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Provencal Traditions and 8 Lamb Recipes to Try

Raising sheep and goats has been part of the fabric of life in Provence for centuries. Before grocery stores, small animal husbandry was necessary for nutrition and is the basis for traditional recipes. We highlight eight (8) of these dishes further down in this article.

Grazing Land

In a landscape that changes rapidly from seaside to mountain peaks with little flat land, animals are still raised for their meat and milk. Driving around Provence today in areas such as the Crau south of the Alpilles, you see large arid fields, but that was not always the case. The Durance and Rhône Rivers historically flooded their banks many times, even after the construction of dams and flood control channels.

Transhumance and Traditions

Transhumance is the seasonal movement of animals during the spring and fall to better pasture lands. The relocation takes advantage of more favourable temperatures during the hot and cold months. You can read more about it here. The word transhumance comes from Latin roots, trans (across) and humus (ground). Although trucks have replaced long days of walking the movement of flocks still occurs twice a year.

Transhumance Provence Alpilles @PerfectlyProvence

Today many towns have turned the traditional transhumance into a festive event for a crowd. In Provence, these events typically take place in May-June, Christmas Eve, and the last Sunday in January. The May-June events occur around the Monday of Pentecôte (Whit Monday) and are full of activities centred around the animals.

On December 24th villagers in Allauch, a town in the southern Alps, participate in la Descente des Bergers after midnight mass. This annual event is a procession of residents dressed in 18th-century costumes and their flock of roughly 150 sheep.

On the last Sunday in January, the pastrage – the blessing of lambs – takes place in some village churches. The Messe des Bergers (Shepherds’ Mass) services are often followed by the distribution of navettes, sweet biscuits from the region. Navettes are the culinary representation of the modest boat believed to have transported St Lazarus and the Marys to the shores of the Camargue.

Lamb Recipes from Provence

Slow cooking meat allows the moist heat to soften the meat. This cooking technique results in tender meat with intense flavour. We have put together various slow-cooked lamb recipes below. We hope you try one or all of them. Enjoy!

Provencal Lamb Daube ‘Gui Gedda’
This slow-cooked daube is just the thing for cold winter nights. These wonderful aromas wafting through your kitchen as tender lamb cooks gently in a rich, savoury rose and herb-infused broth. And if you have the willpower not to eat it right away, it truly is best made a day in advance and then reheated upon serving.
Check out this recipe
Provencal Lamb Daube Gedda
Grilled Lamb Chops with Parsley and Mint Vinaigrette
This dish is a crowd-pleaser. Start the potatoes in advance and prepare your mise-en-place (chopped herbs), the rest can be done when your guests arrive.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Parsley and Mint Vinaigrette
Roast Lamb with Rosé Glaze
Slow-roasted leg of lamb might is very easy to make. The rosé with pink peppercorns and honey make for a delicious glaze. The lamb looks almost lacquered when it's finished cooking.
Check out this recipe
Roasted Leg of Lamb with Rosé Glaze
Souris d’Agneau Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank
This recipe is one you can pretty much leave alone. Set a timer for the 1/2 waypoint, so you don't forget to turn the meat over. Check occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid. The mouthwatering aromas will fill your house.
Check out this recipe
Winter Dinner Party Menu Slow-Cooked Lamb Shank (Souris d'Agneau)
Slow-Cooked Shoulder of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary
There is no easier dish for a heartwarming meal among family and friends. You can use a leg of lamb, but the shoulder is juicier because there is a bit more fat. Cooked in a heavy casserole dish (such as a Creuset) that can go in the oven, I like to place the meat simply on a bed of several rosemary sprigs, onion, and garlic for a beautiful dish that serves 4.
Check out this recipe
Provencal Slow-cooked lamb shoulder
Lamb Stew a Daube with Côte du Rhône Red Wine
A Provencal daube is like most stews, easy to prepare and best if left to cook slowly for a long period until the meat is tender.
Check out this recipe
Provencal Daube Lamb Stew Côte du Rhône Wine
Lamb Stew with Root Vegetables (Navarin d’Agneau)
Local free-range lamb is easy to find in Provence, so there are many typical dishes that you will find on menus. Navarin d’Agneau is a traditional slow-cooked stew made with root vegetables.
Check out this recipe
Lamb Stew Navarin d’Agneau
Lavender Honey Brushed Lamb Chops Served with Moroccan Chickpea Couscous Salad
Prepare the salad in advance and then the only thing that is left to do when your guests arrive is to roast the lamb. Easy and delicious with all the flavours of Provence combined on a plate.
Check out this recipe
Provencal Lamb Chops Lavender Honey Moroccan Couscous salad

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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