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The Shock of the New
Revolution on the Zattere
Venetians are sometimes accused of being parochial, paying little regard to much that happens beyond the lagoon, but the appearance of the New Conad on Zattere is obviously a matter of international interest. Formerly known as the Big Conad, the city’s only significantly-sized supermarket was more than a supplier of mediocre deli products- it was the real hub of the Dorsoduro community. Who can forget the Gazettino’s breathless headlines when a thief attempted to stick up the cashiers for two hundred Euros and was bravely repelled by customers hurling canned goods? The rumours that raced through the calle when Conad started stocking Japanese noodles? The short-lived attempt at home delivery?
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In a place where buying many household products can involve two days of strategic planning, Big Conad was a godsend, largely because it was actually open every day until 10pm. It had its own social etiquette- a brief “ciao” to acquaintances on the first encounter, and the accepted avoidance of subsequent eye contact in the aisles ( rather as one imagines characters from a Zola novel greeting one another in a Parisian brothel), its own arcane mysteries buried deep within the piles of unlabelled cardboard boxes tumbling from the top shelves, its own feuds and favouritisms. Imagine the horror when Big Conad closed for two month’s renovation to re-emerge slick, shiny, spacious and utterly utterly wrong.
Gone are the support stockings for signore, the precarious rack of shopping caddies, random beach towels, bags of compost and obscure liqueurs. Gone the neighbourhood notice board where you could find a student to help with your children’s homework or a local seamstress. Gone the patient queue of Dorsoduro dogs by the checkout with water bowls put down on hot days by the staff. Irrecoverable now as Lyonesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in; it’s all automated checkout and gluten free now. They’re selling fresh octopus and a variety of ready-bottled salad dressings. Even the valiant cash till lady who repelled the intruder has ditched her magenta perm for a snazzy crop. And we Don’t Hold With It.
Hopefully it won’t last. Hopefully the combination of uncertain deliveries and Venetian ladies’ insatiable appetite for massive beige pants will slowly return our beloved Conad to its slovenly, delightful glory. Until then, these slightly unlikely recipes recall the improvisations imposed by the vagaries of Big Conad’s lost remembered shelves.
Melon and Rose Water Granita
1 whole melon, skin removed and deseeded. (Very Ripe)
2 capfuls of rose water
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1 pinch of salt
Peel and deseed melon, blend it with a hand blender or mixer until smooth, add the other ingredients and mix well. Add to a low sided container, ideally metal but not compulsory. Leave in freezer for 2 hours and then just as crystals are forming mix again and repeat until fully frozen.
Great served on its own, or alternatively with fresh fruit and mint.
Pineapple and Onion Sauce with Walnuts
Anna writes-This sauce was inspired by a Sugar Street tradition Lisa and I have developed.
Many supper clubs ago, by pure chance, we both independently decided to bring a pineapple juice as a pre-supper club treat for the other one. (Now you see why we are such good friends and have trouble making others). Since then we have continued to bring this unusual ‘pre-game’ gift.
This sauce may sound horrifying, but if you try it just once you will understand. Much like apple sauce with pork the sweetness works incredible well all round, fish, meat rice and pasta.
In this case we decided to combine it with orrichiette because it for some reason reminds me of Conad.
Serves 2 generously, can stretch to 4
320g Orecchiette pasta
125 gr walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
4 onions, sliced into rings
3 garlic cloves
1 cup of pineapple juice, more if needs be
pinch of salt
Begin by slicing the onions, add them to a pan with olive oil and smashed garlic. A pinch of salt will help the onions release the juices and cook down quicker. Stir for 5 mins until they are softened completely and then add the pineapple juice. Over low-medium heat let the liquid reduce until you have a about a tablespoon of liquid left.
Put to one side. In the same pan, toast the walnuts and then set aside. In the meantime you can be preparing your orecchiette. Bring water to the boil, add plenty of salt and cook until al dente. Roughly 7 minutes.
Once the onion and pineapple has cooled slightly blitz it together and place in a large bowl ready for the pasta. Pull the orecchiette out of the water without fully draining them. Add to the sauce, sprinkle with oregano, walnuts and a drizzle of oil.
Serve with smoked ricotta if desired.
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