Provence specialities: Traditional Dishes
Fish and sea-food specialities
Bouillabaisse (Fish soup)
An absolute must on any trip to Provence’s largest city – Marseille. The origins of the Bouillabaisse fish soup are rather humble; meant to use up the local rockfish that the fishermen were unable to sell at the end of the market it traditionally contained three types of fish: Red Rascasse, Sea Robin and European Conger. The soup has many variations today, and can even include shellfish (in more expensive versions). A bouillabaisse in Marseille is served as a bowl of the broth with croutons covered in Rouille (a mayonnaise with saffron, garlic, and cayenne pepper) with the fish itself served on a separate dish, meaning diners can eat the soup then the fish, or combine everything.
A dip served with raw vegetables, most likely served for the aperitif, the anchoiade’s principle ingredient is the salty little anchovy fish. Blended with garlis, olive oil and vinegar this simple paste can really bring a kick to your pre-dinner nibbles.
Not a fish speciality and not a dish on its own, aioli is nonetheless an emblematic part of Provençal cuisine. Made from garlic and olive oil (yes it is that simple) it is whipped to an emulsion similar in consistency to a mayonnaise. It can be served as a dip with aperitif, or as a condiment to hot meals. In Provence it is the traditional accompaniment to a plate of cooked cod, snails, and boiled vegetables that is often served at village feast days and festivities.
Made famous by the animated film from Disney, Ratatouille is a great way to combine many of the Mediterranean’s finest ingredients in one dish. Cooking methods can be hotly debated – cook all the vegetables separately and then combine, or cook everything together – but the ingredients are universal: tomatoes, garlic, peppers, aubergine and a mix of herbs – commonly known as Herbes de Provence – including thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, rosemary and oregano. Ratatouille is a great dish to get a real flavour of Provence.
Soupe au pistou (basil and garlic soup)
A cousin to its Italian neighbour – pesto – this Provençal sauce is made from basil, garlic and olive oil (with more modern recipes also including grated Italian hard cheese), and is the central part of the Soupe au Pisto dish. The soup itself is usually vegetable based, and can include ingredients very similar to the Italian Minestrone soup (beans, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, etc.) but with the addition of the pistou when it is served.