Co-hosting a dinner is such an amazing way to get to know a new side of your cooking partner as well as to learn something new about yourself. The most recent experience at KinoVinoVenice was definitely an excellent example of this. Cooking with my Venetian friend, Susanna Cappellaro, I have experienced first hand the importance of family tradition and of sticking to the authentic recipes when cooking. Italians really do take their food very seriously and no deviation from the recipes is permitted. Being a more of a free-styler when it comes to recipes I constantly attempted to add something of my own to each dish. This has also taught me the need to appreciate the simplicity and honesty of each ingredient and understand that simple is not necessarily flavourless and boring. I would have never thought that string beans slow cooked with a bit of salt, onion and tomato could be so surprisingly rich in flavour. Of course, it is all about the ingredients that are used, and this is something that is of paramount importance in authentic Venetian cooking, and something I would like to carry over into my day-to-day practice.
I have to admit this particular menu was the most challenging so far, paradoxically, precisely because it was so simple. I have never cooked any of the dishes before and these recipes came directly from Susanna’s mother, so no pressure there to perform well. In order to perfect each dish, we had to do not one but two recipe testing sessions; having friends come over to taste the fruits of our labour and wash it down with a lot of Venetian red wine and prosecco made the experience all the more delightful and rewarding.
Although my knowledge of Italian food does go beyond pizza and pasta, these recipes were completely new to me, and through them I feel I have discovered something original about Venetian food culture. And if this is not the best outcome of forging a new partnership in the kitchen, then I don’t know what is!
A quintessential Venetian creation made from salt cod and milk. Again the preparation is simple, but does require a lot of planning ahead. Get a good quality salt cod fillet from a local fishmonger and soak the fish for at least 24 hours, changing the water frequently. Once the cod has been soaked long enough (in my case it was 48 hours), place it in a pot and simmer in whole milk until cooked. Discard the skin and bones (be as careful as possible to remove them all) and place the fillets into a food processor. Pulse for a few moments to break up the flesh and then slowly add the olive oil while mixing continuously. Add some of the milk until the mixture reaches a light fluffy consistency but is not completely smooth. Use a whisk in the final stage to add more lightness and air to the pate.
Pasta e fagioli
A beautiful soup made of borlotti beans and pasta or pearl barley as in our case.
Soak the beans for 24 hours before cooking. When ready to boil gather all the components for a delicious stock:
Boil together until the beans are cooked and have soaked up all the goodness of the veggies. Once ready, remove all the vegetables and herbs, and strain the stock.Place the cooked beans back into the pot (but keep some aside) and add some of the stock. Using a blender mash them up into a puré and keep adding the stock until a think soup consistency is achieved. Add the rest of the beans as well as the barely and bring to boil until the parley is cooked. Taste for seasoning and garnish with lots of fresh parsley and excellent olive oil.
Fresh string beans from the local green grocer that we topped and tailed by hand. Something very rustic and authentic about the connection to the produce. We slow cooked these with thinly sliced onions, a few small tomatoes with a dash of salt and olive oil. That’s it!
The assembly line for the tiramisu
Check/mate: the anticipation of the deliciously creamy kick of flavour
Polenta, savoy cabbage and string beans – the staples of Venetian cuisine