Samphire with Eggs and Butter

Sipping an early cup of coffee in bed, I admired the view from my bedroom window of flat marshland, grazing cows and the sea beyond. I was staying with a friend in Norfolk for the weekend, just outside the flinty village of Cley. I was intrigued by a rather incongruous and lonely little blue hut that stood opposite the house. A local family of ducks make their way along the road when a car drew up making them dive for safety in a nearby pond. The driver, unimpressed with the pastoral idyll of the scene, got out and promptly dropped off bulging white packages onto the shelves of the hut before speeding away.

Later that morning I went to inspect the “drop”. An honesty jar next to the bags asked for £2 for each. I peered inside and decided to buy one. Our breakfast that day, I decided, was going to be marsh samphire with butter and eggs.

Samphire comes from the original name for coastal plants “Saint Pierre” after the patron saint of fishermen. In medieval Britain samphire was used to make soap and burnt to form glass. It’s pleasant salty flavour, texture and availability have made it part of our diet for centuries. It is at its best between June and September.

My advice is to wash it well and taste it. It will always taste salty but it does differ in strength. If it is mild, it can simply be rinsed and eaten raw in salads or stir fried briefly in butter or olive oil. Trim the woody roots and fibrous stems from the softer green parts.

This samphire was too salty so I decided to blanch it in boiling water poured straight through it from a kettle to get rid of some of the salt.

I plunged it into ice cold water to stop the vibrant green disappearing.

Then it was time to cook, after melting a generous knob of butter with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil into a frying pan I tossed in the samphire. Making three holes with a wooden spoon in the nest of hot, buttered stems I cracked in three eggs. I put on the lid and allowed the eggs to steam inside until just set. Within 5 minutes they were done and ready to eat with hot buttered sourdough toast.

Breakfast is served!

Wonderfully Warming For Winter…

As the mild start to the season has come to an end and we’re starting to feel a chill in the air I thought it would be the ideal time to share this wonderful recipe from our latest book ‘Sicily – Recipes from and Italian Island’. It’s complete comfort food, ‘rib sticking’, warming and the perfect antidote to the winter blues.
Ragù tradizionale di carne
Slow-cooked pork, beef & sausage ragu
Traditionally, ragu was made on a Sunday and normally it would be the mamma of the house who would get up early to get it started over a fire, so that it would be ready in time for a late lunch. Nowadays, with slow cookers and heavy, cast-iron casseroles like Le Creuset you can get it going, turn the oven on low and go out for the day. You will come back to a heavenly feast that is the wonderfully rich and sticky ragu ready to cling to pasta shapes or gnocchi.
We tested this recipe at our restaurant in Bray. A couple of the staff are Sicilian and they ate it for their dinner. They loved it and actually became quite emotional! I think we got pretty close to the original recipe. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the types of meat – it really should be made with what you have to hand, so use more beef or pork accordingly. Do try to find proper Italian sausages, though, as they are full of flavour from garlic, wine and sometimes fennel seeds and don’t contain rusk. Serve this with dried or fresh long pasta.
 
Serves 8–10 
425 g (15 oz) Italian sausages
325 g (11½ oz) pork spare ribs
425 g (15 oz) pork belly, cut into
3 cm (1¼ in) cubes
425 g (15 oz) stewing beef, cut into
8 cm (3¼ in) chunks
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 white or brown onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly
chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
salt and freshly ground black pepper
300 ml (10 fl oz/1¼ cups) white or
red wine
4 tablespoons tomato purée
(tomato paste)
1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) tinned whole tomatoes,
roughly chopped
1 litre (34 fl oz/4¼ cups) chicken, meat
or vegetable stock, or hot water
6 potatoes (approximately 1 kg/2 lb 3 oz),
peeled and cut in half
200 g (7 oz/1? cups) peas, frozen or
fresh (optional)
Brown the meat in batches in the oil in a large casserole dish over a medium heat, setting it aside in a large bowl when done. Add the onions to the pan in the remaining oil with the garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and seasoning and cook over a gentle heat to soften. It should take 7-10 minutes. Add the meat back into the pan with the wine and bring to the boil. Allow to reduce for few minutes. Add the tomato purée, tomatoes and stock and stir to combine.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook slowly for 4–5 hours. The time will depend upon the cut of meat and the size. You need to cook it until the meat falls easily from the bones. Add the potatoes after around 4 hours and continue to cook until they are cooked through. Add the peas, if using, towards the end of the cooking time. Cook for 15 minutes if using frozen peas and 30 minutes if using fresh ones. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
Eat the stew as it is or ladle off most of the sauce and serve it with pasta, followed by the meat and potatoes as a main course served with the Purple Sprouting Broccoli.
You can purchase signed copies of ‘Sicily – Recipes from an Italian Island’ here. It’s published by Hardie Grant and the beautiful photography is by the talented Helen Cathcart.
 

