Breakfast of Champions
Tourists behaving badly are as constant a feature of the Venetian summer as watermelon and Redentore fireworks: laying out picnics on ancient well-heads. disporting themselves in the canals, attempting to enter churches in swimwear- the infractions are as unchanging as the disapproving editorials in the Gazettino. But it was not ever thus, as the extract from Lt.Colonel Newnham-Davis’s 1903 Gourmet’s Guide to Europe suggests. Describing the correct manner in which to bespeak a “Venetian Breakfast”, the Colonel proposes:
“Begin with a Vermouth Amaro in lieu of a cocktail. For hors d’oeuvre have some small crabs cold, mashed up with sauce tartare and a slice or two of prosciutto crudo, cut as thin as cigarette paper. After this a steaming risotto with scampi (somewhat resembling giant prawns), some cutlets done in the Bologna style, a thin slice of ham on top and hot parmesan and grated white truffles, then fegato alla veneziana complete the repast except for a slice of strachino cheese. A bottle of Val Policella is exactly suited to this kind of repast and a glass of fine Champagne and of ruby-coloured Alkermes for the lady, if your wife accompanies you, make a good ending.
The Maitre d’Hotel will be interested in you directly he finds that you know how a man should breakfast.”
If that feels exhausting to read, pity the lady wife who was obliged to consume it before, doubtless, setting off for a vigorous day’s sightseeing in a corset. Even the thought of fegato veneziano in this weather makes us want to lie down on a cold marble floor. Indeed, many Venetians pretty much abandon the kitchen (and the smouldering, tourist-packed restaurant terraces) at this time of year, preferring salads and fruit for dinner after lunch on the Lido. Cooking at the height of summer shouldn’t feel too prescribed and rigid, more a matter of putting together what ingredients one has in a slightly more imaginative fashion than the ubiquitous insalata caprese or prosciutto melone, undoubtedly refreshing but undeniably bland. This week’s recipes are based on an easy, zingy tomato chutney, which will enliven a simply grilled steak or a plate of salumi, becoming a base sauce for a light and colourful pasta if you can bear to stagger to the stove.
SUMMER TOMATO CHUTNEY
This is adapted from the brilliant Ottolenghi Shelf Love.
4tbsps olive oil
6 garlic cloves, crushed
50g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2tsps red chilli powder or flakes
2tbsps tomato puree
2tsp garam masala
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp ground coriander
2tbsp brown sugar
800g cherry tomatoes (mixed red and yellow if available)
salt and pepper
In a large suacepan sauce the garlic and ginger in the olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the spices, stirring for a further minute before adding all the other ingredients. Leave to simmer on a low heat until the tomatoes have broken down (you could also give a quick whizz with a hand blender for a smoother texture, or mash with a potato masher). Leave to cool, then spoon into jars- it will keep well in the fridge for at least a week.
SPICED PRAWN and FENNEL PASTA with PISTACHIOS
Spicy food can sound counter-intuitive in baking weather, but small quantities of intense flavour can be both lighter and more satisfying. The tomato chutney provides just the right kick and sets of the crunchiness of the prawns and pistachios. A lovely summer supper.
400g cooked shelled prawns
1 large fennel bulb
1 glass white wine
2tbsp olive oil
400g short pasta
3 tbsp SUMMER TOMATO CHUTNEY
Handful chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Switch on the oven to 180. Slice the fennel bulb in half, then each half in quarters, reserving any green fronds and mixing them with the chopped parsley. Pour the wine and olive oil over the fennel in an ovenproof tray, season and bake in the oven for about 30 mins or until the fennel is completely soft (you can do this in advance). When you wants to make the pasta, set a large pan of water to boil, then add the fennel and any liquid to a frying pan, breaking up the slices with your fingers, adding the chutney as it warms through and finally the prawns and pistachios. Cook the pasta for one minute less than the packet instructions then combine with the sauce. You’re aiming for a thin, pinkish coating with a deep, spicy kick, not a wet bowl of tomato mush. Garnish with plenty of parsley and any remaining fennel fronds and serve with parmesan, if liked.
PS- CONAD NEWS!
We’re always keen to engage in a bit of activism at Sugar Street so we’re thrilled to see that (obviously in response to our newsletter on the Big Conad), substantial pants are once again on sale on the Zattere! Banking that win.