Corsica: food and wine bursting with character18-07-2017
The French island of Corsica, otherwise known as the “Isle of Beauty”, boasts a culinary tradition entrenched in ancestral heritage and a strong affinity for charcuterie.
An introduction to Corsican cuisine
Corsican cuisine is big on flavour and greatly influenced by local ingredients. Charcuterie plays a starring role, largely down to the native Corsican pig. Pig farmers in the island’s interior produce a variety of dried and cured meats including prisuttu, coppa, lonzu and the famous figatellu, a succulent liver sausage. Meat also features significantly in local dishes, while unsurprisingly, fish is more popular in coastal areas. Notable dishes include red mullet à la bonifacienne (“Bonifacio-style”) or à l’agliolu, which is a garlic sauce that goes well with fish. And finally, no traditional Corsican meal would be complete without the famous brucciu, a soft cheese forming the basis of many local dishes. All these delicacies pair particularly well with local wines from Ajaccio or Patrimonio.
Cap Corse: a legendary aperitif
This year, Cap Corse Mattei celebrates its 145th anniversary. An aperitif wine made essentially from cinchona, a medicinal plant containing quinine, the history of Cap Corse is intrinsically linked to Louis-Napoleon Mattei, a native of the island, whose name now features on all the bottles. Cap Corse is a blend of Muscat grapes from the region of Cap Corse, a decoction of aromatic plants from the scrublands and macerated oranges and the essential cinchona, all aged in oak barrels. The Mattei brand is well-known in bars and restaurants for its distinctive promotional merchandise such as pens, ashtrays and playing cards. In fact, a dedicated boutique located in Bastia sells an extensive range of branded goods, in addition to the famous aperitif of course.
Corsican charcuterie, the island’s signature delicacy
Corsica and charcuterie go hand in hand. Served on platters or as a salad ingredient with grated carrot and tomatoes, here are just a handful of the most prized pork-based meats from the “isle of beauty”: prisuttu, a traditional, thinly-sliced ham dried for at least 8 months; Coppa, loin of pork cut from the chest, covered in pork fat, salted and cured in traditional pork casing; Lonzu, with its distinctive layer of fat on the exterior; Figatellu, sausage made from pork liver (and other offal), which can be eaten raw or more often grilled and served with pulenta (a polenta made from chestnut flour) and finally, salamu (smoked sausage) and salsiccia (spiced sausage).
Ideally, charcuterie is served with a dry, full-bodied red wine, delicate and oak-aged in style with firm tannins to accompany the meats’ intense flavours. Clos Canarelli, a Corsican wine from Figari, would make a heavenly match.
Storzapretti or sturzapreti, a typical Bastia speciality
Fans of green vegetables will absolutely love Corsican sturzapreti, (not to be confused with strozzapreti, which is an Italian pasta dish). Literally meaning “monk chokers”, these gnocchi-style dumplings are made from chard leaves or spinach together with brocciu cheese, and then baked gratin-style in the oven. Local Bastia residents, from where the dish originates, are huge fans. Sturzapreti are delicious served with meat cooked in sauce or as a main vegetarian dish. Check out the recipe below! We recommend a dry, white wine to accompany this dish; why not try a Sartene white from Corsica or a Porto–Vecchio white wine.
Goat’s and ewe’s milk cheese dominate the cheese platter
Among the most well-known, let’s start with a hard goat’s cheese from Sartene, and goat’s cheese from Niolo or Alta Rocco, of varying levels of softness, which all marry to perfection with Vermentini wine from the region of Patrimoniu.
Venachese, Calinzana and Bastilicaccìu all go particularly well with wines from the Cap Corse region such as Luri, Roglianu or Morsiglia. Finally, the most well-known, but completely different in style, is brocciu, (pronounced “broutch”), which Corsicans serve in a number of different ways. A fresh and wonderfully unctuous soft cheese, it is made with goat’s or ewe’s milk, with extra added full fat milk.
Dessert: fiadone and fruit
In summer, fruit is the way forward, and the island of Corsica is brimming over with seasonal fruits, particularly oranges and clementines. For real sweet tooths, savour with fritelli (doughnuts) or canistrelli biscuits, while the great Corsican speciality is fiadone, a kind of brocciu and lemon tart, which can be laced with alcohol. Local liqueurs are often served to add the finishing touch to a meal in Corsica, and chestnut, arbutus berry, plum and myrtle liqueurs are particularly popular.
The last word
We couldn’t talk about Corsica without giving beer at least a mention. Pietra (made from chestnuts), Colomba and Ribella are among the most popular.
Time to eat! Discover the sturzapreti’s recipe here!