Every part of France has its culinary specialties, and Provence is no exception. From the appetizers to the dessert, here are the best traditional food and drinks of Provence.
This speciality shaped like a bark, is made of candied melon (or other candied fruit) mixed with almond paste, and recovered by a thin layer of royal icing. It is a speciality since the 15th century ans is still very famous in France, in particular in Provence. You will find various confectioneries, mostly in Aix.
It is usually made of egg whites, honey, almonds, sugar and pistachios, but the basic recipe can vary. This type of Nougat is called white nougat, when there are not egg whites, we call it black nougat. Montélimar is recognized to be the capital of this dessert. There you can find a lot of specialized shops and factories that you can visit. (But you will also find traditional nougat everywhere in Provence) The factories are divided between those that produce nougat in traditional way and those who make it in an industrial way.
Papalines of Avignon:
Created by an assembly of baker in the 20h century, it was a will to produce a regional speciality. It is a liquor of various herbs, picked from the Ventoux Mount, associated with honey, coated by a black and pink chocolate.
To find calissons, candied fruits, nougat and so on, the best is to go to the “Confiseries” which are the stores that sells them.
In Aix en Provence, the specialty is the calissons so in every confiseries you will find them, but most of the confectioners also sell Nougat, Candied fruits, Navettes of Marseille or from Aix, Provencal Macaron to name just a few sugary products you can find in Provence.
The season starts in November and ends around march, and is usually collected near trees, we find them thanks to trained dogs or pigs. It is a very appreciated food but is very scarce, only 20 to 30 tons per year are produced, so a kilogram cam vary between 100 euros and 1000 euros.
Provencal olive oil is AOC which means that its name is protected by an organization, that pay attention to the methods used in the olive oil making process. It accompanies well a lot of Provencal dishes. You will find traditional olive oil in a lot of markets and stores.
Tapenade is a recipe created in 1880 in Marseille, made of Olives, Capers and Anchovy filet, with garlic. We can eat in in appetizers before eating, on bread or canapés for example. You will fin Green Tapenade made with green olives and Black tapenade, with black olives. As olive oil, you can find Tapenade markets and stores in the cities you go to.
This is a provencal specialty made of chickpeas flour. It is cooked in a big round plate in a pizza oven, as a thin galette. It has a golden color and is mainly eaten in Nice, Monaco and Menton.
An alcoholic beverage, perfumed with anise and liquorice. It has a yellow color, due to a colorant but there are also pastis without colorant. Some productors created blue pastis. We drink it in appetizer, mixed with water.
There are three different kinds of wines in Provence: Cotes de Provence, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and Coteaux Varois en Provence. The three produce mainly rose wine and less red and white wine. The largest territory is Cotes de Provence, they have more than 20 000 hectares with about 450 caves.
The Provencal honey is protected by a red label, with a protected geographical zone, it works for the honey "all flowers" and lavender's honey. The region counts about 300 professionals beekeeper with more than 150 hives each.
Originally this salad was composed of lettuce, anchovy and olive oil. Now, we add tomatoes, green pepper, garlic, onions, celeriac, purple artichoke, olives, eggs, cucumber and olive oil. It constitutes the traditional Provencal and Mediterranean first course and sometimes a main course. You can order it in restaurants, particularly in Nice.
One thing you perhaps heard about French people is that they eat frogs’ legs and snails. Well this is not a stereotype, although they don’t eat it very often. Snails cooked at the Provencal way are eaten with tomato sauce or garlic mayonnaise.
Banon is a cheese with soft dough, made with goat milk, and recovered by chestnut leaves as its packaging. The name comes from a little village located between Lure Mountain and Ventoux Mount, this cheese was already known in the roman era. A legend says that the Roman emperor Antonin The Pious, died in 161 because he ate too much of this cheese. In the middle age and 19th century, it was still appreciated, Jules Verne and Frederic Mistral liked the taste of Banon cheese. You can of course, find this cheese in Banon, but also in the markets that sell regional products in Provence, as there is always a cheesemaker.
Some cuisine courses are availbale in Provence, here are some of the ones you can attend:
L’Atelier cuisine de Mathilde: This person offers cooking lessons in French and English! Located in the center of Aix, you can have access to pastry classes, or provencal cuisine. You go to the market to choose the product with her and then go back to begin the cooking lesson. Time to eat then! (Aix-en-Provence)
Atelier des chefs in Aix-en-Provence: This company has differents types of cooking lessons you can take. You can register for a pastry lesson or a maincourse lesson. Also, they teach cusine from Italy, Asia; “Bistrot” cuisine, and desserts. To participate in a lesson, you have to register in their website, they put the lessons they will do some weeks before. (Aix-en-Provence)
Provence gourmet: In a friendly atmosphere, spend the day learning how to cook provencal food in group of maximum 8 persons. Your day begins at 9:30am in front of the tourism office, you then head to the market to buy the products you will need during the cooking lesson. It is now time to cook and taste your meals. The course finishes at 3:30pm. (Aix-en-Provence)
Cuisine de Chef (Chef Jean Marc Villard): Cooking classes taught in English for at least 2 people and up to 10, near Avignon. The kitchen is located in the regional park of Luberon, and you will have a view on the mountains while eating on the terrace. The product used are local and organic, you will join the Chef in the market to select the best products possible before starting your cooking lesson. (Maubec en Luberon)
Chef and the City: This Company offers various classes, including classes with your children. They do a lot of classes for learning how to make dessert, but they often have class of oenology for example. If you want to take a class, they have the program of their classes on their website. (Fuveau)
Cuisine Provence: Chef Roger Merlin proposes one English class, where you cook a full menu. Then you eat what you cooked, with a Provencal wine. If you speak French you will have more possibilities of activities or classes, such as an activity around biologic flour and without gluten for example, where you cook little bread with olive oil, with herbs, or fougasse. (Saintes Mairie de la mer)
Cuisine sur Cours: You can have a mini cooking class of 1 hour, or cook a main course and dessert in1h30 or a full menu and so on. There are even courses for children or teens, for learning pastry, courses where you go to the market with the chef and then go back to the shop for preparing your meal. All the program is available on their webpage. (Nice)
Author: Hélène Marchandise
Photos' Copyrights: OTI-PaysaptLuberon