Basque cuisine has for a long time been a heavy influence on the cooking traditions in the southwest of France. It refers to the ingredients and dishes of the Basque people of Spain and France.
As many of you may know, the Basque area spans across the border between France and Spain, reaching down to the coast of the Bay of Biscay – and Basque cuisine is in turn as such heavily influenced by both French and Spanish traditions of food.
With the sea on one side and the Ebro valley on the other, Basque cuisine displays an abundance of sea produce but also plenty of fresh and cured meats. In the Basque cuisine you will find plenty of freshwater fish and salt cod but also a big influence of vegetables. There is a distinct difference between Basque seaside cooking and Basque inland cuisine, naturally incorporating the ingredients most natural to the location. But perhaps the biggest difference of all is between the sides of the modern border, where the cuisine has taken on more local French or Spanish traditions.
But Basque cuisine is about more than the ingredients, it is also about the way you eat and share your food – a tradition that has been passed on to southwestern France. People often cook together, and then share the food from large plates on the tables.
In recent decades, the 70s and 80s in particular, many chefs from this region were heavily influenced by the nouvelle cuisine that became so famous in France – and they created their own version of this new line of fine cooking called “nueva cocina vasca”. Like its French counterpart it was very radical in its form, but very traditional and true to its origin when it came to substance. Like in France, new versions of older dishes were born – lighter and often less rustic.
In France, Basque cuisine is very highly regarded. And Basque cuisine has since been exported not only to other regions in France but also to America and Argentina for example.
Typical foods in Basque cuisine are coal grilled meats and fish, lamb stews, cod, bean dishes, sheep’s milk cheeses, wine and cider.
Some dishes you may find on French menus, and can then recognize as Basque are the Gâteau Basque (a double layer of dough encasing a layer of either vanilla pastry cream or dark cherry jam) or Pisto (a dish of tomatoes, onions and courgettes or eggplant, peppers and olive oil – very similar to ratatouille).