Salt Cod in Tomato Sauce: my grandmothers’ recipe

This Sunday, for lunch, it will not be a traditional roast but as a tribute to both my grandmothers, I will use their recipe for salt cod in tomato sauce.
I have inherited not only the recipe but the cast iron cooking pot to use for it, so it is really a family dish that goes back a long way.

Salt cod is easy to find, but frozen cod or fresh unsalted cod can be used as well.
When using salt cod, it is necessary to de-salt it for at least 12 hours in cold water, changing the water every 3 or 4 hours before cooking it. It is important to remember not to use any salt for the dish as a certain amount remains in the fish.
Beware also that the salt cod bones are big but luckily, easy to see.

Serves 4:

2 large pieces of salt cod, cut in half and de-salted
1 large onion, peeled and sliced,
8 medium-sized tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 1cm thick slices
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
15 black olives, pitted
A handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

1. Par-boil the potatoes in unsalted water. Reserve.
2. Warm the oil gently in a cast iron cooking pot with lid (i.e. Le Creuset) and toss the onion in it until golden.
3. Add the tomatoes and the garlic. When the tomatoes are soft, add the cod, the olives and the parsley and cover.
4. Simmer for 15 minutes then add the potatoes and cover again. Simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add pepper and stir.

Serve immediately.

Bon Appétit!

Note: If there is some tomato sauce left, use it with pasta. It is delicious because the salt cod taste adds a great flavour to it.


Stuffed tomatoes, Provençal style

photo 5

Summer is definitely over, so it’s time to put tomatoes in the oven.
For this, I will use a stuffing similar to the one I use for aubergines, courgettes and peppers, which is my version of a bolognese sauce. By making a larger quantity, I will either freeze some or cook spaghetti tonight.

Serves 3:
3 beef tomatoes, rinsed.
6 rashers of smoked back bacon, all fat removed
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and sliced
2 sticks of celery, rinsed and sliced
Celery leaves, rinsed
A handful of flat leaf parsley, rinsed
Parmesan to sprinkle over the tomatoes
1 soup spoonful olive oil1. Cut the top third of the tomatoes and reserve. With a grapefruit knife, scoop out the inside flesh of the tomatoes and reserve. Lightly salt the inside of the tomatoes and turn them upside down in an ovenproof dish to disgorge their 2 photo 4
2. Put all the other ingredients and the tomato flesh in a food mixer and whizz.
3. Gently dry fry this mixture in a non-stick frying pan, without any oil for 5 minutes.
4. Fill the tomato shells, sprinkle the Parmesan on top and drizzle with olive oil. Place the ‘hats’ (top third of the tomatoes) and cook in a pre- heated oven at 200C for 10 minutes.Bon Appétit!Notes: For a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use some cooked couscous instead.
If you use this mixture for a pasta sauce, add a small tin of tomato purée and a dash of red wine.
Lasagne and Farfalle pasta are also delicious with this sauce.
These stuffed tomatoes do not freeze well because their skin is too thin.


A Man’s Cake

This is truly a man’s cake, first because my father used to make it and secondly because my son says so! It is rectangular or square and therefore easy to cut into portions.
It does not require any cooking apart from melting the chocolate and that is another plus.

Serves 4:

1 packet of fine rectangular biscuits, such as Thé LU if you can (otherwise Nice biscuits will work well)
1 bar of Swiss dark cooking chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into pieces
500ml strong black coffee (instant is better for this)
1 flat plate.

1. Prepare the coffee by adding 3 tablespoonfuls of instant coffee to 500ml boiling water. Pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool a little.
2. Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl over a saucepan containing boiling water and stir with a silicone spoon.
3. Dunk 1 biscuit at a time in the coffee very quickly or it will dissolve.
4. Delicately transfer the biscuits onto the plate.
5. Do a double layer of biscuits before spreading a thick layer of melted chocolate and add another layer of wet biscuits, cover with chocolate and continue until you have no biscuits left. The last layer must be covered with chocolate.
I like to give it a little wavy appearance rather than a smooth one, but you can choose which look you prefer.

Place in the fridge overnight and savour!

This cake goes particularly well with a cup of expresso.


Gelée de Muscat or Muscat Grape Jelly


For the first time since they were planted, the small vines have produced some deliciously ripe small bunches of Muscat grapes.

Usually, the weather is too cold at this time of year to allow the poor grapes to ripen but this Autumn the sun’s warmth has worked its magic.
There is not enough, unfortunately, to make wine, so I’m going to make a gelée – or jelly.