The Greatest of Grains…

Here’s my final recipe to celebrate National Vegetarian Week. It’s a great, healthy salad that is  filling and is good on its own or as a side.
Heritage Grain Salad with Seeds, Nuts and Roasted Red Onions
‘Have you got indi grains?’ said the American man named Neil sat next to me on the plane home. He realised I was writing about salads due to my open laptop and told me about how much he liked kasha (buckwheat), farro and freekeh. I hadn’t heard them called indi grains before, ancient yes but he said indi or heirloom grains were big in the States. He liked the texture, the fact they were ‘toothsome’ as he put it. I liked that, toothsome, what a great expression. So here, Neil, is your grain salad.
I wanted this to work as a side dish, to offer texture and satisfying carbs but not to stifle meat, fish or other vegetable main courses. However if this is the main event then bump it up with feta, pomegranate seeds, fresh figs, eggs or whole cooked chickpeas. You could also serve it with Harissa dressing, Hummus  or Tahini Dressing. Grains used in this way can be a base for other directions, I have tried this with chopped dates, finely chopped preserved lemons or sun-dried tomatoes, both adding further layers of flavour.
 
Serves 4–6
 
200g ancient grains, such as freekeh, quinoa, farro, buckwheat or red or brown rice
1 large aubergine, cut into 1cm dice
2 large red onions, one cut into 1cm dice, one very thinly sliced
2 fat garlic cloves, skin on and lightly crushed
4 tablespoons rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
75g mixture of almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds
750ml groundnut oil
a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons dried fruit, such as blueberries, barberries, cherries, cranberries, currants or diced dried apricots
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing
juice of 1 medium lemon
5 tablespoons rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
 
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
 
Cook the grains according to the packet instructions, until tender. Drain and cool in a sieve.
 
Put the aubergine, diced onion and garlic in a bowl, season and coat with the rapeseed or olive oil. Spread the veg out on a baking tray and roast for 15–20 minutes until lightly browned and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside.
 
Meanwhile, toast the seeds and nuts on a separate tray in the oven until just browned, they will take 5–7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
 
Heat the groundnut oil in a small saucepan until a small piece of bread sizzles in it. Deep-fry the sliced onion in the until crisp, it will take about 3-4 minutes, then set aside to drain on kitchen paper and season with a little salt.
 
Combine the dressing ingredients and season to taste. Assemble all the salad ingredients in a serving bowl, apart from the fried onion. Toss with the dressing and transfer to a serving dish. Top with the fried onion and serve straight away or refrigerate until you are ready. If the salad is chilled, allow it to come back to room temperature before serving.
This recipe and many, many more can be found in my latest book ‘Around the World in Salads’ from Kyle Books.
SALADS_FRONT COVER (2)
All photography by Helen Cathcart.

