Flavors of Basque Country
Flavors of Basque Country
Related Articles

Flavors of France

Flavors of Basque Country spiced with Espelette

Basque cooking has an identity all of its own, from the precious jambon de Bayonne that’s dried for more than a year to Espelette chillis which carry an Appellation d’Origine Controlee* (AOC). Commonly found dishes include ttoro, a hake stew with mussels and langoustines; chipirons or calamars which are often prepared in a sauce made from their ink; and eels cooked in garlic and chilli. Another favourite is piperade - cooked tomatoes, sweet peppers and ham served with scrambled eggs. Then there’s the ubiquitous gateau* basque and le pettan mamia, fresh curd served with black cherries. Patxaran is an aniseed liqueur made from wild sloes and vanilla while another Basque tipple, Izarra, comes in green and yellow varieties, and has a recipe based on local mountain plants that dates back to 1835.

With the harvesting of the chillis comes the main event of the autumn, La Fete du Piment in Espelette which takes place this year on 23 and 24 October. Just 17 miles from Biarritz airport, the village of 1600 inhabitants welcomes 15,000 visitors annually in their quest to pay homage to the Espeletako biperra. Thousands of bright red chillis festoon Espelette’s buildings and Saturday is devoted to selling and tasting them, culminating in a ball in the evening. At 10am on Sunday, the Blessing of the Pepper Harvest is celebrated in the 16th century church of St Etienne where chillis were once burnt as incense. The brotherhood of the Piment d’ Espelette then parades to the town hall accompanied by three-holed flutes and other Basque instruments. The chillis’ AOC status limits their cultivation to ten villages in the area and there are currently some 55 producers. At the Domaine Xixtaberri in nearby Cambo les Bains, one family of growers owns more than 30,000 chilli plants and runs a friendly B&B specialising in good old-fashioned Basque cuisine.

At the Gateau Basque museum in Sare, one of "les plus beaux villages de France", it’s possible to earn the title of Defender of Basque Culinary Traditions by taking pastry chef Bixente Marichhular’s beginner’s course in the art of patisserie. The museum itself is a tribute to the Basque cake (biskotxa) that originated in Cambo in the Labourd province in the 17th century. Once made in the shape of little pigs, the gateau basque was transformed by the addition of jam - mulberry, fig, sloe or cherry depending on the season - and later custard in the 19th century. The pastry guide welcomes visitors for tasting sessions in the museum’s Basque kitchen or sukalde.

Bon appétit from the Basque Country!

Flavors of Basque Country 1
Featured products

Bayonne Ham

Kintoa Ham, Ham from the Aldudes Valley, Salt Pork Belly

Espelette Pepper


Flavors of Basque Country 2
Flavors of Basque Country 3
Flavors of Basque Country 4
Flavors of Basque Country 5

Photos: Ham and Espelette Pepper - Pierre Oteiza

Photo below (tapas): OT Basque Country / Pierre Carton

Search within the site
Advanced search >
Register free to receive our official newsletter
Sign up
Subscribe to our free RSS feeds:
Get the daily and monthly recipe posts automatically added to your newsreader.
Sign up