When it comes to food, my heart unsurprisingly lies in Italy. I love it all, the tradition, the provenance and diversity in its regional produce and most of all the passion that comes with all Italian cuisine. I am not on my own in my love for Italian food, the UK has seen a sharp rise in its popularity over recent years. Pizza Express, Prezzo, ASK and not to mention the huge beast which is Jamie’s Italian have seen enormous growth in the last year, with edgier street food inspired businesses such as Homeslice, Pizza Pilgrims and Well Kneaded Wagon doing great too. The fast casual sector has even had an Italian invasion with the recent success of Vapiano. What gives me great hope and pride is the rise of more traditional and authentic products, spear headed by outlets such as Pizza East, Franco Manca and Rossopomodoro.
It’s clear to see that Italian food is not only a staple on the UK menu, but has also had a wide-ranging influence on the way we cook. Chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Angela Hartnett have helped change this, but I think most of all, Italian food is the savvy UK consumers’ answer to a need for authentic, provincial and seasonal produce.
I love my job the most when I get the opportunity to travel around Italy with customers who are keen to learn more in keeping with this Italian trend, giving them an insight into our Italian supply base as well as my country’s cuisine, tradition and produce. This week I will be heading on one of those very trips and I am a little excited to say the least! Educating people about Italian food is a true passion, so much so that I’ve decided to use my chefs blog over the coming months to take readers through the 20 regions in Italy. I’ll be covering terrain, processes, traditions, seasonality and produce and hope to give a broad picture of the Italian regions and cuisine so watch this space!
As a little taster here’s one of my all-time favourite Italian recipes originating from the Island of Procida, it’s a dish that fuses together the characteristics of Mediterranean cuisines, deliciously light and delicate:
Flori Di Zuzzhine Fritte
- 270g zucchini flowers
- 275ml water
- 200g ricotta
- 185g flour
- 1tsp salt
- Vegetable oil
- Lemon zest
- To wash the flowers gently immerse in cold water then drain them on a dry cloth.
- Remove the stem of the flowers carefully with your fingers and set the fleshy pistils to one side.
- Grate the lemon zest into the ricotta, then fill the flowers with the ricotta and close over once full.
- To prepare the batter, put the flour in a large bowl, gradually add the water stirring with a whisk to avoid lumps, once a smooth paste is achieved, add the salt.
- Place a large pan on the heat with the oil for frying. Once hot, gently dip each flower in the batter one by one, trying not to break them then immediately immerse them in boiling oil.
- Turn the flowers slowly during cooking and remove from the oil once a golden colour has been achieved.
- Once cooked, drain the zucchini flowers and let them dry on a tray lined with absorbent paper.
- Serve the fried zucchini flowers hot.