The perfect ingredient: La Poule Noire D’Astarac – exclusive to Wellocks

At Wellocks, our search for the perfect ingredient takes us all over the UK and Europe, looking for fresh, flavoursome products of the finest quality. They don’t have to be new – in fact, some of the very best are old ingredients that we are now rediscovering. This includes La Poule Noire D’Astarac, an exceptional French chicken that is now available in the UK exclusively from Wellocks.

France was named ‘Gaule’ by the Romans because of the amount of chickens bred by the natives (‘gallus’ in Latin means chicken). King Henri IV, who came from Béarn in southwest France, loved his la poule Gasconne noire de Bigorre. His wish was that every family in France could enjoy a boiled chicken on a Sunday, an idea that led to the creation of classic dishes such as poule au pot.

Fabulously flavoured, La Poule Noire D’Astarac, or the black chicken of Astarac, comes from  Astarac, a region in Gascony in southwest France.

The black chicken was once well known and bred all over the southwest of France because it was a good egg layer and low maintenance – a natural free ranger that required total freedom. While this gave the bird a delicious flavour, it also made it unsuitable for industrial production. Numbers dwindled with the chicken bred only in remote farms in the Pyrenees because of its hardy nature.

Between 2000 and 2005, the chicken began to have a resurgence as local gourmets sought more flavoursome poultry and interest in eating heritage breeds grew.

Today this is one of the most exclusive of all French chickens prized for its superb taste.

La Poule Noire D’Astarac is totally free range and reared for 150 days minimum for the chickens and 200 days minimum for the capons – as opposed to 60 to 80 days for a regular free range chicken.

The breed with its red crest and distinctively black appearance, from a mix of blue and black feathers, are more like wild chickens and are as free range as you can get. Kept outdoors, it has the freedom to roam in bushes and trees and sources its own food through foraging with a diet that imparts to the meat the flavour of mushrooms and hazelnuts.

The slower natural growth creates a juicier, well-textured and well-flavoured meat and one bird will feed two to four people. Virgin hens and virgin roosters have their diets supplemented with milk and dry bread for two weeks before they are slaughtered – and for four weeks for capons.

Capons are bigger and more fatty than the virgin hens and roosters, and they taste best roasted or braised.

Each bird is dry plucked, which gives a crispy skin to retain all those lovely juices, and is carefully wrapped in a blue towel to protect the body and disperse the fat throughout the bird to preserve the flavour.

The use of the blue towel is an old local tradition that is exclusive to this product and underlines its exceptional heritage. In fact, the blue dye used to colour the towel is woad, a natural product made from a local flowering plant, reinforcing the connection between the chicken and the terroir.

This is what chicken should taste like and Wellocks is proud to have been chosen as the UK’s exclusive supplier by this select group of French poultry producers.

It is completely exclusive to Wellocks and there are restricted numbers available.

We have three Astarac chicken products available for pre-order:

  • The virgin rooster
  • The virgin hen
  • The capon  

Please allow 21 days when ordering for the Christmas and New Year period – and 10 days notice for the rest of the year.

Log in to order online here.