Franche Comté is the region where Britain’s most famous French chef, Raymond Blanc, was born. Here, the focus is on hearty mountain food and Raymond’s saying that you ‘don’t have to be rich to dine like kings’ is certainly true in the local area, with most dishes we came across consisting of the same regional products:

Champcomtoise Potatoes
During our exploration of Besancon and the Franche Comté countryside, our duo became a trio thanks to our American friend Zoe. She kindly showed us around the local area and took us to a cosy little café and in return we took her to a very glamorous, very luxurious… potato farm. Afraid that someone outside of our little foodie bubble would consider us completely bizarre, we were pleasantly surprised that Zoe embraced the farm experience! We drove off the beaten track to a warehouse full of crates and crates of potatoes. The farmer, used to selling large quantities wholesale, thought it was rather charming that three young girls had come all this way to buy one sack of potatoes and thus stopped his heavy chores to have a chat. We then went exploring the potato maze and hopped back into the car in search of the rest of our ingredients.

Chatting to the Potato Man
Chatting to the Potato Man
Getting Lost Amongst the Potatoes
Getting Lost Amongst the Potatoes

Comté Cheese
This delicious mild and slightly sweet cheese first produced in 12th century forms the heart of the region’s cuisine. The Montbéliarde cows from which it is produced have a minimum space of one hectare to graze in and they are fed fresh and natural food- very happy cows! However, this AOC product is taken very seriously with an affineur (a cheese man!) regularly ‘ringing’ the cheese to understand the texture and each one is graded according to appearance, rind quality, texture and taste. Those with a bell symbol are the most sought after in all the land! We were guided to a cheese shop in the city centre to choose our slice from a huge round wheel… rather exciting!

Morteau sausage
This is a sausage that is smoked for 48 hours using wood fires in Tuyé chimneys. These smoking houses of the region contain a large wood fire beneath hundreds of hanging sausages. Due to this process, each authentic Morteau sausage has a tiny piece of wood and a ring attached. We went to fetch our fat sausages from a local specialist boutique called Doubs Direct. We even met a cow!

Meeting a Cow on our Produce Hunt
Meeting a Cow on our Produce Hunt

Cancoillotte is a liquidy cheese that is a key part of the local culture. Traditionally the cheese of the poor mountain folk, this concoction has made its way into the restaurants of Besancon and can be found in a variety of flavours including garlic- delicious poured over potatoes to slightly warm and melt!

Vin Jaune
The nearby Joura countryside is a wine growing area, with its most renowned product being their unique Vin Jaune which uses a process similar to that of Sherry production with the formation of yeast. This is a very rich wine which is paired with Comté cheeses (try mixing them to create a regional take on the traditional fondue!).

We added all of these ingredients together to create a warm version of a Comtoise salad recipe. It was very easy, using the ‘shove it all in’ method and it was everything a dish from the region should be… warming, hearty and FILLING!

Here is another regional recipe to try for Crispy Franche Comté Potatoes

Ingredients (serves 4):
– 1 kg Champcomtoise potatoes
– 250g Tomme cheese
– 50g butter
– 1 chicken stock cube
– Mixed pepper (3g Sichaun, 2 cloves cardamom, 2g green pepper, 1g coriander)

– Peel the potatoes and slice
– Preheat the oven to 180°C
– Butter a dish and arrange a layer of potatoes, 80g Tomme goats cheese in fine slices, 15g thinly sliced butter, season and repeat twice.
– Baste from a bowl of chicken stock and bake for 45 minutes until golden and tender.

(They should look similiar to Dauphinoise potatoes!)