As our water taxi chugged and puffed its way around the last corner she came into full view and my heart leapt, it honestly nearly leapt right out of my chest. I must have stopped breathing for a few seconds as I remember catching my breath in a dizzying gasp, and from that very moment I fell hopelessly in love with her ….. And have been ever since.
Venice is like a magnificent jewel incrusted Baroque ring perched on the index finger of an impossibly beautiful masqued courtesan. She is an enigma of churches, cupola’s, canals and piazzas that seem to cling to each other for dear life. A million facades, even more balconies holding even more secrets in their shadows.
I yearn for Venice and her bars, cafe’s, frito misto’s, pasta e fagioli, polenta’s and food markets. I had occasion to partake in the first European Conference of Crisis Lines for Abused Children when I was working for Childline in Durban. My director and I didn’t have a small budget, we had NO budget! We stayed in a 16th Century Monastery on the small island just off Venice free of charge, and lived on freshly sliced prosciutto’s and salumi, beautiful plump flavoured olives, warm crusty Italian cornetti which are all but hollow bread rolls and what we ate dozens of what we affectionately called “Ferrari’s”, which were the reddest tomatoes you will ever see – this all shopped from the market in Venice. We ate like Queens!
I shall pass on one sage piece of advice to you. If you visit Venice, don’t make the same mistake that TrickyRicky and I did. We chose to stay in a hotel that backed on to St Mark’s Square and as the bells of St Mark’s Cathedral pealed ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT - wardrobe doors flew open, draws jumped out of their comfy nights stands and our bed hopped across the floor! By the morning we woke up somewhere near the door! But Oh my madumbi’s is she the most beautiful and romantic city in the whole world!
Salsice E Polenta
This is a hearty Autumnal dish that celebrates the ‘fruits’ of the early half of the Italian hunting season, plump Italian sausages and another of
Venice’s prized favourites, Polenta. My rendition of this dish includes a selection of exotic mushrooms and small side bowl of my
150g Pancetta or Smoked Streaky Bacon chopped into bite sized pieces or lardons
150g Lardo or Pork Fat chopped into bite sized pieces or lardons
1 packet – 8 Italian Sausages – or your favourite Sausage
2 onions finely chopped
1Tbs finely chopped garlic
4 sprigs of fresh Rosemary
2 glasses of dry white wine
Place a heavy bottomed pot on your stove on a medium/hot heat and add the chopped pancetta and lardo and gently fry. This releases the fat from the pancetta, now add your sausages and fry for about 4 minutes until they are lightly browned on both sides.
Remove the bacon and sausages and set aside. Now you will see that the bottom of your pot is covered in the caramelisation from the meat – this is where your sauce is going to get all its flavour from.
Add the garlic, onion and rosemary and fry until the onions are golden, then add your mushrooms and fry for two minutes.Add back the sausages and
bacon, season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper and fry with the onions for 2 minutes. Don’t go wild with the salt as the pancetta and lardo are quite salty.
So the secret here is to TASTE your food, before adding the salt and pepper.
Add the dry white wine and cook with the lid off for 3 minutes to allow all of the alcohol to evaporate. Use a wooden spoon to scrape all of the nice flavour off the bottom of your pot into your sauce while the alcohol is cooking off.
Once all the alcohol has cooked off, pop the lid on and reduce to a very gently simmer for 25 minutes when it will be ready.
If you don’t like to cook with wine, you can deglaze the pan with a little vegetable or chicken stock.
Italian sausages are very thick – so if you substitute with a thinner sausage eg. pork sausage or boerewors, I would suggest that you reduce the cooking time to 15 minutes.
Feeds 6 people
This is Italy’s version of our South African staple, Mielie Meal. Polenta is produced from yellow sweet corn as opposed to the white Mielie which is why is has such a beautiful soft yellow hue.
The rule of thumb here is 1 part polenta to 4 parts water and 1 cup of polenta will easily feed 6 people.
1 large cup of Polenta
3 cups of water
1 cup of fresh cream
2 stock cubes
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese or pecorino cheese.
My apologies for a lack of picture here – once the polenta is in the pot you must not stop stirring or your polenta will get lumpy – so picture taking was impossible.
Bring the 3 cups of water with the two stock cubes and butter to the boil.
Very slowly add the Polenta in a steady stream whilst stirring the pot constantly with a whisk.
Once all the polenta is in, keep stirring and add the cup of fresh cream and stir the polenta constantly for 4 minutes. This is a great workout for your biceps!
That’s it! Ready.
Pronto a tavola!
The polenta is traditionally poured onto a large wooden board and left for 5 minutes to cool slightly then it’s cut into portions using a piece of cotton. Alternatively place one ladle of polenta into the centre of your plate and top it with two sausages and some sauce.
This is quite a rich dish so a man’s portion would be two sausages and a woman’s portion would be one.
Have a great Wednesday.