Welcome to the land of rich sunshine, where fruit bursts with flavour and colour; Provence! The region to which artists and chefs have flocked for centuries, food is art in Provence. So here it is, our taste of which delectable foods to eat in Provence!
Fruit and veg
With so much glorious sunshine, is it any wonder Provence grows such beautiful fresh produce? With over 200 days of sunshine a year, the fields of Provence aren’t just spread with lavender, they’re bejewelled with fruit and vegetables!
It should be widely acknowledged that we French love a salad. We have a reputation of being heavy meat-eaters, which is somewhat true, but we also really know our way around a salad bowl. Come to Provence for fantastic salads with roasted tomatoes, caramelised onions, fresh herbs and olives, topped with cured meat or goats cheese, and occasionally a poached egg. Try one of these at lunchtime with a glass of crisp Provençal rosé in the sunshine, and we challenge you not to be in seventh heaven.
We have discussed the joys of ratatouille before, but as Provence is the dish’s hometown, how could we not revisit? The dish is a mixture of sweet vegetables in a rich garlic and olive oil-laced sauce, and fresh herbs – how can something so simple be so delicious?
Similarly, we discussed the joys of Brittany’s markets previously, and Provence’s are just as delicious, and are perhaps even a little more colourful! Markets in Provence are held from 8am-12pm sharp. Stallholders pack up promptly, so it’s worth forsaking the holiday lie-in on market days. They’re usually hosted on Tuesdays or Saturdays, but can vary town to town.
Fish and shellfish
Provence lounges across the southern coastline of France, with many a still-working fishing port dotted across the region. With so much quality produce so easily accessible it’s no wonder seafood is so popular.. Oysters, mussels and fresh fish – especially tuna, sea bass, red mullet and monkfish – are regularly sold at market, and can be found in various piquant sauces in restaurants. For a true taste of Provence’s seafood, you must try:
Once a poor sailor’s dish, but now something of a luxury, this rich soup is hearty, flexible in its ingredients, and divine. Generally served with sea bass, scorpionfish, red mullet and shellfish. The shells are cooked with the broth to give that characteristic flavour, and it’s generally served with spicy rouille sauce, croutons and aioli.
When in Provence, goats cheese is king. You’ll find it at the markets, in restaurants, in the local shops – it’s produced throughout the region, but there are two key goats cheeses made in Provence.
Made from raw goat’s milk, and ripened in chestnut leaves, Banon is Provence’s most popular cheese. The cheese is creamy, with earthy, woody under notes. You’ll find Banon eaten as is, baked or pan-fried and served with fresh bread.
Brousse du Rove
Brousse du Rove is made from the milk of a tough breed of goat that produces rich, creamy milk. Brousse du Rove is eaten extraordinarily fresh – the milk is heated, then vinegar is added once it’s cooled. The curds separate and float, are skimmed off, and eaten direct! With a shelf life of just a few days, this cheese is soft, smooth and rich.
Provence is not a region of mild flavours, and seasoning is crucial to cracking a Provençal dish. Accompaniments such as anchovy paste, aioli (garlic mayonnaise), tapenade (olive paste) are widely found. Olives are big in Provence. At any market you’ll find bowls and bowls of slick black olives and juicy green ones. They’ll be stuffed, flavoured, plain – however you want them. And sampling is often encouraged by the vendors!
Provence is famed for its Herbes de Provence, a blend of dried herbs which lends any dish a flavour of the region, this tends to include thyme, rosemary, sage, basil and marjoram. Real foodies should visit between November and March to snuffle out some of Provence’s highlights – truffles are highly prized and harvested between these months.
Although Provence does have a fairly savoury tooth, there are a few sweet treats that will tick the boxes during a holiday in Provence.
Les Calissons d’Aix
These almond-shaped sweets are made from almond paste on a wafer, topped with bright white royal icing. Fable has it that they were created for the Princess Jeannee in 1454, after she was sad she must marry the king. Who knows whether it did the trick, but the sweets are still commonly made today, and are still every bit as tasty.
These chewy, nut-filled slabs of wonder are made with almonds, sugar, honey, pistachios and egg white. The mixture is slowly cooked over a bain marie (or water bath), and the resulting sweet is crucial in the 13 Desserts of Christmas in Provence.
With bounteous harvests, candying fruit is a traditional method of preserving fruit before it over-ripened. They’re not very popular in England, but sample a sticky sweet peach or a crystallised plum, and we’re sure you won’t go back.
Is that a tummy or two we can hear rumbling? Why not come and visit us in Provence, and stay at our charming Provence Country Club, where a week’s stay starts from £129.