The cuisine of Provence is determined by the landscape , climate, history and geographical influences, which provides us with various dishes, popular through the world
Provence, originaly a Greek colony, and then part of the roman empire was not incorporated into France until the 15th century. Its cuisine is influenced by its proximity to Italy and the Mediterranean ingredients available. the lack of productive soil that are available in other parts of France has meant that its cuisine is not typical of the rest of France- particularly in terms of its use of dairy products, which in this area are largely replaced by olive oil.
The mountainous inland regions with naturally occurring wild herbs lend themselves to lamb production, with rosemary and wild thyme, flavouring the meat . Ewes’ milk is used locally to produce a variety of cheeses. Goats too, thrive in this environment and there are many producers of goats’ cheese in our region. The herbs are an integral part of Provencal cuisine and are used both freshly in salads and selected carefully to produce the dried “herbes de provence”
The wonderful weather provides the climatic conditions required for the abundant growth of the Mediterranean fruit and vegetables known to all.
Market stalls throughout the region groan under the colourful produce from the surrounding countryside. Tomatoes,peppers, garlic, herbs, aubergines, artichokes, and almonds are abundant. Perhaps the best know vegetable dish from Provence is ratatouille- a combination of Mediterranean vegetables to include peppers, courgettes, onions , garlic, tomatoes and herbs
Hectares of olive trees provide olives and tapenad e(an olive paste)to accompany the “apéro” but also copious amounts of high quality olive oil, the starting point and integral part of many Provencal recipe.
Productive land that is not given over to olives is occupied by rows and rows of vines, producing litres of varying qualities of wine to wash down the rest of the local produce. Locally produced rosé is a perfect accompaniment to the light summer fayre, while the red wines of the Rhone valley are not to be missed.
The woodland areas produce a wonderful selection of mushrooms-girolles, cepes and morilles to name a few, but the coveted gem of all is “le diamant noir” – the black diamond- the black truffle . Available from November to February there are a few markets in the region where these valuable commodities, tuber melanosporum,are traded, providing this special ingredient , not only for the local simple dish of brouillade de truffes, but for the haut cuisine of the Riviera kitchens
The coastal region enjoys the daily fruits of the Mediterranean -catches of numerous varieties of fish and seafood- thus a selection of traditional recipes including the famous bouillabaisse of Marseille, accompanied by rouille are available in the numerous restaurants along the coast.
Fish- based specialities are anchoïade (anchovy paste), codfish brandade, but fresh fish is at its best- sardines straight from the Mediterranean and rougets, sea bass and sea bream are all plentiful and served widely.
Nice is ideally situated to combine produce from local market gardens and orchards with the fruits of the sea to provide its traditional specialities of salad niçoise, pan bagnat, pissaladière, socca, made from chickpeas and fougasse . Oranges and lemons are in plentiful supply from local orchards.
Daube provencal is a winter warmer- a rich beef stew cooked slowly for hours with local vegetables, herbs and red wine
Another famous regional dish is the “soupe au pistou” similar to an Italian minestrone, basil being in plentiful supply to compliment the abundance of tomatoes which come in all shapes and sizes.
As a result of an abundance of fresh high quality ingredients the cuisine of provence does not need to be elaborate to be tasty, and simple combinations of the available seasonal produce provide mouth -watering dishes appreciated throughout the world.