Risotto, frittata, vignole: Russell Norman’s basic recipes from Venice | Life and magnificence


When Russell Norman put collectively a proposal to jot down a cookbook about Venice – his favorite metropolis, 1 he’s visited greater than 100 instances, and the inspiration for his widespread Polpo eating places – his first thought was: nobody’s going to fall for this.

Why? “Because it sounded like I wanted to go on a jolly for 14 months,” he laughs after we meet for tea in Soho, simply across the nook from the unique Polpo on Beak Street. “I wanted to discover the true culinary heart of Venice over four seasons. The only way I could do that, I said in the proposal, was by living there, as a Venetian, for at least a year and writing the book in real time.”

The writer thought it gave the impression of a fantastic concept. Norman’s spouse Jules was much less satisfied. “I hadn’t discussed it with her,” he says, frowning. “It caused a bit of tension, quite understandably. The way I got round that – not that I completely got round it – was to come back home every week or 10 days and then fly my family out there on school holidays and half-terms.”

Russell Norman in Venice

Russell Norman in Venice Photograph: Jenny Zarins

Approval granted, he rented a small house within the comparatively untouristy Castello neighbourhood – in the identical constructing the place he’d stayed on his first go to to Venice in 1986 – and set about observing his neighbours. Not happy with jotting down just a few basic recipes, Norman wished to go to the market each morning like Mrs Povinelli subsequent door, then construct the day’s cooking and consuming round its numerous delights – moeche crabs in March, castraure artichokes in late April, radicchio in October.

This did contain some relatively stalkerish behaviour, however he says the neighbours welcomed his curiosity within the contents of their procuring trolleys, typically inviting him into their properties to look at them cook dinner bovoletti snails, or risi e bisi on the Feast of St Mark. Spending time with locals additionally heightened Norman’s sense of the pressures Venice faces from tourism. “There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a tourist destination,” he says. “But sustainable tourism is very different to the more damaging type”, which Norman associates with Airbnb and daytrippers on “the huge cruise ships that come down the Giudecca canal blotting out the sun”. The ebook, he hopes, advocates for a extra delicate strategy to the town. Norman estimates a 3rd of the recipes got here from his neighbours, a 3rd from pleasant restaurateurs, and a 3rd from his personal experiments in his tiny kitchen in Castello – although he’s fast to level out that lots of his eureka moments turned out to be slight variations on dishes that another lagoon-dweller got here up with 500 years in the past.

As for his Venice obsession, 14 months of recipe searching hasn’t cured it: he already has his subsequent journey deliberate and booked.

Aged parmesan risotto

Aged parmesan risotto

Photograph: Jenny Zarins

Much has been written about umami, that mysterious 5th flavour which sits alongside the extra acquainted candy, bitter, bitter and salty. It’s not as simple to outline because the well-known 4, however most of us can determine it after we style it. It contributes unctuousness, roundness and mouthfeel when it’s current and often makes you wish to eat extra. Parmesan cheese is one in every of its best-known exponents, so its ubiquity in Italian cooking is unsurprising; it makes nearly every thing style higher. What is uncommon is to see parmesan as a essential ingredient. This risotto requires actually glorious high quality aged cheese, so do purchase the perfect you’ll be able to afford.

Serves 4
hen inventory 1.5 litres
butter 75g
white onion 1 massive, very finely chopped
flaky sea salt
carnaroli rice 350g
dry vermouth a small glass
parmesan 150g, glorious high quality, aged, finely grated

Heat the inventory in a big pan behind the range and maintain it simmering, ladle on the prepared. Melt half of the butter in a big, heavy-bottomed pan over a medium warmth and add the onion with just a few pinches of salt. Sauté till shiny and translucent, turning steadily with a wood spoon, then add the rice. Make positive every grain is coated and the onion and rice are absolutely included.

Now, pour within the vermouth, benefit from the pungent cloud of boozy steam, and when the liquid has virtually all evaporated, add 1 ladle of inventory and stir. Repeat this for 15 minutes, rigorously including the inventory a small ladleful at a time, by no means permitting the rice to totally dry out however not waterlogging it both.

