Monaco, Monte Carlo

After the Vatican City, Monaco is the smallest country in the world. This rocky country nestled on steep hills that drop off into the Mediterranean is divided into four neighborhoods: Monaco-Ville, La Condamine, Monte-Carlo, and Fontvieille. Of these four, Monte Carlo is the main resort and residential area, popular with tourists around the world.

Thanks to its location and climate, Monte Carlo has an easy access to fresh, local produce. Moreover, the near proximity of the sea has led to the development of the cuisine which is rich in fresh seafood of high quality. Thus, the people in Monaco developed a taste and appreciation for good, local food. The cuisine generally reflects its Mediterranean heritage, but both Italian and French influences can be found in the local recipes.

Cuisine

As it’s nestled on the east coast of France near Italy on the Mediterranean, it is to be expected that seafood dominates the menus in Monte Carlo. The fish most commonly used are anchovy and cod. Thanks to its pleasant climate, the country thrives with fresh vegetables and fruits, the most popular being garlic, onions, tomatoes, and olives. If you are looking for some staple food in Monte Carlo, you won’t find it as such. Dishes are mainly prepared by cooking ingredients in olive oil or they are served with it as a side or a dip.

Since Monte Carlo is just a 30-minute drive from Italy and France, you will taste how its cuisine is influenced by both Italian and French gastronomy. Italian-style pasta can be found in Monte Carlo as well, but just a dash of lime gives these dishes their unique taste. Pastries are also very common and can’t be missed on your trip to Monte Carlo. What probably makes this cuisine so appealing to tourists are its dishes with the fine combination of sweet and sour ingredients.

Some of the dishes that are worth mentioning include:

  • Stocafi: this dish is said to be the national food of Monaco. It is made with dried cod cooked in tomato sauce.

  • Fougasse: sweet pastry, infused with the orange aroma and served with anise seeds and nuts.

  • Barbagiuan: a tasty appetizer or snack filled with spinach or pumpkin, leek, and cheese.

  • Socca: Monaco-style pancakes made with chickpea flour.

  • Brandamincium: cod in a cream sauce made of herbs and garlic.

Planning your meal

Just imagine you are walking down one of the Mediterranean streets of Monte Carlo. You will for sure be tempted to go to one of the bistros, bars, or restaurants the very second you sense the intoxicating smell of the local food. If you take a look at the menu, it will be hard to choose from a variety of pastries, pasta, seafood specialties, and desserts with authentic aromas and flavors.

Whether you once visited Monte Carlo and would like to taste some of its food delicacies again or you would like to surprise your taste buds with some new flavor combos, this is the right place to look for recipes.

The best way to start off your Monte Carlo dinner is to prepare some deliciously crispy pastry or authentic, soft pancakes. Then you can move to a stew with cod simmered in tomato juice and infused with herbs. For the dessert, you can enjoy a glass of wine and a slice of nut bread enriched with the aromas of orange blossom water and anise.

Appetizer

For an appetizer, you should definitely try barbagiuans and socca. Barbagiuans is an appetizer that originated in Monaco but can also be found in Northern Italy and along the coast of French Riviera. It is particularly popular on National Day which Monaco celebrates on November 19. The recipe below makes around 20 pastries.

Ingredients for the pastry:

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

½ tsp Salt

1 Egg

4 Tbsp Olive Oil

Water

Ingredients for the filling:

1½ tsp Olive Oil

1 Leek (white part only), finely chopped

½ Onion, finely chopped

½ tsp Dried Oregano

2 oz Fresh Spinach, chopped

2-3 Swiss Chard Leaves (green parts only), shredded

1 Tbsp Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

2½ Tbsp Ricotta Cheese

Salt, to taste

Black Pepper, to taste

1 Egg White, beaten

Vegetable Oil, for frying

Instructions:

To prepare the dough:

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt, mix and set aside.

  2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, add the olive oil and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the flour and gradually add just enough water to make a firm dough.

  3. Sprinkle some flour on your working surface, turn the dough out onto the surface and knead for 5-10 minutes.

  4. Wrap the dough with plastic film and keep in the fridge for half an hour.

To prepare the filling:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet on medium.

  2. Add the leek and onion and saute for 5-7 minutes or until translucent.

  3. Add the spinach, chard, and oregano and cook for 10 more minutes.

  4. Once the chard has become tender, transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the cheeses and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and leave to cool.

  5. When the dough is ready, dust the working surface with flour and roll out the dough. It should be very thin.

  6. Using a pastry cutter (2-in cutter), cut the dough into circles.

  7. Add a teaspoon of the spinach and cheese mixture to the center of each circle.

  8. Brush the edges with the egg white and fold over each circle. Press the edges with a fork to seal them.

  9. Pour enough vegetable oil into a deep saucepan and heat on high.

  10. Carefully drop the pastries into the hot oil and fry for about 5 minutes or until golden and crispy. Work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.

