Brandade de Morue (creamy salt cod purée) is a speciality of Nimes. In the Middle Ages, Breton cod-fishermen traded their dried cod for the salt from the marshes around Aigues-Mortes which was essential for preserving their fish. It’s a delicious, thick purée of warm cod mixed slowly with olive oil and milk until it’s creamy. Amongst other things, it can also contain truffles or potatoes and might be accompanied by fried bread. You can buy it in jars but it’s best sampled freshly-made in a good restaurant.
Sweet Cévennes onions (l’oignon doux des Cévennes) Cultivated for two hundred years on the steep slopes of the Cévennes mountains, this sweet, crunchy onion is good raw (sliced on a tomato salad for example) or cooked (try baking it whole: drizzled with olive oil and wrapped loosely in tin foil, serve with salt from the Camargue). The ones actually from the Cévennes are designated ‘AOP’ (Protected Designation of Origin).
Cévennes honey: This honey is characteristic of the Cévennes flora. It can be either from a mixture of flowers or single varietal – for example, heather (bruyère), chestnut (châtaigner), raspberry (framboisier) or blackberry (ronces) – and it can be either light or dark in colour.
Salt from the Camargue: There have been sea salt pans in the Camargue since Roman times. Flat land, the salt from the sea, the sun and the Mistral (wind) make for ideal conditions. Both coarse and table salt are produced but the salt for gourmets is the ‘Fleur de Sel’, the thin layer of salt crystals which form on top of the pans in hot summer afternoons. It is harvested by hand and normally just sprinkled on top of food to give a delicious delicate crunch.
Camargue Rice: Rice has been cultivated in the Camargue since the 13th century. The most prized by foodies is the red variety, with its nutty flavour, perfect in a salad.
The covered market ‘Les Halles’: A 3500m2 covered, air-conditioned market – open every day from 6am to 1.30pm – about 100 artisans and stallholders selling fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, meat, cheese, olives, bread, patisseries and there’s even a restaurant. Food doesn’t get much fresher than this. 5 rue des Halles, 30000 Nimes.
Quand j’étais Petit Chocolat: Specialists in rare and unusual chocolate from all over the world.17 Rue des Marchands, 30000 Nimes.
L’Huilerie: Teas, sweets, spices, olive oil, honey, ‘brandade de morue’, tinned sardines… an ‘Ali Baba’s cavern’ of a deli. 10 rue des Marchands, 30000 Nimes.