Paparot (Polenta and spinach soup from Friuli Venezia Giulia)

Paparot - Spinach and polenta soup
Paparot – Spinach and polenta soup

“Paparot”: This must be the most charming name for a dish – a substantial, garlicky soup from Friuli Venezia Giulia: spinach, corn/maize flour and sausage meat. It is one of those dishes where the final result is far greater than the list of its ingredients might suggest. The spinach is first cooked and chopped, then it is added to a base of lardo (or pancetta or butter), garlic and/or sausage meat. When the spinach has absorbed all these lovely, porky flavours (in Italian cookery terms, we call this all-important step insaporire, which translates as “to make tasty”), corn or maize flour is added and then water (or broth, if you have it). The soup is then cooked for a good hour. It’s quite basic, as you can see, and not much to look at, perhaps, but the flavour is very good, if you like this kind of rustic, elementary food.  Continue reading

Sgombro sott’olio fatto in casa (homemade olive oil cured mackerel)

 

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This picture shows a typical Italian summer salad:  fagiolini, patate e sgombro sotto olio – that is, green beans, potatoes and mackerel preserved in olive oil. It is a no-fuss, quick salad and most Italians would use shop-bought canned fish, but I have always found it very dry – and I did try also very expensive brands.  Fortunately, to preserve mackerel (and tuna, for that matter – but tuna is an endangered species and it is best avoided) in olive oil is dead easy and delivers a far better product – flaky, tender and not at all dry. The key is to poach the fish extremely gently and for a relatively short time. Continue reading

Battuto di lardo, aglio e rosmarino (whipped lardo with rosemary and garlic)

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Lardo is one of the most delicious of Italian salumi. It is pork hard back that has been cured with salt and flavoured with herbs, garlic and spices. You can spot it in any good salumeria, the typical Italian delicatessen: it comes in large, squat slabs smothered in salt, pepper and herbs and almost marble white within. Lardo has a sweet, mellow, delicate porky flavor and a melt-in-your mouth, satiny, luscious texture. Continue reading

Risoto de peoci (Risotto with mussels)

This is a risotto from Veneto, North-east Italy, a region that offers a magnificent but restrained fish and seafood cuisine, well exemplified by this sober, briny risotto with mussels – Peoci is local dialect for mussels, cozze in Italian.  If you happen to spend a few days in Venice, the capital of Veneto, do check the Rialto fish market,  which is a cornucopia of marine life and whose charm made Elizabeth David write one of most celebrated pieces of food writing in English. It is as magical now as it was sixty years ago. Continue reading