With a hint of rain about to drop, and my mind all wound up in brainstorming the major details of a cooking day I shall be teaching soon to a group of six women from Norway, I decided to pop over to the weekly open market at Cocciano, very close to Frascati, for inspiration. Imagining and fantasising is all very well … but the eye must see at times, really ‘see’ in real life, for the mind’s eye to open up.
I don’t know what it is about markets but I am sure that there is something very atavistic about the pleasure we gain in frequenting them. The colours, the variety of fruits and veg and other things on sale, the buzz, the people you bump into, the cries of the vendors, the chit chat, the scurrying and the dawdling, and the people- as well as wallet-watching (meaning budget as opposed to pick pocketing). Come, come with me, follow me on a little tour of Cocciano market on a Wednesday morning in September.
I had just parked the car … and this was the sight on the left hand side. What is the name of this flower? There was a slight rumbling in the skies and a lot of it was grey. Cars parked and an olive grove just behind them. My first stop and what do I espy? Funghi porcini from Abruzzo. Mmmm …. I didn’t hesitate to buy a few. Uva baresana — the grapes from Bari, it’s grape time! Opposite the fruit stand … I see the salt cod and stockfish … from Norway, of course. Although I don’t think I shall be cooking any of this with my group of Scandinavian ladies — it would be like carrying coals to Newcastle and all that. I am tempted, instead, and as always, the salt-dried anchovies, some of which hail from Sciacca in Sicily, and the others from Spain. The chap at the counter tells me that altough the Spanish anchovies are the more prized of the two (and the price bears this out), he reckons that the processing of anchovies is actually done in a far superior manner in Sciacca, resulting in a better product. Who was I to disagree? I bought 8 of these gorgeous shiny salt dried anchovies. Mr Bartolomeo … Porchetta in the background and will you take a look at the size of the knife! The slab of cured meat in the middle is called “coppa” around these parts, not to be confused with the ‘coppa’ in Emilia Romagna. The meat for this kind of salami comes from the pork’s head which is simmered for 4 hours before the edible parts are gathered and pressed together with salt and pepper, coriander, fennel, orange and lemon zest, cinnamon, garlic, nutmeg and cloves. It’s not everyone’s idea of a salami but my husband, for instance, loves it. And I too indulge on occasion, there’s an oiliness about it which makes it very fragrant and it’s not half as salty as other kinds of salami.
Here are some tempting pizzas and breads … Cheeses…Fresh borlotti beans … Fresh eggs, good eggs, eggs from chickens that are allowed to run around. Pots and pans … not exactly Alessi or Le Creuset but even so …. The “All Sorts” hardware shop … I had to stop and look … what a great collection of scissors and knives. Further up the road and we get to shoe and clothes shops but I’m not interested, not today anyway. Here is a moveable café for a moveable feast of coffee and cappuccino and treats. Quite a queue there, it must be good!
I spy with my little eye … something beginning with M. Maritozzi con la panna. Those two very large buns with a split in the middle containing whipped cream. I used to love them as a kid! Daniel Etherington very recently wrote a post on how to make maritozzi which I : am linking … just in case you’d like to try making some yourselves. http://breadcakesandale.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/maritozzi-con-la-panna-recipe/
And if you want to freshen up your balcony or your garden, here is a mini garden centre. Up the hill I trudge and the vision of the ugliest of modern churches is quite the eyesore but I soldier on bravely and resolutely. I fell in love the the man selling the cheeses. So distinguished. And here is the man from Ciociaria … he’s got plenty to sell including fabulous bread and guanciale (which is what I bought). (Guanciale: pork jowl). The prosciutto here is sliced by hand. I also bought a packet of fancy pasta from Pisa.And I almost bought a leftover bone of prosciutto. Ham hock? is that what it’s called in English? Great for making pea soup, eh?
Onto another stall and what do I see? Chanterelles and truffles if you please … This is a Lazio-made dry pasta. It’s been around for 25 years, the factory is near Montecompatri … and I bought some quadrucci to make pasta-and-ceci for lunch today. If you look on their website, there is a page of poems dedicated to pasta and pasta sauces, written by the son of late actor Aldo Fabrizi, Massimo Fabrizi. The poems are written in romanesco and are redolent of the romanesco sense of humour, wit and philosophy which papà Aldo would greatly have enjoyed. Olives, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Sun dried tomatoes too… Pulses and beans … Even a fish stand! Some broccolo romanesco already creeping in …Mixed salad leaves. I got some of those for lunch too.
Courgette blossoms in their resplendent yellowliness! Yes … how could I resist? We had some for supper, fried in batter. Prickly pears … they are called fichi d’India, “Indian figs” in Italian, even though they came from the Americas, just like the tomato.
Okay. Time to go home now. I hope you enjoyed this little vicarious excursion through the salient stalls of Cocciano weekly market. Apart from the ugly church, it certainly beats your average supermarket hands-down any time. And this is where I stopped, on my way home, to buy some wine. Pine trees, olive groves, wine estates … within walking distance of where I live.I’ve picked up the wine and I’m on my way home. As I swerve past the roundabout, I think to myself … and then I sing to myself … (to myself only, my singing voice ain’t that great):
Some days are like that. And most days SHOULD be like that, no?