by Mike James
If you’re thinking of travelling to the South of France, one of the cultural things you’ll be keen to sample is the local cuisine. French cooking is not world renowned for nothing – however be prepared to discover that there’s a huge difference between haute cuisine served in upscale fine dining establishments and the country’s regional cuisine provençale, which tends to be simpler, more rustic and altogether more wholesome.
Dishes you’ll be encountering in restaurants in the Provence will be heavily influenced by the produce that’s readily available in the region you’re in.
Recipes from south-eastern France tends to centre around olives, tomatoes and garlic – Aioli and Tapenade being used widely – and the local cuisine bears many similarities to that of its Italian neighbour. Fish and seafood is popular on the coast, and Bouillabaisse is a stand-out fish soup that you simply must try.
In the southern central region of France, look for cheeses such as Cantal and Bleu d’Auvergne, which come from the Auvergne and the Massif Central. The famous chicken recipe for Coq Au Vin is another regional dish that originates here.
In south-western France, look out for rich delicacies such as duck dishes Confit De Canard and Foie Gras, as well as oysters, truffles and prunes. Wash it all down with a nice bottle of full bodied Bordeaux wine all is well with the world.
While you let your palate experience all the wonderful flavours of regional French cuisine, look out for these 5 strange sounding dishes that you’re likely to find on the menus of just about every self-respecting southern French restaurant. You simply haven’t been to France until you’ve sampled them!
Marseille is the undisputed seafood capital of Provence, and Bouillabaisse is the city’s most famous dish. More of a main course than simply a soup, there are 2 varieties: Bouillabaisse du Ravi is made with 6 different types of fish and is the better known dish, while Bouillabaisse du Pêcheur only contains 3 types of fish and is typically served at lunch rather than dinner. The spotted weaver, tub gurnard, European conger, red scorpionfish, burbot and John Dory are just some of the fish varieties available locally to go into this fantastic dish.
Originating in the area around Toulouse and Carcassonne, Cassoulet is a slow cooked white bean and meat stew that is prepared in a heavy earthenware casserole dish (cassole). There are countless sub-regional variations. In Carcassonne, mutton and sometimes partridge is added, while duck, pork or goose meat may be used elsewhere. The Toulouse version is made with the famous Toulouse sausages, pork, mutton and duck confit, with breadcrumbs on top. As warming comfort food goes, it just doesn’t get any better.
A mouth watering dish from the Basque region of south-western France, Pipérade is based on a spicy sauce of tomatoes, onions and sweet peppers cooked in olive oil. Garlic tends to be added more liberally the further towards Spain you go. The sauce is typically added to cooked meats or eggs – and is often served as one of the many local variations on the Spanish omelette theme. A delicious choice for everyone, but also a good choice for vegetarians if you can steer clear of any cooked meats.
Don’t be put off by the comedy name – this oven baked pizza-esque tart is the ultimate French street food and typical of Nice. Salty, intense and extremely moreish, Pissaladière takes its name from pissala, a pungent anchovy and sardine paste, which simply means ‘salted fish’ and is spread over the base of the tart. Topped with the sweetest caramelised onions, black olives and anchovies – though no tomatoes or cheese – this is as close as you can get to pizza without crossing into Italy. Do not miss this treat!
If you’re not a meat eater, don’t despair. This easy vegetarian dish is popular all over Provence, the Mediterranean and beyond. Tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, onions and courgettes form the base of this recipe, with garlic, olives and herbes de provence featuring heavily to create a gorgeous veggie stew. Often accompanied by pasta or rice and topped with melted Gruyère cheese, individual chefs may also decide to add their own flair to the dish – using mushrooms, eggs or – do ask!! – lardons (bacon bits).
Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer and wannabe foodie – rarely straying from a juice diet, however for the information in this post, South France Holiday Villas were consulted.