Provençal cuisine: 3 easy chef recipes to get started

We went to meet Kevin Soria, chef of the restaurant at the Ultimate Provence estate, in the very heart of the Plaine des Maures nature reserve. He shared with us three typical Provençal recipes. The estate, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection whose design is by architects Humbert & Poyet, also includes a 4-star hotel section, nestled in 46 hectares of vineyards. After a break on the terrace, you can even embark on a blind oenological test, discovering the wines produced by the estate.

Chef Kevin Soria © 1@LeaGil

Provençal cuisine, a healthy and simple identity

Provençal cuisine is a particularly plant-based cuisine, “one of the healthiest in the world”, which is partly made up of sunny vegetables. “We always find the notion of well-being in Provençal cuisine. It is the one that we prepare from our vegetable gardens, using olive oil and fresh produce, nothing else. Of course, it’s not just tomatoes, peppers or eggplants, but also fresh fish, garlic, eggs. This cuisine is light, simple and sunny.”

Provence has always been a region rich in food. “Hence this simplicity that we find in Provençal cuisine. Historically, the cuisine of Provence is a “poor man’s cuisine” composed solely of produce from the vegetable garden. It’s all healthy, it’s just the right product, seasoned, and done.” The best example: ratatouille. “The principle of ratatouille is simple, it’s just cubes of vegetables, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, with onion, garlic, thyme, all sautéed together.”

This sober aspect of Provençal cuisine is found in the use of olive oil, which, in Provence, serves as a flagship ingredient. A bit like the universal seasoning that is enough in itself, “olive oil is added everywhere”. “I don’t think there was much cattle breeding in the region, so very little milk production, and obviously butter. Butter is more for the north of France. Here in the South, we have olive trees and mills, and therefore olive oil.”

Tips for starting Provençal cooking at home

“To cook Provençal, you don’t have to go too far. The idea being to keep this simplicity of Provence.”

Choosing your vegetables correctly and using fresh, quality products are the key to good Provençal cuisine. Once done, a golden rule, “preserve local history”. The chef “chose to opt for honesty by cooking as simply as possible”.

“It’s the product that does the work”

Herbs of Provence, the essentials

In Provence, “everything is there”. Thyme, rosemary, savory and oregano, Provence herbs can be used alone or together. While their mixture perfectly enhances tomatoes, stuffing and simmered meats; Rosemary for example, is ideal for lamb, poultry, vegetables and of course, as an infusion. Thyme also has its little specialties, divinely enhancing goat cheese, simmered dishes, grilled meats, poultry and fish.

“The herbs of Provence bring a touch of comfort, they are the ones that everyone knows. With them, you can never go wrong”

“Like a “guideline”, when we talk about seasoning, with aromatic herbs, “we call upon our childhood, family moments like barbecues”. Without a doubt, Provençal herbs are at the top of the podium of what to bring home after a getaway to Provence! To complete your “Provençal pack”, we make room for olive oil and tapenade, directly from local olives.

3 recipes to get started with Provençal cuisine

Eager to perpetuate the history of the region, Kevin Soria gives us three recipes that are dear to him, served in his restaurant at the Ultimate Provence estate.

Tapenade, the star of the aperitif

tapenade - copy


In Provence, tapenade is historically crushed with a pestle (and not a blender), thus perpetuating the work of the farmers of the time. For the chef, this recipe is “a childhood memory, simple to prepare and brings joy to everyone”


1kg of pitted olives from Nice
4 cloves of pink garlic
1 bunch of parsley

Place all the condiments in a mortar and, using a pestle, make a paste. Serve.

Panisse fries, the little-known recipe!

UP - Panisse Fries 1 - Photo credit @leagilles.JPG - copy

©Léa Gilles

Unlike most Provençal recipes historically created in the context of poverty, the panisse fry came into existence thanks to “local manufacturing in the hinterland”. At the time, “There were many chickpea crops, notably with the different mills which produced oil but also flours, including chickpea flour”. A recipe for fries made from chickpea flour, little known despite its important history. “It’s not that simple to prepare, but I like it because it’s a change from institutional fries. The panisse fry allows us to highlight a little-known local specialty.”


2l of water
500g organic chickpea flour
10 cl of olive oil
20g fine salt
10g candied lemon
15g fresh chopped thyme

Boil the water, add the olive oil and salt. Once brought to a boil, add the chickpea flour. Cook over low heat and stir while continuing with a whisk for 20 minutes. Add the preserved lemon and thyme, then oil a gratin dish. Pour the preparation into it 2 cm thick. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and leave to cool in the refrigerator. Once cooled, cut into sticks 2 cm wide and 6 cm long before frying. For cooking, carry out a first bath of 4 minutes, leave for 2 minutes and repeat the step in a second bath of 3 minutes in order to obtain well-blown panisses. Season with salt, plenty of pepper and serve!

Pistou soup, the soup of yesteryear

UP - Pistou Soup 2 - Photo credit @leagilles.JPG - copy

©Léa Gilles

“In Provence, we cook with what we harvest”

Pistou soup is the preparation that brings you back to the source. “It is part of the “cuisine of the unfortunate”, and, by tasting it, we return to the history of the region, when we had our vegetable garden, we produced ourselves and cooked with what we harvested” . This recipe is “a memory of my childhood because it is a source of well-being, tasty, easy to make and delicious”.


4l of water
2 bunches of basil
150g grated pecorino
2 cloves of pink garlic
250g carrots
250g potatoes
250 g of rehydrated red beans
250g onions
250g zucchini

Cut all the vegetables into cubes, boil the water and add the red beans and potatoes. After 4 minutes, add the carrots, then, 4 minutes later, the zucchini and onions. Let everything cook for 5 minutes and turn off the heat. With the basil, garlic and pecorino, make a paste in the blender and add it to the first preparation. Mix and serve.

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