When the rice is sort of achieved, however nonetheless has a little bit of chunk (take a look at a grain between your entrance enamel), add a last splash of inventory, the remaining butter, and switch up the warmth. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds and take away from the range. Add a lot of the parmesan, stir a couple of times, and canopy. Rest for a full minute earlier than serving on heat plates. Scatter over the remaining parmesan and garnish with a twist of black pepper.

Frittata with prawns and dill

Frittata with prawns and dill

Photograph: Jenny Zarins

Frittata is never eaten scorching, and it’s only by leaving it to chill or consuming it chilly from the fridge the next day that you simply get to understand the gently agency however yielding texture which is such an vital facet of the dish. This 1 with prawns and dill is ideal for lunch on a sunny day.

For 4
further virgin olive oil
onion 1 small, peeled and sliced
prawns 120g small, cooked and peeled
flaky sea salt
entire milk
eggs 4 medium, crushed
dill a small handful
freshly floor black pepper

Heat a glug of olive oil in a smallish non-stick frying pan (all-metal, no plastic handles for this recipe please) over a low warmth. Sauté the onion for 8 minutes, till mushy and translucent. Add the prawns with a great pinch of salt and stir just a few instances to coat them within the oil and incorporate with the onions. Put a splash of milk in with the crushed eggs and pour every thing into the pan. Stir within the dill. Preheat the grill.

Leave the pan on a low warmth for about 10 minutes, till the frittata is usually strong, however the prime floor continues to be a little bit liquid and pale. Put the pan beneath the grill till the highest is golden brown. Remove rigorously utilizing oven gloves – the deal with could also be extremely popular – and permit to chill. Turn on to a plate and serve heat, in quarters, with a twist of black pepper and a crunchy salad, or put it into the fridge to serve chilly the following day with a pinch of flaky sea salt.

Sweet and bitter slip soles

Sweet and sour slip soles

Photograph: Jenny Zarins

As a seafaring nation, 13th-century Venice needed to devise methods of feeding its sailors typically a number of days or perhaps weeks after they’d set sail. The strategy of preserving frivolously fried sardines in vinegar with the addition of sautéed onion and dried fruit and nuts is a superb instance of necessity because the mom of invention. In 1 neat package deal, a lot of the important meals teams are coated, together with, crucially for sailors, onions: excessive in vitamin C and ideal for holding scurvy at bay. The dish is extraordinarily tasty and it’s nonetheless made precisely the identical manner as we speak. Most fish might be ready on this fashion, from sardines to mackerel, prawns to the slip soles right here. The dish tastes higher after just a few days and is at all times eaten at room temperature.

Serves 4, as a starter
slip sole fillets 8 small, skinned
‘00’ flour 200g
further virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
white onions 4 massive, sliced
raisins a small handful
pine nuts a small handful
caster sugar 50g
white wine vinegar a glass
white wine a glass
freshly floor black pepper

Make positive the slip soles are cleaned and dried, dredge them in flour, then lay them in a really massive frying pan during which you’ve got heated 2cm of olive oil over a excessive flame.

Fry for two minutes or so, turning them a couple of times, till they’re properly golden brown. Rest the fried soles on kitchen paper and sprinkle generously with salt whereas they’re scorching.

Using the identical pan, flip the warmth right down to low to medium, add a splash extra olive oil if obligatory, and gently sauté the onions for 15 minutes, till translucent and mushy however with out browning them in any respect.

Add the raisins, pine nuts and sugar and stir just a few instances. Now pour within the vinegar and the white wine, and switch the warmth as much as enable the combination to bubble for a couple of minutes.

When the onions look shiny and yield when pressed with a wood spoon, take away from the warmth and permit to chill a little bit.

Lay 4 of the soles within the backside of a big, fairly serving dish (ideally 1 for which you’ve got a lid). Pour over slightly below half of the onion combination, to cowl the fish. Now lay the final 4 soles on prime and end by pouring over and layering the remaining onion combine in order that the fish are absolutely coated.

