Stage 11: Blaye-les-Mines > Lavaur

Tonight’s stage takes us through Tarn, in the Midi-Pyrenees. The profile is undulating (or is “lumpy” the term du jour?) but with the big mountain stages to come, there are only two categorised climbs over the 167.5km.  Those of us watching on SBS will miss the first (category 3) climb 28.5km in but we’ll see the Côte de Puylaurens (category 4) at 135.5.

Tarn is a departement known for its cattle production, but not one that has an indigenous cattle breed.  It’s quite possible we’ll see some Blonde d’Aquitaine, which hail from the neighbouring Aquitaine region.  The Blonde is a relatively new breed and quickly gaining in popularity.  At nearly half a million animals they are gaining on the Limousin and Charolais in herd size, so we should be able to spot a few as we roll by.

Blondes clearly having more fun

Image: Farming in France

We could spot some of the aforementioned Charolais and Limousin, too, as well as some Salers and Aubrac.

If you are planning a beef dish to accompany the stage, my copy of The Cooking of Southwest France, by Paula Wolfert, falls open at the recipe for Entrecôte à l’Albigeoise (which is steak with shallots in red wine sauce in the style of Albi, the capital of Tarn). This is a go-to Sunday night recipe in this house – to use a food show cliché, the beef really is the hero of this dish so it’s perfect for a celebration of les vaches.  It’ll give you all the energy you need for your morning commute.

Of course, it really is winter stew weather here, so perhaps you’d prefer to try Wolfert’s recipe for pot-au-feu à l’Albigeoise.  Talk about celebrate the animal!  This has beef marrowbones, shin or brisket, beef top round and veal shank, with some pork sausage and confit duck thrown in for good measure.  This is a dish of epic proportions and is served in two courses, so probably not your usual Wednesday night dinner. Just as well, because you will need to start it a day ahead.  Call some friends, invite them over for a Bastille Day dinner tomorrow, and enjoy.

It’s quite possible that you don’t feel like cooking at all. If you live in Melbourne, Libertine has put a Pyrenees special onto the menu for the next few stages (until Saturday).  It is a mushroom pithivier featuring perail, a ewe’s milk cheese from the region. Yes, you read that correctly – ewe not cow – but you can probably find something boeuf-y or veau-y for your main! And I’m sure Andre’s amazing whisky caramel cremes have cream from les vaches, not les brebis.  The lovely Zoe has found a Pyrenean wine to match the pithivier, a 2008 Laplace Madiran, and is offering it by the glass, carafe or bottle while Le Tour is in the region.

The grape variety is tannat, so named because it’s a thick-skinned small black grape with high natural skin tannins, so before the oak is even added, it’s already a robust little number. If you’re looking for a full bodied wine but fancy a (vine) change, ask us to decant one of these for you and revel in the cuddliness.

“Cuddliness”? It’s practically a wine for Cadel “Cuddles” Evans, right?

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