Just having a ball!

Today is the start of this year’s Venice Carnival. Exciting, romantic, busy, tourist-filled. We won’t be there. November and January are the times we like to visit La Serenissima, when the campi and calli are deserted, the vaporetti less crowded, and even Piazza San Marco seems to breathe a sigh of relief. It may be dripping and damp or crisp and cold, but it will be quiet. Restaurants that are usually rushed off their feet have more time to serve you, and to talk. One of our favourite Venetian treats is… can you guess? Coffee at Florian’s? No. A ride on a gondola? No (not at those prices!). Private motoscafo from the airport to the city…well, of course! But really I meant a foodie treat…

It’s baccala mantecato. Creamed salt cod, with olive oil and seasonings and, sometimes, fresh parsley. The Venetians eat it with fried polenta, mostly, as part of an antipasto plate. Like many of Venice’s classics, for a city that’s unusually complex and ornate, this is a surprisingly simple dish. Now, in case you’re not going to make it to this year’s Carnevale (as we’re not), here’s about as close a ticket into the Venetian spirit as you’re likely to get. First, we make no apologies for the cost: yep, a single jar costs over £12. Secondly, this is one of the best things in a jar we have ever tasted. It’s baccala alla brace – chargrilled salt cod. It’s not from Venice, but Abruzzo, where our producer has really mastered the art of recreating this very old fish dish. Their baccala has a surprisingly subtle taste, as a result of the cod being soaked in water for 24 hours and then hand-grilled over hot charcoal to give extra flavour, before finally being preserved in extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs.

This is delicious as an antipasto the Venetian way, with grilled polenta, or with some chargrilled fennel, or in a salad of baby spinach and cherry tomatoes. This way, a jar serves 4 to 5 people. So, maschere at the ready…let’s party!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Just having a ball!

  1. I have just popped in to scan you blog and find myself enraptured by your fabulous Blog. I meant to flick a quick look, but I have stayed for rather some time now!! Wonderful.

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