Cooking in Corsica, or how to cook for 12Posted: August 5, 2012
I am back from a blissful two weeks in Corsica and I thought there was nothing better to remind myself I am no longer there but in cloudy London than to recount my culinary adventures in the Île de Beauté. Before going there I had images of fresh fish barbecues, relaxed meals by the beach and not much to do. Little did I remember that we would be TWELVE! I don’t know how I managed to forget that my close family (bother, sister and step brother and sisters) includes 7 children plus my parents, with the addition of cousins and grandmas but I wasn’t really prepared to cook for 12 people everyday for a week (we were ‘only’ 8 for the last week) in a house prepared to welcome 7. So I thought it would be a good idea to give some tips on how to cook for big parties, maybe some of you have ridiculously big families too or just want to entertain some your close friends all at the same time…
The first thing I have to say is BBQ! This is your best friend when you are cooking for a lot of people. No need for complicated prep, not a lot of washing, and something that almost everyone will like. Before going to Corsica I was dreaming of fish and seafood barbecues, but due to the amount of people that populate the island in the summer fish was almost always unavailable or ridiculously pricey so we stuck with meats. You don’t want to spend a long time prepping when you could be enjoying the view above with a glass of wine (yes that is the amazing view from the barbecue) so just stick to simple marinades: smashed garlic, salt, pepper and mustard for pork (or pasta de pimentao/pimiento with some oil if you’re in Spain or Portugal), good old salt and pepper for beef (good steaks don’t need more than that) and salt, pepper, garlic and some mint (optional) for lamb. Make sure you leave the meat marinating for quite a long time in the case of pork and lamb and make sure to only salt the steaks close to cooking time.
Your next best friends are starters and sides. If you are cooking for many, especially in a kitchen which doesn’t have enormous pots and pans, the easiest thing to do is to prepare a lot of small different side dishes and starters. Starters can be anything from local charcuterie (coppa and saucisson from Corsica are great), to small vegetable dishes (cucumber salad, tomato and mozarella, mini quiches) or soups (gazpacho is my favourite for summertime) and are great to divide up your meal so you don’t have to cook a big dish. Also make sure you make a lot of different side dishes to keep everyone happy and to make cooking easier. My favourite sides for a barbecue are a big green salad with lots of vinaigrette and oven roasted fries. Other good ideas are grilled vegetables (that you can make at the same time as the meat), baby potatoes blanched and then cooked in butter with garlic, grilled asparagus, coriander rice or sweet potato fries. Just make sure they are easy to cook so you can juggle two or three at a time.
My final tip is to make salads! This might seem like a weak meal at first but we have provided you with many salad meals which are all but weak. My favourite remains the Swedish Meatball’s grape, halloumi and pomegranate salad but this summer my stepsister (merci Philippine!) prepared us a dream salad which consisted of mâche (also known as lamb’s lettuce), roasted pine nuts, melon and feta cheese tossed with classic vinaigrette and might just become my new go-to salad. Salads are easy because they don’t require much cooking and you can actually call your guests and ask them to do some chopping. And with that comes an extra tip: when cooking for big parties, make them cook too (and provide a lot of wine)!