Zuppa di polipi su orto lucano
Fish soup, or zuppa di pesce, is on the menu just about everywhere you go in Italy, but every region has its variations and every chef likes to add a touch of individuality to his or her own version.
Federico Valicenti, former chef of the Locanda delle Donne Monache in Maratea, remembers watching his grandmother making her fish soup using whatever the local fisherman had provided on the day.
Today, he is much more deliberate about the taste and texture he seeks to achieve.
The fish he uses is locally caught octopus, (polpi in Italian, or known locally as polipi), rather than the varied mixture of seafood often used further north.
(enough to serve four people) 600 g octopus; 300 g potatoes; 200 g red peppers; 50 ml extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for the bread);
150 ml red wine; 1 clove garlic; 1 minced sweet pepper (sun dried); 1tsp parsley; a few saffron strands; salt & black pepper.
Wash the octopus under a cold tap and then slice into small pieces and brown in a pan with the extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley and garlic.
Next, add the sweet pepper and soften it with the red wine.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes and cut the peppers into julienne strips. Add to sweet pepper mix, and once the potatoes start to cook, add about half a litre of water and leave to cook for around 45 minutes.
More water may be needed to stop the soup from thickening too much.
While the soup simmers, fry some thickly sliced bread in olive oil. Once cooked, the soup should be poured on top of the bread and served in deep bowls. Finally, the saffron is sprinkled sparingly over each individual serving.
Our thanks to the Locanda delle Donne Monache in Maratea, Basilicata (www.mondomaratea.it).