beet horseradish macarons and Corsica

Corsica on the Rocks and Savoury Macarons

Wild waves were crashing on the rocks off the west coast of Corsica last week. We were visiting family around Calvi and, as we were impatient for our fun little nephew to awake from his routine siestas, a windy walk along the ragged coast of Punta di Spanu was perfect to idle away the time.

There’s something rather spooky about the Genoese Towers dotted along Corsica’s dramatic coastline: echoing cries whistle in numbed ears from distant tower-keepers as they prepare for invaders to claim the Island of Beauty.

Corsican Maquis

If only I could have bottled the fragrance of the maquis for you. It’s a heady mix of wild rosemary, thyme, myrtle, wild cistus, laburnum, sage, mint and curry plants. Such an intoxicating mixture of salty, smoky, spicy perfumes come together as a herbal gingerbread smell.

Corsican maquis or shrub

It’s hard to imagine that just 15 minutes in the car inland and you’re already driving in the snow-capped mountains. Donkeys and goats grazing on the higher maquis-floored slopes make life seem at a completely different pace to city life as we know it.

San Antonino perched Corsican Village

San Antonino, one of the beautiful villages of France which inspired ‘l’Enquête Corse’

We were in the clouds. I found my hermit-like hideaway although judging by the look of the car fallen by the side of the mountain, there wouldn’t be much of a getaway too soon if I suddenly changed my mind. Tea in Montemaggiore? Pas de problème: there was even a tiny bar that could bring back the life in my cold hands with a hot cup of Lipton while the children had… ice creams. Well, that’s all there was and who would want it any other way?

Mountain scenes of Corsica

I had a confession to make: I had this burning desire to just drop everything and hijack the tea-room opposite the chapel up at the Citadel in Calvi. Who wouldn’t relish the views up there of the sea and the land, making macarons, fiadone (Corsican cheesecake) or éclairs all day and awash yourself with pots of tea? Or perhaps the local tipple, Cap Corse, an addictive bitter-sweet apéritif made with quinine?

Churches Calvi and Corsica

The photo (top right) is all that’s left of the house reputed to have been Christopher Columbus’ birthplace. What do you think?  Was he born in Corsica or Italy? Corsica, of Corse!

Our trip’s grand finale was dinner at the wonderful restaurant, U Fanale. The chef, Philippe Gouret delights visitors with a surprise of terre et mer, where land meets sea. At first I tried the starter of salmon and charcuterie, gingerly tasting the salmon first – but when I tried them both together it was just fantastic! Our friendly server introduced us to a newcomer wine from Calvi, le Clos des Anges. Unfortunately, the Irish winemaker, Richard Spurr wasn’t around during our visit but next time I’m dying to stock up on their white oily nectar.

Inspired by the chef’s ideas, I loaded up on Corsica’s famous charcuteries and as soon as we returned home, found some beautiful Scottish Salmon at the market. Served with slices of Lonzo (my favourite as it’s a filet cut without much fat) and marinaded julienne strips of chiogga beetroot (in olive oil and Xeres vinegar) to garnish, just like the chef had presented his starter dish.

My personal touch?  I added some finely chopped bits of Ariane apple and a beetroot and horseradish macaron (recipe in Mad About Macarons – there’s a whole chapter on savoury macarons.) It’s a Scot mac that meets Corsican land and sea in the middle. Or I should just have Jill and Antoine…

Land-a-hoy – or perhaps that should be Mac-ahoy!

 

28 replies
  1. Colonna Fabien
    Colonna Fabien says:

    Voici de bien belles photos de notre région .L’assiette européenne me plait pas mal aussi ,Je trouverai bien ma place entre le saumon d’Ecosse , la charcuterie Corse et ce petit Macaron parisien à la couleur ensorceleuse !!!

    Super Grosses Bises à vous 4 !!!

    Reply
  2. Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb
    Helene Dsouza I Masala Herb says:

    You come up with some crazy Macaron recipe Jill, Love it!

    Ah la Corse,… my mum has been bugging us to go there, somehow we have never reached there, but they were planning to take the ferry one summer. Its not that far after all. It has its charm no? I always imagine how napoleon grew up there and then I wonder how that fella managed to reach so far in his life. Maybe the earth and air is different there. ^.^

    I firmly beieve columbus was Italian. Basta! 😉

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Thanks, Helene. Ah Napoleon. Yes, he did well coming from a wee island. 🙂
      Hope you manage to get to Corsica. I’ve always wanted to take the ferry but we take the plane from Paris as it’s far quicker. The affect of the maquis on first air contact is impressive!

      Reply
  3. Brooks
    Brooks says:

    Oh Jill, you’ve cptured Corsica beautifully, and in turn Corsica was a gracious host to this wonderful travelogue. Montemaggiore looks like heaven on earth, but no more so than your rendition of the salmon and charcuterie—in particular the gorgeous colors of the mac and the beetroot against the proteins. Brava!

    Reply
  4. Tony
    Tony says:

    Everything’s here for a Corsican delight, there, or at home. The light from these photos is amazing! Thanks for brightening up my day when the weather isn’t great here in Paris. We all need a cure of this! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Kim Bee
    Kim Bee says:

    You are mac-tastic my friend. I am so jealous of your life travelling around such beautiful places. If I sent you photos of where I drive here you’d be horrified. The concrete jungle. It makes me sad. I love the recipe with the mac right there. So cool. I need to try making macarons. I still have never given it a whirl. They intimidate me.

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Oh Kim, you need to come over here! You intimidated by a cookie? Go on. Just do it! You’d go crazy over these macarons. I know you would… I dare you!

      Reply
  6. Cupcake Crusher
    Cupcake Crusher says:

    Breathtaking photos: as always…

    It sums up Corsica perfectly; and the salmon and charcuterie looks like a very interesting alliance!

    The savoury macaron looks simply divine… (Predictable from the queen of macarons 😉 )
    Count on me to try that cutie at home!

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Thanks but well, I don’t know if I’ve really summed up Corsica. I would take up too much space if I had to talk about it properly. A manuscript has already been started on it with some funny stories to share…

      Reply
  7. Ann Mah
    Ann Mah says:

    I love Corsica and your post took me right back there, to the beach and the hiking and the wild scent of maquis teased out by the relentless sun. I fell in love with lomo on that holiday — and now I can’t wait to try it with smoked salmon!

    Reply
  8. Thomasina
    Thomasina says:

    This could be a main for me. I want to try marrying salmon and charcuteries. Topping it all with a beet macaron is like the icing on the cake for me. Now, lead me to the nearest deli!

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      You’d love it, Thomasina. I was bowled over something so simple yet surprisingly fabulous. Just go easy on the Charcuterie, as it does make you thirsty, especially if you’re making it as a main dish.

      Reply
  9. Liz
    Liz says:

    What a superb starter! And how your savory mac is the perfect finishing touch! Looks like I have to come back to France…so much more to see 🙂 Your photos are marvelous!

    Reply
  10. Parsley Sage
    Parsley Sage says:

    Lovely post! I think you should absolutely hi-jack that shop 🙂 What an ideal place to make macarons…and imagine all the delicious inspiration you’d get from the herb party just 15 minutes away!

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      You know, Carsley – it sure is a ‘herb party’ just by rubbing these wild herbs in my fingers the fragrance lingered for a couple of days! (yes I even washed my hands..)

      Reply

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