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Extract from Corsica: The Recipes by Nicolas Stromboni

Extract from Corsica: The Recipes by Nicolas Stromboni

This beautifully photographed book celebrates all that is Corsican: the people, the geography and, most importantly, the food.

With around 80 incredible Corsican recipes designed to be prepared in the home kitchen, you’ll be transported to the island in no time. Here are six of our favourites from Corsica: The Recipes.

Photography 2017 © Sandra Mahut

Ajaccio-style Lobsters

Serves 4
Equipment: a bowl, a whisk, a sauté pan, an ovenproof dish

4 small lobsters
1 egg, separated
olive oil
pinch of saffron
½ bunch parsley, chopped
a little orange zest
small handful arba barona (wild caraway thyme) or thyme, leaves picked
salt and black pepper
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) aged eau de vie or cognac

Place the lobsters in the freezer to send them to sleep.

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).

Split the lobsters lengthways and remove the tomalley, setting it aside.

Make a simple mayonnaise by whisking the egg yolk in a bowl and very slowly pouring in enough olive oil to obtain a smooth emulsion. Beat the egg white to soft peaks and gently fold it into the mayonnaise, along with the tomalley. Add some saffron threads.

Mix the parsley and orange zest with a little arba barona in a small bowl.

Brown the lobsters in some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and flambé them with the eau de vie.

Gently detach the flesh from the shell and slide a spoonful of the chopped herbs under each lobster.

Cover them with the saffron mayonnaise and give them 5 minutes in the oven. Eat straight away.

To drink: A two-year-old Chiesa Nera white from Clos Venturi.

Note: I had the opportunity to flambé this dish with eau de vie in 1943, and I retain a very precise gastronomic memory of it. I don’t know if on that day it was the eau de vie or the scampi that struck me most… If you can’t find a slightly old eau de vie, don’t hesitate to use a good cognac – the scampi will repay you for it. You can serve this good-looking dish with a few jacket potatoes with saffron butter.

Photography 2017 © Sandra Mahut

Artichokes with Brocciu Cheese
in a tomato sauce base

Serves 6
Equipment: a steamer, a bowl, a sauté pan, an ovenproof dish

12 large globe artichokes, stalks removed
juice of 1 lemon
1 × 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) brocciu cheese or firm ricotta
1 white onion, chopped
½ bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
1½ small rounds fresh sheep’s cheese, finely diced
3 eggs
salt and black pepper
dried breadcrumbs
olive oil
1 jar tomato sauce (see below)

Steam the artichokes for 4 minutes. Remove the outer leaves and trim the top 2 cm (¾ in) above the hearts. Remove the chokes and set the artichokes aside in a bowl of water. Squeeze in the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F).

Mash the brocciu with a fork and add the onion, herbs and fresh cheese. Separate the eggs one at a time and add the three egg yolks and two of the whites. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Stuff the artichokes with the mixture, then dip the tops of the artichokes into the remaining egg whites and coat in the breadcrumbs.

Heat 3 cm (1¼ oz) oil in a sauté pan until hot, then add the artichokes, stuffing side down and fry until golden brown.

Place 2 cm (¾ in) tomato sauce in an ovenproof dish. Transfer the artichokes, stuffing side up, to the dish, packing them in tightly. Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

To drink: A rosé from Castellu di Baricci.

Notes: There are variations on this recipe, one of which I like very much. You replace the tomato sauce with the gravy from a stew and let it cook for 15 minutes. You then put it under the grill (broiler) to crisp up the artichokes.

This stuffing is of course just a base, and nothing replaces imagination. My grandmother added fresh pancetta. Here, everything is allowed.