A Cranberry Classic

This is my last blog before Christmas so I would thought I’d share a family recipe for cranberry sauce which is an essential part of a poultry centred Christmas luncheon and also goes so well with the Boxing Day cold cuts.
My Mum always made her cranberry sauce with port and orange. It was rich, sticky and looked just like Christmas, all shiny and red. For this recipe, I also followed Glynn Christian’s advice and added the sugar after the berries had softened, and I was very pleased with the result.
You’ll notice I also had the benefit of an enquiring audience from our family pooch ‘Bella’ who was very put out at not being allowed to help in creating some of the Christmas magic. I think she appreciated the smell of the cranberries bubbling away too.
IMG_3040_Fotor_Collage
Makes 950g–1kg sauce
600g fresh cranberries
250ml port or red wine
Julienne (thinly shredded) zest and juice of 1 orange
300g dark muscovado sugar
Combine the cranberries in a medium saucepan with the port and orange zest and juice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the cranberries to bubble away merrily while you listen to Christmas carols and the skins soften on the fruit and begin to burst, approx. 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. If it is very runny, put the pan back onto the heat and let the sauce boil away rapidly until it thickens to your liking. Allow to cool then bottle into a clean jar/s and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
You can buy ‘The Gentle Art of Preserving’ online here.
 

Party Nibbles Turin Style…

This is a recipe from my book ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ which I use time and time again. With the Christmas drinks party season about to fall upon us these are really easy to make and make a great pre-dinner nibble with a Christmas cocktail or two.
Torinese Breadsticks
Grissini Torinesi
These long thin breadsticks, known as grissini torinesi, hail from Turin where they have been made since the 14th century and are still made in large quantities today. They are eaten with drinks or served with soup instead of bread. This recipe is for cheese breadsticks, which for me are the most interesting but you can omit the cheese or use focaccia or pizza dough instead. These grissini make a good gift, wrapped in baking parchment and tied with rustic string. For a party make a variety and stand them in a vase as a dramatic centrepiece. My children help to make them and I let them use their imagination as to what flavourings they like to add.
Makes 80
325g ‘00’ flour
15g fresh yeast or 7g dried
200ml tepid milk
100g Parmesan
100g soft butter
5g salt
 
Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Mix the yeast with tiepid milk. Blend the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Pour in the yeasted milk and use your fingers to incorporate everything evenly and bring to a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured board and roll out to a thickness of 0.5cm. Cut into lengths about 40cm long and 1 cm wide. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for 25–30 minutes or until a rich golden brown. Leave to cool and store in a tall airtight jar such as a spaghetti jar. They will keep for about a month. Use them as they are or wrap each one in a thin slice of ham.
 
Variations
Sesame seeds – spread a layer of sesame seeds on a plate and roll each stick in them before cooking
Rosemary – spread a layer of finely chopped rosemary leaves on a plate and roll each stick in them before cooking
Thin grissini – you can also put the dough through a pasta machine: roll it through the widest setting a couple of times, then put it through a tagliatelle cutter. Lay the stips on a floured baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown
You can buy signed copies of ‘The Italian Cookery Course’ here, it makes a great Christmas gift.
 
 

A slow cooked sensation from our latest book…

Photo by Helen Cathcart

 
Our recently published book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen‘ has been flying off the shelves and this is one of my favourite winter recipes from the book. We forget sometimes that the Roman empire extended far into Northern Europe, right up to North Northumberland in Britain’s case, so many of their dishes have been influenced by the produce available in both cold and warm climates. This is what I’d call a ‘rib-sticker’ the ultimate winter fuel.
Coda alla Vaccinara
Oxtail Stew
Beef stew in all its forms is essential to the average Roman kitchen. It gives nourishment, comfort and that sense of security that comes from a ritual that you perform so regularly you can’t imagine life without it. Even ragu, or meat sauce, that is made all over Italy is a form of stewed beef. Whether the meat is whole or ground, that marriage of beef and tomatoes cooked for a very long time together is hard to beat.
In Rome the Jewish have ‘stracotto’ meaning ‘overcooked’, born from a time when only the cheaper cuts were available to them. It was traditionally cooked on the ashes of a fire on a Friday so that it was still warm on the Sabbath when cooking was prohibited. Out of the many beef stew recipes, we have chosen to include Garofolato di Manzo made with a whole piece of meat pierced with spices, and Coda alla Vaccinara, which uses oxtail. You can usually order this from your butcher. It has a wonderfully rich, almost gamey flavour that after long, slow cooking produces meat that simply falls away from the bone. It is a good idea to do this dish a day before you want to eat it as the fat comes to the surface overnight and can be removed.
 