  11. When the pastries are fried, leave them to drain on a kitchen towel. Serve warm.

Socca is the name referring to chickpea pancakes that are popular as street food in Monaco. They are easy to make and the taste will surprise you, as these are not typical pancakes you are used to. Usually, Monegasques enjoy warm socca with a glass of cool wine. The recipe below makes 8 pancakes.

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups Water

2 cups Chickpea Flour

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

½ tsp Salt, plus more

Black Pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add the ingredients to your blender and blend until the mixture has become smooth.

  2. Preheat a large frying pan on medium-high. Alternatively, you can set the pan over a bed of coals.

  3. Once the pan is hot enough, brush it with oil and pour enough batter to cover the surface of the pan. The layer of batter should be about ⅛-inch thick.

  4. Sprinkle the pancake with salt and pepper and fry until the top is set and dry and the bottom is golden brown. It will take about 4-5 minutes.

  5. Once fried, remove from the pan and repeat the same with the remaining batter.

  6. Cut the pancakes into wedges, sprinkle with pepper and serve warm.

Main/Entree

Cod is very popular in the dishes of Monte Carlo. It is usually combined with typical Mediterranean ingredients such as tomatoes, olives, garlic, and pepper. For this recipe, you will need some basic ingredients that you can find in any store. They are so nicely paired in this dish that you will be amazed how rich in flavors this meal is. Check the recipe and see it for yourself.

Ingredients:

1lb Dried Salt Cod

7 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided use

4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 Onion, finely chopped

½ Red Chilli, finely chopped and seeds removed

4 Tbsp White Wine

14 oz Canned Chopped Tomatoes

1 Bay Leaf

1 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley

½ tsp Dried Thyme

30 Black Olives, pitted

6 oz Red or Green Bell Pepper, chopped

1 Tbsp Capers, rinsed

Sea Salt, to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, for serving  

Instructions:

  1. Place the fish in a bowl and pour in enough cold water to cover the fish. Set aside to soak for at least 2 days. Discard the water after every 12 hours and pour in fresh cold water.

  2. Take the cod out of the water, pat dry and slice into 1-inch pieces.

  3. Pour 3 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and heat on medium. When the oil is hot enough, add the cod and fry for a few minutes or until browned. Flip and fry on the other side. Work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. When all the pieces are fried, place them on kitchen papers to drain.

  4. Add the remaining olive oil to a flame-proof casserole dish. When the oil is hot enough, add the garlic, onion, and chili and saute for 5 minutes.

  5. Add the wine, reduce the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

  6. Add the tomatoes, mix well and allow to simmer. Once the sauce has thickened a bit, add the fried cod, sprinkle with the herbs, cover the dish and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes.

  7. Stir in the olives, peppers, and capers and leave to simmer covered for 15 more minutes. If the stew is too dry, pour in a little water.

  8. Once done, pour into serving bowls, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and serve warm. This stew is nicely paired with fresh crusty bread.

Dessert

Fougasse is a famous sweet treat that you have to try when in Monte Carlo. Basically, it is a bread but with a very distinctive anise and orange aromas and studded with a variety of nuts. Here is how to make it.

Ingredients:

1 ½ Tbsp Fresh Yeast

6 ⅓ cups Lukewarm Water

3 cups Soft Wheat Flour

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Anis Liqueur

1 Lemon, zested

¾ cup Granulated Sugar

7.7 oz Butter, softened

1 Tbsp Salt

1 Egg Yolk, beaten

2 Tbsp Chopped Unsalted Hazelnuts

2 Tbsp Chopped Unsalted Pine Nuts

2 Tbsp Chopped Unsalted Almonds

2 Tbsp Anise Seeds

1 Tbsp Rum

4 Tbsp Orange Blossom Water

1 Tbsp Liqueur Curaçao

Instructions:

  1. Pour the lukewarm water into a large bowl and add the yeast. Allow the yeast to dissolve and then add part of the flour. Stir well to combine and form a dough and then set aside.

  2. When the dough has doubled in size, add the remaining flour along with the oil, anise liqueur, lemon zest, sugar, butter, and salt. Knead the dough gently or stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Place the dough into the fridge and leave it to rest for 2 hours.

  3. Grease a round baking pan and set aside.

  4. Sprinkle some flour onto your working surface and roll out the dough. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and brush it with the egg yolk.

  5. Top the dough with the hazelnuts, pine nuts, almonds, and anise seeds.

  6. Allow the bread to rest again for an hour at room temperature.

  7. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350F / 175C.

  8. Sprinkle the bread with the powdered sugar, rum, orange blossom water, and curaçao.

  9. Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

  10. Once baked, turn off the heat, open the oven and allow the bread to dry in the oven.

Drinks

Although Monte Carlo is located in one of the world’s smallest countries, it has access to everything. Thus, you will find a great variety of international beverages, the most popular being teas, coffee, hot chocolate, and fresh fruit juices.

As for alcohol, since it is close to both Italy and France, the wines from these countries dominate the market. However, other popular international wines and beers can also be found. The national drink that people in Monaco are proud of is champagne. So, whichever champagne you choose, it will be a perfect choice to finish your dinner.