Three of our favourite Provencal recipes for summer

3 of our favourite Provençal recipes for summer

by Great British Chefs 17 June 2019

There’s nothing quite like summer in Provence, so why not bring a slice of French Riviera life back to England? We turned to Mark Dodson – a master of classical French cuisine – to whip up three typical Provençal recipes to enjoy in the British summer sun.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

There’s a reason why we find ourselves gravitating to Provence in the summer – not only does the French Riviera have outstanding weather, it also boasts possibly the greatest summer food in the world. In comparison with the rest of France, the food of Provence is rather lighter – heavy fats like cream make way for olive oil, with a focus on incredible fish, fruits and vegetables rather than meat. The local climate is perfect for growing a whole range of ingredients – orchard fruits like apples and pears, stone fruits, summer berries and melons all grow in abundance, and though Italy holds a famous reputation for great tomatoes, there may be nowhere better to eat a fresh tomato than in Provence during the height of the season.

When the British summer arrives and the sun is beating down on us, it’s always the south of France that we long for. Fortunately, there’s no reason why we can’t have our cake and eat it, albeit from some 600 miles away. In Mark Dodson, the UK has a master of French cookery; before moving to Devon with his wife Sarah and winning a Michelin star at The Mason’s Arms in Knowstone, Mark was head chef at the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn in Bray – arguably the most accomplished, celebrated French restaurant in the country. So, who better to turn to when we’re pining for Provence? Mark has rustled up three classic Provencal recipes for us, so we can all enjoy the British summer with a certain je ne sais quoi. Take a look at them below.

Polenta chips with baby artichokes and sauce vierge

Polenta is a hugely popular staple of northern Italian cooking, and with Provence being just over the border from Italy, you’ll see plenty of polenta on the French side of the riviera too. The polenta chips are the star of Mark’s starter here – he cooks it with plenty of butter and Parmesan, then allows it to set in a roasting tray before cutting into chips and deep-frying to give a lovely golden finish. The artichokes are cooked in the most simple way possible – just white wine, olive oil and lemon juice, which perfectly maintains their wonderful flavour and really offsets the richness of the chips. He then finishes the dish with a beautiful sauce vierge – a classic French sauce of tomato, basil, olive oil and lemon.

Sea bass, red mullet and mussels with bouillabaisse sauce

Bouillabaisse is arguably the most iconic of all Provençal dishes. Marseillaise fishermen used to make this fish stew from catch they couldn’t sell as a way to feed themselves, but it has grown into a famous regional speciality. The key to a good bouillabaisse is all in the fish stock – Mark carefully cleans his fish bones and makes a delicate fish stock infused with Pernod and saffron. From there, he prepares mussels, mullet and bass before crushing potatoes and blending together the bouillon and fish bones into a smooth soup. Mark’s bouillabaisse has been a regular feature on his menus at The Mason’s Arms and at The Waterside Inn – this is one of the great French dishes, elevated to restaurant quality.

Basil and buttermilk pudding with poached figs

Provence is famous for the quality of its herbs – hence the herbes de Provence mixture that most of us have lurking in a kitchen cupboard. We primarily associate basil with Italy – specifically with Liguria, which is just over the border from Provence – but basil is just as common and wonderful in the south of France. Mark’s basil and buttermilk panna cotta doesn’t have the cloying sweetness that we sometimes associate with the dessert; instead, it’s fresh and aromatic with a touch of sweet aniseed from the basil, while the buttermilk provides gentle acidity to cut through the richness of the double cream. Add in a raspberry coulis and some seasonal figs on the side – gently poached in a cardamom and star anise syrup – and you have a perfect way to end a Provençal meal.