Serves 6
1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) oxtail
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
200 ml (7 oz) white wine
2 ´ 400 g (14 oz) tins tomatoes
1 heaped tablespoon tomato purée (paste)
1 small cinnamon stick
500 ml (17 fl oz) meat or vegetable stock, as necessary
 
For the soffritto
6 celery sticks with leaves, coarsely chopped into 5 mm (1/4 in) cubes
2 medium white onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons fine salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
 
Fill a large saucepan three quarters full with water and bring to the boil. Add the oxtail and bring the water back to the boil, then remove the oxtail from the water. Pour the water and any scum away. Boling the oxtail like this will clean it and get rid of some of the fat.
Make the soffritto in a large saucepan; gently fry the vegetables in the olive oil with the seasoning and bay leaves for around 5–10 minutes over a medium heat until tender.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium–high heat and brown the meat all over. Transfer the oxtail to the soffritto and then pour over the wine. Allow it to reduce for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, purée and cinnamon, and bring to the boil with a little water to wash out the tins. Turn down to simmer and leave to cook, covered, over a low heat for 5 hours or until the meat falls from the bones. You can also do this long cooking time in the oven: heat the oven to 160°C (320°F/Gas 4) and cook the stew in a casserole dish. During the cooking, turn the oxtails from time to time to make sure they do not stick and top up with a little stock or water, if necessary, so that they are always covered. Serve with mashed potato, soft polenta or potato gnocchi.
For more recipes from the Roman kitchen you can purchase signed copies of ‘Rome – Centuries in a Roman Kitchen’ here.

A Feast Fit for a Caesar…

We’ve been holding some very special Roman themed dinners at Caldesi in Campagna and Caffe Caldesi to coincide with the launch of our latest book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’. Our menu for the evenings was designed to showcase some of the dishes that we discovered in our many months of research and to take our guests on a culinary journey through Rome.
The evenings kicked off with the serving of a cheeky little cocktail we’d named the ‘Wonky Madonna’ after a portrait of the Madonna which hangs askew behind a bar at the Trastevere in Rome (see below for the recipe) and to go with this we served a selection of antipasti. First Suppli al telefono – named because the melting mozzarella inside these crispy rice fritters resembles the wires between telegraph poles as you break them in half to enjoy them.
IMG_2705 2
Next up was Lagana, a Roman flat bread that dates back to the days of Julius Caesar. It is eaten with ricotta and a relish made from sardines, celery, basil, parsley, honey and black pepper.
lagne and fish pickle
Next was a Carpaccio di Manzo – lemon and vinegar marinated raw thinly sliced beef fillet and then onto Gnocchi alla Romana.
gnocci makingJPG

Making the Gnocchi all Romana – You need a strong chef such as Marco to make sure there are no lumps.

 
These are a very traditional Roman gnocchi made with semolina, milk, cheese and lots of butter.
IMG_2712

The finished dish.

IMG_2710
Our secondo included a choice of the famous Ossobuco all Romana – even though the Milanese claim that Ossobuco is their dish the Roman’s passionately claim it is theirs.
Osso Buco
There was also a choice of Guinea Fowl alla Cacciatora cooked with rosemary and vinegar in the ‘style of the hunter’ and Orata in Crosta d’erbe – sea bream in a herbed crust.
Such was the fun and enjoyment of the evening (and perhaps the free flowing Roman wines helped) I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the meal but we finished off with a Torta Bianca – a cheesecake that dates as far back as the middle ages when ‘white food’ was seen a decadent and contained expensive spices, in this case ginger. The evening was completed with the traditional espresso and much satisfied groaning as we pulled ourselves up from our chairs to wish our guests a pleasant journey home. Our night of Roman excess was an all round success.

