The produce market is alive and thriving in regional France. Towns in the various regions or departments have a market, each on a different day of the week, allowing producers and stall holders to visit and sell at each town. Recently, I visited a market in the town Issegiac in the Dordogne in South West France. It was a very busy market and a far cry, our hosts told us, from when they first visited the region nearly 35 years ago. Issegiac, like many towns in the region, was extremely poor and in an advanced state of disrepair. But travel writing, cheaper property prices and agri-tourism bloomed over the ensuing period so that Issegiac and many other towns in the region blossomed. Eymet, a smaller town only a few kilometres away is playfully referred to as ‘Little England’ because of the large number of ex-pats that live or own property in the town.
Issegiac is a Bastide (a walled town) but is unusual in that instead of being set out in the traditional grid pattern, it is more akin to snail shell. This spiral pattern means the market is spread attractively along the narrow, winding streets rather that clustered in the centre of the town. There was lots of great produce framboises (raspberries) and trays of prune sec (dried prunes or as we know them, dried plums which are in fact - prunes!) which are a specialty of the region, including some great home made English Pork Pies from the farm near where we were staying as well as punnets of lovely fresh
Another specialty, which was to be our dessert that evening is the Tourtiere. I was looking at a recipe for this pie in a cook book at a local Château where it was referred to as a ‘Pie from the greedy South West’, a thinly veiled reference to the amazing food bounty of the region. This wonderful confection if comprised of a thin sable biscuit base covered with a few layers of finely sliced apples. This is topped with the thinnest of pastries, piled and scrunched on top of the pie, finished with sugar and then baked. The pastry is neither a puff, nor a butter pastry but a thin, crunchy sweet pastry that is similar to a filo but not as flaky. When I purchased the Tourtiere, it was finished off with a sprinkle of Armagnac and a flourish of vanilla sugar and then into a box with ribbons and a ‘merci’.
No need to say that it was delicious - the four of us ate a pie clearly designed for 6 or 8 but after all, we are greedy South Westerners!