The Cuisine of the Vaucluse – Part 1

Vaucluse is renowned in France for being one of the most beautiful areas in the whole of Provence, as it has a wide variety of landscapes from sweeping fields of lavender to craggy peaks. Vineyards that stretch out of view and romantic ancient hilltop villages.

The Vaucluse contains the city of Avignon in the south, and right up to Orange and beyond in the north. Mont Ventoux exists in Vaucluse with slopes that sweep down right to Apt. The Vaucluse mainly is very fertile and has a plethora of market towns selling the local produce. Obviously, the wines of the southern Rhone Valley are a big attraction.

Provence

salade Nicoise

The main flavors of the food of Provence are in its herbs: oregano, thyme, rosemary, and fennel with the overriding flavor of the locally produced olive oil. Provence takes many influences in its food from the Mediterranean and is hearty and quite rustic. The three most famous dishes of Provence are: bouillabaisse, ratatouille and salade Nicoise. The three dishes are a crisp salad, a fish stew and stewed vegetables.

Typical Provence Ingredients

There are some standard ingredients that identify Provencal food: garlic, virgin olive oil, and tomatoes. This trio are like the holy trinity of the cuisine of Provence and appear in all manner of dishes from, salads, soups, sauces and stews. The holy trinity often accompanies many different dishes including fish, meat and pasta, and is always seasoned with herbs and often with olives, capers and shallots.

Vegetables & Fruit

The climate of the Provence leads to its wide choice of ingredients, there are dry and hot summers but rain in the winter months. This allows the region to successfully grow a plethora of fruits and vegetables.

Provencal dishes often include locally grown beans, peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, Swiss chard, squashes and potatoes. Many desserts and savory dishes take influences from the middle east and contain: nuts, apricots, peaches, cherries, quinces, figs and almonds.

Meats & Fish

shrimp

Due to the proximity of the Mediterranean, fish and seafood are prominent in Provencal dishes. Salt cod is a particular favorite, and brandade is a typical fish and potato stew. While the most famous of all fish stews, bouillabaisse, can contain squid, clams, mussels, shrimp, spiny lobsters and langoustines. A main flavoring for sauces and stews is marinated and ground anchovies, which instill a deep salty flavor to the base of the dish. Favorite fish of the region are mullet, sardine and tuna, whilst traditional meats include, escargot, veal and rabbit.

Seasoning and Flavoring

Herbs both fresh and dried are ubiquitous in nearly every dish apart from desserts, they define the cuisine of Provence. In desserts the traditional way of sweetening is utilizing nutmeg, almond, mace and lemon which produce delicious biscottins and pastries. Another integral part of Provencal cuisine is saffron, which imparts a distinctive flavor and identifies the regional cuisine above other French food.

The ingredients and flavors of Provencal food define the landscape and the variety of the wonderful terrain of the Vaucluse. In part two of discovering the cuisine of Provence we look at how to make the regions three classic dishes.