Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Our tasty Corsican food fetish


You didn’t see that review from food writer, Jay Rayner talking about some fancy-schmancy Parisian eatery? One of my friends shared it on Facebook and in a nutshell, he slated the place – big style.

One of the Guardian writer’s descriptions for an onion dish suggested it was, “mostly black, like nightmares…” He went on to say, “In terms of value for money and expectation, Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in the job.” As they say in Beragh, that’s a big speak.

But apart from all that, get this: The bill for this crappy meal for two including wine: £520. £520! I’ve bought cars cheaper than that.

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Whilst I was happy to note that the standard of food at the super-pretentious Le Cinq was through-the-floor (since I’ll never eat there), it also made me reflect on the food that I’m serving up at home. I can safely say, we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum. You don’t get any amuse-bouches or pre-desserts at our gaff (unless a handful of grapes count if the little humans are mad with hunger) and you most certainly don’t get things like frozen chocolate mousse cigars wrapped in tuile. Nor are you served any pretension of any kind.

I’ve a friend from Corsica whose favourite lunch/dinner is buttery pasta. Last time Jean-Charles was over he was telling me he has to ration how often he eats this simple dish, once a week being optimum regularity. All along I assumed buttery pasta was something of a food fetish on JC’s part, though I remember him cooking it once for us all when we were students; I’ve just never known anyone else to eat it. It’s a very simple premise but like anything else with seasoned butter and carbohydrates, it’s also very moreish. You might say it’s the Med’s version of buttery toast.

And then the Devlins embarked on a rare day out last Sunday, ending up at the Mill Park Hotel in Donegal Town for lunch. It was no Le Cinq, thanks be to Superman.

At the time, I had a head on me because I wanted to go somewhere different, but to appease everyone else, I sucked in the discordant notion and consoled myself with the prospect of having a bottle of craft beer as an aperitif. It was as I was sampling said beer (Atlantic Ale from Donegal Brewing Company), and browsing the children’s menu the words, ‘buttery pasta’ popped out at me. “It’s actually a thing,” our eldest Sarah affirmed when I remarked on my surprise.

Buttery pasta, as well as being Jean-Charles’s favourite, is also Sarah’s favourite (I brought the concept home from Corsica) and just like JC, she likes it at least once a week (she would have it once a day if I let her).

In the Mill Park however, I persuaded her not to opt for this rustic pasta, emphasising that it couldn’t come close to the quality of Dad’s Deadly Buttery Pasta which she can enjoy at home whatever time she likes (providing it’s once a week). Eventually, she went for the safe bet of mash and gravy whilst I went all game-y with venison sausages on caramelised onion mash and a red current jus. It was the bomb.

Sure enough, upon arrival back home at Chez Dev, nothing would do but Sarah had to have buttery pasta. She duly gave it a 11/10 rating and I’d fully expect the same from Jay Rayner.

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INGREDIENTS

As much pasta as you or your seven-year-old fancies eating (whatever shape you like)
lots of salted boiling water
tablespoon of real butter
grated cheese (preferably parmesan, if you’re making the patented Dad’s Deadly Buttery Pasta)

THE PLAN

Boil up the pasta in that salted water until it’s al dente. Drain, retaining some of the boiling liquor.

Mix the butter through the hot pasta, adding a tablespoonful or two (or three) of the boiling liquor to loosen the pasta shapes or strands and at the same time, create a thin sauce. Bombard with some freshly ground black pepper, mix through and then remove to a deep bowl and top with freshly grated parmesan or your cheese of choice.

As they say in France, “C’est d’la bombe!”

And yet, something tells me JC and Sarah would have a long wait on this dish appearing on Le Cinq menu. More’s the pity.

Just in case there’s anyone reading from Le Cinq reading this, this one’s dedicated to you guys. Apparently yous are doing a bang-up job.
La bombe!

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