Saturday, November 13, 2021

Lamproie – Lamprey. The Lamprey in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A member of the lamprey family.
Photograph courtesy of AANA, Agence de l’Alimentation Nouvelle Aquitaine

Lamproie de Rivière Européene, the River Lamprey and the Lamproie Marine or Lamproie de Mer, the Sea Lamprey   -  The French name lamproie, like lamprey in English, covers all members of the lamprey family and there are quite a number of members.  However, in France, one of the two noted above will be on your menu. The lamprey is a strange and jawless animal, neither a true fish nor an eel. Lampreys are a unique and separate family of freshwater and seawater animals.

Lamproie au Citron et au Lard
Lamprey with lemon and bacon
Photograph and recipe courtesy of Marie Claire Cuisine et Vins

Lamproie à la Bordelaise – Lamprey prepared in the manner of Bordeaux; this is the most famous of all French lamprey recipes, and its origins go back to the middle ages. The lamprey is cooked with leeks, ham, onions, a red Bordeaux wine, and some of the lamprey’s own blood. Lampreys were and are considered a delicacy and depending on the area where this dish is served Cognac or Armagnac will be added for flavor. This is a recipe that takes lots of preparation, and as so it is quite an expensive dish.

Lamproie à la Bordelaise
The lamprey used in this dish is the Lamproie de Rivière Européene also called the Lamproie Fluviatile, Lamprillon or Flûte.
Photograph courtesy of AANA, Agence de l’Alimentation Nouvelle Aquitaine

Lamproie à la Nantaise  - Lamprey in the manner of the city of Nantes. River Lamprey with red wine, button mushrooms and prunes. Nantes is the prefecture, the capital, of the department of Loire-Atlantique and the region of the Pays de Loire. It is built on both banks of the River Loire and while it is a large city it is regularly voted the best city in France to live and work in.

Lamproie à la Nantaise
Photograph and recipe courtesy of Cuisine Actuelle.

Lamproie au Vin Blanc – This dish highlights lamprey and the Vouvray white wine made with Chenin Blanc grapes that grow along the banks of the Loire River. Also in the recipe will be Armagnac, Bayonne ham, Lardons, and a touch of the Piment d’Espelette pepper.

Lamproie au Vin Blanc
Lamprey with white wine
Photograph and recipe courtesy of Femme Actuelle

The European river lamprey is mostly caught when they reach 35 cm (14“)  long.  They are found along the Atlantic coasts of Europe, including the UK and Ireland, as well as the French and Italian Mediterranean coasts. The sea lamprey is larger, reaching 60cm (28“) or more. Sea Lampreys are caught when they return to the rivers to spawn.

The European River Lamprey
Photograph courtesy of the Guardian and Handout

Fête de la Lamproie
The Lamprey Fete in Saint-Terre.

There is an annual lamprey festival held in the village of  Sainte-Terre close to the Dordogne River. The Fete is held annually, usually on the third weekend in April and organized by the Confrérie de la Lamproie, Saint-Terre, the Brotherhood of the Lamprey in Sainte-Terre.   During the fete, there are cookery workshops, a flea market, funfair, and sports, with a dinner dance on the Saturday evening and Sunday noon.

Confrérie de la Lamproie, Saint-Terre,
Members of the Brotherhood of the Lamprey in Sainte-Terre.
Photograph courtesy of the Sudouest

Sainte-Terre is close to the city of Libourne the commercial hub of Bordeaux’s Right Bank wine region.  The Libournais wine region includes the appellations of Pomerol and Saint Émilion.

Lamprey traditions in the UK

According to an article in The Guardian, it was traditional for Gloucester to send a Christmas lamprey pie to the British monarch until 1836 when the practice was discontinued, except for coronations and jubilees. In 2012 a pie was sent to Queen Elizabeth II to mark her Diamond Jubilee but numbers of UK lampreys were so low that they had to be imported from the Great Lakes of North America. Now, it seems the river pollution in the UK has decreased and the river lamprey is returning in large numbers.

Eating too many lampreys can be bad for your digestion. King Henry I of England, (c. 1068 – 1135), the fourth son of William the Conqueror. Henry died in Normandy, according to legend, from a surfeit of lampreys. 

The lamprey in the languages of France’s neighbors:

The European River Lamprey -  Lamproie de Tivière Européene or Lamproie Fluviatile:

(Catalan - llampresa de riu), (Dutch - amproye),(German – lamprete, lamprida), (Italian - lampreda di fiume), (Spanish  - lamprea de río), (Latin - lampetra fluviatilis).

The Sea Lamprey or Great sea lamprey - La Lamproie Marine or Lamproie de mer:

(Catalan –llampresa de mar), (Dutch -Zeeprik), (German - grosse lamprete, seelamprete), (Italian - lampreda di mare), (Spanish   -   lamprea de mar), (Latiin - petromyzon marinus).


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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016, 2021
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