The Wonky Madonna

Just right for a Christmas party cup it contains all those warming spices you associate with the festive season, this is a sweet, innocent-tasting drink with a hidden kick of chilli and alcohol. To make a non-alcoholic version, remove the Grand Marnier from the recipe, add a little sugar for sweetness and top up with tonic or soda water instead of prosecco. The spiced orange juice needs to be made the day before you want to serve the cocktail, to allow the flavours to infuse. If you buy the juice make sure it is only juice and doesn’t contain any other flavours or additives.
Makes 8–10 cocktails
For the spiced orange juice
300 ml (10 fl oz) freshly squeezed blood orange juice (either from fruits or a chilled carton)
200 ml (7 fl oz) water
3 ´ 8 cm (3 in) strips of orange zest (use a potato peeler to peel off the strips)
5 tablespoons Grand Marnier, Cointreau or brandy
1 small dried red chilli or 1/2 fresh chilli
1 ´ 5 cm (2 in) cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
 
To serve
1 bottle prosecco
Slices of orange to serve (optional)
Star anise to serve (optional)
Small cinnamon sticks to serve (optional)
To make the spiced orange juice, put all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes and crush the spices gently with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight (or at least a few hours) to infuse the flavours.
Pour the syrup through a sieve into a jug and chill. When you are ready to serve, pour 50 ml (2 fl oz) of the Spiced Orange Juice into each champagne glass over a couple of ice cubes and top with prosecco. Decorate the glass with orange slices, star anise and cinnamon sticks if you like.
You can buy signed copies of our latest book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ here.
 

Venice – Off the beaten canal

Photo by Helen Cathcart

 
Giancarlo and I spent a lot of time enjoying the bars, restaurants and foodie hang-outs of Venice while researching our book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’ and I thought it would be nice to share some of our favourite places with you. This list is in no particular order but I have separated by the various areas of the city:-
 
 al covo
Al Covo
Campiello della Pescaria
Castello 3968 Tel: 041 522 3812 www.ristorantealcovo.com
Very good food. Owner Cesare is passionate about his choice of ingredients. Do book. They have a tiny, more modern sister restaurant called Covino down the road.
 
Bistrot de Venise
San Marco, 4685 Calle dei Fabbri Venezia, Tel: (+39) 041 523 6651 www.bistrotdevenise.com
Really great traditional food but also amazing historical food recreated from the work of Renaissance cooks. Do book and have the historical menu if you can, you won’t taste anything as lovely and unusual as this elsewhere. The owner Sergio Fragiacomo is a passionate foodie, send him our regards.
 
La Cantina
Strada Nuova, Cannaregio 3689
Tel: 041 522 8258
Don’t expect to rush Francesco Zorzetto as he meticulously prepares the food for you but it is amazing and worth the wait. Go for cicchetti or lunch or dinner. Watch his knife skills for the sheer joy of seeing an expert at work. And do try his selection of wonderful cheeses and artisan beers.
 
Corte Sconta
Castello 3886, Calle del Pestrin dietro rival degli Schiavoni, 30122
Tel: 041 522 7024
Elegant restaurant, you have to book. Service and food excellent.
 
 
la-mascareta-osteria
Enoteca Mascareta
Castello, 5183
Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa
Tel: 041 523 0744
A buzzing place open late, go for a huge variety of wines, cheeses, quality antipasti plates as well as cooked food. Lovely atmosphere.
 
Harry’s Bar
Calle Vallaresso, 1323, tel: 041 520 8822 www.harrysbarvenezia.com
Treat yourself to a Bellini or two and plate of Carpaccio in their place of origin. It will always have a buzz about this place, there is nowhere else like it in the world. 80 yr old Arrigo still regularly frequents the bar keeping an eye on the food and service.
 
Osteria alle Testiere
Calle del Mondo Novo, Castello
Tel: 041 522 7220
Tiny but busy place with great food so you need to book well in advance.
 
 
13
L’osteria di Santa Marina run by Danilo and his partner Agostino. It is elegant, food and service is outstanding. Agostino’s food is traditional with a twist. It is best to book especially in the evenings Tel: 041 52 85 239.
 
