The Italian food historian Massimo Alberini wrangled me an invitation to a banquet at the Gritti Palace in Venice. We ate at a long table on the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. A cookery teacher who was at the banquet drove me around her region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. She called the owner of a foundry in Venice who was the president of an association named I Appassionati di Cucina - the Cooking Enthusiasts. He took me to his house and cooked me a fish to show me the contraption he had made for roasting big fish in front of the fire. We ate it with a peperonata. Then he gave me the list of members of the association and their telephone numbers. He phoned a few and told them: "Look after her."
When I checked in at a lodge in Sardinia I asked if I could go to the kitchen. The cooks were making carta di musica and hare sauce for pasta when a tough lady looked in and shouted at me to get out: "Fuori! Fuori!" I showed her my letter of introduction, but it did not help. At dinner, I was the only guest apart from a very long table of hunters who were singing hunting songs. They invited me to join them. The lady rushed in to tell me to pack my bags and leave in the morning. When I checked out she asked: "Don't you have a husband?"
I collected a huge number of recipes to write my book The Food of Italy 25 years ago. Some of the ones I left out are in this new edition, because these days you can find the ingredients here. The baby octopus with potato salad is one such recipe, the farro salad is another. Broad beans, peas and artichokes
Vignole is a Roman way of making use of spring vegetables. Serve it with bruschetta. I use frozen artichoke bottoms, but it's better if you can get hold of the small Roman artichokes. See below for how to prepare them.
Serves 6-8frozen artichoke bottoms or hearts 400g packet, defrosted and cut into slices, or use freshyoung broad beans 500g, podded peas 500g, poddedextra virgin olive oil 3 tbsp, plus more to drizzle overspring onions 7, green ends removed and thinly slicedprosciutto or pancetta 6 slices, cut into thin ribbons chicken stock 500-750mlsalt and freshly ground black peppermint leaves 25g bunch
First prepare the artichokes. Use medium or large globe artichokes. Cut off the stalks at the base. Pull off or cut away the outer leaves, cutting around the base spirally. Scrape off and discard the choke and drop the artichokes into a bowl of water acidulated with lemon juice or vinegar as you go.
Prepare the bruschetta. Cut 1cm thick slices of a large crusty dense white country-type loaf, such as Pugliese or sour dough. Toast them on both sides on a hot griddle, under the grill or in a toaster. Rub one side lightly with a cut garlic clove and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. You can also make bruschetta with a small ciabatta cut in half horizontally.
Next prepare the broad beans, peas and artichokes. If your beans are not very young, first boil them in water separately until they are tender.
In a large pan, heat 3 tbsp of oil and sauté the spring onions and the prosciutto over a low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Put in the artichokes and the drained beans and just enough stock to cover. Season with salt and pepper and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 10 minutes. Then add the peas and the mint and cook until the vegetables are soft.
Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over each plateful. Farro salad
This summer salad is both filling and refreshing. Farro is an ancient Italian grain similar to spelt. You can find farro in Italian delis and spelt in health food shops. It is chewy with a nutty, grainy taste.
Serves 6pearled farro or spelt 250g, rinsed and drained saltbaby plum tomatoes 300g, cut in halfred onion ½, finely chopped flat-leaf parsley a good bunch, chopped extra virgin olive oil 6 tbsp
Put the farro in a saucepan with plenty of water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender, adding salt towards the end. Drain and put it in a serving bowl. Let it cool. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Sprinkle with a little salt to taste. Baby octopus and potato salad
Octopus is very popular all around the coast in the south of Italy. There are two types: polipetti have a double line of suckers on each tentacle and moscardini have only one line. When they are boiled their tentacles curl up like the petals of a curious pink and white flower. You can buy 1 kg packs of frozen baby octopus that have been gutted, cleaned and tenderised by freezing.
Serves 4-6new potatoes 500gsaltextra virgin olive oil 5 tbsplemon juice of 1 black pepperred chilli ½, finely chopped or a good pinch of dried flakes garlic 1 clove, crushedflat-leaf parsley 3 tbspfrozen baby octopus 600g, defrosted
Peel the potatoes and cook until tender, then drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut them into slices in a wide serving dish.
Make a dressing by mixing the olive oil and lemon juice with salt and pepper, add the chilli, garlic and parsley and mix well. Pour half of it over the potatoes, turn them so that they absorb it well, and spread them to make a bed for the octopuses.
Wash the octopuses. Cook them in salted water for 12 minutes, if you like them a bit chewy, or up to 25 minutes if you like them soft. Drain, mix with the remaining dressing in a bowl, and leave them to marinate for an hour or more in a cold place. Just before serving, pour them with their marinade over the potatoes. Lamb shanks in white wine
Mint and lemon zest play an important part. Serve it with mashed or roast potatoes.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan or casserole, put in the lamb shanks and brown them, turning them at least once to make sure they are brown all over. Take them out.
Put the onion, carrot, fennel and garlic cloves into the pan and sauté over a low heat for about 5 minutes in the remaining oil and the fat released by the shanks, stir well and add salt and pepper.
Pour in the wine and the stock. Add the lemon peel, thyme and bay leaves and cook, covered, over a heat so low it barely simmers for 2 hours or more until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone.
Add the mint towards the end and taste to adjust the seasoning.
To order a copy of the 25th anniversary edition of Claudia Roden's The Food of Italy (published by Square Peg at £25) for £16.99, with free UK p&p, go to http://ift.tt/1eBqGM5 or call 0330 333 6846.
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