Provence is a region of France that's renowned for its amazing food, with dishes such as bouillabaisse (seafood soup), daube (braised beef) and pieds-paquets (stuffed tripe). But, amongst the meat and fish delicacies, there are some vegetarian highlights too. Perhaps the one that's better known than any other Provencal dish is ratatouille – a vegetable stew. The dish was created in Nice a century ago and has always featured on Provencal menus, but it shot to worldwide fame with the release of the movie "Ratatouille" in 2007.
Made with the vegetables that are in season at the end of the summer – aubergines, onions, courgettes, tomatoes and peppers – this is a superb example of a Provencal vegetarian dish. But what else does this corner of France offer vegetarian diners, and where can you find authentic versions to try in Australia?
Real ratatouille vs. a tian
In a traditional Ratatouille like the one served at Vapiano (it's not only French chefs who can produce this classic dish, the Italians make a pretty fantastic Ratatouille too), the vegetables are kept in large chunks and cooked separately to retain their individual characteristics, before being brought together at the end of cooking.
A tian (and this is actually the meal that Remy the rat prepares for the restaurant critic at the end of the movie) is more of a vegetarian art display, with vegetable slices arranged side by side in an earthenware dish (the tian). It's usually enhanced with simple seasoning, such as garlic, thyme and olive oil, baked like a gratin, and served at room temp rather than hot.
Alternative Provencal vegetarian dishes
The Salade de Lentilles at A La Bouffe Bar & Bistro is very reminiscent of Provence - where lentils make up the base for many different dishes. This Du Puys lentils salad is topped with marinated feta, orange supreme and pickled radish, and is served with sweet potato chips. This is just one of the vegetarian options on their menu - the Champignons Farcis - field mushrooms stuffed with sweet potato and ricotta - are also not to be missed.
Stuffed vegetable dishes are popular in Provence and the rest of France. While stuffed Zucchini Flowers are known as a Provencal speciality, they're also cooked to perfection by the Italian restaurant Gusto De Gianni in Brisbane. The Poivrons Farcies Au Beurre Blanc at Paris Go Bistro showcase how tasty stuffed capsicums can be – in this dish, they're filled with a deliciously creamy mushroom risotto. Another superb choice for vegetarians on their menu is the Tarte Aux Poireaux - a leek tart with a divine buttery pastry, served with salad.
While the Tarte Flambee may not be unique to Provence, it's certainly a French dish that has to be tried! At Resto Bobo, our pick is La Fermiere - the Lady Farmer. It's a crispy dough base topped with goat's cheese, prunes, pine nuts, thyme and honey. Close your eyes as you take a bite and the aromatic scent of thyme will whisk you away to the beautiful landscape of Provence!
Have we put you in the mood for a taste of Provence? Order now with Deliveroo and all it remains for us to say is "bon appetit"!