French cuisine is world-famous and one of the many reasons why so many British holidaymakers decide to stay at cottages in South France. Celebrated French delicacies include the country’s mouth-watering array of cheeses, foie gras, frogs’ legs, red and white wines… and prunes!
The Lot Valley has a number of gourmet-themed events and one of the most popular is the Prune Festival of Agen, which this year will be held from August 30 to September 1. The area has been famous for its prunes (or dried plums) for centuries, ever since damson seeds were brought back from Syria by the Crusaders during the 1300s. Monks in the area crossed them with a local plum to create a new variety, and then realised that plums could be dried in the sun and enjoyed all year as a key ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Agen is a beautiful and historic city on the banks of the Garonne which has many attractions including a cathedral and covered market as well as its ancient streets. It is a great base to explore the region and in the late summer – at the time of the festival – the weather is likely to be wonderful.
Kingfisher offers a varied range of holiday accommodation, including gîtes, farmhouses and cottages in South France, with facilities including private gardens, swimming pools and, in some cases, games rooms. Staying in Agen and the surrounding area, whether as a couple or larger family group, offers you the perfect chance to get away from the rat race. Attending a festival alongside people from the area is the ideal way to get to know this beautiful region and appreciate its unique atmosphere.
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The Prune Festival of Agen
Since it was founded in 2005, the Prune Festival of Agen has grown hugely in popularity, drawing crowds of up to 70,000. The festival is a celebration of cuisine and culture held each year in the last weekend before French children return to school for the autumn and includes free concerts in the town square as well as a food market packed with local produce. Highlights planned for this year’s event include major concerts by singers Olivia Ruiz and Michel Fugain, as well as puppets, street theatre and a wide range of musical attractions.
Another attraction to visit while staying at southern France holiday cottages is the prune museum and shop in Granges-sur-Lot, near Agen, which is devoted to the history of the prune in the area over the past 100 years. Attractions include reconstructions of work scenes with people wearing period costumes, the traditional drying ovens for preparing prunes, as well as film theatres, archives and collections. Also, from July to September each year, the museum runs a prune maze offering families a two-hour adventure experience.
Top Prune Recipes
There is a lot more to prunes than just stirring them into your cereal for breakfast, and here are some ideas for unusual ways to serve the delicacy in both savoury and sweet dishes.
Bacon-Wrapped Prunes – These are also known as Devils on Horseback, and are similar to the party favourite Angels on Horseback, but with prunes in place of the oysters. They are easy to prepare and ideal as either a starter or a nibble at a buffet. All you have to do is to wrap each pitted prune in a rasher of streaky bacon, securing it with a cocktail stick, and bake it in the oven for around 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. For an extra flavour twist, the prunes can be stuffed with cheese for the last couple of minutes of cooking.
Roast Chicken with Prunes and Cabbage – This tasty main course dish is a French speciality, prepared by caramelising vegetables in a pan and spooning them into a roasting dish together with olive oil. Then place a pre-browned chicken in the mixture and pour some wine sauce over it – French wine is ideal! – before adding the prunes and cabbage to the vegetables in the roasting pan, covering it with foil and roasting it in the oven until the chicken is properly cooked. The vegetables and wine will make the meat really tender.
‘Far Breton’, Brittany Prune Pudding – To prepare this warming rustic dessert, put some prunes in a lightly floured baking dish and add a mixture of warmed milk with sugar, eggs, flour and salt, adjusting your quantities depending on how many people you need to serve. Then place in a pre-heated oven, checking occasionally – it will usually take around 35 minutes to be fully cooked.
Chocolate and Prune Torte – There are many cake and pudding recipes combining prunes with chocolate, because the two flavours go so well together, with the prunes taking the edge off the chocolate’s sweetness. One popular version is to prepare a chocolate mix combining chocolate, cocoa, butter, sugar, flour and egg whites, pour it into a cake tin and add prunes pre-soaked in brandy or another type of alcohol on top, then bake for around 30 minutes.
Prune snacks – Of course, you can just eat prunes on their own as a healthy snack, but other options are to include them in smoothies or homemade granola bars. Delicious!
To find out more about visiting the beautiful Lot Valley and all that it has to offer, contact Kingfisher and browse their selection of cottages in South France.
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