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  • Writer's picture5 Senses CulinaryTours

Thanks to the Moors

Updated: Jun 22

Barely known in Poitou-Charentes, but even less in the rest of France, you will be given a very quizzical look if you ask the baker if they have a Tourteau Fromager. This rustic charcoal like topped cheesecake is seen in the markets in La Rochelle and surrounds. It happens to be a spongy yellow cheese cake using lots of the amazing local goat cheese. Though I am sure there are stories of forgetting it in the oven the first time, it is now always cooked at a high heat at first to darken the black cap, it’s a gourmet treat not to be missed. The cake is a show stopper at the markets.

I was surprised to know that this region Poitou-Charentes produces two thirds of all French goat cheese and it is the home of a third of all the goats in France too. There is a legend that after the Battle of Poitiers, also called the Battle of Tours in 732 when Charles Martel’s Christian army defeated the invading Muslim forces and forced them back to Spain; in their quick retreat they left behind their goats. These goats found a good environment to multiple, hence lots of goats and luckily goats’ cheese. Though I LOVE every goat cheese I’ve ever met, the oval Voeu du Poitou, flaked with savory herbs from Mothe St. Heray is outstanding. Also do not miss the unique Echiré butter as I am sure it will be served everywhere. The company which is only an hour away has been producing hand churned butter since 1894 and is one of the last remaining dairies still using the ancient churning techniques.

Another surprise not far inland from La Rochelle’s seafront, is the secret beauty of Marais Poitevin, the second largest marshland in France. The remnant of the former Gulf of Poitou that has been turned into an amazing man-made landscape, the local farmers didn’t have pasture land everything was a little soggy. Ingenuity won out, they dug canals and created dry zones for agriculture for grazing cattle, horses, geese. Gliding through these intertwining canals in the traditional flat bottom barques is magical as the Ash trees create a canopy. The area called Green Venice, also comes alive with seasonal migrating birds.

Before leaving La Rochelle climb to the top of the ancient towers of the Old Port to survey the sun setting, then you have earned the local aperitif known as Pineau des Charentes, a cousin of Cognac. A blend of local grape juice and Cognac adding just a little extra kick to the natural sweetness, then aged in barrels for about a year. Locals always keep a bottle in the refrigerator – for guests that drop in, I like that you can add either sparkling water or better yet, a Cremant and garnished with a lemon peel. Cheers.


Pate Brisee & Nonstick Mold

· 215g fresh goats' cheese

  • 5 whole eggs

  • 130g castor sugar

  • 50g flour

  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pate Brisee

  • 250g flour

  • 125g unsalted butter

  • 1 pinch of salt

  • 1 egg yolk

  • Water

  • 1 pinch of salt

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