Polpo - A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts)
By Russell Norman

Our trip to Venice, Italy, a few years ago was almost idyllic - we stayed in a lovely palazzo on the Grand Canal, the weather was lovely and, although there were lots of tourists, it wasn't as crowded as it could have been.

The only problem was we were there in August, when a lot of restaurants are closed, their owners having left the city for their holidays.

I didn't know how much delicious food I had missed out on until I read Polpo. Written by Russell Norman, who owns three Polpo restaurants in London, the book has beautiful photographs of Venice, as well as enticing food shots.

One of the dishes we were fortunate enough to taste on our trip was fritto misto, which was fantastic, and there's a recipe for that in the book. And what would a Venetian cookbook be without a recipe for the bellini - a cocktail of prosecco and white peach purée whose "invention" is attributed to the city's Harry's Bar. Other recipes include cavolo nero with gnocchi and pecorino romano; rabbit cacciatore; mackerel tartare with horseradish and carta di musica; warm octopus salad; braised scallops with pancetta and peas; pigeon saltimbocca; cauliflower and fontina gratin; and honey and walnut semifreddo.