Trattoria Antiche Carampane
San Polo 1911, Tel: 041 524 0165 www.antichecarampane.com
Tucked away next to the Ponte delle Tette in a less busy area behind the Rialto bridge. Really traditional but ‘cool’ feel and warm hospitality. Food is delicious, try a Gianduja semifreddo and a Sgroppino after dinner.
 
Taverna La Fenice
San Marco 1939
Tel: 041 52 23 856
Just near the Fenice opera house.
What a romantic, warm and elegant place to eat. The wood paneling and warm lighting draws you in. We loved it. You have to try the potato spuma on secoe on a traditional Venetian stew served in a martini glass.
 
 
alla_madonna_insegna 
Trattoria La Madonna
Calle della Madonna, San Polo 594 Tel: 041 522 3824 www.ristoranteallamadonna.com
Near Rialto bridge and all the locals know it. Big and bustling, the waiters wear white tuxedos and work a long day including cleaning the spider crabs and all the other shellfish freshly every morning. Have the seafood risotto and black cuttlefish. Don’t wear white.
 
Vini da Gigio
Cannaregio, 3628/A Tel: 041 528 5140 www.vinidagigio.com
Venetian wine bar and restaurant run by a brother and sister. Traditional food but updated by this young couple. He can’t eat wheat so there are lots of alternatives for those like him. Try the borlotti bean and pasta soup – it makes you sigh with comfort. Wash it down with Prosecco in the style of the Contadino (peasant farmer), cloudy and light but full of flavour and dry. They also have gluten-free food.
 
On the pretty island of Burano – Go for lunch and have a walk around this colourful toy-town like island; the two best places are:-
 
Il Gatto Nero
Fondamenta della Guidecca, 88 Tel: 041 730 120, www.gattonero.com
Run by father and son team. Massimo is the son and charms the visitors speaking English with a Scottish accent while Dad works furiously in the kitchen making just delicious food. Sit outside and watch the world go by.
 
 
trattoria-da-romano
Trattoria Da Romano
Via Galuppi, 221
30012 Burano
Tel: 041 73 00 30, www.daromano.it
The oldest restaurant on the island, full of charm and run by the original family. Grandma and mum cook in the kitchen while Dad serves the customers. They are busy and bustling and serve simple, traditional food. The fritto misto and risotto are their specialties, ask to watch Mirko throw toss the risotto in the pan.
 
On the glass making island of Murano
busa-alla-torre-da-lele
Busa alla la Torre da Lele
Tel: 041 739 662 – you don’t need an address just ask when you get off the boat.
Flame haired Viking-like Lele shops, cooks and breathes Venetian food. Very traditional and good cooking from a passionate man.
 
Bacari – bars that sell cichetti and drinks
These are great often stand up bars where the locals go for a snack like little fried meatballs or tiny filled panini. You can sit down in some but they are often small. Drink Proseco or order an Aperol or Campari Spritz. No need to book unless you want to sit down. There are so many bars but these are our favourites.
 
Al Merca
213 San Polo – as its name suggests it is near the old market at Rialto and sells really good cichetti. You have to stand outside as the bar is miniscule. Go at 6pm and mix with the locals drinking Spritz and eating meatballs.
 
cicchetti
Cantina Do Spade
859 San Polo
Tel: 041 521 0583 – serves risotto to the locals at 12 noon, cichetti and simple plates, good for lunch or light supper. Its snug, warm and busy so good on a cold day.
 
Il Cantinone già Schiavi
Fondamenta Nani, 30123 in the Dorsodoro area. A really lovely wine shop, bar and caffe all in one serving cichetti made by the owner Allesandra de Respinis. She has written a book about her recipes which you can buy. Lovely atmosphere and choice.
 
