Although Basque cooking shares many of the dishes of the southwest and the central Pyrenees – in particular garbure, a thick potato, carrot, bean, cabbage and turnip soup enlivened with pieces of pork, ham or duck – it does have distinctive recipes. One of the best known is the Basque omelette, pipérade, made with tomatoes, peppers and often Bayonne ham, and actually more like scrambled eggs. Another delicacy is sweet red peppers, or piquillos, stuffed whole with morue (salt cod). Poulet basquaise is also common, especially as takeaway food: pieces of chicken browned in pork fat and casseroled in a sauce of tomato, ground Espelette chillis, onions and a little white wine. In season there’s a chance of salmi de palombe, an onion-and-wine-based stew of wild doves netted or shot as they migrate north over the Pyrenees.
With the Atlantic adjacent, seafood is also a speciality. The Basques inevitably have their version of fish soup, called ttoro. Another great delicacy is elvers or piballes, caught as they come up the Atlantic rivers. Squid are common, served here as txiperons, either in their own ink, stuffed and baked or stewed with onion, tomato, peppers and garlic. All the locally caught fish – tuna (thon), sea bass (bor), sardines (sardines) and anchovies (anchois) – are regular favourites, too.
Cheeses mainly comprise the delicious ewe’s-milk tommes and gasna from the high pastures of the Pyrenees. Puddings include the Gâteau Basque, an almond-custard pie often garnished with preserved black cherries from Itxassou. As for alcohol, the only Basque AOC wine is the very drinkable Irouléguy – as red, white or rosé – while the local digestif liqueur is the potent green or yellow Izzara.