2 - Country fare
At the heart of the Vendée, to live well, you have to eat well.
The Vendée mogette
A classic ingredient from the Vendée is "la mogette" (white haricot bean) which is traditionally grown in the Bas Bocage (although today they are found throughout the Vendée). They are eaten plain just with a knob of butter or as a vegetable side dish to accompany Vendée ham, duck or a leg of lamb. Connoisseurs will have them on toast, slices of bread are rubbed with garlic, buttered and covered in piping hot mogettes. Mogette beans from the Vendée earned the European PGI (Protected Geographic Indication) quality label on 9 October 2010, protecting the "Mogette de Vendée" name across the whole of the European Union.
Vendée brioche and gâche
Since the Middle Ages, plaited by hand and golden in colour, brioche is a source of pride for the Vendean people. Sweet and flavoured with brandy, orange flower water or a mix of the two, the locals still get through large amounts of this delicious bread. Except around Easter time, Vendée brioche was made for family celebrations (communions, marriages, etc.). The wedding tradition goes that the Godparents of the bride would give a brioche weighing up to 20 or 30 kilos as a gift.
Gâche, is the younger relative of the brioche and is also a delicacy dating back to the Middle Ages. More often made during Easter celebrations, the recipe used to make gâche is slightly different to brioche: more sugar, just as much butter and the addition of crème fraîche... making it more dense.
Brioches and gâches from the Vendée are now protected by an IGP (Protected Geographical Indication).
"Préfou" is a traditional Vendée starter. In certain localities in the Vendée, a small amount of bread dough would be put on a heated tile at the opening of the oven before baking bread, the idea being to check the temperature of the oven first. This small amount of bread dough called "préfour" (literally pre-oven) and later "préfou", was then rubbed in garlic, greased in butter and eaten while still warm. Préfou is often enjoyed with an aperitif. You can find it in all good bakeries in the Vendée.
"Jambon de Vendée" is a raw ham cured by hand in dry salt, rubbed with wine brandy and natural aromatic herbs including cinnamon, pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Each ham is wrapped in cloth or a sealed bag and pressed between two boards giving it a rectangular shape. In contrast to most cured hams, the drying stage is short, due to the ham being pressed. Cut in thin slices, grilled and served with mogettes, Vendée ham is an iconic dish.
In October 2014, Vendée ham was awarded a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), a European label that certifies the origin and quality of the meat ("Vendée outdoor-reared farm pork" PGI) and the use of a specific local production method. Vendée ham is the third most popular French ham, after Bayonne and Aoste hams.