A brand-new book by Russell Norman
On the cover of Russell Norman’s new cookery book, it states ‘author of Polpo’ the book from the eponymous restaurant which changed the way we looked at Venetian food. It offered an insight into small plates (a portion size not made up by Shoreditch hipsters but genuinely what is served in Venetian bars). This should give the discerning home chef a clue to what lies between the covers. Russell is a Venice aficionado and then some. His dedication to and love of the city holds no bounds. He has been a constant visitor throughout his adult life, some of which before becoming a restaurateur was as a cook, he knows his onions so to speak. This book was born out of a frustration of not being a local. Russell has spent a long time in the city but never cooked there, never visited the markets to buy for supper, made the choices all chefs want to make. I feel this book has been quite cathartic for Russell as he finally got to do what started way back in 1986, his first visit, to create his own slice of real Venetian home cooking.
Venice, Four Seasons of Home Cooking is one of those kitchen table tomes that make book you a flight to Venice immediately (in fact that’s exactly what I did after I received Polpo as a present a few years ago). The photography is delightful and not just of food but of the city as well and the style of writing is informative, contextual and most importantly easy to understand. In many ways Italian cooking lends itself perfectly to Russell’s style, it’s not so much about absolutes but gentler, almost feeling your way through the ideas and recipes, the essentials are there along with a bit of history and local knowledge.
Holed up in a basic apartment in Giardini for a year with a functional kitchen and small balcony, Russell started becoming a local. The book offers a window into Venice, how it ticks, its rhythms, its heartbeat and that’s what makes it such a compelling read.
As you might expect Venice, Four Seasons of Home Cooking is laid out in the order of the seasons coinciding with specific markets, where to get the best meat, fish etc. Russell badgered, cajoled and charmed his way with local chefs, neighbours, their relatives and friends of friends to find authentic details about the food they eat seasonally. This book is as much a diary as it is a cookbook and more than that it’s a heartfelt love letter to Venice. The recipes are plentiful (130) and varied from hearty winter soups to a refreshing Bellini Sorbet and everything in between.
Venice, Four Seasons of Home Cooking, published by Penguin, is out now priced £26 in hardback form and is available at Waterstones, WH Smiths, Amazon and all good book sellers.
Neil Hennessy-Vass is Contributing Editor for Our Man On The Ground as well as a widely-published globetrotting food and travel writer and photographer.
Photographs by Neil Hennessy-Vass