the hustle and bustle mingle with the smells and flavours.  Then there’s the sound of the food producers as they tell you about their products and tempt you with samples.  

Specialised ingredients like Madagascan vanilla and spice stalls nestle beside the more familiar cheese and bread producers.  No wonder you always leave a market with lots more than you planned – hey, it’s good to spoil yourself on holiday!

Local Restaurants

I love food and I have been lucky to visit many different types of restaurants all over the world, but for me, the little restaurants in out of the way places, frequented by the locals are the essence of French life and should be experienced as regularly as possible.

 

 

Many of these places don’t offer a choice. Instead, there’s a 3 or 4 course set meal often including wine, where you eat like a local, with the locals.  It’s usually seasonal food, simply prepared and served in a friendly atmosphere – a brilliant recipe for a wonderful lunch.

There are many other restaurants in more salubrious settings which are also worthy of a visit, whilst on holiday, near Bijou Barn.  Visit restaurants in stylish old buildings serving classic French cuisine. Or why not choose a centrally located rustic restaurant with outdoor terraces where you can watch the world go by?  Or what about a hillside retreat with stunning views of vineyards, as far as the eye can see?

 

Marchées Gourmandes 

These evening markets are a joy to visit.  As the sun goes down, little food markets set up in local squares with a communal dining area in the centre.  Wander around each stall, talk to the producers and create your very own meal from seasonal produce. 

The hardest part is deciding what to have!  Start with home-cured salmon or homegrown melon then move to moules or char-grilled steak, just the way you like it.  And to finish?…… a delicious crepe, cooked to order then topped with a mouth-watering topping of your choice.

Buy a bottle of wine and join other foodies at the long tables, as they savour their meal then dance the night away to live music. It’s a lovely way to meet the local French people and get a taste of how they live.

 

Fine Dining At Its Best

France, as you would expect, has some really wonderful restaurants offering out of this world dining experiences that you will remember long after your holiday is over.

You don’t have to travel far from Bijou Barn in any direction to enjoy the most memorable of culinary adventures where you’ll be wowed by the whole evening. Elaborate recipes and stunning presentation come as standard.  Local ingredients and seasonal produce combine to create an impressive gastronomic delight, guaranteed to inspire.  

 

 

I love the Moulin de Dausse, Chateau de l’ Hoste and L’Ô à la Bouche but there are so many places – you’ll be spoilt for choice!  

In search of Michelin stars? Then you’re in for a treat in the Occitanie region  of South West France

If you want to experience a 2 Michelin star restaurant then Le Grindeau is a mere 40 minute drive.  

Discover Why the Malbec Region Has Such Amazing Wine.

Bijou Barn is situated in the Malbec wine region of France, so you don’t want to miss out on some wine tasting to fully appreciate this wonderful grape.  

Learn the history of the Malbec grape and how Cahors wines were sold in London as far back as the 13th Century. The Cahors vineyards were amongst the first planted in France by the Roman emperors, more than 2000 years ago.  

 

 

My advice is to visit a mixture of vineyards – from the famous producers with a worldwide reputation such as Chateau Chambert to the small family operations within 4 km of our home such as Domaine du Garinet.  Or why not try the wines of Mas del Périé, where they combine age-old traditions with a contemporary twist.

The dining options for your holiday in South West France will never get dull. Whether you want to eat out every night or you just want to create your own simple dishes at Bijou Barn, the Occitanie region of France offers a vast choice.

 

 

So there you go…a taste of what to expect when you come to South West France and stay at Bijou Barn.

A bientôt 

 

Special Celebrations in Sleepy French Villages

 

How many times have you driven through a French village and seen no one? How many times have you asked yourself what do these people do? Where are they?

Sometimes we assume that because a place is quiet for the short time we are passing through, it must be like that all the time. Well guess again!

Under that sleepy exterior lies the beating heart of a lively village.

Our First French Fete

My husband and I were invited by some friends to a Village Fete. We were excited as this was the first “local” fete we were to experience. Also one to which you need to be invited to by someone from the village hosting the event. We arrived at the location and couldn’t believe our eyes.

A freshly cut field had been transformed into an extremely large outdoor dining area, ready to accommodate about 400 people on long tables with bench seating and long strings of lights above, which lit up the whole area as the sun started to set. The dining area was surrounded by a bar, a covered area with a stage for the band and a dance floor, plus an outdoor kitchen where the lamb, or should I say flock was being slowly spit roasted.

image

Local Food and Wines

We sipped ice cold slightly sparkling rose as we savoured the atmosphere. Then we were all asked to take a seat and within a short time we were chatting to people beside us, as Sangria was poured into our glasses.

