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

Brodo, cavolo, orzo, castagne (Beef broth, barley, cabbage and chestnut soup)

Beef broth with cabbage, barley and chestnuts soup
Beef broth with cabbage, barley and chestnuts soup

Ideal cold weather fare. I had some excellent beef broth in the fridge (made with a beef tongue, some brisket and some chicken + usual aromatics: celery, carrot, onion in which I had stuck a clove, parsley, bay leaf) and other bits and bobs: finely shredded,steamed cabbage, some boiled pearl barley and some boiled and peeled chestnuts. To make a minestra was the obvious choice.
I reheated everything together + a generous handful of parmesan a tavola.

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