Provençal cuisine: Exceptional chefs and the salty, sweet flavours

Full of sunshine, it is full of tastes: Provencal cuisine includes many salty specialties, some sweet treats, and many extraordinary chefs to enhance it.

Let's go on a gourmet journey to discover Provencal specialties.

The basics of Provençal cuisine

A tasty combination of cuisine (French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and African), Provencal cuisine is generous and sun-kissed.

It is often found rich and delicious: it must be said that it is based on olive oil, fragrant herbs, garlic and aromatics.

There is also a major characteristic: the abundance of use of vegetables, historically to compensate for the deficit in meat which was too expensive at the time.

The result ? a cuisine with authentic flavors.

Savory Provencal specialties

But let's get to the heart of the matter: let's start with an overview of savory Provençal specialties.

  • Provence lamb

The Sisteron lamb is considered one of the best breeds of lamb: from Durance to Baux, lambs graze on particularly fragrant flora.

Since 1995, it has even benefited from the famous Label Rouge (a guarantee of superior quality).

It is often cooked in a rack of lamb with mashed potatoes, or in chops with sautéed potatoes, all flavored with marjoram and thyme.

  • Aïoli

It looks like mayonnaise, but is (as the name suggests) much garlic: aioli is a cold emulsion, rather thick and very fragrant.

It is also a full-fledged dish, accompanied by fish (often white, cod-type) and boiled or steamed vegetables.

  • Bouillabaisse

Here is perhaps the most famous Provencal dish: bouillabaisse, this soup with at least 12 fish in it.

Today, it is a rather expensive dish because it requires rare fish (lionfish, wolf, red mullet) to compose it.

To this is added a saffron broth, rouille (creamy and spicy sauce) and toasted croutons (previously rubbed with garlic). 

©Crédit photo : Pavillon France
  • Pieds et paquets

The feet and bundles are the guts in Marseille style, stuffed and cooked over low heat in white wine with onions, carrots and bacon.

A real, typical Provençal dish, which will go especially well with a Côte-de-Provence !

  • Ratatouille

Is there really a dish that smells more of the Mediterranean than ratatouille?

This stew of eggplants, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic is known and appreciated in Nice as the Provence green, passing through the Lubéron and the Côte Bleue.

It's up to you to decide whether you want to prepare it as in Nice (brown each type of vegetable independently in olive oil) or as in Marseille (“à la bohémienne”, or all at the same time!).

  • Soupe au pistou

If we say basil, garlic, olive oil, are you telling us ...? Pistou (or pesto!) Of course!

Purists don't use cheese, unlike Italians, and combine pesto and summer vegetables to compose a fragrant soup, which can be enjoyed even in the heat of summer.

The condiments that enhance Provençal cuisine

But what would Provencal cuisine be without a few condiments to accompany its preparation?

  • Camargue salt

This salt comes from the Salin-de-Giraud basins, a few minutes from Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer. Camargue salt is renowned throughout France and comes to enhance all the dishes of Provençal gastronomy.

  • Tapenade

The guilty pleasure of many Provencal people! Tapenade is a puree of black or green olives, capers and olive oil. It can be spread on small croutons or served with regional fish.

©Crédit photo : Roberto Caruso pour Châtelaine
  • Rouille

This sauce is the essential partner of bouillabaisse. It consists of fresh red peppers, crushed with garlic, all mixed with olive oil and breadcrumbs. The little secret of Provencal people: they sometimes add sea urchin coral!

Sweet treats of Provençal gastronomy

  • Calisson

Aix specialty since the 15th century (at the time when le Roi René réhabilite les vignobles de la région ), the calisson is a candy in the shape of a shuttle, scented with orange blossom.

Basically, a sheet of bread. Above, royal icing. Between the two, a paste of almonds, honey and candied fruit.

  • Candied fruit

Candied fruits are Apt's specialty.

Often strawberries, apricots or plums are candied and make delicious treats.

  • Navette

Ah this cookie ! Boy do we like it at Planetazur ! It is not very sweet and its shape is reminiscent of a small boat.

However, there is a sweet scent of orange blossom ... it goes very well for a little treat in the afternoon or to accompany a coffee.

  • Nougat

Today, everyone thinks the nougat is from Montélimar. But did you know that it historically comes from Sault and Saint-Didier? In the Vaucluse mountains, nougat is made with pruned almonds from Provence.

It is also one of the 13 Christmas desserts, this superb Provencal tradition that we adore.

©Crédit photo : calisson.com

10 emblematic chefs of Provençal gastronomy

1. Pierre Reboul à Aix-en-Provence

Although he is from Villeurbanne, Pierre Reboul is nevertheless considered today as a true Aix chef.

Au quotidien, il aime cultiver le faux dans l’aspect mais le goût dans la réalité grâce à des produits nobles et des préparations classiques, traditionnelles mais revisitées de façon provocante.

 

2. Matthieu Dupuis-Baumal au “Château de la Gaude », à Aix-en-Provence

Awarded one star just a few months after its opening, Matthieu Dupuis-Baumal's restaurant (in an exceptional setting) features Provençal and Asian cuisine.

Always in search of perfection, this Chef with an atypical personality has only one idea in mind: to make you travel.

 

3. Glenn Viel, à L’Oustau de Baumanière, aux Baux-de-Provence

3 Michelin stars and the “Sustainable Gastronomy” distinction are enough to describe the commitment and authenticity of Chef Glenn Viel, as well as his boundless imagination.

His passion: to highlight the product in its most authentic version and to offer a unique experience.

 

4. Mathieu Desmarest à Avignon

Passionné de cuisine depuis l’âge de 10 ans, Mathieu Desmarest est élu meilleur Apprenti de France en 2008.

Cette année, il a obtenu sa première étoile. Un Chef chez qui goûter une cuisine honnête et savoureuse…

5. Christophe Bacquié au Castellet

Triple starred, Christophe Bacquié was also elected Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2004.

n charge of the kitchens of the Hotel & Spa du Castellet since 2009, the Chef offers the Mediterranean in all that it has most generous and delicate to offer.

6. Alexandre Mazzia à Marseille

A true Master Artist, in perpetual motion, Alexandre Mazzia infuses his childhood memories of the Congo into his kitchen.

Everything is good and beautiful, an extraordinary taste adventure.

7. Coline Faulquier à Marseille

Top Chef finalist in 2016, Coline Faulquier is a dynamic Chef.

His seasonal cuisine is inventive, neat, surprising. Every day the Chef lets himself be carried away by the market and its mood, but the result on the plate is always fresh and delicious.

8. Christopher Hache à Eygalières

Le Chef Christopher Hache met à l’honneur la cuisine savoureuse de Provence, et plus particulièrement des Alpilles.

Agneau, fruits et légumes de la région, ainsi que les vins  are favored by the Chef, for a local cuisine, raw, with multiple flavors.

9. Nadia Sammut à Lourmarin

Seule Cheffe étoilée d’un restaurant sans gluten, Nadia Sammut (fille de Reine Sammut) a elle-même été obligée de revoir son alimentation en raison de ses intolérances au gluten et au lactose.

Aujourd’hui, cette contrainte la guide pour “faire vibrer le palais” de ses clients.

10. Mathias Dandine à Gémenos

Provençal and Riviera accents are found in Mathias Dandine's cuisine.

His biases mainly concern seasonings and cooking, but he attaches great importance to the product. A generous, gourmet and tasty cuisine.

©Crédit photo : Gault et Millau

 

We hope that this little trip to discover Provençal gastronomy will have pleased you… The floor is now yours: what is your favorite Provencal dish? Which chef would you like to eat at? Let us know in the comments!

 

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