Having been in the restaurant trade, we know only too well how tough it can be to feed large numbers of people, but to do it for around 400, in a field and serve everyone at the table – well that was really impressive.

Our banquet began with soup and French bread, of course, followed by cured ham and the sweetest, juiciest, locally produced melon. The wine flowed, as wine does in France, with empty bottles on the tables being quickly replaced with full ones, by the very efficient waiting staff. Then came the main course, spit roasted lamb and sausages served with a tasty bean cassoulet – it was delicious.

image

Brilliant Live Music

As everyone finished, the tables were cleared and the musical entertainment began. This band were very good – drummer, trumpet player, guitarist, accordion player and singer – all in fancy dress and their instruments and mikes all Bluetoothed, allowing them to mingle with everyone seated at the tables.

Within minutes the band had progressed to dancing and singing on top of the tables with many of the guests already standing on their chairs and joining in. The trumpeter played a particularly catchy 7 note riff, which was the signal for the crowd to lift their arms in the style of a Mexican wave whilst shouting ‘Olé!’

We were mesmerised by the pied piper qualities of the drummer and trumpet player – they had everyone eating out of their very musical hands, within 10 minutes! It was a shame when they played their last number but they had certainly warmed up the crowd.

image

There was a short break for us all to enjoy cheese followed by ice cream and then coffee to finish. Then the wandering musicians returned, having been transformed from their funny fancy dress costumes into glamorous white outfits, as the main stage was lit and their performance continued. It took only seconds for everyone to be lured towards the stage and dance the night away, with the dance floor still as full when we decided to call it a night at around 1:30 a.m.

The Morning After

I woke up the following morning and began to smile as I remembered the Fete as if it had been some kind of surreal dream, although my mildly sore throat did bring me back to reality – did I really shout Olé that many times?

The whole evening was really special as it combined a simple yet tasty meal, in a wonderful setting, amongst lovely people, who made us very welcome.

So the next time you are driving through a sleepy French village don’t let that tranquility fool you – they are probably just recovering from a celebration the night before!

Secluded pool area at Bijou Barn

Home Away French Holiday Rental: getting poolside summer ready

 

When my husband said we needed to get poolside summer ready, I was very excited at the prospect of exfoliating, buffing, bronzing, moisturising and nail painting ………and that was just the to do list for Graham – only joking! Graham was referring to the pool being summer ready and its transformation from winter hibernation to luxurious summer oasis.

 

Waking Up the Pool

When you winterise your pool, you basically put it to sleep for the cooler months by preparing the water, covering the pool and draining the pump. The vibrant poolside area becomes a much more somber place during the winter months, so when the day arrives to wake up the pool for the summer, it really is exciting. The dark green cover, grubby from the winter weather and rotten leaves is removed to reveal the water, which after a few days of ‘jiggery pokery’ looks crystal clear and inviting (the duck is optional!)

image

 

Pressure Washing

Of course, that’s just the beginning as the whole pool area is then painstakingly pressure washed to brighten up the paving and decking. You can’t have a pool area without sun loungers so these are washed and positioned under the tree so there is somewhere comfortable to chill out between dips in the pool.

French holiday rental

 

Poolside Plants

Then it’s time to cut back and cultivate the poolside plants – I am never sure if I cut back the right plants and cultivate the others but so far so good. The vines over the terrace, the jasmine hedge, the mint, the lavender, the poppies and other wild flowers – the list is endless but hopefully the ensemble of colours and perfumes does work.

D8B57CD2-3DCE-4597-86F9-8637AF547C69

 

What Our Guests want From The Pool

The pool area is as important an area for us, as it is for our guests and we make it our business to ensure that it offers everything that you would want:-

  • Turquoise water that sparkles in the sunlight
  • Sun on the terrace for most of the day
  • Comfortable sun loungers to relax on
  • Secluded poolside area you just don’t want to leave

Read our blog about the joys of having a pool

At Bijou Barn, we hope that we manage to create a summer oasis that exceeds the wants and needs of our guests. The pool area is often viewed by many as a holiday ‘must have’ when searching for the perfect place to rent in France, so we always put in the effort to create a poolside retreat that our guests will love.

Click here to view availability and book.