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A Gastronomic Adventure in Loire Valley, France: An Interview with Walnut Grove Cookery School

by Freya Harvey

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Renowned for their fine wines, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisines, it would be easy for one to fall head over heels for the beautiful country that is France. Though most would already be familiar with its major cities and provinces such as Paris, Burgundy, and Provence, many of us may not have heard of the more subtle yet equally as wonderful regions like Loire Valley (located in Central France).

Often regarded as “the Garden of France”, the Loire Valley is a charming place with an incredible stretch of vineyards and gardens, and beautiful enchanting castles. As an added bonus, here, you can also find delectable French cuisine and incredible wine tours distinctive to the region. If you haven’t already done so, this hidden gem is a destination that is highly recommended for you to explore and discover on your next holiday!

We recently chatted with Freya from Walnut Grove Cookery School, a farmhouse set in a walnut grove in the heart of idyllic rural of France, to find out more about what makes Loire Valley special – especially when it comes to its local dishes. Curious as to what she has to say? Read on! 


It is said that French cuisine has been highly influenced by the Mediterranean style of cooking. Is this true? If so, what distinct flavors or ingredients make French cuisine stand out from the rest of the world’s cuisines?

To an extent, I think this is true however one must remember that a large part of France is on the Mediterranean. The combination of herbs - thyme, rosemary, savory & oregano known as "Herbs de Provence" are used widely in a lot of the traditional French dishes but, I look at it the other way round - is that the rest of the world has been highly influenced by French cuisine rather than the other way around!


What authentic French dishes would you recommend to those visiting France for the first time - particularly those that are found only in Loire Valley?

Rillettes - a shredded, textured pâté, usually you'll come across pork rillettes, but also salmon or duck. You’ll be able to buy this in charcuteries for picnics. Anguilles (eel, often stewed in red wine for Matelote d’Anguilles) is another specialty. Cheeses; in particular goats cheese, our favorites are Sainte Maure, or a local Camembert called Bons Mayennais. If you are near the coast, (a large part of the Loire is along the coastline) you can't go wrong with Moules Frites - fresh mussels in a creamy sauce & chips!


Seared fillet of salmon served with fresh crab sautéed king prawns, asparagus and a Hollandaise sauce

Image credit: Walnut Grove Cookery School


In your opinion, what makes Walnut Grove Cookery School’s cooking holidays unique? What dishes would students typically learn to whip up in your classes?

We are unique due to our small class size (maximum of 8 clients to two professional chefs) and with our ethos being 'learn by doing". Our clients gain the understanding behind the methods; giving them the ability and confidence to create their own dishes, not just follow recipes. We believe that we offer more hands-on time in the kitchen than any other course.

There is a wide range of dishes and techniques that we teach, anything from "Seared scallops with cauliflower & truffle purée" (starter) - Seared fillet of salmon served with fresh crab, sautéed king prawns, asparagus and a Hollandaise sauce" (main course) or "Apple panacotta with raspberry sorbet, shortbread crumble and a mini toffee apple" (dessert)


Apple panacotta with raspberry sorbet, shortbread crumble and a mini toffee apple.

Image credit: Walnut Grove Cookery School


What other activities would you recommend travelers to make time for in Loire Valley to fully experience the local culture?

Visit Saumur and see the Troglodyte caves, not to mention all the magnificent châteaux to choose from, there are also a number of vineyards to explore, or local cheese makers - too many to list!


A must visit to the breathtaking Saumur of Loire Valley.

Image credit: Wikipedia


What do you hope for travelers to take back home and remember fondly after spending a culinary holiday with Walnut Grove Cookery School? 

We do hope that they will bring home new skills & confidence in the kitchen. One of our favorite quotes from a client was "We arrived as clients and left as friends". We love for all to create great memories of laughter, enjoy cooking delicious foods and indulging fine wines with good company!


Have a little fun in the kitchen with Walnut Grove Cookery School.

Image credit: Walnut Grove Cookery School


Thank you for taking the time to check out this article! To read more great content on food, wine and travel, please visit our blog section. If you’d like to take a peek at the variety of culinary holidays, vacations and getaways we have on offer in France, feel free to peruse through the scrumptious choices here!

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