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)
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.Print recipe