An absolute must on any trip to Provence’s largest city, Marseille. The origins of the Bouillabaisse fish soup are rather humble – it was intended to use up the local rockfish that the fishermen were unable to sell, namely 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), typically with the fish itself served on a separate dish.
Made famous by the animated Disney film, ratatouille combines 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 Herbes de Provence (a mix of thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, rosemary and oregano). Order ratatouille to get a real flavour of Provence.
Soupe au pistou
A cousin to its Italian neighbour pesto, the Provençal version of pesto is made from basil, garlic and olive oil (with more modern recipes also including grated Italian hard cheese), and is the central part of soupe au pistou. The soup itself is usually vegetable-based and can include ingredients very similar to those of Italian minestrone – beans, onions, celery, carrots and potatoes – with the addition of the pistou before serving.
Brandade de Nîmes
A delicious fish speciality made with puréed salt cod, milk and olive oil. Its name is derived from the Provençal word “brandado” meaning “well-stirred” and you’ll find it typically served with crackers or croutons and a simple green salad.
A dip served with raw vegetables as an aperitif, the anchoiade’s principle ingredient is the salty little anchovy. Blended with garlic, olive oil and vinegar, this simple paste can really bring a kick to your pre-dinner nibbles. Aioli is another emblem of Provençal cuisine, made from garlic and olive oil and whipped into an emulsion similar to mayonnaise. It is the traditional accompaniment to cod, snails and boiled vegetables and is often served at village feast days and festivities.