Olives & olive oil
Olive oil is without doubt the Côte d’Azur’s most treasured and widely used ingredient, featuring in almost everything from salads, sauces and meat marinades to breads and beauty products.
Alpes-Maritimes is home to the Cailletier variety of olive, producing a mild and fruity oil following the harvest in late October. They have ‘AOP Olive de Nice’ status and the oil from this appellation is particularly highly regarded, with demand outweighing supply. Browse vast bowls of gleaming olives at any of the Côte d’Azur’s markets – some stuffed with garlic, chilli, anchovies or almonds, others sprinkled with herbs – and the stallholders will gladly give you a sample to taste. Or visit one of the area’s olive oil mills to learn more about its production.
The tomatoes sold on market stalls on the Côte d’Azur are nothing like the tomatoes we buy from supermarkets in the UK. Much larger, plumper, redder and juicier, it’s the sunshine that makes them so delicious and full of flavour. Browse the Cours Saleya in Nice and you will see (and smell) gleaming rows of tomatoes just waiting to be taken home. Like olive oil, tomatoes feature in so many recipes in this part of France, and your taste buds will be treated to how they should really taste! One of the popular ways to enjoy them here is farcis petits farcis is the name given to any vegetables – including courgettes, onions, squash and aubergines – that are stuffed with sausage meat (or any other leftovers) before being baked. These are typically eaten at room temperature rather than hot.
- Socca – a chickpea pancake typically eaten plain with a liberal sprinkling of black pepper
- Pissaladière – a tart or pizza made with onions and anchovies
- Salade Niçoise – a popular salad with tuna, hard-boiled eggs,green beans, anchovies and olives
- Pan bagnat – the ‘sandwich’ version of a salade Niçoise!
This aniseed-flavoured aperitif is popular everywhere in France, but it has a particular resonance on the Côte d’Azur and in wider Provence. It was first commercialised by Paul Ricard in 1932 and emerged after the ban of absinthe, another aniseed-based drink. 130 million litres are sold each year – more than two litres per inhabitant in France. Enjoy it diluted with water, which changes its appearance from dark transparent yellow to a soft milky yellow; it’s particularly refreshing on a hot day!