My favourite recipe and a little history
The cuisine of France inspires me. The variety, the passion, the sheer abundance of available ingredients, the butter! Oh, the butter. “French Cuisine” as a term is one I’ve found amusing since working with some French chefs. That’s because it’s a very broad term. The French have this wonderful way of absorbing all the culture and nature that surrounds them. And it shows in the foods from all over the country. Not only does every region have its more staple ingredients (Herbes de Provence for example!), but most cities and towns have their own delicacy that they are extremely proud of. So saying French cuisine tends to leave me asking, “well…What kind?”
Paris has its delicate pastries and breads. Alsace has its Choucroute. Normandy is known for its seafood, particularly mussels. Burgundy, to the south west gives us beautiful full bodied wines, and Gruyere cheese.
The Beautiful South
Today though, I wanted to talk about the south east. The area known as the Provencial Region. This region sits on the southern coast at the Mediterranean Sea and the border of Italy. Here you find an abundance of produce like no other. The mild climate, the coast, and the slow meshing with other Mediterranean cultures gives us a wild variety of flavours. From fruits, and olives, to rich fish stews, and fragrant herbs en mass.
Provence was originally a Greek settlement before becoming part of France in 15th Century, and those influences are still prevalent. It’s Frances largest producer of olives and olive oils, and has some of the highest quality citrus in the country. Both of which are still extremely common in Greece today.
So what are these “Herbes”?
Herbes de Provence, for any of my non-French speaking friends out there , literally means Herbs from Provence. It is a mixture of herbs, normally found dried, that are commonly grown in the area. What I find so lovely about this particular herb mixture is that it is rarely the same in two different places.
From place to place in the Provence region the mix changes, based on influence, available ingredients and personal taste. Commonly found throughout, you would find:
As you move from area to area other herbes de Provence additions you might see would be:
- Bay Leaf
- Dried Orange Peel
Many people are purists and prefer not to use pre mixed herbs and spices, and that’s fine. There are plenty of herbs that don’t “match” certain foods. For me, I’m on both sides. A good blend of herbs or spices can be super helpful when meal prepping or when you’re trying to theme a meal with a certain cultural profile. (Jerk Spice, or Garam Masala, or Ras El Hanout) And there’s plenty of times when I’ll be picky with my flavourings, not wanting to overpower or mute anything.
My particular blend of Herbes de Provence, however, I use on a lot of dishes. I find the flavours are fragrant enough to give your meal that little something extra while at the same time not being over the top.
I use this blend most frequently on sauteed mushrooms, with lots of butter. It also makes appearances in my kitchen on roasted vegetables, Minestrone style soups, and grilled chicken.
Herbes De Provence
- 3 tbsp Summer Savoury
- 3 tbsp Marjoram
- 3 tbsp Thyme
- 2 tbsp Parsley
- 2 tbsp Basil
- 1 tbsp Oregano
- 1 tbsp Fennel Seeds
- 1 tbsp Lavender Flowers
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Store in a tightly sealed container, in a cool dry place. Will keep for several months like this.
Since there are so many variations on this mixture and it comes from such an abundant part of France I encourage you to find the combinations that you like the most.