Here are some local vegetarian recipes from Naples and Campania, perfect for our own heatwave. By the way, I not only cooked the food but made the ceramic dishes!
Zeppoline with seaweed
I ate this in a Neapolitan trattoria, Don Vincenzo. Even though I lost my appetite due to the heat, I could not stop myself wolfing down these zeppoline, basically, fried pizza dough balls. They can be sweet or savoury. In this case they were typically flavoured with local seaweed.
- 200 ml tepid water
- 7 mg fast action yeast or 15g fresh yeast
- 1 tsp sugar or honey
- 250 g Plain flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp Seaweed, nori flakes or other types
- Olive oil for frying
- Mix the water and the yeast with the sugar and wait till it froths a little.
- Add this to the flour, mixing well until you have a wet dough. Add the salt and the seaweed.
- Cover and leave to rise for 2 hours, it should double.
- I've used olive oil for frying here but you can use vegetable, sunflower or groundnut oil. Either use a deep fryer or a deep frying pan. Heat up the oil to 180Cº
- Using a teaspoon to scoop a heaped mound from the dough, drop it into the oil. The dough immediately expands to double the size. Fry until golden, continue until all the dough is used. Eat the zeppoline hot! (Lovely dipped into the juices of a salad dressing).
Aqua Sale, fisherman's meal
Nicola Palma, the aromatic herb farmer from Campania, told me about the traditional fisherman's meal, which is simplicity itself and true 'cocina povera': ‘You take dry bread, put it in a colander, put it in the sea, drain it, add tomatoes, oil, oregano and this is a meal. Every family had a dried bread drawer.’ This is similar to Panzanera which is made with basil and cucumber, as well as a Cretan rusk recipe made with 'Dakos' which adds feta and olives. Nicola noted: ‘Italians and Greeks: one face, one race.’As I didn't have the sea near me or a fishing boat, I created sea water from the tap. I used some Cretan bread rusks which I had in my pantry, they truly last for years. My last visit was 5 years ago! It's an expandable salad.
- 500 ml water
- 4 tsps sea salt
- 4 dried bread rusks/any dried bread
- 6 good quality sweet tomatoes, cut in quarters
- 75 ml olive oil
- handful fresh basil or oregano sprigs
- Make the 'sea water' by adding salt to the water. Leave till dissolved.
- Place the rusks or dried bread in a large bowl and scantily pour the water onto it. You don't want to drown the bread, just add enough to make the bread moisten and become soft. Leave for half an hour, and add more sea water if necessary.
- Add the tomatoes and oil to the bread. You do not need to add salt but feel free to add the herbs of your choice plus any other ingredients such as lemon juice or cucumber or feta or olives. It's a flexible, endlessly adaptable dish.
Ciambotta also known as Giambotto or Cianfotto
I was served this in the Del Corso pizzeria in the Roman town of Capaccio-Paestum by a young chef Agostino Landi who is pushing the boundaries of Italian cuisine, taking traditional dishes but adding new ingredients. Ciambotta is an Italian ratatouille, the main difference being that potatoes are added to the summer vegetable bonanza, making it even more substantial as a meal.In some versions all the vegetable are cooked separately and combined at the end with basil. It's up to you how you do it.Tips: Use plenty of olive oil. Just have a bottle next to the pan and top up. I also salt the vegetables during cooking so it's hard to estimate exactly how much salt but aubergines and potatoes need plenty of salt in the cooking. I prefer to salt during cooking rather than afterwards.
- 1 large red pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 1 large green pepper, deseeded and chopped
- 2 aubergines, 1 cm slices and cut into quarters or eighth, depending on circumference
- 2 large potatoes, peeled, chopped into 2 cm pieces
- 4 thick spring onions, white and green chopped into 2cm pieces(or 2 standard brown onions)
- 2 courgettes, cut lengthways in half then sliced into 1 cm pieces
- Dozen cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters or the equivalent amount in larger tomatoes
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- handful fresh basil leaves, torn, added at the end
- In a deep frying pan, fry all the vegetables in order of the ingredients list till soft and golden. Or fry them separately then combine. Add the fresh basil at the end.