At the Rialto market

At the Rialto market

By
Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi
Contains
14 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742707730
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

In all the years that Giancarlo and I have been travelling around Italy, a noisy, busy market still thrills us. Giancarlo joins in with the banter and I quietly shop or photograph the produce admiring the variety, colours and unfamiliar cultivars. Shopping at the market keeps you in touch with the seasons as the ingredients are still local – look out for labels saying nostrano, meaning ‘our local produce’. There can be no harder crowd to please than the mammas of Italy so you can be sure of the quality.

The market garden of Venice is the island of Sant’Erasmo, the largest island in the lagoon with acres set aside for an endless supply of vegetables, including artichokes, peas and broad beans, destined for the homes and restaurants of the city. As well as fresh produce, look out for sundried peppers and tomatoes, precious porcini mushrooms and twisting fingers of purple radicchio.

Frittata

I am slightly mad for frittatas. It took a while after being put off by a horrible incident when I set fire to a pan of undercooked frittata and managed to put the whole hob out of use during a contest on stage at a food show in South Africa. My team, which included the Hairy Bikers and Brian Turner, was not impressed. However, I am over it now, some years on, just. Anyway the humble frittata has become popular in our home since we both started eating less bread. Now when I cook broccoli, roast vegetables or courgettes I always make more than we need knowing the following day they will be my breakfast. I also make a frittata if I have guests, cutting it into wedges while still warm and offering it around on a plate. It keeps them going if I am running late with dinner, which I usually am.

As the anonymous 14th century chef the Anonimo Veneziano wrote below, they are simple:

‘Herbatella etc. If you want to make a herb dish cooked in a frying pan. Take mint, sage, parsley, marjoram and every good herb that you may have. Grind everything together in a mortar with lard and temper with eggs, and cook it thus in a frying pan with fat.’

Artichokes (carciofi)

Tiny purple artichokes called castraure come from Sant’Erasmo, the market produce island off Venice, in early spring. At the market the traders prepare them as they wait for customers, putting the trimmed little artichoke bottoms into buckets of cold water. These are boiled and used in risotto, pies, frittata, tramezzini and cicchetti.

Pumpkin (zucca)

Pumpkin – or winter squashes – found popularity relatively recently in Venice as it was deemed food for the poor although it grows easily in the Po Valley. Here in the UK we mainly have the incredibly popular cream- coloured butternut squash and the tasteless bright orange Halloween pumpkin, only occasionally seeing other varieties. In the Veneto the flavourful pumpkins to use are the monstrous, knobbly variety known as zucca barucca, which by the sound of it really should be used as a missile, and the smooth green mantovana which is also popular for its bright orange flesh. Pumpkins are used for pasta fillings, gnocchi, soup and risotto, fried and dipped in sugar, candied, sold on the streets, for roasted seeds, sweet pumpkin pies, as vegetables to go with fish and meat, and more.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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