Tomato Sauce
recipe by Félicien Balesi

Makes six 300-ml (10 fl oz) jars
Equipment: a large bowl, a large stockpot, a food mill

10 very ripe tomatoes, finely diced
5 French shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic bulb, finely chopped
4 onions, finely chopped
3 bunches basil, leaves picked and chopped
olive oil
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) tomato paste (concentrated purée)
10 bay leaves
small handful arba barona (wild caraway thyme) or thyme
2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
salt and white pepper

Bouquet garni

2 bay leaves
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
3 parsley sprigs

Combine the tomato, two-thirds of the shallot, the garlic, half the onion and the basil in a large bowl. ‘You must be able to smell the basil; if not, add more,’ Félicien says. Incorporate 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil. ‘There must be enough oil for the vegetables to shine but not for them to be dripping in it.’ Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, arba barona and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir well and leave to rest for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. ‘It must already look mouthwatering; it should make you want to eat it.’

Tie the bouquet garni herbs with kitchen string. In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the remaining shallot and onion. Add the tomato mixture and the bouquet garni, and cover with water to a finger-width above the tomato. Cook over high heat, then ‘as soon it bubbles slightly’, reduce the heat to low and cook, half-covered, for about 1 hour.

Remove the bay leaves and bouquet garni and pass the sauce through a food mill. Transfer to sterilised jars and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

To drink: During preparation of the sauce, everything you want. After, we’ll see.

Notes: Depending on how you’ll be using the sauce, you can choose to pass the mixture through a sieve. For a thick sauce, I keep in little pieces of skin and the seeds. If it’s for a coulis, I sieve it.

Photography 2017 © Sandra Mahut

Biscottu Brocciollu
with hazelnut flour

Serves 8
Equipment: a 5 cm (2 in) deep flan (tart) tin, 2 bowls

250 g (9 oz) Canistrelli with hazelnuts
125 g (4½ oz) softened Butter

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) brocciu cheese or ricotta
40 g (1½ oz) ground hazelnuts
20 g (¾ oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) pouring (single/light) cream
3 eggs
150 g (5½ oz) sugar
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) chestnut eau de vie or a spirit of your choice

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).

To make the crust, crush the biscuits, add the butter and form into a dough.

To make the filling, mash the brocciu in a bowl with a fork, then stir in the ground hazelnuts, cornflour and cream. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a bowl until pale, whisking vigorously. Fold the two mixtures together with a wooden spoon then add the chestnut eau de vie. Roll the pastry out and line the base of a 5 cm (2 in) deep flan (tart) tin. Add the filling and bake for 50 minutes. Leave to cool before serving.

To drink: A muscat from Clos Canarelli.

Note: This attractive, irresistible, melt-in-the-mouth dessert with a shortbread-like crust can be eaten cold and keeps well.

Canistrelli with Hazelnuts
recipe by Gabriel Manca

Serves 8–10
Equipment: an electric mixer, a baking sheet

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
300 g (10½ oz) sugar
150 g (5½ oz) softened butter
2 teapoons dried yeast
pinch of salt
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, beaten
125 g (4½ oz) Cervione hazelnuts

Combine the flour, sugar, butter, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Knead for 4 minutes.

Incorporate the whole eggs and hazelnuts and knead for a further 1 minute. Rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Form the dough into sausages weighing 200 g (7 oz) each, 2 cm (¾ in) wide and 1 cm (½ in) high. Brush them with the egg yolk and bake for 22 minutes. Carefully slice the canistrelli as soon as they come out the oven and serve.

Photography 2017 © Sandra Mahut

Bonifacio-style Eggplants
blessed dish

Serves 6
Equipment: a steamer, a colander, a bowl, a frying pan

6 medium-sized eggplants (aubergines)
slice of two-day old crustless bread
scant 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) milk
½ garlic clove, chopped
1 bunch basil, chopped
2 eggs
100 g (3½ oz) aged tomme cheese, preferably goat’s, chopped, plus extra to serve
salt and black pepper
olive oil

Halve the eggplants lengthways. Steam for 5–6 minutes over lightly salted boiling water. Lift the eggplant carefully out of the steamer and lay them on a clean tea towel (dish towel) to drain. Set aside to cool, then remove the flesh and drain in a colander for at least 1 hour. Reserve the eggplant skins.

Soak the bread in the milk for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, mix the garlic, basil and soaked bread, then whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the cheese.

