VENETO CAMPO - step by step instructions

The Veneto spans much of north-east Italy, from Venice itself on the shores of the Adriatic all the way to the foothills of the Dolomites. The vegetables here are exquisite; particularly the various types of radicchio, each named after the towns and cities of the region; a kind of salad-y badge of honour; Treviso, Chioggia, Verona, Castelfranco et al. In Venice itself, vegetables come from the island of St Erasmo in the lagoon, while the wider region features fertile plains leading to the mountains, themselves a rich pastureland for cows to produce fat alpine cheeses, and delicate ricotta. Here we bring them together, and hope very much that you enjoy the result!

Pumpkin in saor
 ~
Spinach & ricotta malfatti, with brown butter and sage
Castelfranco & tardivo salad
 ~
Tiramisù

 

For your meal you will need:

A pan for boiling water

A frying pan for the brown butter

A bowl for dressing the salad

The detailed recipes for the dishes are below, but in essence:

  • Let the pumpkin come to room temperature, then arrange prettily on a plate, and scatter with the wild fennel
  • Eat it, with some grilled bread if desired
  • Drop the malfatti into the boiling water, and cook for 2 minutes or so
  • Meanwhile brown the butter with the sage, then add the malfatti and eat
  • Dress the bitter leaves with sweet vinegar and oil
  • Decide you’re too full for dessert, then change your mind and scoff the tiramisu

Pumpkin in saor

Fish ‘in saor’ –  smothered with sweet sour onions & wine vinegar – is a classic of the Venetian repertoire, a method of preserving an abundant catch. Here, we have pumpkin in the same way, a more modern classic but no less Venetian, a rich and sweet vegetable that marries wonderfully with the strong flavours of the marinade. 

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • Delica pumpkin, soused with onions, pine nuts, raisins & wine vinegar
  • A few leaves of wild fennel

 Directions:

  • Remove the pumpkin from the fridge at least half an hour before you wish to eat it
  • Arrange the slices on a plate, then spoon over the onion, raisins, pine nuts and remaining saor mix
  • Sprinkle with the wild fennel leaves

Spinach and ricotta malfatti with brown butter & sage

My dad always used to cook these for me as a kid, and I used to love them. In fact, he still does, and I still do. The flavour is incredibly delicate, the texture soft, with all the comfort of eating baby food, thanks to the ricotta. Scented with nutmeg, and tossed in rich brown butter and sage, they are a delight.

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • Malfatti, lovingly made and badly shaped
  • Butter & sage leaves
  • Parmesan

Directions:

  • Bring a large pan of well salted (10g/lt) water to the boil
  • Add the malfatti and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes, until hot through
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over a high heat
  • Add the sage leaves, and cook the two together until the butter is dark gold and nutty, and the sage crisp – careful here as butter a shade too light tastes fatty and a little bland, and a shade too dark and it will have a bitter edge. I always cook it in a stainless pan so I can see the colour clearly, and cook just until it stops sizzling, but not a second longer.
  • As soon as the butter is ready, drain the malfatti well and tip straight into the pan of hot butter
  • Shake the pan gently to coat the malfatti, then transfer to plates, pouring over any remaining butter and sage
  • Scatter with the parmesan and serve

Castelfranco & tardivo salad with balsamic & hazelnuts

These are, to my mind, the two most beautiful radicchio of the Veneto (and so the world). Castelfranco is a pale yellow, with leaves brilliantly mottled with flecks of pink, while tardivo, a forced variety of Treviso, has long thin leaves that curl like a roosters tail, slender & deathly pale stalks bright with burgundy foliage. Both taste exquisite, with just enough bitterness to be interesting. Here we dress them with olive oil and with aged balsamic to offset the bitterness, and scatter them with the wonderful hazelnuts of nearby Piemonte.

Your pack serves two as a side and contains:

  • Some leaves of castelfranco and tardivo
  • Some roasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts
  • A small pack containing a mix of fine balsamic and olive oil

Directions:

  • Place the leaves in a bowl, and scatter over half the nuts
  • Pour on the dressing, season with a pinch of salt, and dress delicately but thoroughly (all manner of implements work for this, but nothing beats using your hands)
  • Place on a plate, and scatter with the remaining nuts

Tiramisù

There is something insanely satisfying about retro foods, and tiramisù is no exception. It is almost the definition of a cliché dessert – very safe… and very vanilla, to couch it in a bedroom term. It is hard to describe my delight when I learned its origins are not so salubrious as one might imagine. Tira-mi-sù means ‘pick me up’ – a rather charming name for a cheery pudding, spiked as it is with espresso. The academy of tiramisù (yes, there is such a thing – Italy treats its culinary heritage with due import, and every dish of note has its own guild or knighthood or foundation) tells a different story: ‘… this dessert was invented by a clever “maitresse” of a house of pleasure in the centre of Treviso. The “Siora” who ran the premises developed this aphrodisiac dessert to offer to customers at the end of the evening in order to reinvigorate them and solve the problems they may have had with their conjugal duties on their return to their wives.’ Not such a frumpy dessert after all...

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • A tiramisù, to share

Directions:

  • Remove from the fridge 10-15 minutes before eating, to take the edge off
  • Spoon gently onto plates, then eat