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Venice cult recipes

Mention Venice, and even people who have never been there, even those who have made only fleeting visits, will have heard of Harry's Bar. They would know too of bellinis, and how they originated there and became famous - both for their flavour, and their origin.

But one cocktail, even one with a cult following, does not make a cookbook - particularly one as large and lengthy (250+ pages) as this.

Much of the gravitas behind the book belongs to author Laura Zavin, born in nearby Treviso, who spent much of her life from a small child in and around the area. Now a food writer who also blogs and runs cookery classes, she has devised five guided walks around La Serenissima, the old name for Venice. And no, our author doesn't stride ahead of groups with a poised parasol. These places and their recipes are accessible to all via the pages of this beautifully (read, sumptuously) illustrated book, with photogtaphy by Grégoire Kalt, and complete with annotated maps.

In addition to the many recipes Laura Zavan has charmed out of local chefs and barmen, there are the dishes of recent ages - the 'cult' recipes - the ones people talk about when they return from a trip. There's the trad 'Friday meal' in Venice: baccalà alla Vincentina, a salt cod bake served, astonishingly, with polenta, the go-to dish for meatless days. You'll find lasagna with market vegetables, the real secrets of making perfect potato gnocchi, roast goose, a legacy of the Jewish community, roast guinea fowl, braised rabbit (a particular local favourite) and, given Venice's watery connections, many recipes for fish and seafood.

There are dolci too, the sort you may find in a pasticceria's glass-fronted showcase, but easy enough to make at home too: Venetian polenta biscuits, fragile almond shortbread tarts, brioche, crostoli and doughnuts Venetian-style, and more.

Perhaps best of all are the inside secrets and recipes for a couple of dozen cicheti, those tiny Venetian versions of tapas served at bars throughout the city, and the recipe for bellini, which Zavan wheedled out of Arrigo Cipriani, the son of Giuseppe, the owner of Harry's Bar who, in 1930, developed this beautiful aperitivo.

Even if you may not have a chance to visit Venice, this year, as you wander through these pages, you will feel as if you have actually loitered canalside or lost yourself in the winding alleys, and your appetitie is sure to have been whetted for a real-life trip sometime in the not too distant future.

Sensing this response, just for good measure, for when you do next visit, Zavan has included a section on gourmet shopping in Venice, complete with names and addresses.


Venice Cult Recipes, by Laura Zan, published by Murdoch Books, October 2014, hardcover, rrp A$49.99, ISBN: 97817 44363 096.

- reviewed by Sallly Hammond


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