8 Aug 2010

Corsican Gastronomy - On the Menu (Part 2)

Pastaciutta: Pasta in a pot, but no Pot Noodles in sight! Barilla spagghetti cooked al dente, fresh tomato sauce made from scratch and livened up with garlic, bay leaf and wild marjoram picked on the day, strips of Corsican pancetta and Corsican smoked ham, all tossed together in mémé's loyal Le Creuset cast iron pot. A simple recipe, but only my grandma could get the proportions right and that resulting unmissable taste.

Ratatouille Corse: Here is one dish that the average cook thinks they can make, but that a series of shortcuts and misinformation will result in a pastiche. Ratatouille shouldn't be that soggy, bland boiled veg affair we have been made to accept as truth. It should be made in a deep heavy frying pan (not a saucepan and please no lids on as the aim is not to sweat the veg!), you should use olive oil (forget the other types), and be generous with it (veg should be coated). Plenty of seasoning and no skipping the garlic and marjoram (the latter tied up as twigs into a bouquet garni).

As for the veg used in the Corsican ratatouille, there's only two (therefore put those courgettes, peppers and onions back in the fridge): fresh tomatoes and aubergine, peeled. Now for the demystification: no matter the advice from the TV chefs, I would recommend that you still saturate the strips of peeled aubergine in good old sea salt for a good hour, before pressing them (mémé used to wring them out like they were drenched cloths) to extract every last bit of juice and bitterness.

Pasticciu: A rich and consistent egg cream with a swirl of homemade dark liquid caramel, that ended many a Sunday lunch on a high note, served with cuggiollele or canistrelli and a glass of sweet Muscat from the Cape (whose honeydew-like grapes taste like they are bursting on the palate with every sip).

Beignets à la Farine de Châtaigne: A time-saver of a treat, featuring only two ingredients, chestnut flour from the Castagniccia (the Chestnut grove region of Corsica) and water, blended together, blobs of the resulting mix deposited in a shallow fat fryer (a deep heavy frying pan with a good inch of hot cooking oil will suffice) and cooked on both sides, before blotting on kitchen towel. Serve with a sprinkle of caster sugar. Couldn't be simpler!

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