 IMG_1723BoatBurano_hi copy

Photo by Helen Cathcart

 
Things to do
Take a rowing lesson with Row Venice or better still a Cichetti Row when you are shown how to row a gondola and you stop off at bars along the way! Our guide was Nan and she is really knowledgeable about wines as well as rowing. http://rowvenice.org
 
Take an authentic and informative cooking lesson with two fun local ladies; Monica and Arianna or let Monica take you for a tour of her favourite cicchetti bars, see www.cookinvenice.com
 
See all our recipes and recommendations for Venice in our book ‘Venice -Recipes Lost and Found’ which you can be purchased here.

Not just for Halloween..

Pumpkins are in season, so in the spirit of making hay while the sun shines… or is that making soup while the fog surrounds? Here’s our family favourite recipe for warming pumpkin soup that features in our book ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found‘ :-
GH9A8302CaldesiVenice copy
Zuppa di Zucca
Pumpkin Soup
This soup was served to us at the restaurant of the same name, La Zucca, in tiny backstreet in Venice where they serve mainly vegetarian food and primarily those dishes are made with pumpkin. There are paintings of pumpkins on the walls and pumpkin-coloured paper placemats too. The food is different to the typical Venetian food and it has a really good following so if you plan to go make sure you book in advance. This soup is loosely based on their recipe and I think it does help to find the best quality pumpkin (not the Halloween type, they are too watery and have no flavour) you can. In Venice, they mainly use the mantovana pumpkin variety, which is squat, large and pale green.  Remember to save your peelings to add to other vegetable off cuts if you are making a stock.
Serves 6–8
6 tablespoons best quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) pumpkin (around 1/2 butternut squash), cut into 3 cm (11/4 in) cubes
1 carrot, cut into 2 cm (3/4 in) cubes
1 stick celery, cut into 2 cm cubes
2 white onions, cut into 2 cm cubes1/2 red chilli (chile), finely chopped
1.2 litres (2 pints 9 fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock (bouillon)
400 g (14 oz) tin cannellini beans, drained, or 350 g (12 oz) cooked beans from dried
handful of kale, chard or spinach
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g feta cheese, optional
 
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic, pumpkin, carrot, celery and onion. Reduce the heat, cover with the lid and sweat for 20 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. Add the chilli (you can add more or less according to your taste) and fry for 2 minutes.
making soup
Pour in the stock, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Italians tend to purée roughly a third of their soups to thicken them. This used to be done with a passetutto but you can use a stick blender instead, I did. Stir in the beans and kale. Cook for 2–3 minutes until the kale is soft. Season to taste and serve with a swirl of your best olive oil, a little black pepper and (though not strictly Italian) a crumble of feta cheese.
soup made 2
You can buy ‘Venice – Recipes Lost and Found’, which includes a whole range of Venetian recipes both historic and modern day, online here.

Seabass Saltimbocca

This is one of our friend Stefania’s ‘supper in three ingredients’ recipes. She likes to have everything ready
around her, including a side dish of potatoes or Green Beans with Lemon, as it is a quick dish to cook.
Sea Bass with Parma Ham and Sage Leaves
Saltimbocca di Spigola
SeabassSaltimbocca web version
Serves 4
8 small skin-on sea bass
or sea bream fillets
(approx. 180 g/6 oz each)
salt and freshly ground
black pepper
4 slices prosciutto
8 large sage leaves
plain (all-purpose) or
‘00’ flour for dusting
2 tablespoons olive oil
50 ml (2 fl oz) white wine
30 g (1 oz) salted butter
 
METHOD: Season both sides of the fish. Cut the prosciutto in
half widthways so you have 8 slices. Lay a slice of prosciutto and
a sage leaf on top of the skinless side of the fish and fix them
into place with a toothpick. Repeat this for each fillet. Put some
flour into a bowl and dust each piece of fish in flour; shake off the
excess and put them on a plate.
 
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the fish prosciuttoside
down for 2 minutes and then turn over when just browned.
Fry skin-side down for another 2–3 minutes or until the fish is
cooked through. Add the wine and allow to evaporate. Stir in the
butter to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat and serve the
fish straight away drizzled with the sauce.
For more recipes from ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ buy signed copies of the book here.