Chestnuts, Wine and Roast Boar: the Joy of Corsican Cuisine

 

One of the hidden gems of the Mediterranean, the tiny island of Corsica is a unique phenomenon. Settled over the years by almost every nation to have an interest in the region, its culture is now a fertile mixture of French and Italian – with a strong streak of Corsu, the island’s own native language.

Holidays in Corsica are either spent relaxing on the beaches that ring the island, or driving up into the maquis – the incredibly dense forested mountains that make up virtually the entire island’s landmass. The mountains and forests also mean that Corsica is teeming with game such as rabbits, deer and wild boar!

All this brings us to one of the greatest pleasures of a Corsican holiday – the island’s strong and delicious culinary tradition! As you might imagine, Corsican cuisine is a mixture of French and Italian, but with a distinctly individualistic slant based on the ingredients that can be sourced locally.

Cured meats and artisan cheeses are in great abundance on Corsica, thanks to the climate and the small-scale farming that takes place in the picturesque mountain villages. The wine and liqueurs of Corsica are phenomenal, with the local strains of grape being held in high regard by French epicures and the chestnuts which are ubiquitous throughout the forests of the island making delicious warming liqueurs – as well as seasoning everything from roast dishes to stews.

The average Corsican does not take the subject of food and drink lightly – as with the French, locals will take their time over a three-course lunch with wine. During holidays in Corsica, almost everyone who visits comes to be hugely impressed with the overall standard of the restaurants and cafés.

The various foodstuffs of Corsica break down into four basic categories:

Meats

Corsica is famous for its wild boar – usually described on the restaurant menu as ‘sanglier’. This will either be roasted with two veg (and perhaps some chestnut sauce), or accompanied by pasta or polenta. Other meats that are popular in Corsica include veal served with locally picked olives (veau aux olives), young goat (cabri de lait), partridge (pédrix), roast woodcock (bécasse) and the mouth-watering tianu – a slow-cooked game stew.

As mentioned, cured meats are also extremely popular, and most restaurants offer a selection of cured or smoked ham, salami, pig cheek, black pudding and liver sausage. Only Spain comes close!

Dairy Products

With dairy in Corsica being very much based on local cottage industries, the cheeses are unique and fascinating. Look out for the brocciu – ewe’s cheese – which is very tasty, and similar in style to goat’s cheese. A word of warning, though. If you see ‘fromage de tête’ (‘head cheese”) on the menu, be aware that this is not dairy – it’s a dish made from seasoned pigs’ brains! Of course, if that’s your thing, feel free to tuck in…

Seafood

The other thing that Corsica has a lot of, apart from forests, is coastline, so the seafood selection is pretty good. Sadly, this does not come especially cheap due to the dwindling fish stocks in the Mediterranean region. However, this does not stop it being delicious. Crayfish (langoustine), red mullet (rouget) and sea bream (loup de mer) are quite common, while trout from the fresh inland streams is always a good option for those averse to red meat.

Desserts

If you can still face another thing after being stuffed with a traditional Corsican feast, then you will be looking at a milk or egg-based dessert, usually cheesecake, or flambéed soft cheese tart (fiadone). Chestnuts make another appearance in beignets – sweet doughnuts, which are sometimes filled with cheese.

 

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