The flavours of Normandy range from coastal to country – think fresh seafood from the English Channel, rich cream from pastoral cows, and juicy apples from Pays d’Auge orchards. Mouth watering? Read on for the full run-down of dishes you need to try on your next visit to Normandy, France.
The Marmite Dieppoise is a dish that doesn’t discriminate against different types of seafood. In a creamy, salty broth, combining butter, cider and crème fraîche, molluscs, crustaceans and fish unite. As the name suggests, the dish hails from the seaside town of Dieppe, though it is seen on the menu at many restaurants throughout Normandy – especially in coastal villages.
Meadow-salted lamb (agneau de pré salé) comes from the Bay of the Mont Saint-Michel and parts of the Cotentin Peninsula. Ocean water permeates the fields the lambs graze, resulting in a naturally (very) salted cut of meat; it is a practice that dates back more than 1,000 years and is designated an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) as well as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) under French law.
Tripes à la mode de Caen is the French version of the Scots’ Haggis. Traditionally, the dish used all four chambers of a cow’s stomach, its hooves and bones and a part of the large intestine, though this last ingredient became banned by the French in 1996. The entrails are simmered in the oven for up to 15 hours in a tripière, a special pot intended for the process, along with root vegetables, garlic and peppercorns, a bottle of cider and a glass of Calvados. Normans believe autumn is the best time to enjoy tripe when cattle eat the falling apples from the trees.
The traditional custom of the Trou Normand is offered either between meal courses or as a dessert. In a small glass, typically the same type used for cordials, the local liqueur Calvados is poured over a tangy apple sorbet. Calvados serves as a digestif and helps to awaken the appetite, while the apple sorbet softens the flavour without compromising it. The Trou Normand is sometimes taken as a shot of Calvados, particularly following seafood dishes, to prevent indigestion.
The famous Mère Poulard omelette is renowned for its fluffy texture, served up in a 19th-century inn in the village of Mont Saint-Michel. Though the highly guarded recipe remains a secret, speculative gourmands believe the white and yellow of the eggs are separated and whipped individually before being combined; cream and butter is then add to the mix and the contents souffléd over high heat in a copper skillet, specifically one from the town of Villedieu-les-Poêles, in Normandy.
Teurgoule is a pudding made of rice, cooked in milk and sugar, and topped with nutmeg and cinnamon. The mixture is baked in earthenware for several hours to create a thick, caramelised crème brûlée-like crust. The word teurgoule is said to be a variation of the saying “se tordre la gueule” meaning “twisting the mouth”, a reference to the dish’s hot temperature and spicier flavours in its early days. Teurgoule pairs best with a local cider and fallue, a type of Norman brioche.
The abundance of farmland, and its resident dairy cows, give way to some of the best cheeses in all of France. The four classics hail from the communes of Pont-l’Évêque, Livarot, Neufchâtel and Camembert, taking on their respective town’s name. Cheese from Normandy tends to be smooth and creamy with a soft rind, is often enjoyed as dessert, and pairs well with the apple-based beverages the region famously produces.
Andouille de Vire is a sausage from the Vire region, made from pork, that is cut into strips and smoked over the wood of beech trees for weeks before being encased. This artisan production is a recipe that has been passed down for centuries and emblematic of the Bocage region of Normandy, found between Caen and Mont Saint-Michel.
What better use of Normandy’s abundance of apples than a good old-fashioned apple tart? The region’s apple tart mostly follows a standard recipe, but it adds its own twist with a splash of Calvados and crème fraîche. It’s best enjoyed on its own, allowing the flavour of the apple to be the star of the show, though it is sometimes served with whipped cream or salted caramel.
The Norman cow is the star again in the classic dish, joue de bœuf. This melt-in-your-mouth meal comprises beef-cheek cooked with apples, cider, carrots, onions and a slew of spices and seasonings. The preparation is lengthy, spanning over two days of production, with the finished product a tender and flavourful beef that makes for classic comfort food.
This French classic is often eaten as a first course or appetiser, and is a baked-scallop dish served in a creamy sauce, often topped by breadcrumbs. The large flat-shelled scallop is native to Normandy and the region even hosts its own scallop festivals in autumn when the season starts. A must for any seafood lover, this is one that should not be missed in Normandy.
A favourite dessert in the region, this simple tart is always a show-stopper thanks to its thinly sliced apples, dash of Calvados, and buttery shortcrust pastry filled with an egg and cream custard. The dish celebrates some of Normandy’s finest ingredients, including its dairy and locally grown apples, which are also made into the apple brandy, Calvados. The brandy must be made in a defined area of North-West France to bear the name Calvados.
The boudin noir, or blood sausage, is one of France’s oldest and most revered dishes. Similar to the black pudding available in the UK, although softer and usually smaller, boudin noir is made from pork, spices and pig’s blood, which gives the sausage its dark colour. It is part of a sausage-making tradition that dates back more than 2,000 years, and the dish is usually eaten grilled or fried with potatoes, onions and apples.
France is traditionally known for making the best pastries. Chances are, though, you may have only tried a croissant or pain au chocolat until you visit the Calvados region. A brasillé is a traditional buttery pastry named after the French word brasier (hot coals or embers), referring to the method of cooking it in an oven of hot coals. It is brushed with beaten egg, sprinkled with sugar and baked but sometimes comes with a filling of fruit or chocolate.
Crêpes are a classic French street food made from flour, eggs and milk that are believed to have originated in Brittany when a woman spilled thin porridge on a hot flat stove and realised her mistake tasted delicious. The traditional Normandy take on the recipe adds sugar to the crêpe batter and a tasty filling of apples cooked in sugar and butter, often served with a dollop of Calvados cream.
Siobhan Grogan contributed additional reporting to this article.