Citizens, the tiny country of Monaco, officially known as the Principality of Monaco, is a mere 0.8 square miles (1.95 square kilometers) in size, or approximately the same size as Central Park in New York City. It is the smallest state in the world after Vatican City!
Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Monaco is surrounded by France on three sides. Nice, France, is the nearest large city at a distance of 11 miles (18 kilometers). Monaco is rocky and situated on steep hills that drop off into the Mediterranean.
Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. Although Prince Albert II is a constitutional monarch, he wields immense political power.
Part of the Côte d’Azur, Monaco’s terrain and geography are typical of the northwestern area of the Mediterranean. The climate is mild year-round, with an average low temperature of 47 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) and an average maximum high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius).
Recent surveys place the permanent population of Monaco at about 30,744. Approximately 22 percent are native Monegasque, 35 percent French, 18 percent Italian, and another 25 percent consist of various other nationalities. Roman Catholicism is the main religion, practiced by 95 percent of the population.
French is the official language, but Italian and English are also spoken frequently. Monégasque, a language derived from both French and Italian, is spoken by native residents of Monaco, although only about 22 percent of the population claims direct Monégasque descent.
Monaco is a very wealthy country and a well-known tax haven, with a reputation for being a playground of the world’s richest people. Princess Grace became a world symbol of beauty, elegance and charm. In 2014 it was noted about 30% of the population was made up of millionaires, similar to Zürich or Geneva.
Monaco is also home to Monte Carlo. Officially named “Casino de Monte-Carlo”, the Monte Carlo Casino is a gambling and entertainment complex located in Monaco that also research about new casino sites . It includes a very upscale casino, the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo, and the office of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Monaco is also the host of the annual street circuit motor race Monaco Grand Prix, one of the original Grands Prix of Formula One.
Access to fresh, local produce and the sea has led to the development of a distinctive local cuisine and appreciation for good food. Monaco has many restaurants, and seafood is featured in many dishes.
Daily eating habits reflect a Mediterranean heritage, and both French and Italian influences can be found in the local recipes. Breakfast is very small, but lunch and dinner often have several courses.
Some traditional Monégasque dishes include brandamincium (salt cod pounded with garlic, oil, and cream surrounded by cardoons, edible Mediterranean plants, in white sauce) and Barbajuan.
Barbajuans are a fritter stuffed with Swiss chard and ricotta, among other ingredients, that originates from Monaco, where it is especially eaten on the national day, 19 November. The word means “Uncle John” in Monégasque.
My version of this delicious fritter includes a touch of bacon and anchovy for extra savor – a truly princely dish said to be a favorite of His Royal Highness, Prince Albert of Monaco! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For the pastry:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp water (may need more)
For the filling:
1 ½ tsp olive oil
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely minced bacon
½ top-quality anchovy fillet (I prefer Ortiz brand), finely minced
2 tbsp leeks (white part only) finely chopped
2 swiss chard leaves (green parts only), shredded and chopped
¾ cup chopped fresh spinach
½ tsp dried oregano, rubbed between the palms
2 ½ tbsp Ricotta Cheese
1 ½ tbsp freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg white, beaten
vegetable oil for deep frying
Prepare the pastry:
1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl
2. Add the olive oil and 2 tbsp egg and blend with a fork. Reserve the rest of the egg for the filling.
3. Add just enough water to bring the pastry together as a firm dough.
4. Turn this out onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 min)
5. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling:
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat and add the finely minced anchovy – cook until anchovy dissolves in oil. Add bacon, cook until rendered – remove. Add onion and leek and fry until golden (about 5 minutes)
Add the chard, spinach and oregano and fry until the chard is very tender (about 10 minutes).
Transfer the contents of the skillet to a bowl and then mix in the bacon, cheeses and the leftover egg from the pastry.
Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Roll the dough on a lightly l-floured work surface to about 2mm/ 1/16th inch thick.
Use a floured 6cm/2 ½ inch pastry cutter and cut into as many rounds as you can.
Gather the scraps, re-roll out and cut again. You should end up with about 20 circles.
Place 1 tsp of the filling in the center of each pastry round and brush the edges with the egg white.
Fold the dough over to form a semi-circle and press the edges with the ends of a fork to seal.
As you complete each pastry, transfer to a baking tray lined with foil. Note: at this stage you can freeze the pastries and then thaw before cooking, or you can cook them right away.
Pour vegetable oil into a deep fryer or large work (you need at least 1 ½ inches / 4cm) and heat to 190C/375F.
Working in batches, add the pastries to the oil and fry until brown and crisp (about 5 minutes).
Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towels using a slotted spoon.
Serve warm or at room temperature.