You will need:

500g fresh grapes
200ml water
500g jam sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1 sterilised jam jar ( you can place it in the oven at 100C if the glass withstands it or in the dishwasher on a 60C programme)

1. Rinse the fruit and pluck the grapes from the stems.
2. Place in a big saucepan -or jam pan if you have one – and cover with the water.
3. Simmer gently until the fruit is soft then put it through a sieve.
4. Measure the liquid and pour it back into the saucepan, add the lemon juice and the sugar. It maybe that you have less than 500ml liquid, so you need to adjust the quantity of sugar to be the exact equivalent amount: for example if you have 400ml liquid, you use 400g sugar.
5. Bring to a fast boil for 5 or 7minutes or the time indicated on the sugar packet.
6. Check that it is set by putting a drop of jelly onto a cold saucer.
If it ripples when you run a finger on it, it is set.
7. Fill your jam jar with it and put the lid on. Turn it upside down to create a vacuum. Let it cool and keep it in a cool, dark place.

It could be that it won’t last long!!



Chestnut Pancakes

GetAttachment.aspxAutumn has set in and the chestnuts are ripening in the mountains of Corsica. Next month people there will be gathering in the evening to enjoy a traditional meal of chestnut flour cooked by men and served with a special sausage which will be grilled in a big fireplace. More about that later.

Now, I am expecting the visit of my friend V. and I am going to introduce her to the delights of chestnut pancakes. V. comes from Guadeloupe in the French West Indies and the tropical climate of the Leeward Islands does not make it possible for the chestnut trees to grow.

From next month, you should be able to find chestnut flour in some supermarkets and in some delicatessen. It keeps well because it is usually sold in vacuum packs and will last for over a year, if you can resist using it all at once. The chestnut purée can also be found in supermarkets and delicatessen and my favourite variety is the one which is sweetened and which has vanilla in it as well.
If you not have eau-de-vie or chestnut liqueur, cognac will do.

Serves 2:

200g chestnut flour
20ml milk
50g chestnut purée
1 tablespoon eau-de-vie or chestnut liqueur
25g unsalted butter
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
Pinch of salt

1. Sift the flour in a mixing bowl.

2. Add the milk gradually and whisk vigorously to avoid lumps. Add a pinch of salt and the liqueur or eau-de-vie.

3. Gently heat half the butter in a non-stick frying pan and pour half the pancake mixture. Increase the heat and when the edges of the pancake start to unstick themselves from the frying pan, toss the pancake or turn it over using a spatula.

4. Cook the other side quickly and serve immediately.

5. Spread half the chestnut purée on each pancake and finish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Beware that the ice cream will melt on the hot pancake!

6. If you can, have a glass of liqueur with it.

Bon Appétit!


Note: Do not try to fold the pancakes as they will break because there are no eggs nor any fat in this mixture and it is less flexible.

All About Chestnut Flour


Chestnut flour is very nutritious but is gluten-free, so it is great for coeliacs (people with a gluten allergy).It is a very natural product, organic, and it can be bought in many supermarkets or delicatessen.

In the days when people living in mountain areas were poor and could not always have access to wheat flour, it provided a very good substitute for bread and the chestnut trees were plentiful. There always used to be a mill in villages.

Nowadays, people choose to use chestnut flour because it is organic and has its roots in traditional fare. It is a genuine “produit du terroir” and people like to keep traditions going and to eat local produce.

The reason why it has to be cooked by men is because it requires a lot of strength to stir it and cook it: that is when “polenta” ⊗ is being prepared in huge cooking pots. (The rest of the time, for other dishes, women cope quite well!)
It it then cut in thick slices, also by men, using a piece of thread. Served with a “figatellu” (special liver sausage made from local black pigs, often reared on a diet of chestnuts) which has been grilled in a big fireplace over embers, it is a staple of Corsican gastronomy. Usually a strong red wine accompanies this dish. Autumn and Winter evenings in the mountains of Corsica can be quite cold and this type of dish will warm you up. Added to the convivial atmosphere of a big gathering of friends and family, it is great.

Chestnut flour is used in a variety of dishes, including cakes,tarts,flans, pancakes and fritters. It is sometimes mixed in equal parts with wheat flour for cakes. It is also used in soups to thicken them.

Diluted with water but served with milk it is a sort of porridge, to be eaten in the evening as a main course, not for breakfast.

Its aroma evokes Corsican cuisine perfectly.

Note: ⊗ not to be mistaken for maize polenta