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In the heart of Provence the very center between Basse Provence and Haute Provence, it smells of the garrigue, of summer savory, of rosemary and wild thyme , the very herbs of Provence. Provence has also its own dialect, their own history and traditions. Provence has its own language, recognized as such and taught as a secondary language of choice in all the schools in the region. Provence will remain forever a very special place with echoes of ancient Greece and Rome. Provence is the land of Daudet and his famous , of warm hearted Pagnol with his tales of Fanny, Cesar and Florette ; and of Gionot , who opened a window on the wonderful world of hill towns of Provence and its people. It is truly a special world of wood smoke and wild mushrooms , of fresh fish and garlic, of lamb and dried herbs of Provence  sizzling over open fires. It is bougainvillea and mimosa  and almond blossom and lavender. It is Provence!.  Many of the simple recipes of modern Provencal cooking   show traces of these ancient influences. It was maybe the early Romans who are probably responsible for the Provencal taste for thick , earthy sauces rich with olive oil: Tapenade and anchoiade would come straight out of a Roman kitchen. Pissalat is another example ; This potent mash of fermented anchovies used to flavor salad dressings, daubes and pasta sauces, the origin of pissaladiere (  the famous Nicoise pizzalike open tart of anchovies, onions and black olives), goes back to one of the earliest of the Roman condiments, garum salarum, a mixture of sun-dried fermented fish. Aioli, too, even though we now make it with egg yolks and olive oil, was thickened with mashed potato in the 19th-century and probably with ground almonds in ancient times.

The Arab influence.

The 300 -year domination of the Arabs in Provence,( during which they became so intermingled with the local population that the people of Provence turned to them for help when Charles Martel waged war against them in the 8th-century) had equally important repercussions on the Local Cuisine. Martel and its troops routed the Saracens in 730, and to punish the Provencal separatists, sacked the important Provencal cities of Arles, Avignon and Marseilles. But in the beginning of of the 9th-century the Saracens took back Marseille and Arles and they were to dominate the rest of the region once again until 1032, when they were finally expelled.

This long Arab rule left many architectural and culinary traces along the entire coast. The use of spices and dried orange peel in Daubes of beef and lamb speaks of Moorish Andulasia, as do the chick-pea flour, almonds, cinnamon and saffron to be found in Provencal dishes today.  Also, the presence of raisins in recipe for tiny onions a La Monegasque hints at Arab influence. The frequent use of raisins , almonds and pine nuts  in dishes of Pasta  or rice in the Camargue give the dishes an authentic Middle Eastern touch. What else has inspired Nougat but Turkish delight? Les petits farcis , one of the mainstays of Provencal Cuisine , are another vegetable dish that owes its heritage to the Arab invasion. Fressure is a spicy Provencal ragout of lamb’s liver, kidney, heart, lungs and tripe in a sharp, peppery sauce flavored with plenty of herbs and spices, could be straight out of Arab cuisine today.

Boeuf en Daube a la Provencal.

4 to 5 IB lean beef.

2 onions sliced, 2 carrots sliced, 1 bouquet garni ( thyme, parsley , Bay leaf), salt and ground pepper.

1 1/4 cups red wine, 4 Tbs cognac, 4 Tbs olive oil, 8 lean bacon slices ,diced, 1 Lg onion , cut in quarters, 4 cloves garlic, 1 piece orange peel, 1 1/4 cups or more hot beef stock or water, 1/2 cup pitted -ripe olives.

Cut the beef in an inch cubes and place in a bowl with onions and carrots, bouquet garni, salt, pepper, red wine & cognac, and marinate in this mixture for 5 to 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

heat the oil in a large skillet, melt the diced bacon in it brown the onion quarters in the fat. Drain the meat, reserving the juices for the marinade, and saute meat with the bacon and onion until browned, shaking the pan from time to time. Add garlic cloves, orange peel; then moisten with the marinade which has been reduced to half the original quantity. Pour over beef stock or failing this hot water. cover the pot tightly and cook in a very slow oven ( 250 -275 F) for 3 to 4 hours. Remove from oven, skim fat from the surface; add the olives and correct seasoning. Cook for another 30 minutes. Serve in the casserole.

Anne Suire


Join us in May 2015.

Departure dates : May 2, 2015 – May 9, 2015. ( 8 Days / 7 nights)

10 guests are invited. $ 3, 990 pp.

All inclusive. ( Air fare not included).

Book online and go to our page:Provence/Gourmet Tours. May 2015