Add a twist of black pepper, put the lid on, and depart within the fridge for 24 to 48 hours.

Make positive you take away the dish from the fridge half of an hour earlier than you might be able to serve. Traditionally eaten with a slice of grilled polenta.



Photograph: Jenny Zarins

My favorite strategy to begin making this spring basic is to place a small desk and a chair on the balcony overlooking the washing traces alongside the road, and sit within the solar to pod all of the peas and shell all of the broad beans. I at all times strive very laborious to not eat all of the peas uncooked, straight from the pod, and can typically purchase greater than I have to compensate for my lack of willpower.If you see child spring leeks on the greengrocer, purchase a few these, too, wash and slice them and put them into the pan with the onion.

This is scrumptious on a scorching day served at room temperature, maybe as an accompaniment to a merely grilled fillet of sea bream.

Serves 4
child artichokes 8, trimmed of laborious outer leaves and woody stalk
contemporary child broad beans 1kg of their pods, to yield 250g beans
chard 300g, chopped roughly
further virgin olive oil
good butter a big knob
white onion 1 massive, peeled and finely chopped
hen inventory 350ml
contemporary peas 1kg of their pods, podded to yield 500g peas
prosciutto 6 thick slices, reduce into ribbons
mint leaves a big handful, picked and washed
flaky sea salt
freshly floor black pepper

hat it presents little resistance – and drain. When they’ve cooled, peel off and discard any laborious outer leaves that stay. Trim and peel the stem if nonetheless woody, till you attain the tender flesh. Cut every artichoke into quarters and put aside.

In a contemporary pan of salted boiling water, blanch the broad beans for two minutes and take away with a slotted spoon. Now add the chard for a minute or 2 till it begins to wilt. Drain and put aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the butter in a really massive saucepan. Soften the onion for 10 minutes, then add the inventory and the peas. Bring to the boil very briefly, then add the prosciutto and cut back to a simmer. Let all of it bubble gently for 10 minutes.

Add the chard, artichokes and broad beans and simmer once more for 8 to 10 minutes. Roughly chop the mint and stir in with a great pinch of salt and a twist of pepper.

Taste and modify the seasoning if obligatory, then add a great glug of olive oil, stir just a few instances and serve on warmed plates with a hunk of crusty bread.

Almond cake

Almond Cake

Photograph: Jenny Zarins

My favorite cake store is Rizzardini close to Campo San Polo, run by Paolo and his daughter Marta. The pastries are tremendous, however I are inclined to go for the little muffins. They have an almond slice I significantly like. Here’s my relatively extra homely model, excellent with a milky espresso as a morning deal with.

Serves 8
butter for greasing
eggs 4 medium
caster sugar 150g
floor almonds 160g
potato flour 40g
lemon juice and zest of 1
amaretto 25ml
sliced almonds a big handful

Grease a 20cm springform cake tin with butter and preheat the oven to 180C/gasoline mark 4.

Separate the eggs, inserting the yolks in a really massive mixing bowl and the whites in a medium bowl. Add the caster sugar to the yolks and beat till pale and clean. Now step by step incorporate the bottom almonds and flour, the lemon zest, lemon juice and amaretto, beating to create a thick, constant combination.

Take the bowl of egg whites and whisk them enthusiastically into stiff, fluffy peaks. Now, rigorously fold them into the almond combination and incorporate nicely. Transfer the combination into the greased cake tin, evenly scatter the sliced almonds, and place within the oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Test for doneness by pushing a metal skewer into the centre of the cake – it ought to come out dry. Allow the cake to chill for 10 minutes, then switch to a wire cake rack. Serve heat with a handful of contemporary raspberries as a dessert or with an espresso for a mid-morning indulgence. OFM

Venice by Russell Norman (Fig Tree, £26). To order a duplicate for £22, go to guardianbookshop.com or name 0330 333 6846.

Russell Norman interview by Killian Fox from theguardian.com

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