The region is famous for the luxurious black truffles grown in the Quercy region, known as 'black gold'. Of course, the valuable ingredient is one of the highlights of French cuisine.  It is well known that top chefs treat the truffles as a revered ingredient in cooking, due to their complex flavours and a taste which is so special that it is hard to describe.  There is much secrecy shrouding the cultivation of this expensive item.

Harvesting takes place from December to March around the village of Lalbenque. Interestingly, they grow only at the foot of the oak trees on the limestone plateaux (or causes) of the Lot department, and it takes 15 years to see if an oak will produce them which means much patience is needed!

Pigs or dogs that are specially trained hunt out the truffles and a limited quantity of 3-10 tonnes are produced annually. 

Michelin-starred chefs

There are a large number of Michelin-starred chefs (22 in total) working in the Midi-Pyrénées. It is worth checking out Nicole Fagegaltier from the Hôtel-restaurant du Vieux Pont in Belcastel, 25km from Rodez.  Her family ran the local inn and 20 years after she first gained her Michelin star, she still works with her sister Michèle and husband Bruno. The weekday lunches are fabulous and prices start from £23.  www.hotelbelcastel.com 

Toulouse

The newly opened 5-star hotel La Cour des Consuls in Toulouse, is an elegant 16th century mansion house. Le Cénacle restaurant boasts a gastronomic menu created by chef Jérome Ryon. Guests can enjoy a cocktail in the Club bar, or chill-out in the hotel’s luxury spa.  Accommodation is stylish and modern in style.

www.mgallery.com

Market shopping in Aveyron

Visitors can enjoy browsing in the bustling produce market which takes place on Thursday mornings in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, situated in Aveyron, west of Rodez. The sights and smells are amazing and stalls are piled high with seasonal produce which is vibrant in colour.

www.villefranche.com

Visiting the Midi-Pyrénées is a delightful experience for visitors at any time of the year.  To find out more telephone +33 (0)5611 35555

www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk