Life Love Food http://www.lifelovefood.co A Recipe Journal by Valeria Necchio Fri, 29 Jun 2018 07:33:35 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 106733212 Veneto in the USA + A Recipe for Pumpkin Rice Soup http://www.lifelovefood.co/pumpkin-rice-soup/ http://www.lifelovefood.co/pumpkin-rice-soup/#comments Wed, 29 Nov 2017 10:42:37 +0000 http://www.lifelovefood.co/?p=3645 I earnestly thought that this day was never going to come.  And then, just like that, I flipped the page of my planner and there it is, a scribbled note on November 28th reminding me that yes, the day has indeed finally come: US Publication Day. I can hardly believe it. It was a long

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Pumpkin Rice Soup

I earnestly thought that this day was never going to come.  And then, just like that, I flipped the page of my planner and there it is, a scribbled note on November 28th reminding me that yes, the day has indeed finally come: US Publication Day. I can hardly believe it. It was a long sailing, I know it was. Those of you who had to wait so long to put your hands on a copy: I can’t thank you enough for your patience. I hope you think it was worth the wait.

The first impressions from friends and readers across the pond are slowly coming in, and I can earnestly say that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. This new wave of comments is energising, but also very helpful. More than anything it’s helping me see the book with fresh eyes, which is just what I needed. So thank you. Thank you for cooking and sharing, for commenting and cheering and, of course, for buying the book in the first place. Thank you for your ongoing support always. Grazie.

Speaking of support, or better still, of sustenance, the recipe below provides just that. That’s only part of the reason why I like it so. The other is that it ticks all the boxes for the busy home cook who wants to put something satisfying, comforting and thrifty on the table, with very little washing up. It’s a seasonal weeknight staple around here. I can’t count how many times I’ve made it since pumpkin season kicked in.

Pumpkin Rice Soup

The soup is a  traditional Venetian recipe that Mum passed down to me. It is, of course, included in the book, alongside a handful of other rice-based dishes (remember this one with peas?). So, without further ado, below is the recipe as found the book, including the headnotes. I hope you’ll enjoy it; I hope that it’ll make you hungry for more.


RISI E SUCA (RICE & PUMPKIN SOUP)

Extact from ‘Veneto‘ by Valeria Necchio (Guardian Faber)

There’s a lot to love about this thrifty Venetian soup, not least the fact that it provides warmth and comfort with little to no effort. Funnily enough, it never ranked in Mum’s list of favourites — she found certain kinds of pumpkin ‘sickeningly sweet’ — though she would happily make it for us whenever Grandma gifted us with one of her home-grown pumpkins. Mum’s trick to balance the sweet inclinations of this soup is to enhance its savoury side by means of some crumbled fresh salame or sausage. The fact that this addition wasn’t very traditional didn’t bother her (who complains about sausage?). Ultimately, though, it all boils down to personal taste. Leave the sausage out and you’ll have one of the oldest Venetian soups out there.

Serves 4

30g | 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 golden onion, finely chopped
800g | 1lb 12oz pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3cm | 1.2 inch chunks
1.5 litres | 6¼ cups vegetable or chicken stock, heated
250g | 1¼ cups risotto rice (such as Vialone Nano or Carnaroli)
100g | 3½oz Italian pork sausage, crumbled (optional)
50g | 1¾oz Grana Padano, grated
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a wide, heavy-based pan, melt the butter and, when hot and bubbly, add the chopped onion and fry gently until soft and translucent, stirring often so it doesn’t colour. Stir in the pumpkin and cook over a mediumlow heat until just softened on the outside, stirring frequently. Pour in the hot stock and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the pumpkin falls apart. Remove from the heat and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Place the pan of pumpkin stock back over a medium heat and, as soon as it comes back to the boil, add the rice. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice feels tender and the soup has turned dense and creamy; stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, if using, fry the crumbled sausage in a dry frying pan until browned and cooked through. Stir it into the soup at the very last minute alongside the grated Grana. Serve with a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper.

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On Book Publishing + A Wild Plum Ricotta Tart http://www.lifelovefood.co/wild-plum-ricotta-tart/ http://www.lifelovefood.co/wild-plum-ricotta-tart/#comments Mon, 07 Aug 2017 13:27:21 +0000 http://www.lifelovefood.co/?p=3357 In earnest, I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. Dispatching a book into the world, I mean. I thought, perhaps, that it was going to feel like a piece of you leaving your body and starting a life of its own – as if one day your arm decided to stop responding

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In earnest, I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. Dispatching a book into the world, I mean. I thought, perhaps, that it was going to feel like a piece of you leaving your body and starting a life of its own – as if one day your arm decided to stop responding to your commands and became a thinking entity. And, in part, that’s how it felt. But it also felt like the gnome in the movie Amélie. Have you seen it? If you have, you might remember how, at one point, the gnome starts sending Polaroids from the places he visits. It’s funny, but that’s what the book did to me, too. Not only did it breach into the world, it also began to send me postcards from places like Milan, London, Zürich, Venice, Paris.

This, of course, is all thanks to you. It is you who send me pictures of Veneto in your kitchen, in bookshops, in cafés and any other place in which a book feels at home. It is you who turn it into a living thing – by using it, splattering it, reading it and, hopefully, loving it. So thank you for this, from the depth of my heart. Thank you for buying the book and for filling my heart with warm pride. Thank you also for the many sweet notes, emails, messages. I am beyond humbled and so, so glad you are enjoying reading and cooking from it. Please keep them coming, please keep sharing. It truly means the world.

Meanwhile, summer has, like every year, been slipping in between my fingers. Heat and humidity have been relentless, which means that I, in turn, have been spending quite a lot of time laying down, catching a breather. But there was also a small creative gathering with four wonderful talented girls in Venice, which left me hugely inspired. And a few day trips here and there to some of my favourite places in the region. But mostly, I’ve been enjoying the quietness and domesticity and the sense of comfort that comes with spending a slow summer in the house in which I grew up, surrounded by what’s familiar and reassuringly unchanged.

Predictably, meals have been stripped back, as they always are in the summer. We have been living off of whatever has been growing in the garden. Cooking came down to almost zero, swapped with much salad tossing. We turned off the stove and lighted the barbecue, bought an ice-cream maker that has been churning sorbet since the day it arrived. I love this sort of eating: easy, full of bold flavours, colourful. I miss it all year.

The oven went on very rarely, but there were days in which I missed baking. One of my biggest weaknesses is baking with seasonal fruits, because there is something so fleeting about summer fruit, and so precious, that I always feel guilty not worshipping it. So whenever I turned the oven on this past month, it was to bake a fruity dessert. Something we could have the following morning for breakfast – as the Italians do – or mid-afternoon with some iced coffee (did I mention Jesse bought a new contraption to make cold brew? We love it!).

This tart is the result of a collage of inspirations. First, Rachel’s crostata di visciole, a Roman classic from early summer. Visciole are sour cherries. As per the traditional recipe, they are turned into compote and then spooned onto a shell of sugar pastry, and finally topped with a generous layer of sweetened ricotta. I followed a similar concept for this tart, except I used wild plums (amoli) instead. We had harvested a ton from some forsaken trees dotting the countryside around my family home, and we were eager to use them up. Crostata came to mind right away.

Just like visciole, amoli have an infectious sour note that gives sharpeness to anything sweet. For the sake of this recipe, though, know that any kind of plum will do, as long as they have a vague tart edge. Otherwise, good plum jam is also nice. As for the pastry, I was tempted to try this spelt version from Emiko. It worked a charm and rolled so easily I couldn’t belive it. Also, the slight rusticity of the wholegrain produced a welcome contrast of textures with the smooth filling…That said, if you have a favourite sugar pastry recipe, use that.


Wild Plum Ricotta Tart

For the plum compote:
500g wild plums (or other cooking plums), stoned
100g caster sugar

For the spelt sugar pastry:
250g spelt flour, sifted
125g cold butter, cubed
60g icing sugar, sifted
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the ricotta layer:
500g ricotta, drained
1 egg
50g caster sugar

Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Put the plums in a saucepan along with the sugar and 60ml of water. Set them over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the plums are very tender. Press the compote through a sieve to remove the skins. Place the pulp back into the saucepan and reduce to a soft, jam-like texture over a medium heat, stirring occasionally but keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t stick and burn. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To make the pastry, rub the cubed butter into the spelt flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and the eggs and work it all together into smooth ball of pastry. Wrap it in cling film and chill for at least 1 hour – it should be firm and cold as it’s easier to work with.

Meanwhile, make the ricotta layer by whisking together the ricotta with the eggs and sugar until fully combined.

Preheat the oven to 180°C | 350°F. Take the pastry out of the fridge. Roll two-thirds of the pastry out to a disc about 2 to 3mm thick and large enough to line your tart tin. Press it lightly to adhere to the bottom and edges, then trim any excess pastry falling off the edges. Pierce the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork. Spoon the plum compote on top and spread it even. Next, spoon the ricotta mixture to cover.

Roll out the rest of the dough into another disc and cut out strips to make a lattice over the top of the tart, securing the edges together by pressing gently. Set the tart on a rack in the centre of the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the lattice is golden and the ricotta layer appears puffy and airy. Remove from the oven and let cool and set completely before cutting it. If you like, you can dust it with icing sugar before slicing it.


Find out more and buy your copy of Veneto here.

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Veneto Book Trailer 2 + A Recipe for Folpetti e Patate http://www.lifelovefood.co/folpetti-patate/ http://www.lifelovefood.co/folpetti-patate/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 21:28:51 +0000 http://www.lifelovefood.co/?p=3343 One of my favourite long essays from the book tells the story of a food stall in Padova. Parked in one of the central piazzas from mid-afternoon until dark, ready to sort out your pre-dinner snack, La Folperia (this the telling name of the stall)  dishes out plate after plate of folpetti – boiled baby

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folpetti e patate

One of my favourite long essays from the book tells the story of a food stall in Padova.

Parked in one of the central piazzas from mid-afternoon until dark, ready to sort out your pre-dinner snack, La Folperia (this the telling name of the stall)  dishes out plate after plate of folpetti – boiled baby octopus droused in emerald-green salsa verde. This is not all it offers, mind. Max and Barbara, the affable stall ownders, can also sort out some seafood salad if you like. But it’s certain that octopus is the main point of attraction for both regulars and newcomers. Or, at least, I know it was for me.

I paid this stall a number of visits during my University years, always for folpetti, and always with a glass of white wine in hand. On these occasions I had the chance to observe the habits and behaviours, manners and hydiosincrasies, of the patrons gathering around this stall. But also to ask a few casual questions – how it’s the octopus cooked, for how long – and record them for future use. For I had never had octopus so tended before. And, to tell you the truth, I rerely have afterwards.

Now, though, whenever I make folpetti at home, I tend to turn them into a one-dish meal of sorts. This is the version that made it into the book. Potatoes are thrown in for substance, celery for crunch and freshness, and parsley for a quick touch of colour and zing that is vaguely alluding to that salsa verde.

But before we get to the recipe, I wanted to highlight – in case you haven’t seen it yet –  the second teaser video we shot for my book, as, you’ll see, it happens to have a lot to do with folpetti, and a lot to do with Padova, too. If you’ve already seen the first video, you might notice a difference in tone and aesthetic with this one. This isn’t casual. Rather, it’s meant to represents the other soul of the book – the less “country” and more “city” side of it. Behind the camera, once again, was the immensely talented Lenny Pellico, while the interior shots have been filmed in a lovely apartment by MyPlace.

And now, finally, we cook.


FOLPETTI E PATATE

A Recipe Extract from Veneto by Valeria Necchio (Guardian Faber)

Serves 4

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
750g baby (musky) octopus, cleaned and tenderised*
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
750g (about 3 large) waxy potatoes, scrubbed
1 celery stick, trimmed and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons very finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Bring a pan of water with the peppercorns and bay leaves to the boil. Stir in the octopus, cover and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until tender (the exact cooking time depends on the size of your octopus). Drain, discarding the aromatics, and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, add the octopus and sauté for 2–3 minutes, just enough for their skin to blister ever so slightly, and for the ends to curl up and become crispy. Season and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes whole, skin on, until tender all the way through. Cool them under cold running water, then peel them and cut into smallish chunks. Arrange them on a serving platter together with the sliced celery. Make the dressing with the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt and pour it over the potatoes; toss to
coat. Place the baby octopus on top, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

*You can buy tenderised baby octopus, or simply freeze them and then thaw them (check that they haven’t been frozen before) to make them more tender. To clean the bab octopus yourself, remove the eyes, beak, internal cartilage and all the insides from the head. Wash them thoroughly under cold running water and pat dry before using. Or you can ask your fishmonger to do this for you.

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Veneto Book Trailer + A Recipe Preview http://www.lifelovefood.co/veneto-book-trailer-a-recipe-preview/ http://www.lifelovefood.co/veneto-book-trailer-a-recipe-preview/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 07:45:24 +0000 http://www.lifelovefood.co/?p=3324 I am coming to you today as an old friend you don’t see for a while would: I’m full of things to tell you. The excitement is such that I might speak quickly and jump from one thing to the next without much of a connection. But  I’d rather be overflowing than forgetful. So please

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spaghetti alla busara

I am coming to you today as an old friend you don’t see for a while would: I’m full of things to tell you. The excitement is such that I might speak quickly and jump from one thing to the next without much of a connection. But  I’d rather be overflowing than forgetful. So please stick with me, and we’ll get to the recipe before you know it.

First and foremost, I meant to tell you about Veneto, my cookbook, which will be released this Thursday. I feel like I’ve talked about it for so long now, that I’m struggling to fathom how fast time has passed. One week and those of you who preordered it in Europe will have a copy at their doorstep. I’m excited and terrified. Most of all, though, I just can’t wait for you to see it. It’s time.

Then, the book trailers.

A couple of months ago, I spent a day in my homeland with talented Lenny Pellico filming two teaser videos for the book. For the first, we biked around the countryside foraging for wild hops; picked peas from the garden and fresh eggs from the coop; and then cooked some of the recipes from the book. I wanted this first trailer to set the tone for the book, and to offer a glimpse into what the Venetian countryside (and my home) really looks like. You can see it here. The second, on the other hand, is set in Padova. It’s a city I feel particularly attached to and that well represents the other soul of the book – the more modern part of it. You can see the second video here. Hope you like them.

What else? Oh, yes, I have a few surprises in the pipeline for the next few weeks. For now, though, I just wanted to share another glimpse into the book. Serendipitously, the recipe is linked to a sagra (a local food festival) that will kick start next week in my home region, and which I’m looking forward to very much.

 

Spaghetti alla Busara

An extract from Veneto by Valeria Necchio (Guardian Faber)

Every year in July the charming maritime city of Chioggia (often referred to as ‘la piccola Venezia’, The Little Venice) hosts a big festival, the sagra del pesce, celebrating its long-held fishing tradition and wonderful seafood cuisine. It has recently become an unmissable event for my parents — a sort of new family tradition, which I am happy to honour whenever I happen to be around (you’ll never see me bailing out from the prospect of a seafood feast).

Along the main pedestrian street, arrays of stalls offer a series of seafoodbased piatti tipici at reasonable prices: from fritto misto to risotto di pesce, from peoci in cassopipa (steamed mussels in parsley sauce) to baccalà. The dynamics — well — those resemble any other food festival in Italy. Patrons form scattered queues in front of the cashier, yell their order to the overwhelmed lady at the till, wait (impatiently) for a table to clear, sit down — not without pestering the tables nearby, finish a first jug of prosecco (rigorously on tap), go for a second round (hear their name, pick up their order), sit down bothering everybody once more, and finally tuck in with gusto, leaving behind a trail of emptied bivalve shells. It’s a fun, folkloristic experience; a full immersion in the atmosphere of the place, and an occasion to eat some very delicious fish.

It was at this sagra del pesce that I first tasted spaghetti alla busara. I had never come across it before (a sign of how many facets regional Italian cuisine can have, and of how different food can be even between two neighbouring towns); I was intrigued. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased to see some fat scampi coming my way as my order reached the table. The sauce itself turned out to be of the simplest kind (just tomato, parsley and a hint of chilli, all brought together by olive oil and wine) but impeccable in its basic nature; no need to mess about with good scampi after all.

Since then, spaghetti alla busara has become the sort of pasta I like making for friends when cooking Venetian. It’s impressive and yet unfussy, refined but a bit messy, and it asks for licking your fingers like there’s no tomorrow. I like to think of it as a feast in itself.


serves 4

1kg scampi
60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 golden onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, whole but lightly crushed
2 dried chillies (or ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes)
180ml dry white wine
700g (about 5–6) fresh plum tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped
400g spaghetti
1 tablespoon very finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Start by cleaning the scampi. Wash them thoroughly under cold running water, then slit the back and remove the black thread (intestine). Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion over a medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and the chillies and stir. Let them infuse the oil for a couple of minutes (reduce the heat if they look like burning), then throw in the scampi and increase the heat to high. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside. Pour in the wine; allow it to reduce over a very high heat and then add the chopped tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15–20 minutes, until the tomatoes appear saucy. If during this time the sauce dries out excessively, add a drop of water. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the spaghetti very al dente — about 3 minutes short of the suggested cooking time — reserving about 250ml of cooking water. Drain and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce and add the scampi, too. Place over a medium-high heat and pour in the reserved cooking water. Toss until the pasta has absorbed most of the liquid and is nicely coated in sauce.

Sprinkle with parsley and toss some more to combine. Serve right away.


Find out more and buy your copy of Veneto here.

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Fresh Peas with Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic and Mint http://www.lifelovefood.co/peas-in-olive-oil-with-buffalo-mozzarella-garlic-and-mint/ http://www.lifelovefood.co/peas-in-olive-oil-with-buffalo-mozzarella-garlic-and-mint/#comments Thu, 01 Jun 2017 17:37:11 +0000 http://www.lifelovefood.co/?p=3257 On the meditative properties of pea podding I could write a pamphlet. Instead, I wrote this short post, which is much shorter than a pamphlet, and thank goodness for that, for no one would read it otherwise. Perhaps you share in this sentiment: perhaps the sight of a bag of peas in their pod gets

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On the meditative properties of pea podding I could write a pamphlet. Instead, I wrote this short post, which is much shorter than a pamphlet, and thank goodness for that, for no one would read it otherwise.

Perhaps you share in this sentiment: perhaps the sight of a bag of peas in their pod gets you every time, too. It’s a form of seduction that transcends the five senses, and that breaches into the emotional. It’s their promise of peacefulness I deeply cherish. As I picture the tender spheres rubbing shoulders inside their green zip coats, all I can think of is the silence that will follow – the ritual, and the patience it summons.

I love podding peas while sitting outside in the warm May air,  with nothing around but the chirping of the birds and the sound of my thoughts, and the tap, tap tap of the fruits falling into the bowl. I enjoy the surprise of a full, perfectly formed line of peas, as crowded as sardines in a tin, and sadden at the sight of an empty pod. More than anything, though, I love seeing the bowl full at the end of the process, despite my copious snacking, and imagining all the good things that are going to come out of it.

In the ream of fresh peas, as in so many things in life, small and young and tender is best, for that’s when sweetess and juice are at their peak. As time passes, the fruits become bitter and floury and require longer sessions on the stove and more seasoning to conceal their imperfections.

In Veneto, outdoor-grown peas are ready to be picked in mid-May. So from that point onwards, we pod and pod and eat and eat them in all fashions – in risi e bisi, braised with onion and tomato sauce (both recipes are in my cookbook), and, as of late, in this intriguing new fashion.

The inspiration for this dish came from acclaimed London chef Stevie Parle, whose recipe suggested to braise peas ever so briefly and then plunge them while still hot in a garlicky, minty, aromatic oil bath. Roughly-torn buffalo mozzarella complements the dish, giving it substance and the ability to stand alone. I often make this a one-dish meal to go with some bread apt at mopping the delectable oil left on the plate. You can, of course, bulk it up with some grilled meat, or make it one of a series of sharing dishes, or even take it with you on your next adventure – it packs very well. Just don’t use frozen peas: they won’t cut it.

Fresh Peas with Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic and Mint

serves 4

1 kg peas in the pod
1 bunch mint
4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can get)
4 x 150 g balls of buffalo mozzarella
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemons
Fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Shell the peas (you can keep the pods to make stock or soup).

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the garlic cloves and half of the mint on the stem. Add the peas, too, and boil them for about 3 minutes or until just tender and bright green. Drain through a sieve; retain the garlic and discard the mint.

Pour all the olive oil into a large bowl and add the warm peas, garlic and the fresh mint leaves. Season well with salt and pepper, toss to coat, then leave to cool.

To serve, spoon the peas with their oil and aromatics on a large platter. Tear the mozzarella into pieces and set in on top, then finish te dish with the grated lemon zest. Serve.

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