Torta pisticcina, or gluten-free chestnut flour tart (Corsica)

Corsica is a fairly large, mountainous island on the Mediterranean. It belongs to France as a “territorial collectivity”, which means it has some autonomy. Historically it was more closely connected to Italy (which is closer to it than France) and the culture still retains elements from this connection. Corsica is probably most famous for Napoleon, who was born there. Some people on the island speak Corsican, a language related to medieval Tuscan, but French is the main language. Corsica is a fairly popular tourist destination, considered “unspoiled” compared to most Mediterranean islands.

Corsican cuisine has derived more influence from Italy than France. Chestnuts are of massive importance and are made into bread, cakes, pancakes, porridges, polenta, fritters and even beer. Local charcuterie, cheeses, olive oil and wines are also valued. Like on all islands, seafood is very popular. Soups, pastas and stuffed vegetables are typical main dishes. Several types of beans and chickpeas are used for various dishes. Mangold (chard) is a very popular vegetable. Most desserts are based on the local cheese brocciu – and/or chestnut flour.

Originating from Saveur, I was supposed to post this recipe before Christmas, as it seemed appropriate for the holidays, but alas, other things got in the way, like my 1,500+ hour work backlog. This tart was originally egg-free and gluten-free, so it was easy to remove the dairy to make it vegan. I left out the whole almonds from my version, as I don’t like whole almonds that much. It’s not immediately obvious from the photo, but the result is supposed to be very thin.

It divided opinions: I thought it was pretty good but not special, my picky husband didn’t like it and my picky sister liked it (I brought the remains to Finland). My dad also ate it, but he eats pretty much anything. I do think it’s better after a day or two. You can find chestnut flour in many health food stores. I was lucky to find a bag for half off, as it’s often somewhat pricy. You can also use it to make pasta, pancakes and chocolate cakes. Chestnut flour is also allowed on the paleo diet, even though things like sugar aren’t (many allow coconut sugar, though). Most people with tree nut allergies can eat chestnuts – but you may have to skip the almonds, of course.

Torta pisticcina

Torta pisticcina

0.4 lbs/175 g vegan margarine
1 cup/2.4 dl sugar
1⁄2 cup/1.2 dl plant-based milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
zest of 1⁄2 orange
2 cups/4.8 dl chestnut flour
1⁄2 cup/1.2 dl whole blanched almonds
1⁄4 cup/0.6 dl sliced almonds

Heat oven to 375F/190C. Grease a 10″/25 cm cake pan and set aside. Whisk margarine, sugar, milk, vanilla, salt, and orange zest in a bowl. Add flour and whole almonds and stir until smooth. Pour batter into pan; sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake until browned and set, about 25 minutes.

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