This week’s recipe is one many won’t associate with French cuisine: cannelloni. Actually, my source recipe is Cannellonis au brocciu, a recipe that hails from Corsica and which I’ve named ‘Corsican cannelloni stuffed with brocciu cheese and chard’.
Now for a little history lesson, courtesy of Encyclopaedia Britannica... Corsica is a French collectivité territoriale à statut particulier (territorial collectivity with special status), a Mediterranean island lying just 11 km north of Sardinia. Part of France, yet retaining a certain degree of autonomy, it has an interesting history as part of Roman, Byzantine, Genoese empires, among others. In 1769 Corsica became a province of France and the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.
As for its cuisine, according to the Thinking Traveller ‘Corsican cuisine draws on both French and Italian influences but has its own very distinct character’. The Larousse Gastronomique goes on to explain that Corsican cuisine ‘make[s] use of the herbs of the maquis (rosemary and thyme) and those of the garden (basil and mint), which are seldom used in Provençal cookery’. And in fact, mint featured in my source recipe.
Translating regional specialties: brocciu
The first difficulty to contend with in this recipe is brocciu, a Corsican cheese, described on cheese.com as:
'The name ‘brocciu’ relates to the French word ‘brousse,’ which means fresh cheese made from goat or ewe’s milk. Brocciu is a whey cheese served as a lactose-free alternative to Italian – Ricotta. Produced in Corsica, it is considered a national food on the island. The cheese has been awarded AOC quality label.'
As I’ve mentioned before, my fictional target audience for these recipe translations is the average British home cook. I don’t want them to have to scour supermarket shelves for special ingredients. That said, I would like the recipes to allow them to travel a little and learn more about new cuisines. This can be a balancing act.
This audience is unlikely to know what Brocciu is. So I qualified by using ‘Brocciu cheese’ throughout the recipe. But given that this cheese is also hard to come by, I added a substitution option based on the above information, with this in the ingredients list: ‘500 g fresh brocciu cheese (or substitute with ricotta)’. However, I’ve never tried brocciu myself. Is ricotta really a suitable alternative? How do the two differ in terms of flavour, texture, or moisture? Other changes might have to be made to the recipe if there were significant differences in any of these. Corsicans or cheese lovers, feel free to enlighten me!
The use of Italian terms in English cookery
Now I know that French terms are widely used in English recipes. What I’d never really contemplated before was how widespread Italian terms are too. This struck me when I translated coulis de tomates as ‘tomato passata’. Unless I’m mistaken, we don’t really have an English term for passata. In fact, the ‘tomato’ is probably unnecessary. Having just checked my kitchen cupboard, I can confirm the jar is labelled simply ‘passata’. To call it anything else would cause confusion.
However, coulis is also used in English recipes or menus, normally in reference to sweet ingredients, such as ‘raspberry coulis’. So in the case of my source recipe, it’s a case of translating a French word with an Italian one in an English text. But in another context, it would be better to retain the French coulis in the English text. Yet another example – as if we needed one – of the importance of context, and why translation is far from being a simple case of word-for-word substitution.
This recipe was nice and easy to follow. I’ve made spinach and ricotta cannelloni quite a few times before, and this recipe was very similar. Where it differed was using chard instead of spinach (a handy use of this week’s veg box ingredient), and including mint in the mixture, which added a lovely fresh flavour.
Recipe ideas and substitutions
This recipe looks good, although does include béchamel, which mine didn't.
I'm sure you could substitute chard for spinach, and I suppose cottage cheese for ricotta (though I'm not sure Corsicans would approve!). You can use fresh or dried lasagne sheets or cannelloni tubes (I find lasagne sheets easier to work with).
I'd say don't omit the mint as it really adds something.
Maybe I’ll get back into some baking – we’ll see how I go for time!