Friday, 20 May 2011

Cooking Frittata In Corsica.

We’re here and it’s good. Mind you my scope off the boat so far has been to the market and to the shore-side accommodation, which is about 100 yards further than the market. However, my trip to the market this morning was very successful as you shall see and I am lucky enough to have a room/sofa bed at the crew-side apartment for the next few days. So all in all, I’m very happy to be here so far in Ajaccio.

Our trip from Nice was un-eventful, which is great apart from the absence of fish. Just the one is all I hope for considering the lack of room I have in my freezer, however this trip we caught nothing and my nori, sushi rice and rolling mat are back in storage.

The weather is beautiful and this morning I made an early trip to the market to get supplies for a day at anchor. Jim, our captain and George, 1st Mate and my Fella, had the task of cleaning the hull today in preparation for the regatta, fast approaching. So dive equipment was hired for the day and the sound of bubbles emanated from underfoot as Sian and I cleaned and polished down below, which is always strangely pleasing.

I literally had to cross the road from the port and there was the market, small but perfectly formed. It had everything I required for lunch and some extra stalls for interest. Corsicans do charcuterie. And they do it very well as you can see.

We’ll have plenty of time for that. Today I bought the usual baguettes, two very pert, fresh lettuces and a big, fat bulb of wet garlic which fills me with great excitement. Wet garlic is fresh, seasonal garlic pulled from the ground and not yet dried. It is sweet and a much better flavour than the everyday, supermarket version. It is the joy of garlic without the potential bitterness. I shall definitely come up with a suitable recipe that will do it justice for you. For today though I’m blogging lunch. A leek, tarragon and feta frittata.

Frittata or Spanish omelette was definitely not a favourite of mine for quite some time. I had a job as a stewardess on a boat when I was about 22 years old and the chef used to make a frittata about twice a week for the crew lunch. I couldn’t bare it and that really doesn’t happen to me all that often. As far as I was concerned, it was over-cooked, stiff egg with onions and peppers. There’s something not quite right about stiff egg. And of course, when I finally agreed to eat some at a small tapas bar in Spain, I realised how a frittata was supposed to taste. A frittata should be slice-able and yet be able to retain its ‘creaminess’.  It should be able to sit unsupported and yet have a softness about its flavour and texture.

This is a great lunchtime dish for any time of year if you change the filling with the seasons. And a great crew lunch being easy, vegetarian and budget friendly. I made 2 frittatas for 12 people using 16 eggs but if you want to halve this then I would be tempted to keep the same amounts for the filling ingredients and cut the eggs down to 6-7.

My ‘thing’ with cooking frittata is to do it gently and please do not over cook it! It does not need to be solid.  Let’s crack on. (Little egg joke there)

You will need;

16 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 medium sized potatoes, sliced, not peeled
4 leeks washed and sliced, the white and light green parts only              
1 tsp sugar
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 courgettes, 1 sliced, 1 roughly chopped quite small
1 bunch of fresh tarragon, stalks removed, half chopped fairly fine
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 pack of feta or goat’s cheese according to taste and mood and what’s in the fridge
Small pot of crème fraiche
Parmesan cheese


  • Begin by putting the sliced potatoes into a pan of salted water and bringing to the boil. You want them to be almost cooked through but with a bit of bite left. Drain and set aside.

  • Whilst the potatoes are cooking sauté the leeks in a non-stick frying pan in some sunflower oil and a small knob of butter. Season with salt and the tsp of sugar. Let this slowly sauté until soft for about 10 minutes. Add the fennel seeds and the half of chopped tarragon and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes.

  • In another pan, fry the sliced courgettes in a little oil on a high heat till they have browned on both sides. This helps get rid of some of their water which means you won’t have a soggy frittata. When the sliced ones are done then do the same with the roughly chopped courgettes, when these have had a good sauté and are slightly coloured, add to the leeks and stir to combine.
  • Bung the potatoes in to the pan with the leeks and courgettes making sure they are spread about evenly. Crumble the feta or goats cheese over the leek mixture and then using a teaspoon dollop the crème fraiche in amongst the feta cheese in little - well, dollops.

  • With the pan now on a gentle heat, pour in the beaten eggs and using a fork, encourage the egg to nestle down amongst the leek mixture to get to the bottom of the pan and to distribute well amongst the mixture. This also helps to mix the crème fraiche with the egg a bit more.

  • Lay the sliced courgettes over the top with the remaining fresh tarragon leaves and a good sprinkling of parmesan.

  • Now let this sit quietly on a very low heat for about 10-12 minutes. When you can see that the egg at the edges are cooking and it may look like it’s rising slightly then this is when to take it off the heat and stick it under a hot grill. Keep an eye on it and take it out when it is nicely browned on top. If you think that the egg in the middle might still be too soft then put it back onto a gentle heat on the hob for another 5-6 minutes. Otherwise let it sit and rest in the pan and cool down a little to ‘set’.

  • When it has had 10 minutes to rest, turn it out onto a serving dish and slice. I turn mine out upside-down onto a chopping board, then put a plate over the frittata and turn the whole thing over so the top is at the top again…follow?

You can add bacon to this or serve with smoked salmon and salad. Up to you, but also you can adapt the fillings to what’s in season and what you have in the fridge. A plain potato, onion and cheddar cheese frittata is a very soothing, comfort dish and served with bacon and toast makes a great breakfast.

The crew on Mariquita are preparing for our first regatta which starts next week. We have guests staying onboard so she is looking very beautiful down below and the deck crew have scrubbed decks and polished the hull. She looks beautiful. She looks fast.

More classic yachts are arriving and it’s great to meet other crews and old friends from the circuit. The marquees are going up and Ajaccio is preparing for a great week of sailing and party throwing. So you’re all invited to join in! I’ll keep you updated and boy have you got a treat in store in my next blog…

See you then, Thanks for reading. Cheers!