VENETO MARE - step by step instructions

The Veneto is a large region, much of which is not coastal, but Venice is, of course, the jewel in the crown. The Venetian lagoon harbours all kinds of sea creatures; from majestic bass & turbot to the rather unpleasant looking – a lagoon goby that is nevertheless transformed into a risotto that is the delicacy of Burano (not including lace, of course). Here we have scallops baked with parmesan crumbs, and risotto stained black with the ink of the cuttlefish it is cooked with. These are foods that have been treasured here for centuries, finished with a dessert that has existed for just a few decades, yet conquered the world.

Baked scallops with parmesan, lemon & thyme
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Risotto nero, with cuttlefish & gremolata
Castelfranco & tardivo salad
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Tiramisù

 

For your meal you will need:

A tray for baking the scallops

A wide saucepan or deep frying pan for the risotto

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

  • Pop the scallops on a baking tray, dot with butter & crumbs, and slip into a hot oven for 5-6 minutes, then eat
  • Warm the cuttlefish stew, then add the rice, and cook the two together until delicious, then sprinkle with gremolata
  • Dress the bitter leaves with sweet vinegar and oil
  • Decide you’re too full for dessert, then change your mind and scoff the tiramisu

 

Baked scallops with breadcrumbs & parmesan

Italians will tell you there is a cardinal rule that seafood must never, ever, be served with cheese. What they don’t tell you is that they’re really not very good at obeying rules. Here we have a rule-breakingly good dish of scallops baked with parmesan crumbs, scented with lemon zest and thyme. Mum’s the word.

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • Two fat scallops, on the half shell
  • A little butter
  • Some Breadcrumbs, flavoured with parmesan, lemon zest & thyme
  • Half a lemon

 Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to maximum
  • Season the scallops with salt & pepper, then dot with the butter
  • Loosely mound the breadcrumbs atop, then pop into the oven
  • Bake for 4-6 minutes, until the crumbs are crisp and golden, and the scallops lightly cooked
  • Serve with the lemon

Risotto nero, cuttlefish & gremolata

There is something dangerous and sexual about black food, as though it might be best enjoyed in a dungeon. Without colour we are blindfolded – what could the ingredients be? What do they taste like? And is that the clatter of forks and spoons, or my chains rattling again? Black food offers a means for the tame and the oppressed to develop a taste for the dark side.

Your pack serves two and contains:

  • Vialone nano rice, par cooked by us with fennel, wine & ink
  • Cuttlefish, braised till meltingly tender in its own ink
  • Gremolata
  • Some good butter & even better oil

Directions:

  • Boil a full kettle, or a saucepan with a litre or two of water
  • In a wide pan, on a medium heat, bring the cuttlefish stew to a simmer
  • Add the rice, and break up any clumps with a wooden spoon
  • Add a little of the freshly boiled water (half a cup or so), increase the heat to high, and cook the rice and cuttlefish together until the rice is just cooked and still with bite, adding water little by little as needed, and stirring regularly
  • When ready, remove from the heat, then beat in the butter, oil and half the gremolata
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning
  • Pour onto warmed plates, and sprinkle with the remaining gremolata

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