Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Death in Venice - without Dirk Bogarde

There is any amount of advice about Venice, but the most useful is to get lost - literally.  It is great to just wander the tiny alleys and byways, come to a dead end at a canal, retrace your steps and find you recognise nothing.  But there is a charming square and , inevitably, a church.  There is also always a café  or bar and we revive ourselves with the restorative powers of a Campari and soda.  It is a bit of a surprise to find that which we thought gentle aperitif, packs 25 ABV (alcohol by volume). This makes us like it even more.
Campari and bruschetta

We have an apartment for a week.  A few minutes off the tourist hell that is Piazzo San Marco, our one bedroom bolthole sits on a minor canal that must be part of the gondola highway.  A constant stream of long sleek boats passes under our window, pushed along by a stripe-shirted gondolier.  There is often an accordion accompanied singer belting out Volare or That's Amore (never anything by Beyoncé  or Justin Bieber).  It is all part of why you come to Venice, but you can almost smell the cheese.

While it is great eating out and trying new things, it is also nice to have the apartment and be able to go to the market and check out the ingredients and buy some things to cook. A microwave, two electric elements and a complete lack of condiments (even salt and pepper) create no limitations for me!  We get up early - Italian early, 8:30 - and take a trip to the Rialto markets, right by the famous Rialto bridge.  Even at this hour the fruit and veg sellers are still setting up and the fishmongers are in the final stages of layout and pricing.  We purchase some fresh prawns which are so pink we initially think they are already cooked - they aren't.  They have very sweet flesh and we decide they must be fresh water farmed, though we aren't sure.  I wrap a nice piece of salmon in fresh prosciutto - having reduced the deli woman to laughter as I mime the word for slices - and the h-g gently cooks it in a pan. We have fresh fennel and asparagus with it and it is delicious.  The tomatoes we buy are at the behest of the patient vege stall holder who tells me they are the best for salads - as you can see in the photo they are an unusual shape and have quite distinct ribs.Buffalo mozzarella and the most delicious tomatoes make a great Caprese salad for lunch one day.  
Our favourite Venetian dish is Bigoli alla salsa - it is a thicker spaghetti pasta with the most delicious anchovy and onion sauce.  One or other of us order this dish a few times after we first discover it, and on one occasion our restaurateur speaks excellent English and tells me how to make it.  So if you like anchovies put your hand up and I'll make it for you.  

It is our mission to try different dishes (I won't mention the roast chicken we have one night!) and so I order black pasta with cuttlefish sauce. Cuttlefish are not fish but molluscs, very like squid as they have 8 arms and 2 tentacles. They are just behind the octopus in the photo, and as you can see, very inky. The flesh is tender and sweet, but the dish is much richer than I expect.  In the end it is too rich and although I am enjoying it, I can only manage about half. 

The h-g tries some stuffed calamari and raves about it.  It has the tentacles finely diced, shrimp and breadcrumbs in the stuffing, and is slow cooked in a mildly spicy tomato sauce. 

We have a brilliant week in Venice, taking trips to the outer islands of Murano (glass), Burano (lace), and Lido (beach).  My God, we do not know how lucky we are is not a cliche it is a fact.
While the beach stretches for several kilometres, these cabanas are three deep!  How many people does that mean on a hot day?

We do check out a few churches, including San Marco which is such an ecletic blend of styles it defies adequate description.  While the h-g goes to the Maritime museum I go to a terrific Canaletto exhibition.  What I love is that his Venice of the early to mid 1700s is recognisable today.  The detail is perfect and the figures so nicely executed you can see their expressions.  We go together to the Peggy Guggenheim collection, which is all modern art (as C20th) - more Jackson Pollacks than I've ever seen in one place,  Picasso, Kadinsky, Ernst, Klee, Dali. The h-g, who likes paintings to look like what they are supposed to be - struggles with it.  I do too at times, but I think I manage to convince him that art is supposed to challenge you and not necessarily be a photo.

The search for the perfect flat white is a long one, and you can forget trim milk. Mercifully, most cappucinos are more like a flat white and if you can get a double shot, it is nearly there. For the most part we stick to espresso which is always good.  
No, we do not eat these
So, today we travelled to Milan and picked up our little Peugeot and drove up to Bellagio - phew, what a drive.  But I'll tell you about that next time. 


  1. Hello, How do I get in touch with you? There is no email or contact info listed .. please advise .. thanks .. Mary. Please contact me maryregency at gmail dot com

  2. A Peugeot?! Was the Bambino taken?

  3. Sounds like you are both having a wonderful time. The food looks amazing!! Hope the rest of your trip is just as wonderful.