Don’t expect anything overly refined from the cuisine of the Auvergne and Massif Central: it started as solid peasant food, as befits a traditionally poor and rugged region. The best-known dish is potée auvergnate, a kind of cabbage soup, with added potatoes, pork or bacon, beans and turnips – easy to make and very nourishing. Another popular cabbage dish is chou farci: cabbage stuffed with pork and beef and cooked with bacon.
Two potato dishes are very common – la truffade and l’aligot. For truffade, the potatoes are sliced and fried in lard, then fresh Cantal cheese is added; for an aligot, the potatoes are puréed and mixed with cheese. Less palatable for the squeamish is tripoux, usually a stuffing of either sheep’s feet or calf’s innards, cooked in a casing of stomach lining. Fricandeau, a kind of pork pâté, is also wrapped in sheep’s stomach.
Clafoutis is a popular fruit tart in which the fruit is baked with a batter of flour and egg simply poured over it. The classic fruit ingredient is black cherries, though pears, blackcurrants or apples can also be used.
The Auvergne and the Ardèche in the east produce some wines, though these are not of any great renown. Cheese, however, is a different story. In addition to the great cow’s milk cheeses – St-Nectaire, Laguiole, Cantal, Fourme d’Ambert and Bleu d’Auvergne – this region also produces the prince of all cheeses, Roquefort, made from sheep’s milk at the edge of the Causse du Larzac near Millau.