Food and Cuisine in Provence


 

While there are markets all over France, in Provence you will find exciting markets in every town. Some towns have farmers markets with farm produce being the main feature while other markets will feature clothing, bags and belts, antiques. In fact anything that can be sold will be available somewhere.

 

In the Luberon you must visit the bustling farmer's market in Coustellet (Sunday morning). This is a true farmer's market where you will find couples with their Renault van backed in, selling fruit, vegetables, preserves, honey and wine, direct from the farm, from a couple of trestle tables.

This is the place to buy your fresh tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and garlic, plus a big bunch of Herbes de Provence for the ratatouille recipe below. Then with a baguette under your arm you are off home to prepare lunch. The real flavours of Provence! And if this sounds like hard work then I’m sure you will find your ratatouille and heaps of other local dishes already prepared in the market!

Also see the larger markets of Apt (Saturdays), Cavaillon (Monday morning), and Aix en Provence (Thursday and Saturday mornings) and perhaps best of all, Isle sur la Sorgue (Sunday morning).

 

 

 

 

Hand-made Chocolates

Most towns will have a chocolatier. Shops with wonderful displays of tempting delights. In L’Isle sur la Sorgue, a very pleasant town with a huge range of interesting shops and places to eat, plus a couple of good wine caves, we discovered an outstanding chocolatier. The products were all made in the shop and we got to taste much of the range. The nougats were something special!


 

 

 

Regional Provence Specialties


 

 

 

Readily available in both produce markets and supermarkets, rabbit becomes very much a Provence dish with loads of ripe tomatoes, garlic, mustard and white wine.



 

 

 

Lavender is very much the soul of Provence with its intensely blue-mauve flowers and heady perfume. This delicious dessert captures the lavender essence in a scented cream and syrup


Ratatouille

This Nicoise dish captures the flavours of the markets of Provence - fresh tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes and peppers along with onions and garlic. Ratatouille is good served with couscous or rice.

Recipe (4 servings makes about 4.5 litres)

0.6 kg tomatoes 
250 g aubergines (2) 
200 g courgettes (2) 
250 g bell peppers (2-3) 
400 g onions 
2 cloves garlic 
Herbes de Provence (basil, thyme, parsley) 
olive oil 
salt, pepper 
50 g tomato paste

 

Cooking time - 65 minutes

  1. Remove the stem cores; drop the whole tomatoes into boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove into a colander. Peel off the skin.
  2. Chop the onion and garlic. Clean the bell pepper, cut into small strips.
  3. In a large cooking pot with a thick bottom, put in olive oil, onions and chopped garlic. Add in the bell pepper. Cover to keep in the moisture. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, and add olive oil as necessary to prevent burning.
  4. Add tomatoes and Herbes de Provence. Add a small can of tomato paste. Stir well and cook for another 15 minutes.
  5. Cut the aubergines into rounds. Cut the un-peeled courgettes into rounds.
  6. Add the aubergine and courgette to the pot. Cook for about 30 minutes

 

Friture de Nonats 
(Sprats crisp-fried with lemon)

Friture or Nonats are juvenile sea fish from various species such as sprats or whitebait. They can be found in most fish markets especially round the ports. Look for these tiny fish in distinctive blue baskets. A delightful luncheon or entree dish with crusty bread and a crisp white wine.

 

Recipe (4 servings as a luncheon dish)

600g whitebait or tiny sprats
100g plain flour
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp white pepper - freshly ground
1 tsp plain salt
Olive oil for frying
Tartare sauce
Lemon wedges
Capers
Salt, pepper 
Flat leaf parsley, chopped



Cooking time - 3 minutes

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or deep fryer to 185 C
  2. Wash the fish, and drain in a colander.
  3. Mix flour, salt, pepper and lemon zest in a shallow bowl.
  4. Roll the fish in the seasoned flour and lightly coat.
  5. Put into the hot oil; such that they can be moved and kept separate, cook for 3 minutes until they start to colour, remove and drain on a paper towel.
  6.  

To serve 
 Place on a warm plate, garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley, capers and lemon wedges.

 

Serve with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling.