The Cuisine of the Vaucluse – Part 2

In part one of the cuisine of the Vaucluse we discovered that there were three world famous dishes that came out of Provence, namely: bouillabaisse, salade Nicoise and ratatouille. In this blog we look at the ingredients that make up these dishes and how they are prepared in a typical Provencal way. We start with the king of all fish stews bouillabaisse.

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse sometimes confuses people if it is a stew or a soup, it is simply bouillabaisse and don’t get hung up on terminology. All you should consider is that it is one large bowl of sunshine and happiness and defines southern France.

Arguments rage who is actually responsible for the first bouillabaisse, with Marseilles claiming the recognition. However, the bouillabaisse of Provence is highly regarded and here we look at the recipe. Just remind yourself attempting this dish that it is a humble peasant / fisherman’s dish and therefore should be rustic.

The basic ingredients are shellfish, fennel, olive oil, and pieces of fish with seasonings of saffron, cayenne pepper and orange peel. Possibly the most important ingredient of all and will take the longest to prepare is the stock, which should be made from the shells of the seafood and is a labor of love to make.

Chilled white wine

Really any kind of seafood and fish can be thrown in, up to what is available at the time. You can also use almost any herbs but fennel is a must, tarragon and thyme are optional. Bouillabaisse should be served in a bowl like a stew, not separately with the meat on a plate and the broth in a bowl. A crisp, chilled white wine is a perfect choice with this tasty fish dish.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is another delicious and rustic French dish, but this time completely vegetarian. The main ingredients vary from region to region but in Provence they should include, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant. Ratatouille is normally served as an accompaniment with grilled lamb, chicken, beef or a whole fish.

Prepare the vegetables by cubing them all the same size, but don’t be too precise as after all it is a peasant dish. To enhance the main ingredients already mentioned you should also use, garlic, onions and peppers. Put the ingredients in the pan in order of their hardness so they blend together, a vegetable stock should be added together with seasoning and herbs. The dish is ready in ten minutes and can be served hot or cold.

Salade Nicoise

As with most salads, salade Nicoise can be adapted, but the classic salad made in the Provencal way contains tuna, black olives, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, cos lettuce leaves, green beans, and anchovies.

The dressing is simple and comprises olive oil, red wine vinegar and dijon mustard. There are three steps to assemble the salad,

  • Whisk dressing ingredients together, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Cook green beans al dente and refresh in iced water
  • Add all other ingredients in large salad bowl, toss to combine and finish with the dressing.

These three dishes epitomize rural Provencal food, although their exact sources of creation are a little hazy they represent the cuisine of southern France and in particular the Vaucluse region.