Mix the drained eggplant into the cheese and basil stuffing and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the eggplant skins so they have a slight dome. In a frying pan, heat 1.5 cm (½ in) olive oil until very hot.

Fry the eggplants, stuffed side down, for 4 minutes. Carefully turn them over and fry for another 4 minutes.

This dish can be served with a tomato coulis with extra cheese sprinkled over the top.

To drink: A rosé from Domaine Gentile.

Note: This recipe is typical of Bonifacio and there are many nuances. Its success comes from the crowds that come to pray to Our Lady of Bonifacio on 8 September and who traditionally eat this dish on that day.

Photography 2017 © Sandra Mahut

Murtoli Tart
recipe by Jean Neel

Serves 4
Equipment : an electric mixer, an ovenproof dish, a tart ring base

50 g (1¾ oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
50 g (1¾ oz) ground hazelnuts
100 g (3½ oz) butter
100 g (3½ oz) smoked Sartène cheese or parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg
2 eggplants (aubergines)
2 zucchini (courgettes)
3 onions
8 tomatoes
190 ml (6½ fl oz/¾ cup) olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
salt and pepper
350 g (12½ oz) fresh brocciu cheese or firm ricotta
10 g (¼ oz) marjoram and mint

The day before

In an electric mixer, combine the flour, ground hazelnuts, butter, cheese, egg and 2 teaspoons water. Form into a smooth ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On the day

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Cut the eggplants, zucchini, onions and tomatoes into 5 mm (¼ in) slices and lay them, overlapping, in an ovenproof dish. Moisten with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C (320°F).

Roll out the dough to a 5 mm (¼ in) thick circle and line the base of a tart tin. Prick with a fork and bake until light brown.

Return the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F). Mash the brocciu with a fork, then incorporate the olive oil and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Carefully arrange the roasted vegetables on the pastry, alternating the layers with brocciu. Scatter over a few pieces of brocciu to finish and bake for 20 minutes.

To drink: A rosé from Clos Canarelli.

Notes: I owe this recipe to Jean Neel, when he was the chef at Domaine de Murtoli, in Sartène. My friends and I were truly addicted to his cheese and hazelnut sable pastry in particular.

Of course, this recipe is seasonal, but I admit that when in winter I have the desire to recreate the ambience of that vineyard on my plate, I crack and use vegetables that aren’t quite from the right season… But the pastry, that’s always there. This dish can be served warm or cold.

Photography 2017 © Sandra Mahut

Stuffed Mussels
like in Aléria

Serves 6
Equipment: an oval cast-iron pot, an ovenproof dish.

1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) medium-large mussels, cleaned and debearded
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) dry white wine
4 French shallots, finely chopped
pinch of espelette pepper
200 g (7 oz) minced (ground) veal
200 g (7 oz) softened butter
4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
3 parsley sprigs, blanched and chopped
a few baby English spinach leaves, blanched and chopped
juice of ½ lemon
3 slices bread, crusts removed and blitzed into fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Place the mussels in an oval cast-iron pot, add the wine, half the shallot and the espelette pepper.

Cook, covered, for 6–8 minutes. When the mussels open, transfer them to a dish and remove the shells, setting them aside. Chop the mussels.

Sear the veal in the pot for 2 minutes, add the mussels and cook for another 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

On a work surface, mix the butter with the remaining shallot, garlic, parsley, spinach and lemon juice to make a paste. Add the fresh breadcrumbs and season with salt.

Spoon the mussel and veal mixture into the reserved shells. Cover each with spoonfuls of the butter mixture, then transfer to an ovenproof dish, packing them in tightly.

Bake for 12 minutes, then serve immediately.

To drink: A quite young Stella Rose white from Clos Fornelli.

Note: Use the reserved mussel cooking liquid to make a spaghetti sauce. Add garlic and parsley and you have a lovely Mediterranean dish. You can cook the mussels on a barbecue, and enjoy the instantaneous bustle around the fire.

Edited extract from Corsica: The Recipes by Nicolas Stromboni, published by Smith Street Books, RRP AU$59.99 or NZ$65.00. Photography © Sandra Mahut