It all starts with a crushed clove...
You simply can't cook Provencal without garlic! It's really a preamble to every recipe, just like thyme and olive oil. "Place a drizzle of olive oil, a chopped onion and a crushed clove of garlic in the pan" – lots of recipes start out this way and end up as a ratatouille, stew, or tripe & trotters…
Provencal cuisine simply wouldn't exist without garlic. First planted in the Mediterranean region in Antiquity, garlic possesses both culinary and medicinal properties. And the sunshine of Provence makes it even more fragrant than in the rest of France.
Widely-used in Provence, garlic must be carefully dosed! With the exception of certain dishes, its flavour should not overpower that of the other ingredients, but enhance and reinforce it. “A touch of garlic” indicates the quantity you can fit on the tip of a sharp knife.
Garlic can be used raw or cooked and it is better to crush it than chop it. White or purple? White garlic is sweeter than its purple cousin. Bought in a braid, it can be kept in a well-aired room until the following harvest.
GARLIC – A MUST-HAVE IN PROVENCAL CUISINE
Fresh garlic is crushed in vinaigrette and mixed with green salad, or simply rubbed on a crouton before soup is poured into the bowl. Cooked garlic is often fried in olive oil before adding the other ingredients to the pan. It is the must-do companion to Provencal tomatoes, fried mushrooms and snails. It can also be left unpeeled and cooked with roast meat.
It forms the basis of Aïoli: desalted cod with steamed or boiled vegetables, spiced with a garlic mayonnaise whipped up with a pestle and mortar. Aïoli is still served on Fridays in many Provencal homes and restaurants.
THE THOUSAND AND ONE BENEFITS OF GARLIC
The most traditional garlic-based recipe is a soup called Aïgo Boulido. Although it is rarer today, it was often used for medicinal purposes by the people of Provence in days gone by and was considered as a remedy for binges! This simple stock made with sage and crushed garlic is chock-a-block with goodness. As the old Provencal saying goes: "L’Aïgo boulido sauvo la vido, maî au bout d’un tèms tuo li gènt" ("boiled water saves your life but after a while it kills you"). Fair enough, this soup can save you if you've overdone it a bit, but too much partying will put paid to you in the end!
Garlic is taken as a remedy for the 'flu, asthma, bronchitis, poor digestion, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, varicose veins and arthritis. It can also be used externally for corns, painful joints and insect bites.
By Anne Garabédian, Journalist - Food
Whether it's served hot with a salad, used to crown a cheese platter, or savoured fresh with honey or olive oil, goat's cheese is an absolute culinary must. Provence's dry, sunny climate is perfect for goat breeding -and that's lucky for us!
A gourmet treat…
Provence has been famed for its candied fruit from time immemorial. In the early 16th century, the region was fairly impoverished. Fruit grew here in abundance, but much of it was lost every year.
In a sauce or salad, red is the colour!
Not having qualifications doesn't mean your life is ruined
Can anyone resist an almond? Everyone raves about these little nuggets of happiness you can savour every which way – fresh, dried, whole, grilled, sliced, ground or made into a cream or milk!
The Gourmet's New Eldorado
It had all but disappeared from the markets, but then – perhaps as a result of Halloween arriving in France – squash made a big comeback on our stalls just over a decade ago
Francis lived happily close beside his tree...
Picked ripe from the tree, figs are simply to die for. They can also be scattered on trays and left to dry in the sun for 3 days: "That's the best way to keep your figs all winter – we serve figs at Christmas as one of Provence's famous 13 Desserts," smiles Jacqueline Honoré.
A story that will make you turn to jelly...
As yellow as sunshine and as warm as a winter fireplace... The quince isn't very pretty, but the people of Provence love it. You could even say that a passion has been born between this irregular-shaped fruit, somewhat resembling a dented, rustic pear and our lovers of jams, jellies and pastes.
When we talk about the South of France, what's the first thing we think of? The MEDITERRANEAN SEA! (and the sun of course – it's all part of the package).